AMP Up Your Emails

Sometimes I relate building emails to building websites 20 years ago. They’re made using tables (an old and rigid format), there’s inconsistent coding support, and they have limited interactivity. So when attending Litmus Live in Boston earlier this month I hoped to learn some new tips and upcoming tech in the email world. Besides all the glorious gifs, one subject that caught my attention was ⚡️AMP4Email. Being familiar with AMP for websites, having used it before, but not for emails, I was intrigued…

First, what is AMP?

AMP is an HTML framework backed by JavaScript that easily enables functionality with an added focus on user-experience and security. There are AMP components for everything from carousels and accordions, to secure responsive forms, to retrieving fresh content from remote endpoints.

What is ⚡️AMP4Email?

The AMP for Email format provides a subset of AMP components that you can use in email messages. This gives email subscribers a more web-page-like experience as they can view and interact with the AMP components directly in the email. With AMP email, marketers can receive and send back more data than ever. And, with AMP emails being dynamic, the content can update within the email (like user favorites, prices, and dates), which allows brands to add an even greater personalization to emails without subscribers ever leaving their email client.

How is ⚡️ AMP4Email different from usual HTML email?

AMP email is a typical HTML email, but it adds support for limited JavaScript markup where you can add AMP elements. Email marketers can embed interactive elements like carousels, accordions, confirmation, purchase buttons, etc., into the emails without opening a new tab to visit a website. A full list of supported ⚡️AMP4Email components can be found here. A separate MIME-type of text-x-amphtml will be required in order to render the interactive, AMP-powered version. This means coding an entirely separate document from your HTML and TXT MIME-types.

What about support?

Currently a lot of ESPs don’t support the full range of JavaScript capabilities in sending an HTML email, so if you want to use this technology you may need to look into one of these providers: SparkPost, Twilio SendGrid, Stripo, or Amazon SES / Amazon Pinpoint. If your ESP already supports sending AMP HTML email the next step is to register with Google to get your domain whitelisted. A spot on the whitelist is going to tell spam filters your emails are safe to deliver to your subscriber’s inbox. It’s also an essential step in order to send dynamic content with AMP.

Main email service providers, like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, and Mail.ru, support AMP technology, meaning you can add AMP elements into the emails of a good portion of your subscribers. Gmail has ~30% of the email market share today, which is certainly large enough to make an impact. Yahoo and Outlook add another combined 19%.

According to Litmus, nearly a third of marketers who know what ⚡️AMP4Email is say they’re very likely to use it. And nearly two-thirds of brands that have created interactive emails plan to make more. But, ~90% of email marketers have never built an interactive email to begin with and ~50% don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.

The Pros

A Better UX and Increased In-mail Capabilities: ⚡️ AMP4Email allows senders to include AMP components inside engaging, personalized emails, making them dynamic and interactive. Users can then engage with the content directly within their email.

Improved Analytics Tracking: Interactive email requires an individual tracking pixel fired off as a background image for each action, but can only measure *if* a user interacts with an element and not how many times they interact with an element. ⚡️AMP4Email’s dynamic content will allow the ability to inject dynamic pixels for every interactive event you want to track.

Dynamic Content: ⚡️AMP4Email allows for real-time, in-email, no-refresh-needed updates. This is possible because the server retrieves fresh content from remote endpoints, keeping email up to date.

The Cons

I'm here to scare you straight!

Doubles Design & Development Work: ⚡️AMP4Email requires a separate MIME-type for sending. This creates extra work for every email because you still need to create a fallback HTML version. A new learning curve exists for email marketers to learn AMP altogether and will require email developers to learn another specific skill set in order to simply build an email.

Lack of Email Service Provider (ESP) Support: Right now there’s not a lot of support for ⚡️AMP4Email by ESPs. Even if you create a separate AMP for Email MIME-type, your ESP has to be able to accept and send that new MIME-type. Otherwise, you can’t use AMP for Email.

Lack of Mobile Support: Over 80% of people open email on their mobile device but ⚡️ AMP4Email currently has no mobile support. 🙁

It’s Not Standard. Documentation Can Lag: AMP-powered emails rely on client-specific (“client” refers to software like Outlook, Apple’s Mail, and web-based software like Gmail and Yahoo Mail), coding and even with that, it’s not going to work in all email clients. This is another step away from email coding standardization. When improvements do roll out, the documentation can often lag on what’s now supported and how to implement it.

Should I use AMP?

⚡️ AMP4Email is not a game changer—yet. Could it be the future of email? Perhaps. However, with so many challenges in the way, it may be a while until marketers can start sending AMP-powered interactive emails. Some things to consider before getting started with AMP emails:

  • Does my ESP support sending it?
  • Is a significant portion of my audience opening the email on a supported email client?
  • Do I want to spend the time/money to design and code a 3rd MIME-type document as well as an HTML fallback?
  • Does AMP offer functionality that I can’t otherwise achieve with classical interactive HTML?

Jessie Campbell

Jessie Campbell

Digital Creative Manager

Jessie brings classically refined design education to each of the projects she touches. Being one of those super rare designers who can work on an amazing print project, and then develop a website from start to finish, and wrap it up with some animation work, Jessie’s range of abilities is a special weapon for ONeil Interactive.