Expert Diaries from Zoho Campaigns connects avid email marketers to the experts in this space, and help them learn some best practices and tips. Our aim is to connect email geeks and form a community that learns email marketing from one another.
In this interview, we have Jon Harmer, from the creator team of AMP for Email at Google, who explains the steps and advantages behind the usage of AMP for brands.
Hi Jon! Let’s begin with the basics, addressing the email marketing newbies. Could you explain what AMP stands for and how does it work?
AMP used to stand for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and started as a way of making the web faster for mobile devices. The AMP project is now part of the OpenJS Alliance and AMP no longer stands for anything – it’s just the name.
So, as a head of AMP for emails at Google, could you share your journey about how this idea came into place, how you first incorporated it into Gmail, and when you opened it out for other brands to use?
When we thought about how email hadn’t evolved much as a standard, we started taking a look at AMP and how it could solve some of these limitations. Wmail felt like a natural iteration for AMP where we could bring added functionality into what had historically been static content. And so over time, Google has been using AMP for a variety of use cases ranging from notification emails for comments in Google Docs Sheets and Slides to bring in accordion or carousel components into marketing emails that are coming from Nest or YouTube. We’ve recently started working with additional enterprise senders as we see a lot of opportunity in B2B emails being driven by AMP <<insert ecwid and guru stats>>.
Last but not least, AMP isn’t just a Gmail feature—it’s a cross-company effort. So at the end of the day, AMP’s mission is really about bringing an iterative improvement to what email can accomplish—whether that’s business or consumer, and regardless of what email client you use.
What are the key components in setting up AMP in an email?
1. You have to have a similar HTML fallback for the cases where the email doesn’t render the AMP part. This can happen for a number of reasons, so you must have a good HTML fallback for users.
2. It’s important to ensure that the dynamic aspects of your email serve a clear purpose for the user: providing value to the users in the form of more actionable messages, more relevant recommendations or information. Users open your emails for a reason and any dynamic or interactive content should support that reason. You really have to maintain a sense of empathy for your users.
3. Are the interactive elements clear in your design and do users discover them? Make sure actionable components to the message are obvious to someone interacting with your message.
4. With these capabilities in email, users are coming to expect navigation structures similar to how they work on the web. Ensure user navigation and actions are accompanied by the back buttons, close buttons, or undo buttons that are appropriate.
5. If you design AMP emails that allow users to take actions within an email, you should ensure users are aware of the status of their action. For example, it should be clear within the message whether the user action was successful or if it failed. In the Docs comments the emails we send, we show our users the new comment in the message after the user submits it, for example.
6. Ensure you’re using dynamic interactive elements where they make sense in the message. You probably don’t want to rebuild your entire app inside of email (though that could be super cool), so be thoughtful about the sorts of use cases that fit well in an email versus the ones that should require the user to exit to your app or website.
As with any user-facing surface, you should make sure to test your AMP email to ensure it’s accessible for users of screen readers and other accessibility features on desktop and mobile.
Can you list down some engaging and interactive ways to use AMP in email marketing?
There are so many interesting things that we’ve seen senders doing. Lots of senders are using the basic components of accordion and carousel to make their emails more visually engaging, but the really interesting uses are things that bring workflow steps into the email. Things as simple as email verification messages that keep you in the email and let you confirm your address all the way to SaaS apps like Google Docs, Copper, and Github bringing rich collaboration into the message. Other cases that marketers may be interested in implementing include in-email surveys, airlines allowing you to pick or change your seat in the ticket confirmation email, a widget for subscription management, stuff like that.
What initial challenges could a marketer, who has no design/coding knowledge, face if they’re all set to invest in AMP? And, eventually, how to sail past these challenges?
Just as I wouldn’t expect a marketer with no coding knowledge to hand code an HTML email, I also wouldn’t expect them to hand code an AMP email. This is why there are a bunch of tools out there that allow you to create AMP emails without any coding knowledge. You can see some of what’s available at https://amp.dev/support/faq/email-support and https://amp.dev/documentation/tools/?format=email, but definitely reach out to your email service provider and ask them. Many of them are just waiting to hear from their customers before they implement AMP support.
Currently, only a handful of clients support AMP in emails; nevertheless, AMP is going strong and popular among the email marketers. What do you see as the future for AMP?
We’re excited about the future of AMP for Email, and certainly expect that as more and more senders start sending AMP Emails at volume, the other parts of the ecosystem (ESPs, testing tools, and email clients) will also add support. Stay tuned to AMP.dev for more announcements.
How are AMP emails tracked, considering a vast number of interactions possible?
That’s up to senders and tool providers to sort out. We’re focused on providing the best experience for our email users.
Some email marketers have this doubt—since AMP involves carousels and it’s literally building a website experience inside an email—is the deliverability of an email compromised? What’s your take on this?
Deliverability isn’t affected, as long as you are sending content that your users want to open and interact with, you should be fine. There are no differences between HTML and AMP emails in this regard.
Moving forward to another major question—how secure is AMP when used in emails? Imagine someone booking their conference ticket right from within an email; this would involve a payment transaction. There are some other cases of phishing and scam emails as well. So, it’d be great if you throw some light on email security with AMP.
AMP Emails are subject to the same security, spam and phishing protections that HTML emails are subject to. Additionally, AMP was designed with a number of additional protections. We don’t allow senders to change URLs in messages dynamically, we proxy all of the network calls, things like that.
Now, it’s time to conclude the session with a quick (also fun) rapid fire:
i. What kind of AMP emails have you received in recent times from the brands you’ve subscribed to?
In addition to the early partners we had that I’m a subscriber to – Pinterest and Indeed, I’ve recently seen some interesting stuff from senders in the productivity space that I mentioned before – senders using AMP to help their users get more stuff done faster while in Email.
ii. Emails aside, what else would you prefer to be dynamic?
I think helping people be more productive wherever they are is important. Whether that’s in email or chat or while they’re working on a document or attending a meeting or whatever. We want to make sure that our users are able to get their work done or manage their lives and get on with whatever else they need to do–and do so in a seamless and effortless manner. Dynamic, interactive applications allow for exactly that, and I’m excited to be a part of that evolution of communication.