Read Time: 22 min

Delivering Episode 19: Matt Schmitter on Interactive Email in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

In this episode of Delivering, host Jason Rodriguez chats with Matt Schmitter, product manager at Salesforce Marketing Cloud about the latest enhancements to SFMC and how email marketers can use interactive campaigns to create happier, more engaged subscribers.

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Episode Transcript

Jason Rodriguez: Welcome to Delivering, a podcast about the email industry, from strategy to design, code to leadership, and everything in between. I’m your host, Jason Rodriguez. Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the only platform trusted by professionals to help you send email with confidence every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus’ tools to build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster.

Head over to to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus, and start sending better emails today.

Be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify to listen to future episodes and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast.

So today I have the pleasure of chatting with Matt Schmitter. Matt’s a product manager over at Salesforce, where he works on Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Prior to Salesforce, Matt spent time at both Experian and Cheetah Digital before joining the team at Rebel, which was the pioneering interactive email agency that was acquired by Salesforce in 2018. I’m excited to talk to him about all things interactivity in Salesforce Marketing Cloud as well as his experiences throughout the industry.

So welcome to the podcast, Matt.

Matt Schmitter: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.

Jason Rodriguez: Awesome. Well, let’s, let’s start by talking about your history in the email industry. I know you’ve had a little bit of a journey from where you first started, through to today where you work at Salesforce as a product manager.

So just walk us through how you got to where you are right now.

Matt Schmitter: Sure. So many, many years ago, I started with Cheetah when they were still Cheetah Mail, an Experian company, and actually spent, you know, a little over a decade working with clients there, you know, everything from campaign setup and execution through strategy.

You know, in the last few years I was there, I was doing, more consulting work. And so, really, you know, focusing with how brands can optimize their programs, what they should be implementing, what they should be doing with their data, those kinds of things. And then, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to move over to Rebel, and, you know, keep working with customers, but in a different way.

Empowering them to, you know, turn their inbox into a surface for kind of whatever they wanted to do. And so, that obviously led to the acquisition. And now we’ve spent the last couple of years learning the ins and outs of Salesforce, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and, you know, focusing on bringing some of that Rebel tech to the Marketing Cloud and all of its customers.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. So I feel like a lot of people that would listen to this podcast are probably familiar with Rebel, but walk us through what Rebel, I guess, was at this point, and some of the work that the team did there before moving into the Salesforce family.

Matt Schmitter: So Rebel as a standalone company, was focused on interactivity in email and enabling, you know, marketers at any kind of coding experience level to easily integrate that into their campaigns.

So we had a web platform that you could log into. You could add your own code for your campaigns into it and then add customizable interactive blocks. So that could have been, you know, a gallery. Or hotspots, which are more content based use cases you have enabled, you know, your recipients to see additional content within, without expanding the length of your email. But then also things like forms and email. So capturing information for reviews. Profiling. you know, we even started experimenting with like ‘add to cart’ kind of functionality and those kinds of things. So really we were just trying to push the envelope on what you could do in the inbox and take advantage of whatever CSS and HTML support email clients had.

And then also for those that didn’t have support, we made sure to offer, you know, a fallback experience, very similar to just the static campaigns that many marketers are standing at sending today, so that, you know, every subscriber would have the best experience possible based on the email client that they were opening.

Jason Rodriguez: Awesome. So obviously you had that first hand experience with interactive email and really the evolution of interactivity in email. Obviously, a friend of Litmus, somebody who spoke at our conferences before, Mark Robbins, has done a lot of that kind of pioneering work, and he did that with Rebel. And I, I’m curious to, after seeing how it’s evolved over the last few years and how it’s been integrated into tools like Salesforce Marketing Cloud, why would the average email marketer want to start sending interactive emails? What are the benefits of interactive emails?

Matt Schmitter: Sure. So I think the, you know, the main benefit, whether you’re talking about galleries or forms or even, you know, simple hover states is thinking about how you can maximize your, the user experience for your recipients. And so those kinds of little things, I mean, they may be on brand, they may, you know, increase, click through rates, but they also may provide a better experience. And that’s what ultimately you should focus on.

Second to that is, you know, what do you get out of it as a, as the email marketer, you know, in the case of forms, bringing that, up in the funnel? So collecting that information in the inbox drives higher results from basically every customer that we’ve seen try i t, as much as even like twice the results in some cases or more in terms of like data points captured because you’re making it easier for your subscribers to take that action without, without that fear of, hey, I’m going to click this button, I’m gonna have to go to this website. Then who knows how many questions they’re gonna ask me.

Essentially they can see the questions that they’re answering right in front of them and then, you know, click submit and it just, it really helps alleviate that friction.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. So it just makes that experience that much better, more interactive, for lack of a better term. So obviously since, I think the first release with the interactive stuff in Marketing Cloud was last year, is that right? Sometime like August or September, I remember reading some stuff about it. But I guess tell us about how you guys, you’ve been working on the Marketing Cloud product and how you’ve been releasing these new features and what these new features are for people that are using Salesforce Marketing Cloud to build interactive emails.

Matt Schmitter: Sure. So I think there’s a, there is an existing kind of carousel block that would be available. Yeah. And that was, that was pre-us. So we didn’t really have much to do with that guy. But we do have, we do have ideas on how we could enhance it in the future. So really we’ve spent, you know, the past year, or a little more figuring out the best way to, to bring email forms to the marketing cloud.

And so, you know, figuring out the, the easiest path that would allow really any marketer, whether they’re using content builder from a simple drag and drop, I only, you know, pull these blocks in and do, you know, type in text and choose my images to someone who has, you know, advanced knowledge of HTML and CSS – they’re coding their own templates, you know, they really can get in there and make any changes that they want. And so the, the flow that we have today kind of allows everyone to take advantage of it. It’s, it’s easy enough to be configured, or maybe configuration-light for people who don’t want to get into the nitty gritty.

And then we also serve up, you know, almost every styling option and, you know, customization that you can think of, for the people who want to have more granular control of, of how it renders across clients.

Jason Rodriguez: Nice. And so what are the different kinds of components that people could build out today in Salesforce Marketing Cloud beyond just a typical kind of carousel example?

Matt Schmitter: Sure. So the email form is the, is the newest block that we released, and it’s the one that we’re the most excited about because it does enable kind of the broadest use case across email clients because we have the most support there. So unlike some of the other content based use cases like the carousel or you know, galleries or hotspots that we talk about, email forms are actually supported in Gmail and so the rendering is slightly different, but you still, you still get that support to actually collect the information and click submit so you get support in Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, iOS Mail clients, Apple Mail clients. Outlook, unfortunately, we don’t have support in. But you know, what that really enables us to, you know, provide to the marketers is, is just that eliminating the friction across all those email clients.

And so what you can do with the email form block is you can think of a web form where you would have text inputs or radio buttons or check boxes. You can choose your questions, tie those back to data that gets saved in a data extension for everyone familiar with Marketing Cloud , and then you can use that to, you know, populate in, you know, upcoming campaigns. You can use that to choose what campaigns go to what subscribers in the future. If you’re, you know, collecting interest or something like that.

Jason Rodriguez: That’s awesome. So I’m kind of curious, I know I used to work with ExactTarget back when it was ExactTarget before it became Salesforce Marketing Cloud. And, over the years of seeing the evolution of AMPScript, which is that dynamic scripting language inside of marketing cloud. So is there any, is there a way for developers to use AMPScript inside of these new interactive tools? Or are those kind of completely separate?

Matt Schmitter: Yeah, that’s a great question. We definitely did our best to open up the email form block to allow AMPScript wherever possible. So if you think of, you know, the, an input for example, which is like the question that you’re asking, you could populate that text with AMPScript.

You could populate the text in radio button choices with AMPScript. You’re not, there’s not really many places where you can’t use it. You could even, you know, wrap the block with if and else statements and show only the block to people who haven’t completed, you know, a form in the past or something like that.

So it’s definitely, you know, part of how we built this was to make sure that you could leverage the power of the Marketing Cloud scripting languages while using the email form block.

Jason Rodriguez: That’s awesome. I think those two pieces combined together create a lot of opportunities for people for really advanced customizations, which is fantastic to see.

Based on your experience, one of the things I was wondering is, what challenges you’ve seen marketers face when they’re trying to send these interactive emails? Obviously you’re trying to solve for some of the production issues related to it but beyond that, when we start to think about like strategy and copy and design and segmenting, like what are, how are email marketers thinking about interactive email or what are some of those challenges that they’re bumping up against to get these things out the door and really see results from their subscribers?

Matt Schmitter: Yeah, the biggest challenge that we see is just education of your subscribers, right? Because you know, we’ve spent the last 15 plus years, tricking people to click on things that aren’t actually like interactive. So search bars that just take you to the landing page, you know, an image with a play button on it that just takes you to a website where you have to watch the video. All of those experiences have kind of built up this like, oh, I’m not going to click anything because I don’t want to go somewhere else.

And so how we, how we can combat that is just being very blunt and clear around what you’re asking for, what you want the subscriber to do. Like, you know, calling out, hey, you can type in this email, or, you know, click this button in the email. Nothing happens until you click submit. Like, you know, even including small animated gifs that direct the attention to the things that you can do.

Those are all things that help to ensure that, that people understand that this isn’t a trick and that you can actually interact with it. That’s kind of the biggest thing that we saw. As, you know, our customers first start using this is it, you know, if they do those, it helps. And then also, as their subscribers get used to seeing those kinds of, experiences the more they use them over time, the more their subscribers interact with them because they’ve, they’ve learned that it’s okay and that, you know, it’s not a trick essentially.

Jason Rodriguez: Have you seen a lot of, I guess what’s, what’s the adoption rate of adding these interactive components in emails across your customers? Are a lot of people starting to introduce them and seeing their customers expecting them from their email campaigns?

Matt Schmitter: Yeah, unfortunately I don’t have hard results yet because this just came out in, in the last release. But we are seeing some really promising numbers and in terms of, you know, people creating these blocks and, in some initial sense.

So it’s definitely something that we’re going to watch over time. And, you know, we hope that everyone will, will at least check it out and give it a shot because, you know, the, the great thing about a form is almost every email marketer can probably think of a use case for this form, you know, reviews or simple feedback even, you know, I think I’ve seen kind of over the past couple of years, like a thumbs up, thumbs down.

I’m like, was this email content relevant for you? So you could do something like that, but also ask for, you know, what makes it relevant? What else would you like to see? And so adding those kinds of elements is, you know, just, it’s more accessible now. And that’s, that’s kind of what, you know, what we were, what we wanted to achieve with this.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. I really like that. That, that example of, yeah, just a quick kind of a thumbs up, thumbs down. Like one of the things we’ve been talking about over the last couple of years is paying attention to the right metrics or trying to focus on and getting better feedback beyond just open rates and click rates, which don’t tell you that much.

But actually having those lightweight surveys available to your own campaigns could be a really good way to just gauge the feeling across your subscribers and how they like a campaign or get really quick feedback from them. And I really liked the idea that I think it was smart to do this form type element because it’s so adaptable and you can really build it into anything you want. There’s, there’s no, like prescribed way to build out a form necessarily. You can adapt it to any use case you want. And so I think that’s awesome.

Are there any examples that you’ve come across, whether it’s Salesforce customers or just people that you subscribe to that are doing really good interactive email campaigns? I guess what’s, what’s your favorite email campaign that includes interactivity that you’ve seen so far?

Matt Schmitter: This is a great question. So, I mean, obviously I’m going to be a little biased to some, some of our Rebel customers that did some great campaigns. So one of the things with like a hotspots, kind of implementation. So for anyone who isn’t familiar, basically what that is is, you know, you have like a little button. It’s on top of your email content. When you click on that, it pops up a small window, or even kind of, some people think of it as like a light box kind of a scenario, that provides additional information. And so what that allows is, you know, you can show products within an email and then have that little like, you know, plus sign or a magnifying glass. And when you click on that you can get details on, you know, their description on the product or price, the link to go buy it, that kind of stuff. And so we saw some really great implementations of that and across like a holiday gift guide, for example. So the different presents on there, who are they good for? You pop that open, that kind of thing.

Obviously, that one’s cool. That, and to be kind of simple about it, reviews are one of the ones that I look out for. I’ve gotten a few from our customers as well as a couple that were not our customers. And, and so it’s interesting to see the implementation of that and just, you know, making it easier for people to take an action.
I think, my favorite ones are just the ones that really kind of reduce that friction.

Jason Rodriguez: Yeah. That’s awesome. have you seen any… When I think about interactive email, I guess the examples that always come up are usually retailers, tech companies. Have you seen interactive adoption or interest across different industries, kinda rising over the past couple of months or years?

Or is it still, are most people that are in retail and tech, like that’s what we’re going to see from interactivity or are there other opportunities out there for other industries to take advantage of it?

Matt Schmitter: Yeah, there’s definitely opportunities. I mean, kind of like we talked about earlier with the form, because it’s so kind of ubiquitous across any industry. There’s a lot of good use cases and you know, with, with us being fortunate to be part of Salesforce, one of the other things we do is, you know, these use cases where, you know, perhaps like you had an interaction with a service agent, and so you want to send a followup like, hey, rate your service with that interaction, which then goes, you know, can feed back into those sales and service clouds.

So those kinds of forms apply across, you know, anything from, you know, healthcare industries or banking or, or really any vertical where you may interact with customers, or customer service, you know, which side you’re on.

Jason Rodriguez: Nice. I guess the last question I have for you is what tips, if any, what do you give email marketers that are just getting started with interactive emails? Where should they go to learn more? What kind of campaigns should they focus on first and how can they get their feet wet with interactive email campaigns?

Matt Schmitter: Sure. So I think we’ve talked about a few things already. So to kind of recap those is, you know, identifying the use case where it provides value to your customer and to you.

So the easy ones that we’ve talked about, you know, are the reviews or are things where you’re already asking for data, where you can bring that higher in the funnel, so into the inbox. And then when you’re planning that, really just, you know, make sure that you’re calling out, you know, the interactivity, what you want them to do and make very explicit.

The one thing that we haven’t talked about so far is then what do you do, you know, after that, how do you measure the success of this campaign? Because if people are, you know, they’re interacting, they’re filling out this form now, you might not be getting the clicks, you know, elsewhere in the email or driving them to the site as much.

So it’s really important to understand, you know, what that metric is that drives success. Is it reviews collected? Is it data points collected? If you’re, you know, profiling, or, you know, collecting some other kind of data points. So, you know, you mentioned getting beyond the open and click. And that’s definitely something that, that we see is necessary for thinking about, you know, a more advanced email campaign, like one that includes interactivity. And then beyond that, I mean, just test, test it out, you know with, with the tools that we offer. Thankfully we made it pretty easy.

And so I would say even, you know, for people who aren’t using Marketing Cloud, if you, you know, just start with a simple hover button, you know, most people can kind of add in those effects pretty easily, test to see if there’s an impact.

You know, a simple split test is pretty much, I think, available on about all ESPs these days. So you should be able to, you know, see if it enhances your user’s experience.

Jason Rodriguez: That’s awesome. Great advice. That wraps it up for me. Matt, thank you so much for joining me on Delivering. Anywhere people should go to find you online – Twitter, LinkedIn, anything like that?

Matt Schmitter: I’m definitely reachable on LinkedIn. I do have a Twitter handle, but I am never on it. So that one doesn’t help.

Jason Rodriguez: You’re probably smart for that.

Matt Schmitter: Yeah, I know. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel left out, but, yeah, I think, you know, definitely feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.

When we get back to doing conferences again, I will probably be at most of those, with my new role too. So it’d be great to meet people who are interested in email and interactivity, you know, I’d love to talk about it, probably as much as you do. So, please, please feel free to reach out.

Jason Rodriguez: Awesome, and I’ll definitely have you back on at some point when you guys are releasing some new stuff, catch up on all the cool stuff that you’re working in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. So thanks again, Matt.

Matt Schmitter: Thank you, Jason.

Jason Rodriguez: Cheers.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the only platform trusted by professionals to help you send email with confidence, every time. Head over to to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus, and start sending better emails today.

Be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify to listen to future episodes and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast. Cheers.

Jason Rodriguez

Jason Rodriguez

Jason Rodriguez was the Community & Product Evangelist at Litmus