Are Interactive Emails Really the Next Big Thing?

4 min readJan 26, 2017
(This article was original published in the January edition of the Inky Insider . Inky Insider is ZURB’s email magazine about email design, development and strategy. Get the latest issues)

We’re in the year 2017 folks, and everyone’s wondering what this year holds. There’s a ton of great email predictions going around, and most experts (from VentureBeat to Litmus) see interactive email as being the big thing this year. It’s not hard to see why, there are some AMAZING things being done in emails these days. A few of our favorites have been:

While undeniably cool, is interactive email really the future? Is this the dawn of a new era or just a passing fad?

There’s so much room for interactivities!

The playable Sonic the Hedgehog game in email made by Two

The geeks in us LOVE interactive email. There’s a ton of experimentation and hacking being done by #emailgeeks. Some of these standout emails are making huge waves and are getting excited about email and what it could be. This kind of boundary pushing is what inspires real change. Just look at what’s happened in the last year with Gmail now supporting media queries and Microsoft partnering with Litmus to make email better. You can get a recap of the 3 biggest changes to happen to email in our September issue.

Interactive or Distractive?

Minesweeper in email by Table Tr Td

While cool and inspiring, most interactive emails can only be enjoyed by a small portion of people and the results can be wildly inconsistent. There is still such a large technology gap between what’s possible in a JavaScript-supported web browser vs. what’s possible on the dozens of static-content focused email clients. Images getting blocked, flickering between new interacted content, inconsistent rendering across clients/web browsers, and development time for fallbacks are just a few of the challenges developers face when building and using interactive emails. That’s a lot of time and resources for an unknown payoff- It’s been tough to come by solid data that shows these emails convert any better than traditional emails.

While not necessarily the most glamorous, transactional emails still prove to be the most impactful way to interact with your customers. According to Experian, Transactional emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue. Entire businesses are running off of email lists, and yet most applications still treat these messages as an afterthought. What can we do as developers to make these as accessible to your best content writers as a blog or social channel?

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Seeing people push boundaries and ask “why not?” is inspiring, and it was this same attitude that fueled our development of Foundation for Emails. We’re focused on transforming not just the way email looks, but the way organizations think about it as a communication channel and build it as teams. We see huge value in getting the content creator and email developer to be the same person or team. Foundation for Emails gets more people involved in the story by lowering the difficulty barrier and giving web developers some familiar tools. Our responsive email training is built to give everyone the skills they need to make valuable contributions. Among our design clients, we’ve seen the biggest breakthroughs and leaps forward come not from lone geniuses, but when entire organizations take ownership and get involved.

So what’s your take? Are interactive emails the future? If not, what is? Leave a comment and let’s get the conversation going!

See you in the inbox!

This article was original published in the January edition of the Inky Insider . Inky Insider is ZURB’s email magazine about email design, development and strategy. Get the latest issues

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