Email marketers and developers have long been anticipating Google’s launch of accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for email and the new interactive functionality it could bring to Gmail. The reaction from the email community is about as over-the-top as you would expect.
Google announced its AMP for email last month, stating: “This new spec will be a powerful way for developers to create more engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences.”
Some email people are excited about the interactive possibilities that other email client users have been enjoying for a while. Others are saying it will create backdoors for malware and give Google/Gmail too much control over message content.
My initial reaction is “Hey, this is great. Let me see how this will affect me as it rolls out.”
I’m not blasé about the prospects that interactive elements could play out in Gmail for email marketers and other senders. I’ve just been down this road before.
The real issue: How will the consumer adapt?
Whenever a new email development rolls out from AOL or Yahoo! or Google, it generates a huge argument over whether it will save or destroy email.
Gmail has driven much of this industry fear-mongering. Remember the ads-in-emails controversy when Gmail launched back in 2004? Who can forget all the teeth-gnashing that Priority Inbox (2010) and Tabs generated?
Back in 2013, we all thought Tabs would be the end of the world for email. Subscribers would ignore commercial emails relegated to the Promotions tab. Sky is falling!
Then, studies from Return Path and others found that it did not affect engagement. It did, however, pressure marketers to create more meaningful and relevant conversations with their users. That’s good.
Since then, I haven’t noticed any major brands dumping their email programs because the Promotions tab picked on them too much.
We also know that not every Gmail user goes along with the client changes that Gmail introduces. For me, that’s the most important factor.
How will consumers adapt to new interactive elements, such as being able to RSVP to an event, view inventory in the message or take a survey without leaving the inbox?
Why TechCrunch got it wrong
One day, as I cruised through my daily feed of email news, I came across an article on TechCrunch by Devin Coldewey: “AMP for Email is a terrible idea.”
He writes, essentially, that email is a worthless medium, AMP for email is going to be terrible, and we’re all doomed.
“What Google wants to do is bridge that moat [between communication and application], essentially to allow applications to run inside emails, limited ones to be sure, but by definition the kind of thing that belongs on the other side of the moat,” he wrote.
He also called Google’s move “baldly avaricious” and “a blight on the web, and [it] will be equally bad for email.”
He’s wrong on all counts. I could call it something else, but I don’t use language like that where it can be seen.
Suffice to say, Coldewey doesn’t know anything about email and its technical limitations, or that most of those functional limitations have come from the ISPs rather than a lack of will, imagination or ingenuity.
It wasn’t until recently, with the advent of HTML5 and tools from providers like Movable Ink and Liveclicker, that we could do cool stuff that allows us to deliver more function and value to our customers while not running afoul of ISP standards.
He talks about the inability of email advance in rendering. Devin, I have news for you: ISPs don’t want senders to open up security flaws in email. So, they lock down email like gold in Fort Knox.
I would posit against this poorly articulated column that AMP for email could be a good thing because it is, again, a way for Gmail to make the user experience more vibrant and useful. It could be a change in the evolution of the entire email channel.
The sky keeps falling – or does it?
Maybe it’s because I’m an email veteran of 20+ years. But I’m over the whole sky-is-falling argument whenever something disrupts the business-as-usual take on email.
First, it was Gmail. Then, it was CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation), which was going to kill email marketing to Canadian consumers. Now, it’s GDPR (the EU’s General Data Protection and Regulation), which will kill all digital marketing when it goes into effect in May.
We’re overlooking one important factor – the consumer. As I said earlier, how the customer adapts to change will determine what happens to email in general, not just because Gmail added an in-email RSVP.
Consumers are resilient. They are forward-looking and educated about email and how they want to use it. They want the web and email to evolve and are always looking for new ways to make sense of information.
Adestra’s own consumer surveys show consistently that consumers have learned to use email in ways that suit them best.
To sum up
Let’s take a collective deep and cleansing breath. Let’s see how brands and developers implement the functionalities that AMP for email can bring and whether they spread to email clients beyond Gmail, as Google envisions.
Most importantly, let’s see how the consumer adapts and accepts something new.
Two final thoughts:
I hope nobody from Oath, Google or any other inbox provider reads Coldewey’s article for fear they might think he knows what he’s talking about.
Also, the clip art that illustrated his article was the best thing about the whole piece. I might swipe it for my next PowerPoint presentation on the bright future of email. Thanks!