Matt Harris Talks Interactive Emails, Google AMP Technology

August 25, 2022

Matt Harris is the Founder and CEO of Dyspatch and Sendwithus. He’s been in the business of making email better for over eight years, with a background in product development, growth, marketing, and enterprise sales. On weekends, he can be found rock-climbing, hiking, or hanging out with his wife, JD, and their dog, Xena.

Harris joined MailCon on August 23 for a well-rounded webinar covering all things related to interactive emails, how Google AMP technology works, examples and use cases of interactive email elements, and so much more. 

Follow along in this Q&A to dive deeper into Harris’ world of email technology, strategy, and beyond.

Tell us a little about yourself — who you are, what you do, and how your marketing career came to be. 

I come to marketing from “the dark side.” I’m a former software developer who spent years supporting marketing teams, building automations, and HTML email until I realized I could build software to replace all the code I was writing. So my true marketing career started in “B2D,” or marketing to developers. Eventually, marketers started buying our software, so I expanded my skill set to learn what ROI was and how to speak with marketers.

What is Dyspatch? What’s the mission behind this innovation? 

The core idea behind Dyspatch is very much “solving my own problem.” It’s 2022, and building emails is still too dang hard. Apple and Google are constantly adding new features (hello, Dark Mode) that make mobile email hard, responsive email continues to be challenging to achieve, and that doesn’t even touch things like interactive email or AMP for email. 

So we’re on a mission to make all of that work so marketers and consumers sending emails can focus on what matters: the campaign, the copy, and why they’re sending it.

We know that you’re also the founder of Sendwithus; how does that business model connect to Dyspatch? How do the two support each other? 

I started with Sendwithus, which solved some developer problems with sending emails. It’s kind of like the swiss army knife for developers. Over time, though, we found that some of the key users of Sendwithus weren’t developers, and the platform really wasn’t built for them. With intensive user research, I learned about all the challenges marketers and designers face in email production. Based on how different the user workflow was, I decided Dyspatch should be a whole new platform. 

What are interactive emails, and why do you think they are the biggest trend in email marketing technology? 

Focusing specifically on AMP for email, it’s more than just being interactive. This fundamentally changes what email is (a one-time message that can’t be changed). I view this as you can literally embed an app experience in the email. 

Apps can load fresh data; they can have multiple screens. Apps can save data back to a site. It’s absolutely the most significant change in email since we went from plaintext to HTML. It has the potential to change consumers’ relationships with brands right in the inbox.

What are your favorite interactive email elements? (feel free to include graphics & screenshots) 

I love interactive emails that do something. Whether that’s to make scheduling a meeting easier or to help me create a support ticket instantly without leaving the inbox.

Some of the best apps can be seamless – let me say “yes or no” to something without leaving my inbox. We’ve got some great apps that integrate with parcel tracking, so you always get a real-time view of where your package is.

How does Google AMP technology work? How does it help with interactive email marketing? 

AMP is a technology that Google has embedded in all their email clients (like Gmail) — you have this power in your pocket right now; you just don’t know it. AMP powers all the great interactive features I’ve been talking about. It’s what gives the email superpowers like loading live data or saving a form back to a site.

How can you automate email interactivity? What makes an email successfully interactive? 

The idea is to hook your interactive emails to your CRM or ESP. So, if a user engages with an interactive NPS score, that data instantly syncs to your CRM. This is part of what Dyspatch does for users.

Do interactive emails always work? How interactive is too interactive? 

In terms of engagement, interactive and AMP emails almost always outperform plain old HTML. I often caution clients that it depends on their audience, especially when it comes to the question, “can emails be too interactive?”. You can conceivably embed entire product experiences in AMP emails. But is your audience ready for that? I recommend starting small and testing incremental improvements.

What is the ultimate inbox experience? How does it differ for eCommerce shoppers, affiliates, and other verticals? 

I believe in a future where we rarely leave our inbox to engage with email. Live chat with support, update an airline ticket, or browse new clothing styles without leaving the inbox. On the productivity side, Google Docs has made significant improvements, like replying directly from an email, and I’m hoping we can expand that to more workplace tools.

What are some email testing tips to ensure that your interactive emails are well received? 

Know your customer (and how they read email). For example, if your customers are predominately on Outlook, you have a specific set of interactive options available. Get to know them so you can provide the optimal experience. If your customers are on Gmail or Yahoo, you’re ready to go wild with apps. 

Ultimately, make sure you’re choosing tools that take testing seriously and provide great fallback experiences for clients that don’t support interactive email. We place a special focus on this here at Dyspatch.

What comes first — email content or email design? Why? 

You must know what you’re sending! I believe content is king, especially as it feeds into your subject line and email preheader. That said, if the design is too rigid or inflexible, customers won’t engage with it after opening. So content is king; it’s the WHY of WHY you send this, but don’t let that detract from making sure your design stands out.

What are in-email apps? How do they affect the customer experience/interaction with your brand? 

You’re sending an email to your customer for a reason, often trying to get them to click through on an offer, visit a product page, or schedule a demo. In-email apps remove that “click-through” step from your funnel and let you embed that experience directly into your email. 

A maxim every marketer knows is that every step in your funnel increases drop-off; well, in-email apps can cut out one of those most crucial steps (the clickthrough).

What is one effective but overlooked email marketing tool or tactic that increases audience engagement? 

More marketers should think outside the box about personalization. We all know “first name, last name,” but consider how weather, season, location, or language could be personalized to a prospect. Some of Grubhub’s most famous email campaigns were literally “it’s raining outside, order in.” 

Not everyone is selling sandwiches, but language is the one tactic that’s often overlooked. Many US-based businesses ignore their significant Spanish-speaking customer base or other critical characteristics of their clients.

What’s one message you’d like to send to someone that’s just starting in email marketing?

Nobody goes to university to get a degree in email marketing; it’s an entire industry that’s “discovered on the job,” which is surprising given that many companies rely on email as their number one channel to engage with customers. 

So how do you get started? Get involved in communities like #emailgeeks on Twitter and Slack. And it’s ok; everyone has sent a ‘bad’ email.

ICYMI: Why Interactive Email Is the Biggest Trend in Email Tech

Harris’ webinar generated over 200 online attendees, who virtually gathered to find out the answers to the following questions: 

  • What is interactive email? 
  • What is Google AMP technology? 
  • What are some notable examples and use cases of interactive emails? 

1. What Is Interactive Email? 

To set the stage about what interactive emails entail, Harris highlighted the two following statistics: 

He then elaborated that while people can interact with any email, not every email is interactive. An interactive email usually has a mix of the following characteristics and benefits: 

  • Live, dynamic, interactive email content
  • Saying goodbye to clickthroughs & stale messages
  • Submitting information without leaving the inbox and seeing the latest data every time you open a message
  • An app-like experience

And why should you be adopting interactive emails as soon as possible? Because of Conversion Rate Optimization or CRO. 

As Harris explained, marketers send email because they (or we) want to drive conversion, an ideal outcome. While a conversion can be anything from participating in a survey to completing a purchase, interactive emails tap into the opportunity to remove hurdles from the sales funnel, enabling conversions in the inbox.

With AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages technology, Harris says that marketers can skip over all unnecessary steps in the conversion process. It all looks a little like this: 

Gen Y Shaping Mobile-First Marketing Trends 

What societal force has been the main driver of mobile-first marketing trends? Generation Y. 

Being the youngest generation to grow up with a mobile in hand, using native apps and mobile devices, Gen Y has enforced interactive email as the standard for skyrocketing conversions and engagement for companies. 

Of course, marketing to Gen Y doesn’t apply to all companies. Still, e-Commerce retailers, service providers, and other businesses can hugely benefit from AMP technology to help them segment and target the said audience. 

But that’s not all. What is Google AMP technology? How does it provide seamless experiences for consumers on their mobile devices? 

How Google’s AMP Technology Works

Have you ever replied to a Google Docs comment from your inbox? That’s you interacting with AMP technology. 

Accelerated Mobile Pages is an open-source project created to improve the performance of web pages for mobile devices. This allows senders to include AMP components inside rich, engaging emails, making modern app functionality available within the email. 

AMP in email also enhances and modernizes the email experience through added support for dynamic content and interactivity while keeping users safe. 

The challenge with AMP? It’s that most email platforms don’t yet fully support it. 

Not to worry, however, support for AMP is coming, but in the meantime, using HTML fallbacks ensures all recipients get a seamless email experience. 

Some Things to Note

  • AMP emails expire after 30 days. If an email is opened after 30 days, the recipient will see HTML or plain text fallback.
  • Forwarded emails won’t show AMP. If the recipient forwards the email to another person, that person will see the fallback.
  • Not every email client can view AMP emails. Fallbacks are extremely important.
  • Senders’ email address needs approval from Google to send AMP emails.
  • AMP is more complex than traditional HTML/CSS. It may take longer for your in-house team to fully adopt the AMP code.
  • Not all ESPs are enabled for sending AMP emails. Check your ESP to make sure they support AMP. 

How to Use AMP Technology in Your Emails

Here are a few ways companies are using AMP technology to create a seamless experience in the inbox: 

  • Interactive polls: to collect feedback from customers
  • Live parcel tracking: to give customers instant updates on their shipments
  • Calendar bookings: to give clients an easy system to book a meeting 
  • Reviews and surveys: to gather reviews and feedback from the inbox
  • Reply to comment: to drive in-app engagement through email

Others include gamification, add to cart and abandoned cart, calculators and sliders, voting and liking, invitations, travel check-in, waitlist updates, setting management, and so much more. 

To Wrap It Up 

AMP interactive emails give recipients and audiences an app-like experience in their inboxes. It’s no secret that early adopters of AMP technology will create unique and unforgettable experiences for their customers. 

If you’re an adventurous marketer, then know that the possibilities for AMP experiences are endless, as this technology carries email into future innovations. 

Do you like what you read? Stay tuned and connected with MailCon to get to know more industry rockstars covering the ins and outs of email and omnichannel marketing. 

About the author

MailCon
MailCon

Owned and operated by Phonexa, MailCon is a global community that connects marketing professionals with the latest technology, trends, and strategies in email marketing, lead generation, marketing automation, and mobile and omnichannel marketing. Our fantastic team of content writers contribute to this blog with inspiration from the incredible community of marketers we are privileged to host.

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