Is it me or are there two camps forming in Email Marketing at the moment?
Since the birth of email marketing, email designers and developers have had to hack their way around HTML code, using archaic HTML development techniques in order produce emails that just work.
With time, ISPs have been improving. Slowly. Allowing us in the industry to innovate and use some newer CSS and HTML techniques to enhance our emails for our users.
Progressive enhancement has been the name of the game. That is, progressively enhancing your emails by using new techniques but having solid a fallback in place for those uglier email providers. *cough* Gmail *cough*
There are many of those working in email today that are taking progressive enhancement to new levels. Not content with including web fonts and a little bit of CSS3 animation, email developers are including interactive content, carousels and hamburger menus in their emails. After all, we’re using Which is truly astonishing. I’ve not witnessed this amount of development in such a short amount of time within email marketing.
If websites can do it, email should too right?
Should we be striving to accomplish what web designers and developers have been able to do on websites for years? Or should we instead remember that email is a different domain to a website with a different set of requirements and needs?
It’s no lie that I don’t instantly want to try these new techniques the email community are pushing out there. And I did. Followed by the biggest amount of regret.
Excitedly I put together an experimental email with a hamburger menu. Read and understood the code. Implemented it in the email and was ridiculously proud of myself as I saw the menu in action. Then came that aforementioned regret.
Why did I need to have this hamburger menu in the email? Was it really necessary? I’m one of the first people to want to hide navigation in emails after a certain break point. There just isn’t enough real estate in emails to warrant having navigation bars at some points. Why was I putting all this hacky code in my email in order to leave something in that I really don’t believe needs to be in emails?
This little exercise was an eye opener for me. While it was a great learning experience, I began wondering whether this sort of interactivity is even important. It’s definitely a great way to perhaps bring up engagement and the time a customer spends reading/interacting with an email. But a lot of these techniques require a certain browser or device. So you’re catering to a small audience already. (Unless you already know that your entire customer base exclusively uses an iPhone.) Sure the email community still remembers that B&Q email but has the consumer?
I know that’s not the point
All these brand new techniques are being conjured up from some fantastic minds as a way of problem solving. Not to mention a fabulous way to demonstrate to ISPs what is possible if they just let us.
I’d like to think that the end-user would be more impressed and engaged when opening an email that contains totally personalised and relevant content. Content that will surprise and delight them because it’s exactly what they’ve been looking for and it’s seemingly been plucked out of the air.
At the start of writing this, I felt sure which side I was on. Now at the end of writing this, I’m not sure. I definitely think that carousels, hamburger menus and the likes aren’t necessities in emails. This sort of interactivity works on the web but that doesn’t mean it’s got a purpose in email as well. Email is a whole different ball game. Though at the same time, without these innovations we wouldn’t be able to show what could be capable in email if ISPs just let us. And so remind them that they need to move forward with the times too.
I’m going to have to say it, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you have to. Instead ask yourself why am I doing this.