Published November 15-20, 2023
Solving Push Messaging
In a recent meeting, an Indian marketer asked me, “So, what’s next in Martech to solve our customer engagement problem? Push notifications are becoming harder with all the mobile OS changes, SMS and Email are declining, and RCS and WhatsApp are expensive for repeated mass communications. What is the next wave in push messages to solve the attention deficit problem to get the click to my platforms (website and app)?”
I replied, “Email 2.0 is what’s next with its Email Shops and Engaging Footers. It will enable Inbox Commerce where you won’t even need the click. You will move the conversion closer to the customer. The power of AMP and Atomic Rewards will help solve Attention Recession. Email 2.0 is the fulcrum to fix the five funnel frictions. And it is going to get even better with the coming of Dynamic Engaging Footers (DEF).”
The email footer as we know has just had an “Unsubscribe” link and some additional info about the sender (typically, name and address). The focus has entirely been on the main content – the body of the email, along with the subject line. Emails have been largely posters – images expected to entice a click to a landing page on the brand’s website and app where all the actions are done.
What if this status quo can be challenged and changed? We have seen how AMP enables interactivity in the email to facilitate search, shopping, and even payments inside the email – obviating the need for a clickthrough. We have also discussed how Atomic Rewards (in the form of Mu) can not just improve open rates but also gamify in-mail actions like ratings, reviews, referrals, and progressive profiling. I have also written about how Email Footers can be transformed. [Links to all these essays are given below.]
Let’s now bring in one more innovation into Email Footers. What if a collection of AMPlets could go into every email in the world easily? This would be akin to how the addition of a code snippet plugs Google Analytics into any site. This adds a “dynamic” flavour to the footer – where the content can be generated when the email is opened and viewed rather than when it is sent – much like ads appearing across the Internet today. These Dynamic Engaging Footers can be the result of brand action or as we discussed in a recent essay, consumers opting for a new mobile number-linked email forwarding address which enables an intermediary to shape the email.
DEFs are a marketer’s dream come true; they can revolutionise not just customer engagement but also commerce. They can help reduce AdWaste by improving the efficacy of new customer acquisition. They can create new revenue opportunities for brands and rewards for customers. This essay will explore the coming world of DEFs and show how emails can become delightful, exciting, and fun.
The term “silver bullet” originates from folklore and refers to a miraculous solution effective against otherwise hard-to-kill creatures, especially werewolves. In modern parlance, the term has been adopted more broadly to signify a simple, straightforward solution perceived to have extreme effectiveness in resolving a complex problem. Email 2.0 is the quintessential silver bullet for both customers and marketers.
- Reimagining the Email Footer
- Reimagining Email Ads
- Can B2C Email Become Free?
- The Coming of Inbox Commerce
- Email Shops can Transform eCommerce
- Email 2.0: The Rise of the New Super App
- Email 2.0: The Fulcrum for Fixing Five Funnel Frictions
- Number@MyMobile: An Email 2.0 Mailbox for every Mobile
There are five types of AMPlets which can become part of the email footer: engagement, content, shopping, games, and ads.
Engagement: These AMPlets can be used by brands to drive more interaction. For example, they can be used for getting NPS ratings, reviews, and referrals. They can also be used for progressing profiling, thus helping the brand know more about the customer. The advantage: no need for clickthroughs or landing pages, as happens now.
Content: AMPlets can offer a carousel of headlines and stubs, and real-time quotes.
Shopping: Footer AMPlets can also offer shopping carts, if there is deep integration with the shopping platform. Imagine being able to get a mini-version of Email Shops in the footer – complete with search, categories, magic cart, and live recommendations.
Games: From roulette to quizzes, games can be a big draw to ensure emails are opened and engaged. Think of this like the comics section in a newsletter – a big draw for getting consumers to open the email and scroll to the footer, and thus also view the brand content.
An addition here can be Mu – the Atomic Rewards program which enables earning and burning of the points.
Ads: Footer ads can be a source of revenue. For the first time, ads can be personalised for a single individual because the email ID to whom the ad is being shown is known. Ads can also be actionable — lead-generation or for selling products. Eventually, the shopping ads could be linked with a wallet enabling one-click/tap shopping.
One thing to note with all these examples is that in all cases there is no action which takes the user outside the email – all actions are completed right inside the email. Besides, being in the footer, they are completely non-intrusive from a consumer experience standpoint.
To bring DEF into existence, there are five phases: AMPifier, brand Integration, ESP integration, eCommerce catalog integration, and payment integration.
AMPifier: Most emails today are plain vanilla HTML emails. They need to be converted to AMP. Then, a piece of code will need to be added to bring DEF to life. Both of these actions can be done with the help of an AMPifier. (For more, see AMPifier: The Heart of Email 2.0 Hotlines.) In fact, brands can just take their email templates, AMPifiy them, and they are done. This is the easiest first step which can be done in minutes by any brand and is independent of the email service provider (ESP).
Brand integration: The second level of DEF enhancement comes when the brand can add some additional elements at the email creation time to connect the AMPlets and PII info (email ID) to its backend, thus adding an element of personalisation. This requires the brand’s IT team to get involved.
ESP integration: The email service provider can bring in elements like Mu in the Subject which can create additional incentives for end customers to open the emails. Without the Mu, it is not possible for a customer to differentiate between ordinary emails and DEF-enabled emails.
eCommerce catalog integration: This can take personalisation to a different level by powering search, magic carts, and recommendations in the DEF.
Payment integration: The final frontier is to add in-mail payments. This can allow transactions in the footer without exiting the email. It can be a big driver for revenues for the entire value chain, eliminating the need to transfer control to a shopping completion process on a website or app.
DEF can thus take on a life of its own. The power of push and PII (email ID) can transform commerce and therefore ads which are shown. Just as a newspaper or media site combines content and ads, emails can do that and more – powering one-click purchase within the email. These are experiences none of us have seen. They can thus go a long way to a world of frictionless funnels and inbox commerce. While many of these footer AMPlets should become part of the main email body over time, the DEF gives brands the ability to experiment quickly without involving IT teams and deep integrations.
As a first step, brands should start using tools like AMPifier to ensure that every email they send is an AMP email with DEF. These will create excitement in recipients leading to more open rates and higher engagement. Over time, the unidimensional age of clickthrough ads we see all around us on the Internet will be replaced with interactive and actionable ads, creating new revenue opportunities for brands and intelligent next best actions for customers – a win-win which will reduce AdWaste and help drive greater profits for brands.
There are many innovations which are coming together to bring DEF to life. Individually, the enabling tech has existed for some time, but no one has yet imagined this new future and put it all together.
AMP in Email: AMP makes emails interactive. It has been around for a few years. A recent essay by Dmitry Kudrenko discussed its pros and cons: Among the pros mentioned:
- Increased conversion
The primary goal of most marketing emails is to prompt recipients to take a specific action. This could include making a purchase, visiting the company’s blog for more information, filling out forms, etc. With AMP, subscribers can perform all these actions directly within the email, even engaging in games.
- AMP opens new horizons
Thanks to AMP, newsletters have transformed, becoming more dynamic and interactive. Marketers can now gamify their email campaigns, allow users to complete event bookings (from selecting time slots to receiving confirmation notifications), load additional product items, and even collect feedback directly within the emails. In short, features that were once exclusive to web pages can now be integrated into emails. This enhanced functionality gives businesses a competitive edge by making emails significantly more effective.
- Real-time content
AMP enables real-time content in emails. This means the content updates in our inboxes each time we open the email, ensuring that brands share only the most current information with their subscribers.
Magic Carts: This is an innovation being pioneered by Netcore as part of its Inbox Commerce platform. Magic carts can be used for items abandoned by shoppers and for sending new merchandising triggers. [See Email Shops can Transform eCommerce.]
Atomic Rewards: These are micro-incentives for the upstream and downstream actions in a conversion funnel. Brands can reward attention, data, ratings, reviews, referrals, and much more. This pan-brand currency can gamify in-mail actions and enable marketers to shift consumer behaviour. [See Atomic Rewards: The Solution to Attention Recession and Loyalty 2.0: How Brands can Tokenise Customer Attention and Data.]
Action Ads: Ads are the economic engine of consumer Internet. About $400 billion is spent by brands on new customer acquisition and retargeting of existing customers. Half of this money is wasted because of wrong acquisition and reacquisition (instead of reactivation). Ads in email footers open up a trillion monthly touchpoints for brands to engage better with customers. Because these ads can come to life with user interaction, much more can be done in-place without the need for a clickthrough to a landing page. Also, for the first time, ads can be served to individuals where the PII (email ID) is known thus leading to interactions valuable for both advertisers and consumers.
Pay for RoI: DEF’s next innovation is to price everything for performance rather than opens, impressions or interactions. This is possible because actions can be completed within the email itself. This can lead to open-ended budgets because brands can pay for clearly defined outcomes.
Number@MyMobile: This is an idea which can expand the scope of DEF by powering emails redirected by consumers to an intermediate email ID linked with their mobile number. Together with the B2B push from brands, DEF can become a reality sooner than later. [See Number@MyMobile: An Email 2.0 Mailbox for every Mobile.]
Arun and Jeni
Let’s imagine the future lives of Arun, a consumer, and Jeni, a marketing manager at A1 Books, in a DEF world. Here’s a short story, written in collaboration with ChatGPT.
Arun stretched his arms, waking up to the soft glow of his smart alarm clock. The date, time, and weather info slowly blurred into focus, alongside a few email notifications. He reached out and tapped the most recent one – a promotional email from the insurance company. The Mu in the Subject line told his this was one with a Dynamic Engaging Footer (DEF). He scanned the content (a reminder of a renewal payment due soon) and then scrolled further to the footer.
Instead of the regular static content, this email was alive. There was an ad from A1 Books which showcased a carousel of bestselling books. The footer was personalised based on Arun’s reading habits, featuring a mix of mysteries and self-help books. “Ah, this anthology of locked room stories looks interesting,” Arun muttered, noticing the title in the DEF. With a single tap, he purchased the book from within the email. No redirects, no waiting.
On the other side of the city, Jeni, the marketing manager at A1 Books, reviewed her dashboard. The DEF Actionable Ads initiative had been her brainchild, and she was eager to see the results. The metrics were impressive; revenues were up by 20% ever since they introduced DEF. Not only was she able to run targeted ads in non-competing emails, but she was now also getting more opens by gamifying content with the footers of A1 Books’ own emails. Customers were engaging more, buying directly from the emails, and even leaving reviews without ever leaving their inboxes.
A notification popped up on her screen. “Arun Malhotra has just made a purchase using DEF.” Jeni smiled, recognising the name. Arun was one of their long-time loyal customers. The DEF system allowed her to send personalised book recommendations based on his preferences, and he seemed to love it.
Throughout the day, Arun received a few more DEF-enabled emails. He received a personalised financial tip from his bank – he had not read some of their recent emails which seemed too “salesy” for him. His favourite restaurant had a new menu, and the DEF let him book a table for the weekend, complete with a special discount applied. He had played a few games in some of the other emails. Emails were cool again! And he had clocked 35 Mu during the day.
Jeni, on the other hand, had a busy day. She had meetings with various departments to discuss integrating DEF into other customer touchpoints. The team was even exploring creating a DEF for event invitations for their bookstore readings, which would let attendees RSVP, pick a seat, and order a snack, all within the footer email. She wanted to also use the A1 Books footers to collect more profiling information on what people liked – without intruding into the mail body.
By evening, Arun settled into his favourite armchair, an e-book reader in hand. He began reading the book he’d purchased that morning, lost in the world of fiction. The DEF had made his day smoother, saving him time and effort.
Jeni, wrapping up her day, looked at the final metrics. Thousands of transactions, all through DEF – some through ads served by A1 Books and others in emails sent by A1 Books. She jotted down some notes for tomorrow’s meeting. They were only scratching the surface of what DEF could do, and she was excited about the possibilities.
In this world powered by DEF, both consumers and marketers found value. The long-ignored email footer had come to life powering engagement and commerce. It was a world where technology made lives simpler, bridging the gap between intent and action, one email at a time.
A Personal View
For the past three years, I have been writing about new ideas in the world of marketing. One of the themes I have written about has been Email 2.0, underpinned by AMP and Atomic Rewards. The prevailing notion is that email has lost its sheen, giving way to contemporary channels like WhatsApp because consumers have grown indifferent to their inboxes. I ardently contest this perspective. The ebbing popularity of email as a channel stems from neglect. Many marketers have resorted to sending generic, poster-like emails without personalization, and email service providers have stagnated in terms of innovation. Email does not have a champion – neither an individual not a corporate entity.
I am determined to alter this narrative. Email – apart from being an essential tool for Netcore – continues to hold significance for billions of consumers and global brands. It’s synonymous with our primary digital identity, rivalled only by the mobile number. It stands out as the most economical communication and engagement channel for marketers, free from intermediary influences. The void in email’s potential has been the absence of cutting-edge technology and creative vision. Google’s AMP for Email injects the technological vigour, while Atomic Rewards introduces the novelty. Collectively, they herald a paradigm shift, envisioning a redefined email future – Email 2.0 – that breaks away from its conventional past.
My essays weave in tales (like that of Arun and Jeni) to spotlight potential avenues. Coupled with the interactive demos developed in collaboration with my team, they help envision the revolutionary future of a dynamic engagement and commerce platform. The world needs push communications because other than spending big on branding there is no other way to bring customers back to the properties. In fact, Email 2.0 pushes the envelope further: it takes the conversion funnel into the inbox opening new worlds. Inbox Commerce. Inbox Banking. Inbox Trading. Inbox Insurance. Inbox Booking. Anything we can imagine.
Innovation is propelled by imagination, and I harness it at three tiers: expansive writings that delve deep into concepts, demos that offer a glimpse into a futuristic vision, and pioneering products that bridge the gap between imagination and reality. I staunchly believe that email’s golden era isn’t behind us, but ahead. With Email 2.0, fortified by AMP, Atomic Rewards, and our collective ingenuity, we have the arsenal to address every conversion bottleneck hampering brand profitability. The potential is huge: a staggering $200 billion AdWaste market ripe for redirection. If this isn’t a clarion call for email entrepreneurs, what is?