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The Trends & Strategies That Will Shape Your Email Program in 2019: Webinar Recording + Q&A


The email industry is constantly changing, and keeping up with what’s new can feel like an impossible task. That’s why in this webinar, we brought together leading industry experts to break down key insights from Litmus’ 2019 State of Email report, explain the trends that are changing the industry, and provide practical advice on what those changes mean.

Didn’t have a chance to watch the webinar live? Don’t worry. You can access the slides and the full recording and read our answers to the most popular questions below.


Structured Data

Can you only use structured data if you have access to the HTML of your email? If we are using MailChimp without a developer, is this possible?

Jason Rodriguez: In most cases, sending structured data does mean working with code. In the case of Gmail Annotations, that code is either JSON or Microdata. JSON, which stands for JavaScript Object Notation, is a list of the data points that are included in the head of your HTML document. Microdata, on the other hand, consists of additional attributes that are added to the HTML tags of your email.

Microdata seems to be the more robust approach, as fewer ESPs and ISPs will strip out that data (JavaScript is traditionally a big no-no in email). Additionally, data typically uses Microdata as well.

Other inbox providers, however, rely less on the code of your email for displaying structured data and more on pulling specific data out of your campaigns. Including elements like dates, event coupons, addresses, and company info can provide inbox providers with the content they need to display that information to subscribers. Clearly including that information may help out.

For now, though, I’d recommend getting at least somewhat familiar with Microdata, as that’s the best way to take advantage of structured data currently.

How can B2B brands utilize structured data?

Chad S. White: Some B2B brands, like wholesalers, offer discounts and have deadlines that are similar to retail brands. And some B2B brands have events that can make use of structured data.

It’s the early days for structured data, so I expect more functionality to be released in the years ahead.

Bettina Specht: While it’s true that most popular examples we see for the use of structured data show B2C use cases, that doesn’t mean B2B businesses can’t take advantage of structured data, too! If your B2B business is promoting an event, you can utilize RSVP actions. Sending a password reset email? Go-to actions could be a shortcut to get your subscribers to your password reset landing page faster. Be creative!

Interactive Email

Interactivity is a tough sell for the B2B marketers where Outlook makes up the majority of their users’ clients. What would you recommend for B2B marketers? Is it still worth it to add interactivity to your campaigns?

Chad S. White: Some interactivity is low-lift and can be built into templates, snippets, and partials. This would include things like hamburger menus and hover effects for buttons and links. Since the time investment to get those things up and running is relatively low, they’re worth it for most B2B brands, even if a substantial portion of your subscribers are on Outlook.

But because of the limited audience, big-lift endeavors where interactivity is the centerpiece of the email probably won’t make sense for now.

How do you implement hover effects in your emails to improve accessibility and to add a touch of interactivity to your campaigns?

Bettina Specht: Adding a hover effect is one of the simplest ways to introduce interactivity to your emails. Hover effects are most popular when it comes to highlighting text—for example, highlighting a text link in your email copy. They can also be a simple but powerful tool to make other elements—including images, background images, or calls-to-action—interactive and thus more engaging. Here’s our simple guide on how to add hover effects to your emails.

Are interactive emails any more likely to get caught up in spam filters than regular emails?

Chad S. White: No. Inbox providers don’t view the code that’s used to create interactive features as malicious. That said, it’s worth noting that inbox providers still don’t like JavaScript, <embed> tags, and some other kinds of code because of their ability to be used maliciously. Chances are that your ESP will also strip out those kinds of coding.

What’s the user experience of the interactive content on mobile devices? For example, is hover a concept on a mobile device?

Alice Li: Interaction on mobile devices has been built in since the beginning, except the interaction happens on tapping instead of hovering. For simpler progressive enhancement hover effects, this might not be as effective because you will only see the hover effect for a split second before the link launches. But if you’re doing a fully-interactive or kinetic “unicorn” Email, then mobile is one of the best places to interact with them because mobile tends to have better CSS support than most webmail clients.

What is your advice for someone who is still learning HTML but wants to be able to take advantage of interactive emails or the structured data features?

Bettina Specht: Start small! Small changes can have big effects—and you can always improve on your process as your knowledge grows. We have an Interactive Email for Beginners guide that covers how you can add hover effects to your email. For using structured data with Gmail’s promotions tab, we’ve built an easy-to-use code generator that guides you through creating image previews and deal badges to annotate your email—all without writing a single line of code.


Are there any resources you recommend to get started with accessibility in email?

Bettina Specht: Our Ultimate Guide to Accessible Email is a great resource to get started. Plus, check out our Email Design Podcast episode on the Top 5 Tips to Making Your Emails More Accessible.

Where can we test readers and voice assistants to see what is happening with our emails?

Jason Rodriguez: Most operating systems have built-in accessibility tools. Windows has Narrator, Mac and iOS have VoiceOver, Linux has Orca, etc. While using each requires a little bit of a learning curve, it’s one of the best (and most realistic) ways to get an idea of what users using assistive technology will hear. Additionally, there are popular third-party screen readers like JAWS and NVDA. Some are expensive, some are free, but each give you a good glimpse into the screen reader experience.

If you’re not comfortable with, or can’t afford, testing on a screen reader or voice assistant, then there are a few browser extensions that will display what a screen reader will read out loud. There’s an excellent post from Paul Adam on 24A11y that goes into a lot of these tools. My personal favorite is Tota11y from the Khan Academy. Its “Screen Reader Wand” lets you hover over an element and see what will be read, making it quick and easy to test out your emails.

Bettina Specht

Bettina Specht

Bettina Specht was the Senior Content & Lifecycle Campaigns Manager at Litmus