**Today’s blog is a partner post from our friends at Rebelmail. See how we’re handling exciting new developments in interactive email together.

Email isn’t the buzziest of marketing channels. It’s the old, reliable workhorse that produces consistently great results. While no marketer takes email for granted, they probably don’t expect major innovation in the channel either. And that’s why Google’s AMP announcement created such a stir.

Google’s announcement has been met with mixed reactions. Many marketers are intrigued by a new world of opportunity, while some prefer the simplicity of the inbox or lament the fragmentation of email clients with their own languages.

However you may feel about this particular announcement, at the end of the day it’s clear that actionable, interactive email experiences are the future of email. And we know because we’ve led the charge, partnering with some of the most innovative brands and marketers to bring these experiences to millions of inboxes around the world.

REBEL has worked with brands to power everything from interactive review forms to dating in email, and just about anything in between. Brands have successfully enabled their customers to search, to cart items, to give their preferences, and now even to make purchases, all without leaving their inboxes. By providing an amazing, frictionless, and better experience, we have elevated the customer experience. We work closely with SparkPost to ensure these interactive experiences are delivered at scale without a hitch directly to your customers inboxes.

How do we do this?

REBEL provides a scalable solution for both marketers and developers to create actionable email inbox experiences. Email is hard, and we take care of the nitty gritty, ensuring a great experience regardless of whether your customer opens your email on their iPhone or Gmail on their Windows laptop.

How does AMP play into this?

AMP is another tool in our arsenal. Email is sent in multiple parts – you are already familiar with text and HTML, and AMP is just another MIME type. We deliver amazing interactive experiences today across clients including Gmail, and this will evolve even further when AMP rolls out to Gmail.

How does this all work with SparkPost?

When Google gets ready for the release you will be able to deliver this new MIME type directly through SparkPost. When building a campaign in REBEL you’ll receive the new MIME type as part of the template generation process to be deployed through SparkPost as per usual.

Our goal at Rebel is to make it simple for you to build beautiful, effective interactive campaigns, across all email environments. Whether you are a marketer or a developer, we are excited to work with you to make the inbox a more exciting, engaging place to deliver your brand experience.

-Manisha

Manisha is an email and marketing technology enthusiast based in Brooklyn, NY. As VP of Success & Business Operations at REBEL, her team helps some of the biggest brands in the world achieve their goals by bringing interactive, actionable messaging to their customer’s inboxes.

2018 Sparky Award Winners

Another year, another great awards season! Each year that we host the Sparky Awards, we see some remarkable submissions from our community. You folks are doing some awesome things with email to engage your recipients and nurture valuable relationships. With the buzz around Interactive Email and our own introduction of HEML earlier this year, we decided to add that category to the mix with some truly stand out projects.

Without further ado, here are the winners in each category for the 2018 Sparky Awards!

Best Email Subject Line

Winner: Zillow
Submission Recap: Repeat winner alert! Zillow continues to impress us with their timely and clever emails. This simple subject line “Spaces (and Jokes) Dads Love” went out on Father’s Day and did a wonderful job combining the relevance of a holiday with relatable and engaging content – in the form of dad jokes!

zillow dad jokes 2018 sparky award winner

 

Best Triggered Email

Winner: Really Good Emails
Submission Recap: Really Good Emails was looking for ways to confirm or ask for subscriber’s information after opt-in that didn’t feel intrusive. Using Campaign Monitor, they set up a flow to trigger an email two weeks after sign-up to check and see if the subscribers had updated their personal info. If they hadn’t, the subscriber got a playful “this is awkward, we want know you better” email prompting for a quick opt-in and update of personal information with a “Hello my name is…” CTA. In addition to an incredible increase in basic subscriber info that can be used to personalize emails and interactions, the fun email really drove engagement on social channels – Really Good Emails got dozens of tweets praising the simple but effective email.

really good emails triggered 2018 sparky award winners email

Best Use of the SparkPost API

Winner: Charlie Novoa, InFocus Ad Agency
Submission Recap: Email delivery isn’t the most glamorous thing, but it is a critical element to almost all business operations. Charlie from InFocus Advertising Agency works with an ever-changing landscape of clients and software solutions, each with their own demands and hurdles.

“We’re using SparkPost to send form submissions from Single Page Applications or Landing Pages that we use for Pay-per-click and other marketing campaigns. Right off the bat, SparkPost became our go-to service. Not only did it come with a great suite of features, but we also benefited from the reliability and deliverability that we would have never achieved on our own. The API is extremely easy to implement and the documentation is very well written and extensive! There are so many neat features that we still haven’t even explored. As a result of implementing SparkPost, We’ve saved innumerable hours that would have been spent tinkering, debugging or spinning up servers.”

Best Product Email

Winner: GovX
Submission Recap: This timely email was sent to an active Air Force member on Valentine’s Day featuring products relevant to that specific demographic. GovX is a top member-based retailer exclusively for the men and women who’ve served our country. Featuring over 700 brands and more than 75,000 products, GovX sends over 300 million emails per year. In 2016, GovX partnered with Cordial and SparkPost to build, personalize and deliver email. The GovX team is now able to automatically pull relevant imagery and content from a library that is specific to their various user types, removing the need for multiple versions of the same email. This drastically reduced the time needed to create a campaign, allowing GovX to focus on developing new programs as well as more sophisticated and personalized product emails like the one featured here.

Best Interactive Email

Winner: SuperMailQuest by Aaron Simmonds @ CHS Creative
Submission Recap: This project quite simply knocked our socks off. SuperMailQuest (SMQ) is an interactive story game that allows you to choose your own path through a series of choices. The goal is to navigate your way through the story with the aim of defeating the “Warlock of Outlook mountain”. The creator, Aaron, not only taught himself CSS animation but also how to control those animations, scale multiple elements for mobile and additionally set fallbacks for non-interactive email clients. On average his project has a 58% open rate and 44% click through rate.

interactive email 2018 sparky award winner

Drumroll Please

The grand prize 2018 Sparky Award winner and recipient of up to $1000 in cash toward an industry conference is… SuperMailQuest! Congratulations on an excellent submission showcasing just some of the fun one can have with interactive emails!

Congratulations to all of the winners, you’ll all be receiving an engraved 2018 Sparky Award with your company name & category!

And special thanks to our judges: Irina, Alyssa, Jamie, Avi and Dan!

-Jen

PS: If contests are your thing, watch this space in the coming weeks for an exciting contest we’re running to win tickets to Litmus Live!

HEML is an open source markup language for building responsive email that displays well across many different client devices. Anyone who’s tried to code responsive HTML for email knows what a tedious process that is.

That’s where HEML comes in. You just focus on creating simple markup. HEML renders it into responsive HTML that handles the quirks, bugs, and limitations of different email clients.

Compared to working in raw HTML, or even working in some drag and drop editors, HEML enables you to work at a higher conceptual level and be more productive. Yet if you have experience working with HTML, HEML will feel very familiar.

That simplicity is one of the reasons that HEML’s been making a great impression in the email and developer community. It has over 3500 stars on GitHub at the time of writing.

For the past couple months, I’ve been using HEML in several of my own projects. It’s really fun to use.

But as they say, it’s better to show than to tell—so I recorded a quick video walk-through of how to build a HEML email from scratch in just a few minutes. And as a bonus, I’ll show you how to turn the HEML output into a SparkPost template.

To recap, in this video, we:

  • Created a nice looking email newsletter in about 100 lines
  • Controlled layouts including images and side-by-side text blocks
  • Put in a fancy footer with a background image
  • Sent the mail and checked it looked good on Gmail
  • Learned some basics of working with HEML

It’s really that easy. If you’d like to look under the hood (err, bonnet), I posted a copy of the template I created in this video to GitHub.

I hope this video walkthrough has been helpful. Let me know what you think on Twitter—or leave comments on the video itself!

Steve

P.S. Want to learn more about HEML? Avi Goldman, HEML’s creator, recently shared the how and why of the HEML open-source project.

 

Interactive Email: Taking Email To The Next Level

Interactive email is what really drew me to the email world. It was the inspiration behind HEML and led me to some amazing resources and communities. Litmus reports that it has been a hot topic for email people for a couple of years now and with Google’s recent announcements around AMP support in Gmail, it’s an even more viable investment for businesses.

An interactive email brings some sort of functionality into the inbox based on a user’s action. That could be showing a hidden message when the user clicks a button or creatively using scrolling to tell a story. You can read more about it here, learn how to build an interactive email here, or watch a fun animation (by yours truly) on how it works here.

The development of interactive email shows there’s still an amazing amount of untapped potential in email. We’re big fans of pushing the limits of email at SparkPost so we decided to make “interactive email” a category in this year’s Sparky Awards.

There are so many good use cases for interactivity in emails, from games to in-email purchases. I’d like to share some of my favorite examples. And if you’re the makers of any of them, definitely enter! 😉

E-Commerce

E-commerce is a space where interactive email really shines. A wonderful example is a Nest Black Friday promotional email. It allowed you to fill your cart and go to checkout right from the email!

Live Demo

Customer Feedback

A tangible benefit from interactive email is removing friction for users that might lead them to drop off otherwise. Our friends at Rebel have done some really amazing things in this space. One of the most pragmatic uses is their product review email that they’ve built out for customers like Home Depot, who saw a 55% increase in completed reviews!!

 

Customer Engagement and Storytelling

Not everything in email has to drive direct revenue. Sometimes it can be about engaging and delighting your customers and building out your relationships. Justin Khoo from Email on Acid shared an awesome technique for pseudo-randomness in CSS by building out a magic 8-ball. He built the email around asking the question, “Is your email ready to send?” It’s an awesome marketing email for Email on Acid and definitely sticks in the mind.

Live Demo

 

The last email I want to share is from Taco Bell. 🌮 It’s different from the others here because it doesn’t provide a clickable action. Instead, it uses scrolling as the interaction. The email tells a story of 3 people starting their days. This email really stuck in my mind and leads the reader to the end result of ordering some breakfast!

Live Demo

 

If you’ve built any interactive emails you’re proud of, definitely, submit them to the Sparky Awards for a chance at $1000 dollars to any conference 🏆! If interactive email isn’t your thing (😢), don’t worry! There are 4 other categories that you can submit for.

Happy Sending!

Avi

**We are excited to announce our new partnership with Rebel. Rebel is disrupting the email marketing space and allows users to send interactive emails with no plug-ins required. This guest blog post, written by Kevin Dutra highlights Rebel’s ease of use and their competitive edge in the market.

Integrate your email channel and app with in-email interactivity.

Email is one of the oldest communication protocols on the web. Unfortunately for the billions of people that use it to communicate, up until a few years ago, almost nothing has dramatically improved the user experience. After years of very little innovation, interactive email has created a flurry of exciting changes.

At Rebel, we don’t see stodgy, old email clients that are a nightmare to develop against. We see a brand new surface for your application to live on. Interactive email allows you to show a user the exact action you want them to take, without the need for a click or leave their inbox.

Taking advantage of these new opportunities for user actions is easier said than done. Coding normal emails remains a challenge for most developers due to the deep fragmentation in email clients. That’s why we believe the best way to take advantage is through our interactive email API.

It’s the only way of generating interactive emails on the fly, personalized to the user you are sending to. You don’t need to know the latest hacks to get the email rendering perfectly or the quirks of gathering data from inside an email client. All you need to know is the information you want to get from a user, and with a simple JSON request, you can get back ready-to-send interactive email HTML.

But what does that really mean?

If the above sounds fanciful and far-fetched to you, you’re not alone. However, it is that simple. All that you need to do is describe the functionality that you want to achieve in JSON and our API will convert it to HTML for you.

To prove that point we’re going to build a quick email that asks a user for some feedback on your app. It will contain stars for rating 1-5 and a text input for collecting general feedback.

The API call structure.

For this example, we’ll be looking at an abbreviated API call (I’ve taken out some of the options so that the information is clear), that will return to you HTML with two form fields, and a submit button.

As you can see below the JSON call includes an array at context.components.body.formfields , in that array there are two objects. Each describes one piece of functionality. One for the rating module and one for the text area. Here you place all the information you want to be covered displayed in the email and adjust and field-specific settings.

 

The above example is abbreviated for illustrative purposes, but generally, our API allows you to set the values and styles of any element inside our interactive modules.

What you get back.

Our  /campaigns/:id/html  endpoint will return to you HTML, completely ready to be delivered. No need to do anything to it, just send it out. Here is the email from the full request above as seen in Apple Mail:

Interactive email analytics.

Of course what good is new technology if you can’t tell if it’s adding value to your business. That’s why we built a robust analytics platform for recording every possible action a user takes within an email. If a user clicks a radio button or star rating, we record it. If they open the email on Outlook and see a beautifully rendered static fallback message, we record it.

All that actionable data is only good if you can consume it. That’s why we created a number of ways to have our data pushed to your servers (such as a webhook).

Go forth and interact.

These kinds of forms are one excellent way to allow users to interact with your app from within an email client, and there is a myriad of ways to apply this same technology. Responding to comments, prompting inactive users to post again for the first time, or allowing users to complete portions of their onboarding while verifying their email address, are all possible.

You can do even more than forms with our flexible API, Thanks to the various modules we have created, your users can take quizzes, research or filter products, and even shop directly in the inbox. All while our robust analytics allows you to gather every action and use it for things like progressive profiling and user recommendations.