Google AMP for Email panel at OptIn '19
PHOTO: Dennis Shiao

I used email before HTML was invented. This was back in college and yes, I’m dating myself. I accessed email on “dumb terminals” and could send messages back and forth to classmates. It was a bit like texting today, but without the emojis, photos or videos.

Today nearly everyone sends and receives HTML emails, which have sophisticated design and graphics. But at the end of the day, email hasn’t changed much since my college days. At its core, email is a one-way communication. You can reply to an email, but there’s little opportunity to interact with it.

Change may be here. This week at SparkPost's OptIn ‘19, held at Carmel Valley Ranch in Carmel, Calif., a panel discussion titled “Google AMP for Email” suggested a new way forward for email.

What Is AMP for Email?

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source framework developed by Google in 2015 to make pages load faster when viewed on mobile devices. In 2018, Google announced AMP for Email, which enables developers to create more interactive email experiences.

According to a Google blog post announcing the feature, “With AMP for Email, you’ll be able to quickly take actions like submit an RSVP to an event, schedule an appointment, or fill out a questionnaire right from the email message.”

AMP for Email officially launched in March 2019. The official launch had support for Gmail, but other email providers also support AMP for Email, including Yahoo! Mail, Outlook.com and Mail.ru. SparkPost, providers of a predictive email intelligence platform, announced support for AMP for Email to coincide with the official launch. 

Like the broader AMP technology, AMP for Email is an open-source framework.

Related Article: Is Google AMP Really a Silver Bullet for Mobile Content?

How Companies Are Experimenting With AMP for Email

Jon Harmer, product manager, AMP for Email at Google moderated the panel. The panelists were:

  • Seth Weisfeld, product manager, growth channels at Pinterest.
  • Christie Thornton, email developer at LendingTree.
  • Heather Goff, director of deliverability strategy at Oracle.
  • Meagan Moore, marketing manager, email and martech at Snag.

LendingTree’s Thornton used AMP for Email to deliver interactive content in the body of emails. One example was a personal loan slider. As the reader moved the slider left or right, data (e.g., interest rate vs. monthly payment) would update above it.

In another example, she sent out an interactive quiz. Subscribers take the quiz directly in the email — upon completion, they’re matched up with a financial planner. Thornton is performing these AMP for Email tests with a small segment of her audience. The early returns are impressive, including an 86% increase in click-through rate (CTR).

Weisfeld from Pinterest shared a similar example: enabling Pinterest users to perform actions in their Gmail emails in the same way they'd interact on the Pinterest website or app. I found more details of Pinterest's AMP for Email implementation on its Engineering blog.

Related Article: How to Put the Trust Back Into Email Marketing

Live Content: Real-Time Information Within Emails

While email marketing and marketing automation software can personalize emails by tailoring content, the order of modules, the presentation of offers and more, the data is static. For example, if you’re sending an event invitation and it states “10 seats available!” — if the event sells out in the meantime, the email will still say “10 seats available!”

Live content in emails is essential for an hourly job site like Snag. Meagan Moore noted that Snag’s users depend on the site to make a living. Live content lets Snag send emails with real-time status information on job openings: whether a job is still available, how many openings exist, etc.

Related Article: The Next Evolution in Email Marketing: Beyond Personalization

Interesting AMP for Email Use Cases

The panel discussed many interesting ideas and examples of how brands can use AMP for Email. One idea is to allow subscribers to update email preferences directly in the email: things like unsubscribing, adjusting frequency, updating the email address and more.

Another example is profile completion. Online community members could provide missing details from their user profile on the site from their email (e.g., job title, hobbies, state/province, etc.). The email could prompt users by stating, “Answer these three questions while you’re here .…”

Weisfeld noted that Pinterest enables Pinterest Business users (e.g., advertisers) to perform actions related to their account (e.g., claim your domain on Pinterest).

Email Is (Finally) Advancing

I’m excited about these advances. On the one hand, AMP for Email is an open-source framework, which means any email provider can support it. On the other hand, if your email provider doesn’t support it, then you (and the email marketers trying to reach you) are out of luck.

The existing providers that support AMP for Email cover a good portion of the market, but we need to see more come on board.

I’ve been waiting for advancements in email technology since I graduated from college. Perhaps they’ve finally arrived.