The conflicted marketer’s take on AMP for Gmail
Will AMP for email be a force for unparalleled interactivity, or will it be a coding and QA headache? Contributor Kyle Henderick explains why he's of two minds.
Last month, Google announced plans to bring its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology to Gmail, giving subscribers the ability to interact with email content without leaving Gmail.
AMP is Google’s open-source framework designed to help publishers develop rich mobile pages, which is intended to make pages load faster and improve the overall web experience. AMP has received mixed reviews from developers, as many think Google (much like Apple) is trying to introduce more control for themselves.
Now, Google is bringing this technology to Gmail, stating that it will “create more engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences.” Google claims the goal of bringing AMP to Gmail is to give email users the ability to take action within emails. For example, users could fill out questionnaires, schedule meetings or book reservations without ever leaving Gmail. On top of that, AMP for Gmail will also allow email content to be kept current when viewed by subscribers.
Assuming Google follows through in 2018, this type of functionality will undoubtedly impact email marketing, given Gmail’s market share and growth (Gmail now accounts for nearly a third of all email users).
Marketers are divided as to whether the impact will be positive or negative. While some have praised Google’s announcement because of its potential for more interactivity within email, others have expressed concerns about its possible burden on email developers. Here’s my take on the AMP for Gmail announcement.
I love AMP for Gmail’s potential for additional interactivity
AMP for Gmail could give marketers the freedom to be much more creative with email, which in the long run will boost engagement metrics and could make the user’s buying experience much simpler. Using AMP for Gmail, marketers could develop emails that give subscribers the ability to interact with content, much as they do with a website, without leaving Gmail. This functionality provides a huge advantage for the mobile user on the go.
What does this look like? Hypothetically, a travel company could use AMP for Gmail to develop emails that include rotating images of travel destinations and allow subscribers to click different images to learn more about flights, hotels and activities offered at each of these destinations while remaining in Gmail. Ideally, the customer could even book a hotel or restaurant reservation within the email itself.
In another example, a marketer might use AMP for Gmail to send localized offers and content based on the time of open. A restaurant could promote breakfast menu items if the subscriber opens the email in the morning, lunch items if the subscriber opens it in the afternoon and dinner items if he or she opens at night.
According to Google, Pinterest has already used the technology to develop emails that enable subscribers to pin recommendations within the email rather than forcing them to leave the email and visit Pinterest.com on the web. Any e-commerce brand would love to use this one-click option to let people add items to the cart or update their preferences — it makes the marketing opportunities endless.
Ultimately, I think AMP for Gmail could present countless opportunities to help marketers drive more revenue from email. By creating more ways for marketers to expand on their content and enabling subscribers to interact without leaving email, marketers will drive more clicks and ultimately increase conversions. And marketers don’t need to use AMP for Gmail to drive conversions; they can also use these new functionalities to create more interactive editorial content and optimize the user experience within the story.
While many of the naysayers are not happy about email shifting away from being “static” in the inbox (similar to snail mail), I wholeheartedly disagree. Email has always had a special place in our hearts, and it’s the glue behind (almost) every social media and website login. Gmail has thrived by gaining market share through innovation of this channel, and this new functionality continues to provide that.
Stringent coding guidelines are a serious concern
Despite AMP for Gmail’s exciting potential for creativity, I do see downsides related to coding. AMP for Gmail essentially changes the foundation that all developers have been using to build interactive emails. While AMP supports interactivity within email, its use is Gmail-specific, whereas other tried-and-true HTML/CSS tactics are supported across other email clients.
If they want to take advantage of this functionality, developers will be required to build all emails to meet this Gmail-specific requirement, which is no small task. At the same time, it is possible the other two-thirds of a marketer’s subscribers will have a different experience within the same email. The question becomes, if emails must be developed to fit AMP for Gmail standards, will Apple or another inbox company start to require special coding rules, too?
As it stands today, AMP coding is also much less flexible than traditional HTML/CSS. This means email developers will need to follow much more stringent guidelines, and my guess is that this will leave many marketing departments with no choice but to either hire new coders with experience or invest in training for in-house developers. On top of that, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interfaces, which were developed to save time and surmount the sophisticated coding challenges of responsive emails, will struggle to keep up with Gmail’s innovation.
To complicate the relationship even further, this new functionality will also impact the development process from a review and quality assurance standpoint. Now that developers will be coding differently for Gmail, marketers will have to add another step to the QA and testing process to ensure Gmail is working based on its unique coding need. This increases the amount of time it takes to properly build and review a single email.
The bottom line
AMP for Gmail has pros and cons. The experience potential is exciting, but it will also be difficult to implement. Marketing departments will have to get used to the new coding guidelines over time and make the necessary investments in hiring and training to reap the full benefits. Overall, I’m optimistic about it because it moves the needle on interactivity within email, which is one of the top trends I’ve been excited about for 2018.