Adobe drives innovation as one of the firsts to deliver this modern app functionality from Google.
Editor’s Note: the following guest post was written by Sunil Menonand was originally featuredon the Adobe Blog
Email continues to play a major role both in our professional and personal lives. In fact, according to Adobe’s annual Consumer Email Survey, Americans spend more than five hours a day checking their emails. With consumers spending so much time in their inbox, email has become an essential channel for brands to engage with their customers. Our survey also revealed that 60% of consumers prefer to receive brand offers via email, yet consumers only find a quarter of the emails they receive interesting enough to open.
If email content is static, it can become out-of-date almost as soon as it’s sent. Plus, email often requires the consumer to take action forcing them to exit the email or opening a browser window, making the experience feel more fragmented or transactional. How can brands take better advantage of the time consumers spend in their inboxes to deliver more personalized experiences and drive higher engagement? The answer lies in creating emails that are both interactive, authentic and informative.
To help brands stand out among the more than 290 billion emails that are sent every day and to further demonstrate its commitment to innovation, Adobe Campaign, part of Adobe Experience Cloud, is announcing compatibility with AMP for Email, supported by Gmail and other mail clients. Available to Adobe Campaign customers now, this innovative modern app functionality for email allows senders to include AMP components inside rich, engaging emails sent from Adobe Campaign Classic. Adobe Campaign is among the first group of email marketing solutions to be compatible with AMP for Email.
By leveraging AMP for Email within Adobe Campaign, marketers are able to deliver innovative email marketing campaigns by:
Interacting with customers directly within email: Marketers will no longer have to rely solely on embedded hyperlinks. With AMP, customers will be able to interact with polls, make reservations, manage subscription preferences and more all directly within their email itself. Information captured in form fills syncs directly into Adobe Campaign, so marketers can build engaging email campaigns and gain actionable insights on their marketing efforts all from within the same application.
Updating email content in real time: Content in static emails can quickly become out-of-date or irrelevant. Now information that is updated on a brand’s website can also be updated in real-time inside an email, even after it has already been sent. Thus, giving consumers the latest and most pertinent information and saving marketers the hassle of having to send out an additional message with updated information. For example, a retailer may have sent out a personalized email to a customer suggesting a new coat for the customer to purchase based on past behavior. At the time the email is sent, the coat may not be discounted, but by the time the customer opens the email, the coat is discounted 15%. The new price will be automatically updated within the email, providing the most accurate pricing to inform their purchase decision.
Building dynamic customer experiences quickly and at scale: By leveraging AMP modules within Adobe Campaign, marketers can quickly and easily build interactive, personalized email experiences for customers regardless of the email client. AMP for email is currently supported by Gmail, Outlook and others.
For more information on Adobe Campaign, click here.
Email is still the preferred method of communication for marketing campaigns, transaction alerts, handling customer grievances, mass communication, etc. According to The Radicati Group Inc., the number of worldwide email users will increase to over 2.9 billion by the end of 2019. Over one-third of the worldwide population will be using email by the end of 2019. But can it be even more powerful? Can we make email more engaging and interactive as if someone is browsing a website? Can we serve real time dynamic data no matter when an email is opened? Can we collect information from within the email itself without leaving our Inbox?
Yes, yes. With the AMP Project introducing AMP for Email, all these things are now possible.
What is AMP for Email aka dynamic email?
Wait, I have heard about AMP
You must have. But AMP for Email is different from AMP for HTML, though both are open sourced and part of AMP project. AMP for Email has a few more rules than AMP for HTML in order to ensure a smooth email experience for users; for example, file upload using <input type=”file” /> is not supported (as of now) in AMP for Email but it’s there in AMP for HTML.
Okay, but how is it going to work?
Email consists of MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension) parts such as text/plain for plain text email and text/html for an HTML email. To make the email clients recognize the AMP for Email, a new MIME type text/x-amp-html was introduced. This MIME part will contain AMPHTML markup.
Most email sending libraries and services already started support for this new MIME type e.g. Nodemailer (a library to send emails in node.js) put support in v6.1.0.
Hmm, interesting. Show me AMP for Email in action
Yes, of course. Here is one demo in which an imaginary company “Beautiful Flowers Shop” is asking its customers to provide feedback for different flowers offered by company.
Awesome! I want to learn AMP for Email too. Tell me everything.
To develop a dynamic email, you will need the following four things:
1. A valid AMP for Email markup. This would be your email template which would be rendered in Email. You can validate your markup here at https://amp.gmail.dev/playground/. A sample hello-world markup would be something like:
2. An email library which supports text/x-amp-html MIME part in email body. You can use Nodemailer in node.js. An example snippet can be found here. If your dynamic email is going to contain API calls then you will have to meet CORS requirements.
3. Testing dynamic email in Gmail. Gmail won’t allow dynamic emails to be rendered (it would be rendering html instead) unless your email address is officially whitelisted by the Google team (step 4). But to test your email on some particular Gmail account, you can use the dynamic email developer setting to whitelist from address. https://developers.google.com/gmail/ampemail/testing-dynamic-email
4. Whitelisting your email (sender address) by Gmail so that your dynamic email is rendered to end users. Once you are ready with your production email, you will have to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for whitelisting along with filling the registration form. A complete guide can be found here.
Note that Gmail doesn’t whitelist per domain, the whitelist works per email sender (e.g. if email@example.com is whitelisted, it doesn’t apply to all @example.com addresses).
The last two steps are Gmail specific. If you are using Microsoft Outlook, equivalent steps will have to be performed there as well. You can refer to Outlook’s official documentation. Information about AMP for Email on mail.ru can be found here.
I am overwhelmed by so much information
That’s okay! Take your time. When we at Goibibo started this Proof Of Concept, it took us only 2 days to develop a dynamic email and test it in our personal Gmail accounts, but it took us 2+ weeks to make our email use case production-ready and get it whitelisted by Google so that we could send it to our end users. We wanted to send our hotel partners a dynamic email to collect feedback about Extranet (hotelier’s platform for managing rates & inventory) and this is what we came up with:
We specifically used AMP for Email to allow hoteliers to “Reply to Reviews” from their checked-out guests. For example, after a customer stays at the hotel, checks out, and leaves a review, the hotelier has the ability to respond to the review within their email.
Earlier we tried this using a hyperlink to Hotelier’s platform called Extranet, and this used to have a B2B email open rate of 14% to collect replies to reviews from the Hoteliers (B2B). During Proof Of Concept, which we ran on 2 different occasions, we got an amazing response with path-breaking email open rates.
AMP for Email is really promising and we at Goibibo are going to use it moving forward in our email campaigns. There are some initial challenges like setting up infrastructure for handling AMP API requests and training our email-design and marketing teams, but the end results are going to be really awesome.
Google just officially launched AMP Email, with support from other webmail providers. I work for Google on AMP and worked on some aspects of this project. I thought I’d add my own thoughts on the announcement. My opinions are my own and not those of my employer.
The press has focused on the user experiences in AMP Email. This makes total sense, given the audience. My take, however, is that the more interesting development is the step towards standardizing of HTML Email. Let me explain.
Let’s take a step back and consider non-amp HTML email. The basic idea is that the sender provides two variants of each email using MIME type encoding. Here’s a simplified example:
From: "Senders Name" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Recipient Name" <email@example.com>
Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="bdac7942f697eecfbdac7942f697eecf"
Some text content.
Some bolded html content.
An email client is free to choose which of these 2 alternatives to display and more importantly how to render the bytes.
An email client is not itself a web browser, even if it runs within one. Allowing arbitrary HTML email to run with the full API of a web browser simply fails. The first thing most marketers would do is add a redirect to their own site the moment the email loads.
Simply mitigating redirects and similar is insufficient. The privacy of the user reading the email must be protected. In the case of Gmail and many other webmail clients, the client actively prevents the sender from learning the user’s IP or browser fingerprint. This is fundamentally different from how web browsing works, so browsers fail to provide protection. When browsing, your browser sends your IP address, browser name, and capabilities along to every page that you visit.
A webmail client must then contort it’s presentation of HTML, a language not designed with email in mind. Webmail clients only have two ways of doing so:
Show only the text version of an email.
Modify the HTML before delivery such that the resulting document is safe.
Webmail clients do both. In some cases, the client falls back to text. In most cases, it modifies the HTML.
This is typically called “HTML sanitization”. For some examples:
<script> tags removed completely.
Image URLs are rewritten to load the images from the webmail provider.
Some or all CSS is removed completely.
In many cases, the HTML gets horribly mangled and then shown to the user completely broken, but at least it does not violate the user’s privacy expectations.
A sender must ensure that the email sent will not arrive completely broken.
Each webmail provider sanitizes HTML emails slightly differently. In some cases, not so slightly. The rules for the sanitization are necessarily complex, as HTML is complex. As a result, the documentation describing these rules is often poor or even missing. It’s almost never the case that two email providers will treat the same email the same way.
“If you’re a web designer, you’re probably used to testing web pages in a few different browsers, like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. And you’re probably familiar with a few annoying inconsistencies between all the browsers, and you have a couple hacks to make things look right. For email design, multiply all that by ten. There are tons of email applications out there that you need to test on, and they all render HTML email in their own annoying ways.”
Beyond documentation, none of the major webmail companies provide testing tools. This has resulted in a small industry of services that exist simply to help you test whether or not an HTML email will render correctly. Try this query to get an idea: [html email testing tool]. These services work by maintaining accounts on major mail providers, automating test emails, reverse engineering the sanitization layers, and staying on top of changes.
AMP improves on some of these problems.
With AMP Email, there is a specification for an email sender to develop against. That specification is complicated and evolving, like the others. The documentation is incomplete, like the others.
What’s different about the AMP Email spec?
There is a single specification which multiple webmail companies are implementing. The announcement lists Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, and Mail.Ru. The list is incomplete, but is a solid start.
Open source tooling can validate an AMP Email. Developers get detailed error codes including line numbers and documentation links. The tooling can be run locally as an NPM library or online:
If a developer meets the specification, the promise is that the email will be correctly rendered in every supporting html mail client using every modern browser. The spec and the web mail implementations continue to guarantee the privacy of the user reading the email.
That’s the punchline as I see it: AMP Email is a consistent format that “just works” for developers trying to send HTML email.
There are a few other concerns that have been raised, but I feel some of them are uninformed, while others may be valid:
This is a proprietary format
The specification is open-source and is just a subset of HTML, but it is managed by the governance of the AMP Project. Also note that in effect HTML Email is a set of proprietary formats. No web mail provider supports arbitrary HTML.
Email should be plain text
Perhaps. There is certainly an argument to be made here. I personally suspect that users may be making the wrong dichotomy here: not that HTML email is bad, but junk email is bad and junk email tends to use HTML formatting.
Furthermore, AMP HTML Email does not change the story. No mail provider that currently does not support HTML email also does support AMP HTML email.
HTML email usage seems to be increasing. Simply bolding text or adding an image to an email makes it HTML email, which can be a better experience for most users.
AMP HTML Email still includes a text fallback mime type for users who prefer it.
Yet another format
The concern here is that since not all email clients support AMP HTML email, this effectively added 1 new mime format in each email, rather than simplified anything. This is a valid concern. However, any proposal that requires all email providers to make a simultaneous change is doomed to fail. In the long run, hopefully this simplifies and improves the state of email.
Posted by by Greg Grothaus, Software Engineer, Google
The AMP Project’s mission is to enable more user-first experiences on the web, including web-based technology like email. For most of us, not much has changed in email functionality since the first time we were introduced to email. Because AMP is inherently fast and secure, we brought AMP technology to email in order to give users an interactive, real-time experience that also keeps inboxes safe.
AMP now enables all-new email experiences like being able to submit RSVPs to events, fill out questionnaires, browse catalogs, or respond to comments right within the email. Emails can also stay up to date, displaying the freshest content from comment threads or the latest recommendations.
Bringing AMP emails to major email providers
The AMP for email spec has engagement from major email providers around the world including Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, and Mail.Ru. As each of these providers launches support, senders will scale the reach of their AMP emails to users.
After a developer preview with top email senders, Gmail is launching general availability of AMP for Email today. You can head to the Gmail blog to see some illustrative examples of the email recipient experience. You can also check out these provider specific pages for additional information:
We aim to provide the highest quality email experiences for our consumers and we are excited to be one of the first providers to participate in the AMP for email spec. This allows us to enable fast, responsive, and high-performing experiences right within email.
Marcel Becker, Director Product Management for Yahoo Mail
If you develop an email provider and would like to consider adding AMP for email support, you can find more information here.
Start creating AMP emails today
Email senders can begin creating AMP emails by using the playground which allows you to edit markup and see real-time changes to your email. For more information about the supported features and syntax, head over to amp.dev. It’s important to note that some providers may have sender whitelists that limit who is eligible to send AMP emails, so be sure to register with providers if that’s the case.
If you rely on a third party for your emails, please ensure they have AMP support. The following email products already support the AMP spec or in the process of launching support soon:
SparkPost, an email delivery and analytics platform
More are in progress, so contact your email service providers to find out if they support AMP email
AMP emails are designed to be compatible in the current email ecosystem with the introduction of a new MIME part. This design allows emails to fall back to HTML if a provider or email client doesn’t support AMP emails yet—learn more about the spec and recommended guidelines.
New AMP email working group
To make AMP the best user-friendly email experience, we need your help to contribute to its direction. This is why we created the AMP for email working group under AMP’s governance model, a way to channel feedback from senders and providers to support ongoing spec improvements.
The two goals of this group are to:
Increase email provider knowledge sharing to promote higher cross-provider compatibility of sender emails
Channel community feedback to senders and providers to support ongoing innovation of the spec
With the email spec being open source, strong multi-vendor support, a gradual migration strategy, and an open working group to have everyone’s voice heard, we’re looking forward to building a better email experience for everyone.
We look forward to your involvement!
Posted by Vamsee Jasti, Product Manager, AMP Project