Five reasons to try interactive email

User interaction with an email used to mean one thing – a click – while the real fun was left for the landing page. Thanks to some recent breakthroughs, that no longer needs to be the case.

It’s now possible to offer sophisticated user interaction within the email itself such as menus, carousels, triggered animations, browsable product categories, quizzes and even games.

You can’t run a script in an email so how does it work? The magic happens thanks to a CSS trick known as the checkbox hack. Don’t be put off by the word hack – the principle is actually quite straightforward and the code is neat. It goes like this:

  • You place a checkbox, like the one you’d use in a form (yes, it works with radio buttons too)
  • You hide it
  • You style its associated label any way you like
  • Using CSS combinators, you can set conditions for other elements if the checkbox is selected

The checkbox hack acts as an IF function – if the customer presses this, do that. A single trigger is all you need in order to set up something simple like a hamburger menu. But if you really want to dig into the full potential of interactive email, you can combine multiple triggers and build mailings of surprising complexity.

Clearly, this type of rich and sometimes experimental content isn’t going to work everywhere but that’s no reason to hold back progress. It’s quite possible to please all of the people all of the time with a fantastic near-website experience on compatible email clients and more traditional fallback content for everyone else.

Interactive email is a fine way to hone your coding skills and generally show off but does it serve a practical purpose too? We believe so. Here’s why:

Breathe new life into old templates

It never hurts to give your email templates a makeover. New graphics and layouts keep things fresh but why not take it to the next level by wowing your audience with animation and interactivity?

The creative potential afforded by CSS3-based animation goes far beyond that of the humble animated GIF. Sprite sheets are a great alternative which is not restricted to an archaic 256 colours and can be triggered by an event such as a timer or user interaction. What’s more, you can use transitions to smoothly move, rotate and scale elements around the screen with just a few bytes of code.

Make the most of these techniques and the visual impact of your email designs will skyrocket.

Learn more about your customers

Interactive email isn’t just about dazzling content – it also serves as a powerful market research tool.

By sending surveys and quizzes, you provide an engaging experience for your customers while simultaneously gathering new data about their interests. Harness this data and send better-targeted emails which focus on exactly the products your customer is looking for.

Trackable questions and answers without the need for a hosted survey can bolster your customer insight programme in this era of hyper-personalisation.

Send better qualified visitors to your website

A click is good but a sale is better. Interactive email gives your customers a greater level of choice and information before they commit to visiting your website. Maybe they’d like to see a product from a different angle or in a different colour or read some further specifications first.

The ability to explore options within your email directly is the perfect way to streamline the buying process. Then, when your customer is ready, they are directed to the most relevant page online.

A better experience for your mobile customers

Clutter is bad, so we sometimes need to simplify the content shown on smaller screens. But you don’t want mobile users to be left with a watered-down version of your email.

Interactive email solves that problem. By introducing moving elements such as eBay’s neat image carousel below, you can maintain a mobile-optimised design without having to sacrifice content.

Your innovations could be recognised by the email community

Interactive email pioneers such as B&Q and Pret-a-Manger have received praise for their innovative campaigns.

Animated and interactive emails are in their infancy and their scope is vast. It will be exciting to see what sort of ingenious content is dreamt up as more and more designers and developers latch on to these new tools.

Be creative with the interactive content in your emails and you might just find yourself basking in the admiration of fellow industry professionals!