Last month we identified kinetic email as an important trend that will impact the digital marketing landscape going into 2016.
While it’s always fun to discuss implications and applications, we wanted to get hands-on unlocking the potential power of kinetic email in the real world, using ourselves as guinea pigs, of course.
After weeks of planning, building, testing (and, re-building, and testing again), we shared our fully-kinetic holiday greetings with clients, friends and partners. And, we learned some valuable lessons along the way.
If you’ve been considering giving kinetic email a shot, here are five things to keep in mind as you get started.
#1) DON'T PLAN ON SWITCHING TO A 100% KINETIC EMAIL PROGRAM RIGHT AWAY.
Kinetic email utilizes HTML5 and CSS techniques to provide a new depth in interaction and animation. Currently, support for that functionality is fairly limited and, for the most part, only supported fully by a handful of the most forward-leaning Inboxes.
You’ll get full support in Apple Mail, on iOS and Android 4, but things are much more hit-and-miss on other popular clients like Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Our friends at FreshInbox have put together an ultra-detailed reference table, complete with quirks, that you may want to bookmark.
Inboxes will catch up, eventually. So, look at testing kinetic initiatives now as an investment in the future and a way to have your email program ready to run full-tilt when they do.
#2) YOUR FALLBACK WILL BE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.
With the limited Inbox support outlined above, it’s a safe bet that a large number of your email recipients will not actually be seeing the kinetic version of your email, at least at first.
Be sure to have a standard HTML email that includes the mission-critical information you want included in a more traditional way.
For example, planning on featuring a number of products in a carousel in your kinetic email? Your fallback could stack HTML or image-based promos pointing to the same destination content.
Or, if you really want to encourage your customers to see the kinetic email, you could even go so far as including instructions pointing users to a supported Inbox, or the web-version of your kinetic email in the fallback.
#3) BE SELECTIVE ABOUT WHEN, AND HOW, YOU EMPLOY A KINETIC APPROACH.
Ultimately, kinetic techniques are another tool to add to your email arsenal. Like any other good tool, they work best when used for their intended purpose.
Because they tend to take more planning and development time and effort, you should view kinetic emails as special-use tools when you really want to showcase a product, service or event in a holistic way. Think big seasonal pushes, high-priority launches and product or service showcases.
Also, when planning your email, remember that, while the animation and interaction options give you the ability to be more robust, they do also impact things like file size and load time, and they have to all be based on CSS-driven actions.
Keeping your creative and development teams in lockstep from the first meeting will help you navigate these hurdles.
#4) TRACKING WILL BE A BIT OF A CHALLENGE.
Many email service providers provide robust reports around the email campaigns deployed through them. However, email has traditionally been a response-based marketing channel, encouraging users to click through quickly and often.
Kinetic emails are focused on encouraging engagement from users within the email itself. As a result, most ESPs don’t currently provide out-of-the-box tracking around users toggling between tabs or moving throughout a carousel within the email.
While ESPs develop their tools, you can still employ simple techniques like including calls-to-action in your kinetic elements to gain some vision into which tab or element users are engaging most. Also, remember that your core email metrics - opens, clicks and click-to-open ratio - are still relevant to measuring your success.
And, setting expectations up front with stakeholders on what you will, and won’t, be able to track, as well as reminding them of the importance of testing can go a long way when analyzing how successful a kinetic campaign was.
#5) TESTING IS YOUR BEST FRIEND.
You might have caught on to this earlier, but it’s worth reiterating. Any time you’re trying something new – especially something with support that varies wildly across platforms and Inboxes – it’s critical you verify that everything is working as expected on the actual devices and email clients your customers are using.
Emulators and preview tools like Litmus are fantastic ways to get a baseline read on how things are working. But, don’t forget to check for yourself in the actual clients and on the real-life devices your customers are using to be 100% sure.
Kinetic email presents an entire new pool of exciting possibilities – ones that we can’t wait to help our clients and partners unlock in 2016.
While we’re getting there, hopefully our early learnings will make your first forays into the next generation of responsive emails a little smoother, smarter and more effective.