Ever since the internet giant announced its expansion of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to Gmail, there’s been plenty of inside scuttlebutt amongst email industry insiders, as well as some open criticism of the idea.
As a long-time B2B marketer, what struck me as most significant about the announcement was the larger implications for the future of email marketing.
Why CMOs should pay attention to email
Other marketing channels may be more sexy and command the attention of marketing leaders, but email is the workhorse of digital marketing. It is also the most intimate of the marketing channels.
Consumers today are savvy and more empowered than ever and demand that brand communications are relevant and personalized. It’s hard to keep up with expectations, but the good news is there’s inherent trust within the 1:1 relationship email provides to brands and customers. Email is a natural channel to deliver the kinds of experiences that customers want.
This is a great time to be an email marketer if you’re cued into the trends shaking up the space.
We’re seeing a new wave of innovation in email marketing and Google’s news underscores a larger renaissance. At the same time, consumers are less overwhelmed by their inboxes.
Gmail’s Priority Inbox and Promotions help people better manage their inboxes. And then there is the “Slack effect.” The rise of Slack and other team collaboration tools has eliminated a lot of internal business emails, reducing inbox clutter.
One of the most compelling reasons CMOs should pay more attention to email is its performance. According to the DMA, email has a median ROI of 122%, more than four times higher than social, direct mail, and paid search.
The truth about good email – it’s hard!
While email is a highly effective marketing channel, it’s unfortunately not the most efficient for many. There are several reasons for this.
● It’s a strain on resources – There’s not an email marketer in the world that enjoys spending hours on end coding, testing, and retesting email templates – yet this is still a reality for many. All marketers want to create compelling emails but hit speed bumps due to the vast resources required to deliver quality email campaigns. They’re stuck looking for solutions they can use to deliver advanced and engaging experiences without requiring an army of designers, data scientists, and engineers.
● Email only works outside the walled garden – The good thing about email is that it’s ubiquitous, standards-based, and anyone can use the underlying protocols to send emails or create an email inbox. A de-centralized Internet is vital. However, some of the efforts from companies like Gmail (and others) threaten to break these standards and fragment the channel. Several years ago, Microsoft Hotmail, AOL Mail, and Yahoo Mail all introduced APIs to make email more interactive. This failed because nobody wants to do custom builds for individual email platforms. This also happened during the browser wars of the 1990s when Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer started adding non-standards compliant features. This created a huge burden on web developers who couldn’t trust their HTML page would render properly everywhere.
● Marketers have a content conundrum – With continued growth and investment in digital, email marketers are stuck in a tough spot as they try to deliver fresh, relevant content to consumers who expect interactive, web-like experiences. Digital provides scale and reach, but it’s very hard to scale content that delivers quality email campaigns. No matter what your strategy is, from sending more emails to doing more segmentation, or triggered emails – it all comes back to the need for more compelling content. The more you scale digital, the worse the content problem gets.
AMP does touch on a couple pieces of the content puzzle.
So what exactly is AMP for Gmail?
I don’t want to do a deep dive here, as plenty of other people have already analyzed and written about the ins and outs of the technology. Here’s a great write up posted on FreshInbox for anyone interested in exploring the nuts and bolts.
It is useful to summarize plainly what Google actually release. Right now, it’s a developer preview of AMP for Gmail and is really about two things. First is interactivity (e.g. enabling customers to scroll through image carousels, fill out polls, and RSVP to events without leaving an email). Second is API endpoints (a fancy way to describe sending messages between two web addresses). This is a small part of what Movable Ink does when pulling content into email from multiple sources like websites or social media.
Welcome to the party!
In general, I like the underlying value proposition of AMP for Gmail. It’s hard for me to argue against any attempt to make emails more relevant and useful for the recipient. This has been
Movable Ink’s core mission since its inception in 2010, and AMP for Gmail validates the benefit of emails that are more engaging and interactive.
That said, I have some concerns for now about AMP being a broader, scalable, stand-alone solution for email marketing. While it does make content interactive and calls-to-action more seamless, it doesn’t really address the fundamental things that make email hard. Here’s why:
● Not built for marketers – While Movable Ink’s and Google’s intent for email at the highest level may be aligned, our approach couldn’t be more different. AMP is aimed at developers. Movable Ink is built for marketers. My concern about AMP as a broader email marketing tool (and one shared by other marketers I’ve chatted with) is its dependence on a developer to do anything. Our product roadmap has led to tools that allow marketers to innovate in email with no coding or engineering resources required. Bottom line: We’ve been on a race to make innovation easier for marketers, not more complex.
● Only works on Gmail.com – Yes, there is a lot of opportunity for innovation (and potential to make money) with open source solutions for developers, but for now, none of this is portable, and the innovation is limited to Gmail’s walled garden. We built our software to be 100% cross-platform and works with Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, Apple Mail, Spark, FastMail, GMX, Yandex Mail, and more. Bottom line: Our philosophy is that platform agnostic email marketing solutions will ultimately win.
● Only scratches the surface of what’s possible with content – While interactive content is important, we’re seeing the greatest value emerging from intelligent content. That is, content generated around a person’s current situation, recent behavior, and current marketer initiatives. For example, a marketer may want to tailor content for women who live in snowy climates who’ve shows implicit interest in outdoor sports based upon their website behavior. Another marketer may want to create a million content variations based on customer attributes that sit in an Excel file. A third marketer in the travel industry may want to incorporate real-time prices and inventory into their emails. We’ve gone deeper to provide advanced solutions that marketers care about. Bottom line: We believe that great content builds brands and intelligent content is key to email’s continued success.
Coming full circle, as a marketer, I’m excited about the buzz this has caused. AMP for Gmail highlights the potential benefits of better email experiences for consumers and Google is helping to educate the market. In addition to the many ways we enable marketers to deliver engaging, personalized experiences, we’re also exploring ways to add more interactivity into emails – perhaps AMP could play a part down the road. These are interesting times, and we look forward to watching – and leading the charge – for continued email innovation.
Also Read: Email Is Hard – Here’s How To Make It Easier