Interactive email

Four useful ideas for interactive email

Illustration of people sharing ideas

You can do all sorts of things with the checkbox hack. But not all of them are useful. For the unfamiliar, the checkbox hack is a clever CSS trick that makes it possible to build interactive emails.

All email content must be useful to the customer, and interactive content is no exception. So, forget about those gimmicky drop-down nav menus product carousels. Let’s aim instead for the kind of interactivity that enriches our emails.

1. Rotatable products

It’s common on a retail websites to be able to view products from multiple angles. But in email there’s usually only a single, static product shot. It doesn’t need to be that way.

By assigning animation triggers to left and right arrows on either side of an image, you can let the user rotate a product right there in the email. Drop in a few frames of animation for each of the quarterly rotations and you can achieve an effective illusion of movement.

For our demo, I grabbed a mug from the kitchen. But just imagine this technique used for cars or any other product where every angle matters.

2. Colour selector

On the subject of cars – they tend to come in a variety of colours. So too do clothes, phones, items of furniture, toasters… and so on. You can guess where this is going.

Place some colour swatches next to the product image and let the user browse all colours before committing to a website visit. This isn’t just a cosmetic effect. Whilst swapping out the image, you can also swap the link, thus directing the customer straight to their chosen colour variation on your web page.

3. Multiple choice quiz

But maybe your customer isn’t so sure about what they want. Why not guide them? A multiple-choice quiz is the perfect way to present the customer with a result based on their personal interests… and you don’t even need any prior data. In fact, you can even use it to start building up a customer profile by tracking the links. How good is that?

Our demo uses a topic close to my heart: dogs. There are 18 possible combinations of answers, each leading to a specific breed of dog. This technique could of course be used for any topic under the sun. Perfect holiday destination, perfect perfume, perfect anything-you-like.

4. Randomiser

Oh, about those holiday destinations – sometimes it’s fun just to spin the globe and discover somewhere completely new. Well, you can do that in email too. Engage your customer’s curiosity with randomisation.

Here’s how it works: you can secretly cycle a series of identical-looking buttons. The random factor is time – i.e. when the user clicks the button. Dress that up in some fancy animation and you’ve created an engaging piece of content based on the element of surprise.

We’ve chosen holiday destinations for our demo, but as always you could pick any topic you like. The possibilities are endless.

What else can you think of?

Done right, interactive content can really bring an email to life. With a bit of imagination, the medium of email can be transformed into something incredible. (Just don’t forget that fallback content for non-compatible email apps!)