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As we prepare to enter a new year, it’s a great time for reflecting, planning, and challenging ourselves to do something different. Email marketing, the old reliable of the digital space, is often limited by the thousands of possible combinations of device, operating systems, email providers, and software versions. This leads to spotty support for many widely-used digital techniques.

Fear not, though! These limitations, and the fear around trying something that won’t work for everyone, means if you bravely trod where others dare not – you’ll be rewarded with an engaging experience that stands out in your customer’s crowded inboxes.

  1. The Animated GIF

Ok, the GIF is far from ground-breaking. It is also, however, a very low barrier for resources needed and risk involved. If you add a GIF, make it impactful and memorable. The best ways to use GIFS:

While GIFs enjoy wide support, not all of your email list will see the animation. Those individuals will just see the first frame of the GIF, so as long as no vital information is missing from that first frame, your email will remain impactful across all recipients.

  1. Count-down timers

Countdown timers in emails have gained a lot of popularity in emails over the last few years. With the right software, it is easy to implement and creates a real sense of urgency or anticipation for your customers.

Specialized software is required, though it is included in some email marketing software as part of their offerings. Implementation and management is easy and typically lower cost than a lot of other interactive options. Some audience members won’t benefit from seeing the countdown occur while the email is open, but most software options still create a positive experience by setting the countdown to display the time remaining when the email was opened in such situations.


  1. Polls

Polls are a great way to make email a 2-way communication channel. Listening to your customers, asking for feedback, and valuing their opinions builds your brand through genuine interactions. Polls in emails, however, can be tricky to pull off in a meaningful way. Here’s a few options:

  • Link to a poll on social or a survey page. This is best if you can share results in a later email in the same campaign.
  • Use the email and landing pages. If you put the single-question poll in the email, you can simply link the answers to the appropriate landing page. This requires you already know the results before collecting the data in the email (right/wrong answers or it’s based on previous research data).
  • Use specialized software. Live results can display in the email after a click – with the right software. This will also be limited by your customer’s email provider and will require alternative options for some providers. The investment can be significant, but it is a unique interaction option.
  • Embed a Google Form. This will only work for some of your customers, but you can create a good alternative experience by linking to the form online. No live results would display, and not personal information should be collected this way.


  1. Reveals

Scratch offs, sliders, zippers, flipping images, etc.! There are a lot of ways that you can ask your users to interact in order to reveal the featured content of the email. This will provide an engaging experience for your customers. It also requires thoughtful implementation as the risk is high that the experience will be limited for many of your customers.

These solutions require custom coding or specialized software. There is very limited support for these functionalities within the email itself. You will need to either link to the experience on a webpage, duplicate the experience on a webpage, or set a default that shows the full offer.

  1. Website or Social Scrapes 

There are times when you’ll want your email to reflect the most recent update. A branded hashtag at an event, the latest breaking news, or current loyalty program status. This is possible with specialized software, and often a developer resource as well.

These can be very effective, and they are great ways to provide your customer with an up-to-date view for ever changing information. Some scrapes can even be interactive if they point to user-generated content!

These are higher investment and higher risk tactics. To implement any live information, you’ll want to work with appropriate specialists to thoroughly assess the potential benefits and risks.

But Wait, There’s More!

These are many of the most approachable options, but there’s virtually no limit to what you can do. And with AMP interactive coding growing in support, interactive email is only going to grow.

Even now, with enough time and money, emails can include mini-games, color and font customization settings, image rotators, expandable menus, and more! The key is using the right experience, and investing the right amount of resources, for maximum impact with your customer base. For some audiences, a thoughtfully designed gif may be as or even more effective than a cutting-edge interactive email. If your audience includes a lot of early-adapters and innovation is part of your brand, it may be appropriate to really push the envelope of your marketing emails.

The key is not to let limited support in email providers hold you back. Provide an engaging experience in your emails, and just work with professionals to ensure any interactive elements you use are setup to fail gracefully when not supported in a customer’s email inbox.



Sara Willimon

Author Sara Willimon

Sara is a Senior Email Marketing Specialist at InQuest Marketing. She helps brands connect to their customers by providing strategy, analysis, and deliverability guidance to grow their email efforts. In her free time, Sara loves to travel and play board games. If she could have any superpower she would choose teleportation- just think of the efficiency!

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