Sam Beddoes from Action Rocket held one of the most compelling presentations, discussing the near future of email. He believes right now we are at a time of refinement: we are trying out technologies which we use sometimes one the web, but limitations in the past made it impossible to include them in email.
Mobile basics are now quite standard, emails are optimized for various devices, they are very easy to read and use a single column layout (in an ideal case). This is where we stand right now, but what is the next big step?
According to Beddoes and other experts the line between web and email is blurring. Modern email clients are going to be much like web browsers. More content will be included in mail, but in a way which is not uncomfortable or overwhelming for the users.
Interactive content is going to email. A few marketers are already using carousels in emails, which is a completely new idea. It is very attention-grabbing and has the ability to show much more information about a certain product in a spectacular way. Carousels may be a bit boring in webdesign after the last few years, but they provides a whole new experience when embedded in email.
Another example brought by Beddoes was a campaign by Litmus which included a complete interactive product demonstration. People could click around and learn how it works. “It is not trying to be a webpage”, says Beddoes, but it certainly provides much more than a conventional email.
Hidden navigation is also coming
Image source: Litmus.com
The best example for this is something that we are very familiar from webdesign: collapsible menus on the top. It is a very subtle way to include more information for anyone who wants to learn more, but not throw it in the face of everyone else.
Subtle animation, like zooming images or animations hovering over certain pieces of content will also emerge. Progressive enhancement will be another and very practical change: the same email (much like responsive websites) will be displayed differently in different clients. In a few words, responsive email is about to get a lot more responsive.
Outlook and Apple Mail for example have very different capabilities, and email can adapt to make use of the new technologies offered by modern clients. This will pose a challenge for email editor applications too, which can only stay in the front line if they can offer new solutions. We are open to take this challenge with EDMdesigner, since we already implemented fancy features to our email editor tool (API) like the Hide on mobile/desktop function which makes it easier for marketers to differentiate their email content on mobile and desktop.
Location based email content
It is widely used on the web, but there are only a few examples for it in email marketing. One campaign used this technique to offer different types of wine to users based on where they are located. Content can also be weather based – offering products for users who are in areas where it is raining or very warm and so on.
**But an email is not a webpage **despite the recent technological improvements. No hulking texts are allowed: clean and concise design is crucial with big compelling images, little text, like a postcard email. Texts should be expandable for those who would like to read more. This way people are not being introduced to too much text at once.
What does the immediate future hold for us?
One very big thing could be the coming of gaming within an email. People can receive small games in the email which they can play right there – this technique is not used yet, but it is likely to come in the very near future. The technology reached the point where we are capable of doing it, so it is basically inevitable, and the first ones to experiment with it may hit it big.
Physical interaction is also likely to make an appearance soon. This means that users will be able to rotate their phone for different content. This is one more way to include more content – for example a promo code which is revealed when users flip their phone.
And one last thing which we are all curious about: where are the wearables? The first gadgets of this kind were introduced two years ago and we have seen no real revolution yet. But it took email to catch up with smartphones a good 3-5 years, so it is around the corner. For now it looks like a pure text-based medium because of the small displays – which means a powerful copy will be the most important.
Which of these “techniques” are you planning to use in the near future? We would love to know which of these functions to build into to our responsive email editor tool (API), so we are waiting for your thoughts via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments section below.