Interactivity is one of the most important success factors in digital marketing. Interactivity means that customers have to become active in order to reach the desired goal. Common examples of interactive content in digital dialogue marketing are surveys, configurators, or dynamic infographics. Instead of merely consuming passively, customers actively engage with the content and the interactive elements thus lead to a higher level of customer engagement with marketing and service content. The fact that interactive content is effective is proven by the study „Content Experience Impact and the Buyer‘s Journey“ by Demand Metric, as well as other studies According to said study, interactive marketing is more effective in conveying content, is shared more often (e.g. via social media) and has a positive influence on the growth of companies. However, email marketing, as a central component of digital dialogue marketing, is lagging behind other channels due to technical restrictions in the area of interactivity. Nevertheless, these restrictions are loosening and can be partially overcome.

Email marketing is and remains the most important channel in digital marketing: depending on the study consulted, between 70 and 95 percent of all companies use email marketing. According to DMA each invested euro in email marketing generates on average a ROI of 38€. Unfortunately, however, email marketing allegedly falls back as soon as it concerns the organization possibilities of the dispatched emails. Moving image content and interactivity are generally associated with other channels and formats. The background is that emails are still based on the HTML 4.01 standard, which is now over 15 years old. This HTML standard still does not take into account many of the functionalities, especially with regard to interactivity,
which have set the standard in the WWW for years. Although a new standard has been under development by the standardization committee World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for some time, a concrete date for its completion is still unknown.

In the meantime, however, other players have put their heads together and developed solutions for the integration of interactive elements. These include marketers, designers, and developers on the user side and at marketing technology providers, who use a creative combination of
different techniques (e.g. CSS or punched card coding) to circumvent or „trick“ existing restrictions. On the other hand, the providers of email clients should be mentioned here, many of whom already allow the display of elements that are not intended for emails by default. So it can be said that the email has opened up to other formats in spite of some creative restrictions and it develops continuously. Since they still possess rarity value so far, interactive elements in emails offer enterprises the chance to stand out with their mailing and to gain an advantage over their competitors. Interactive elements not only appear innovative, they are also particularly eye-catching and lead to (as the name suggests) greater customer interaction with the communicated content. Depending on the use case, interactive elements can also help to reduce media breaks and thus improve usability for customers. Customers who do not have to „leave“ an email before they can fill out a form, make a purchase or watch a video, for example, are less likely to bail out. The result: higher conversion rates and longer reading/viewing times.

Use cases for interactice emails

The application scenarios for interactive emails in email marketing are manifold. Here are some examples:

  • Forms: The aim of many email campaigns is to generate leads. Customers are directed to a landing page where they register for a competition, event, newsletter, or download. In order to prevent the media break from email to landing page, registration forms can also be displayed directly in the email, preferably pre-filled, so that conversion is as easy as possible.
  • Surveys:Surveys can be used, for example, to measure customer satisfaction with a company’s services or products. Here, too, the probability that customers will participate in a survey increases with the elimination of the media break. Even a simple, attractively designed multiple choice form in an email leads to more interaction.
  • In-Mail shopping:The vision of integrating shopping baskets with an order function directly into the email to simplify the checkout process is widespread. This is particularly true for mobile devices, where purchasing processes must be as simple as possible. Even for a long-thought-out purchase decision or a shopping basket that has been left standing, the “presenter function” can provide the decisive impetus. However, the customer is (currently) referred back to the shop at the latest at the time of payment and therefore a media break cannot be completely avoided.
  • Videos and animations:Videos belong to the most used online content. According to ARD/ZDF Online, 82 percent of German online users watch videos on the Internet. According to a study by tubularinsights, 60 percent of marketers see a positive effect on the conversion rate in email marketing with video integration and 82 percent consider video mails to be effective. The application scenarios for videos in emails are manifold, from commercials to influencer videos, or from product presentations to (film/game/series) trailers.
  • Live content:Being Up-to-date or timely is one of the greatest strengths of email marketing. Dynamic emails allow content to be adapted to the context and the current data status up to the time of opening (see Trend 1). One step further is content that can be updated live while the mail is already open. In order to give the customer a feeling of being “right in the middle of the action and live”, counters that display, for example, inventory levels, number of participants in a competition, voting results, etc., are an exciting option. Social media feeds can also be integrated live, so that, for example, the current tweets for a campaign hashtag are always shown. Such live experiences also always have the effect that the customer is indirectly asked to become active himself.
  • Picture galleries:Elaborately designed HTML mails with images are standard in email marketing. Interactive emails also allow image galleries or zoom functions, for example, to view a product from several pages. This avoids long scrolling, as several images are displayed at one point in the email.

Where technology reaches its limits

As already mentioned, there is currently no uniform technical standard for using interactive elements in emails, but a hotchpotch of different solutions that often do not work on all clients. The one interactive mail with all functionalities that also works the same for all clients does not (yet) exist. If you want to rely on interactive elements, you should look at each use case individually to see what is feasible and who can be reached with it. How interactive elements are displayed depends strongly on the client used. Therefore, you should always check which clients are used by your target group before deciding whether it is worthwhile using interactive elements. In any case, there should always be a fallback solution that is seen by those recipients whose client does not display an interactive element. In the best case, this is a link to a landing page on which the interactive element can then be found.