Imagine an email popping up in your inbox that you were not just eager to open, but thrilled to interact with.
This is the genius of interactive emails. You lose the dull call-and-response of the traditional newsletter structure, and you can actually create a little oasis for the user to enjoy: games, quizzes, and stories your subscribers can get lost in. It shows in the data, too: In Mediafly’s 2022 content review, customers who leveraged interactive content had 94% more views than those who didn’t.
So if you’re a copywriter or designer looking for some inspiration for your next interactive email campaign, look no further. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what an interactive email is, how you create one, and our five favorite examples of the form.
What is an interactive email anyway?
An interactive email is one that encourages and allows for engagement within the email, rather than risking drop-off by directing the user to another page.
Mark Robbins, a former software engineer at Salesforce who now runs the Good Email Code library and pushes the boundaries of email marketing, encourages people to think of an interactive email as they would a landing page. A great interactive email is its own functioning microsite where users can interact as they see fit.
This gives you the added benefit of gathering key insights from how the user interacts with your content. Whether that’s learning their preferences in an A/B-style quiz or understanding how they interact with a gamified version of your product. Every click is an insight into your customer’s unique needs and wants.
Traditionally, interactive emails had to be hard-coded using HTML. A business would have to make custom elements to support interactivity inside their emails. Nowadays you can also use AMP, a framework created by Google, that includes things like forms, carousels, accordions, the ability to book meetings, and CTA buttons.
With interactive emails, it’s important to consider the email systems your mailing list is using. Consider creating a feedback loop within the code to allow a static email to be sent instead of the interactive one if there are any issues.
Five of our favorite interactive emails
These exciting, intriguing emails are some of the best indicators of the future of email marketing.
Litmus: A spooky take on dark mode
Email marketing platform Litmus’ ingenious dark mode pun drives home just how important empathizing with your user’s experience is to create effective emails.
The email features a simple but effective black-and-white toggle that reveals a spooky graveyard. Not only is this a great way to demonstrate the idea of dark mode but it also drives home the importance of considering how your user will experience your email in reality.
Litmus’ CTA then drives users to sign up for a webinar explaining the effects of dark mode on email campaigns. The email also features a call to action which encourages users to share the email on Twitter, creating even more engagement and furthering the reach of the campaign.
Royal Caribbean: Explore the map of Coco Cay
What’s so inventive about this interactive email is it allows the user to plan their holiday from the map and plunges them into a powerful sensory experience of a holiday.
This email campaign is a great example of how interactive emails can be used to create an immersive experience and engage with customers on a deeper level.
As you’re clicking away you’ve already planned that you’ll take your children to the Oasis pool by 10am, then onto the thrill waterpark by 5pm, and maybe you can slip away for some time on chill island in the evening.
By providing the user with the tools they need to plan their own holiday, Royal Caribbean has created an experience that makes the user actively plan their own ‘perfect day’ at Coco Cay rather than passively spectating.
Users can even share their discoveries on social media, extending the reach of the email even further.
Two Digital: Design your own Christmas tree
Creative agency Two Digital’s fun, festive and slightly infuriating Christmas tree decoration game is perfectly on brand for an innovative marketing agency and positions them at the cutting edge of their field.
You can imagine how much more likely a user is to click a CTA once they’ve been busy tapping away getting the perfect neat lines and light timing on their tree. Two take it one step further with options like the Bah Humbug button that will obliterate the tree you’ve spent 5 minutes designing.
The email allows users to save their tree as an image and share it with friends, creating a unique and memorable content-sharing experience all within the email itself. Two Digital set the bar for interactive emails and demonstrated to their client base they can walk the walk of digital creativity, as well as talk the talk.
The BBC: Hooking users on their Dynasties stories
No surprises here that the BBC are masterful storytellers.
With a single click, you’re immersed in a wolf tribe leader’s struggle to keep the peace with her ambitious daughter, or an Emperor penguin’s battle for survival against the worst winter in memory.
The email also features a CTA which encourages users to watch the full episode on BBC iPlayer or read more about nature’s struggle with a lack of space showing a deep understanding of their mailing lists’ values and personality.
The kind of data and user insight you’d get from which animal story user’s click the most on would be invaluable as well. You get the sense that these statistics were used in the room where the animals for the next season of Dynasties were chosen.
The BBC leads a masterclass here on interactive storytelling emails and gives us an example of how to use interactivity and storytelling for the highest effect.
Penguin: Hit the road for the United States of Books campaign
From Pennsylvania to Ohio, Penguin takes the reader on a journey combining books with locations to get people scrolling to the end of this email-come-road-trip-experience.
You can imagine a Kentucky native thrilled that their affinity with bourbon is referenced in the Bourbon Kings or a Bay Stater from Massachusetts delighted with the recognition that Little Women is set in their home state.
The motion of the email not only illuminates the literary landscapes of the United States in a fun way but plants the seed of reading as a way of traveling.
Who knows what you’ll find at the end of the journey? But I can guarantee you Penguin found a lot more time spent in email and a higher clickthrough rate than usual.