/ Email

Digital Marketing Trends: Are Interactive Emails the Future?

Kevin McKernan

Man interacting with tablet.In some ways, I suppose the question asked in the title of this blog post is moot, because one thing is clear—interactive emails are here. So really, the better question to ask is—are interactive emails here to stay? And will they one day become the standard for which all emails are measured?

While not as widely used as static emails, interactive emails are giving email marketers a chance to create an experience for their subscribers that not only has them clicking more, but converting more, making them a trend worth watching.

What Are Interactive Emails?

Interactive emails are emails that have an interactive component such as an image carousel in the hero spot, a gif, interactive navigation bars or tabs, games, a live social feed, or a live poll that instantly shows subscribers the results.

Retailers in particular have taken interactions a step further by adding live inventory numbers and even the option to add something to your cart via the click of an email. Others are adding a more in-depth level of personalization, such as Burberry, who recently gave subscribers the ability to design and personalize their own scarf, all within the email itself.

There are also some brands that are experimenting with giving users the ability to complete an entire checkout process all from their inbox. You can review select items, add them to your cart, and even complete the checkout process without ever leaving the email. It’s a tall order to code something like that, and while it wouldn’t be something we’d recommend for clients today, it’s something that’s likely to be more commonplace in the future as email (and technology) evolves.

In many ways, interactive emails have the potential to completely change the way marketers and consumers think about email, and has the potential to help increase the already-high ROI marketers should demand from their email marketing programs.

How Can You Create an Interactive Email?

The easiest way to build an interactive email is by using a tool like Movable Ink which allows you to add live polls, live social feeds, countdown clocks, videos, as well as information like live inventories, and loyalty point updates. While some of the features require integrations with data systems such as CRMs or e-Commerce platforms, others can be included without much technical knowledge.

Elements like interactive tabs, rollovers, carousels, games, etc. would require more advanced knowledge of email coding, particularly when it comes to CSS and CSS3, as well as lots of testing to confirm both functionality and rendering.

Do Interactive Emails Render on Most Platforms?

You can never guarantee that an email you code will render perfectly on all devices, clients or apps—interactive emails are no exception to this rule.

Clients like Outlook strip interactive CSS properties, while others, like Gmail for the web, Yahoo and AOL will support some elements of interactive emails, but not all.

Currently, the Gmail App for both iOS and Android supports interactive elements, but it’s worth noting that Gmail App can be a fickle friend. At one point, the app was updated to not support interactive CSS elements, but this change has since been rolled back.

Clients including Applemail, the native iPhone mail application, and the native Android mail application are supportive of interactive elements and generally don’t cause issues with rendering and functionality. If only every subscriber could be on one of these…

And so, like with static emails, it’s important to keep major email clients in mind when you’re designing an interactive email. Don’t just consider the functionality for those using an email client that supports the elements you want to include. Think about how the email will look to those viewing your message on a device or client that doesn’t support those elements. This is often referred to as the fallback and it’s essentially just a static snapshot of your interactive email.

Are Interactive Emails Really Worth it?

Because a number of email clients lack the ability to fully support interactive email features, many brands question the value of even creating them. As you have no way of really knowing which email client subscribers are using to view your emails, the best way to consider whether or not it’s worth putting the extra time in to creating this type of message is to start slow and test it.

You can run a traditional A/B email test, comparing how an email with a simple interactive component such as a gif or live poll performs over a static version; however, getting statistically significant results here can be tricky, as you have no way of knowing how many of your subscribers sent the interactive version are actually able to see that element.

Another way to test the impact interactive elements have on engagement is to just send that interactive email to all your subscribers and see if there is an uptick in CTRs and, better yet, Conversions.

So start slow. Don’t spend hours of coding and testing a highly complex interactive email until you know it’s something your audience responds to.

/ Social Media

Why This Llama Has Better Engagement on Instagram than Your Brand

Kevin McKernan

"Llama with no drama"

Credit: LLAMAWITHNODRAMA/INSTAGRAM

Earlier this year the world was introduced to a small stuffed llama with a charming smile who had one mission—to provide its followers with a reprieve from the day-to-day stresses of the world. Over the past few months I’ve watch the Llama with No Drama Instagram his way through Central Park, Palm Beach, Miami, Los Angeles, Columbia and more. Always with a smile and always with a beautiful backdrop.

Created by Eylul Savas, who in a May 2016 interview with Mashable said she “wanted to start something with the purpose of putting smiles on people’s faces”, the Llama with No Drama Instagram account has over 17k followers (as of this posting); followers that were all attained with just 172 posts over 20 weeks. And many of the Llama with No Drama’s recent posts earn more than 2000 likes a piece, as well as numerous comments and replies.

Okay, so your brand doesn’t have the cute, cuddly face that Llama with No Drama has. But that doesn’t mean your brand needs to run their Instagram account any differently.

What’s this llama doing so right?

1. It Has a Genuine Tone and Mission.

If the name wasn’t enough to convince you that the Llama with No Drama was on a positive mission, the bio says it all: “One happy llama against the world’s drama. For a daily dose of smiles.” The mission is simple and direct. This, paired with a tone that can only be described as content and friendly, helps audiences connect to this llama. And while it may sound strange that people are connecting to a stuffed llama, it’s not that dissimilar from how consumers connect to the brands they are most loyal to.

2. It Sticks to that Tone and Mission in Every Post.

Most of the Internet is snarky, making it an easy place for people and brands to be cynical and snide. Llama with No Drama will have none of that; every post remains true to their overall mission. We feel like we know this llama and again, it creates a very specific connection. You’ll want your brand to have a similar connection—making it feel like your audience isn’t following an intangible brand, but something more like a person they’ve known for years.

3. It Follows the Golden Rule of Quality over Quantity.

Sometimes Llama with No Drama will post a few images a day. Other times, it’s a few images a week. Sometimes they take a week off. While you always want to be as consistent as possible with your brand’s Instagram posting schedule, take a note from this llama and always choose quality over quantity. Make sure your posts are interesting, eye-catching, and most of all, follow your purpose, tone and mission.

4. It Has its Own Hashtag.

Brands really underestimate the value of a good hashtag. And Llama with No Drama has a great (if obvious) one—#LlamawithNoDrama. It’s a no frills, easy to remember hashtag that allows others to be part of the Llama with No Drama movement. A brand-specific hashtag can create that same sense of community amongst your followers, and sometimes lead to some really great user-generated content that you can re-gram.

5. The Imagery is Beautiful and Interesting.

The Llama with No Drama doesn’t necessarily have access to any more places than you or I would. And while some posts are taken in more exotic locales such as Istanbul, many are taken at common tourist attractions such as the beach, or Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. But even the most ordinary places look unique and interesting, creating an “I want to be there too” vibe. Make your Instagram a place where audience members want to be.

6. It Isn’t Afraid to be Topical.

Llama with No Drama isn’t afraid to participate in things like #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) or Red Nose Day. Or to recognize tragic events like the recent attacks in Orlando or Istanbul. And due to the genuine nature of the tone and mission, these types of mentions don’t feel forced or obligatory. Brands in particular need to be careful about when and where they tap into major holidays, events, or tragedies. If it feels like you’re posting just to post, don’t do it. If you’re posting because the tone and mission of your brand as a whole matches a certain cause or event, then it’s more likely to feel genuine.

Today’s consumers want brands that they can connect with. They want brands that help them portray who they are and how they live their life. Much like Llama with No Drama, your Instagram account can give people something refreshing and interesting to look at, while also creating a lasting connection, no matter if you’re a major purse designer, a clothing store, or a B2B company. Just think like the Llama and see the impact it has on your engagement.

/ Pierry Gives Back

Pierry Employees Give Back: One Tough Mudder

Kevin McKernan

tough mudder image
It’s messy. It’s tough. It’s exhausting. And sometimes you get electrocuted. Come to think of it, minus that last one, running a Tough Mudder really isn’t all that different from being an Account Manager at Pierry. So I guess that explains why no one was all that surprised when I told them I would be running a Tough Mudder in Pittsburgh on September 10th.

And while many here in the office have told me stories of their own Tough Mudder experiences, warning me that at the end of the day it won’t be even an ounce of fun, I am not shaken. Because my participation is going towards something much tougher—breast cancer research.

Earlier this year, my mom and best friend, Marilyn Luley passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. A fighter through and through, my mom had previously fought and beaten kidney disease, lung cancer, and skin cancer, all while being a single parent. She was the toughest woman I’ll ever know, and running this Tough Mudder seemed like the only appropriate way to honor her.

About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. And while efforts to raise awareness about this disease get stronger each year, the only real way to stop breast cancer is through better research, which is why any contributions made to my Tough Mudder campaign will go toward supporting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

Dedicated to the prevention and development of a cure for breast cancer, 91 cents of every dollar donated to the BCRF goes directly toward research and awareness programs, including those centered around tumor biology, heredity and ethnicity, lifestyle factors, prevention, treatment, survivorship, and metastasis.

I invite you to join me in supporting BCRF and their mission to cure a disease that impacts so many women and their families. Visit my donation page for more information.

And on September 10th, when I’m face down in mud, and my arms and legs are stinging from rope burn, and I’m wondering why the heck I ever decided to do this, I’ll remember the contributions I raised, and most of all, my mom, who taught me to always be strong and keep my head up, even when you’re covered in dirt and crawling under barbed wire.

DONATE NOW

/ Creative/Design

Creative: The Most Important Thing You’re Not Testing

Kevin McKernan

Laptop in creative conference room

Some people learn by reading. Others learn by doing. And then there is a select few that learn by watching. In marketing, we often combine these elements of reading, doing, and watching to promote our products. What many fail to remember is that while all consumers consume information in differently, the initial step in the customer buying cycle is visual.

Design has a large impact on your business, and in the same way a brick-and-mortar store will be more successful when it is organized and clean, websites, microsites and landing pages should be equally organized and clean. 46.1% of visitors say website design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of a company. That is nearly half of all visitors.

Think about the brands you enjoy and are most loyal to. There is likely some sort of visual representation that comes to mind with that brand, be it a logo, certain colors, or even the image of a product. That’s because most consumers are visual buyers.

Visuals Drive Engagement

90% of information coming into the brain is visual. It should be no surprise then that content which contains images get 94% more views than content that doesn’t contain a relevant image.

Whether it’s on social media, a landing page, or in an email, images engage your audience. Visuals reach the brain faster and create a deeper emotional connection to your brand. In order to maximize your creative assets, you want to make sure you’re using the right image, at the right time, on the right channel. That’s why it’s so important to make sure it’s something you’re regularly testing.

Common Elements for Testing Creative

Small changes can have a big impact, so it’s important to follow A/B testing best practices and only test one element at a time. These elements could include:

Hero Image

This is generally the first thing a consumer sees on your website, a landing page, or an email and sets the tone for that entire session. That first visual is similar to a billboard – it should be “read” quickly. And having the right hero image in place can be the difference between a consumer clicking, converting, or leaving forever.

Colors

It may seem small, but changing something as simple as the color of a “Call to Action” (or CTA) button can have a big impact. Certain colors draw more attention to themselves than others, making it a simple element to test.

CTAs

CTA buttons should always be present and clear. Both the button itself and the CTA language needs to stand out. Keep your buttons simple, but feel free to test the language, i.e. Sign Up Today vs. Sign Up Now.

Video vs. Static

If you’re always using static images on your landing pages and emails, try testing a video or gif (as video formats are not supported in email). Statistics show that landing pages that include a video often show higher conversions and higher purchase rates.

Text vs. Image

Are you using text where you could be using a visual element? Or are you using an image where you should be using text? This is another simple test you can run on your website, landing pages, or email.

Layout

The placement of a form on a landing page, the appearance of a certain product image in an email—these type of small layout changes can also impact engagement. While most A/B tests only require small changes, if you’re testing a layout, don’t be afraid to test bigger layout changes, i.e. a complete new layout vs. the status quo.

A Case for Testing Personalization

90% of marketers see an increase in conversions when personalization is used in an email. According to Jupiter Research, relevant emails drive 18x more revenue than standard batch and blast sends.

Images are a highly effective way to add relevancy and personalization to your marketing efforts, making it another element that is very much worth testing.

Of course the degree to which you can personalize images varies based on the type of data you have on your customers. But even basic details like zip code or gender can give you a basis for getting started with more personalized images, particularly when it comes to email marketing.

If your email marketing platform is integrated with your e-commerce system you can take personalization one step further by providing images in your messages that mirror their past purchases.

But Before You Test Anything…

Make sure your website, landing pages, and email templates are mobile responsive, as nothing effects the user experience more than having the ability to seamlessly view your content on any device. Otherwise, no matter how good things look from a creative standpoint, you won’t have the type of engagement metrics you want to see.