When it was officially launched in 2019 by Google, AMP for Email promised to bring standards-based interactivity and real-time content to inboxes, allowing brands to bring landing page and app-like functionality into their emails. Allowing product carousels, live forms, and checkout functionality, the potential payoffs for marketers and consumers were huge.

However, reaping those benefits require big changes in the email marketing ecosystem.

Google aggressively promoted AMP for Email, looking to expand support to other mailbox providers like Yahoo and to convince email service providers (ESPs) to make the platform changes necessary for marketers to send AMP-powered emails, since they’re sent as a separate MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) part. At the same time, they worked to convince marketers that it was worth their time to learn how to code AMP emails and create them.

Swirling Winds of AMP for Email

And then the winds shifted, and it suddenly seemed like the timing was all wrong for AMP for Email:

  • The pandemic hit. That led to marketing layoffs and massive changes in customer behaviors, which caused marketers to focus on the basics, not “extras” like AMP for Email.
  • Microsoft halted its AMP for Email pilot, which surprised many and stopped AMP for Email from gaining support in another major mailbox.
  • Google stepped back from AMP for Email, wanting the standard to stand on its own and not become synonymous with them. However, as a result, promotion of AMP for Email became much quieter.
  • Google also dramatically deemphasized AMP for webpages, which caused confusion about AMP for Email as people proclaimed, “AMP is dead!”
  • Apple launched Mail Privacy Protection, which has focused marketers on preserving their email programs, not on adding new capabilities like AMP for Email. 
  • The Great Resignation strained teams, which has brands looking to do more with smaller staffs by streamlining their email production, not growing it by adding a new MIME part.
  • And that’s in addition to… major social and political unrest, disrupted global supply chains, a generational high for inflation, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine — all of which have brands operating conservatively.

Whew! Those are some mighty headwinds for sure. And as a result, adoption of AMP for Email is much lower today than many expected.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Generate More Loyalty and Email Signups

The Current State of AMP for Email

To better understand industry sentiment for AMP for Email, the Email Sender & Provider Coalition (ESPC) surveyed its email service provider (ESP) members from March 23 to April 4. This first-of-its-kind survey shows that only 22% of ESPs have made the necessary changes to their platforms to support their users sending AMP for Email campaigns. 

Among those ESPs who don’t currently support the standard, 71% said the biggest reason they don’t is because of a lack of interest in AMP for Email by marketers. The ESPC members whose platforms support AMP for Email said that less than 5% of their users routinely send messages that use AMP for Email. That low usage is consistent with existing levels of usage of CSS-based interactivity and real-time content, and certainly supports the claims by the non-supporters that interest from marketers is low.

However, despite this low interest, the vast majority of these ESPs are open to potentially supporting the standard in the future. When asked to rate their likelihood of their ESP to support AMP for Email in the future from 1 (“highly unlikely”) to 5 (“highly likely”), the median response was 3 (neutral) and the average response was 3.4, indicating a slightly positive likelihood.

What Will Change AMP for Email’s Trajectory?

At the ESPC’s spring meeting last month, I moderated a panel on AMP for Email that tackled that question, among others. My fellow panelists included Marcel Becker, senior director of product management at Yahoo Inc.; Nicholas Einstein, VP product marketing and global head of analyst relations at Netcore Cloud; and April Mullen, senior director of brand and content marketing at SparkPost. Yahoo is among the mailbox providers that supports AMP for Email, and both Netcore Cloud and SparkPost are among the ESPs that do.

According to them, here are some of the potential changes to look out for that will help AMP for Email gain momentum:

Learning Opportunities

  • “No code” tools that will make it easier for the average (non-developer) marketer to use AMP for Email.
  • Broader mailbox support, including mobile support, which Yahoo announced in April.
  • A reduction in the registration requirements for senders to use AMP for Email, a move that Yahoo has made and hopes Google and others will match.
  • A name change for the standard, since “AMP” is now tarnished.

Those are the kinds of changes that would likely get more ESPs on board, and that might in turn convince Microsoft to reconsider supporting AMP for Email. Of course, an easing of pandemic, social, inflationary and geopolitical pressures would also help.

Related Article: 7 Factors That Determine Email Deliverability

The Trajectory of Other Email Marketing Changes

While some email marketers expected revolutionary changes because of AMP for Email, that’s not how change tends to happen in the industry. It tends to be slow.

The rise of mobile-friendly email design is a good case in point. This need emerged from the 2007 launch of the iPhone, which was the first mobile device to be able to render HTML emails. The problem was that the designs of emails at the time weren’t optimized for the small screens of mobile devices, so while HTML emails rendered, they looked horrible.

And they continued to look horrible for many years. Even after responsive email design was developed, it took a long time before the coding was natively baked into email templates. In fact, I feel like mobile-friendly email design wasn’t fully adopted until Google started to prioritize responsive mobile sites in their search results in 2015. That’s what it took to finally convince marketers to completely invest in mobile-friendliness.

The arc of adoption of email authentication has been even longer, with BIMI being the latest effort to get brands to authenticate their emails with all three authentication standards: SPF, DKIM and DMARC.

With that perspective in mind, it’s not too late for AMP for Email (or whatever it may be rebranded as). After all, the technology is fundamentally a win-win for marketers and mailbox providers. For marketers, it reduces the barriers to action by allowing subscribers to do more without leaving the inbox, which boosts conversion rates. And for mailbox providers, it keeps their users in the inbox longer by fostering more interactive and dynamic experiences.

It’s a win-win, but one that’s not going to become a broader reality until the winds shift in its favor.