Gmail Wants to AMP-lify Email Marketing

Posted by Tom Sather on

Many of our readers probably noticed the announcement that Google is bringing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to Gmail. And according to Return Path data, 72 percent of all webmail opens came from Gmail last month, so it’s no surprise that email marketers are wondering what this means for them and their email program.

AMP launched in 2015 to provide a solution for mobile-optimized content and page load times. To speed up adoption, Google dangled the carrot of exposure in front of publishers with featured stories in their news carousel and better search visibility. AMP then came to display ads because ads were loading to slow in comparison AMP pages, causing publishers to lose money. Which brings us to today. Google has announced the developer preview of AMP for Email, in the hopes of modernizing email by making it more dynamic and interactive.

AMP for Email won’t be officially available for everyone until later this year, and – perhaps the biggest barrier to adoption – currently works only in Gmail email clients. But early adopters and risk takers can sign up for the Developer Early access program to test it out. If you’re not that brave, don’t worry. You can also play around in the AMP4Email sandbox.

So, should I start using AMP for Gmail?
If you’re like me, you can’t resist the urge to play with new technology. But before signing up, determine whether this technology will actually help you solve problems you’re having. (Note: you’ll need to explain your use case for AMP for Gmail if you want early access.)

Ask yourselves these things before signing up:

  1. Do I have the time and resources to implement?
  2. Do I have a dedicated email designer to learn AMP, design emails in AMP, and set up tests to see whether AMP will have an impact on my email marketing program?
  3. Will I be ok (and not upset and angry) if Gmail decides to pull the plug on AMP?
  4. Do I have enough Gmail subscribers to justify doing this? Are my Gmail subscribers only reading email in Gmail email clients?

If you answered no to these questions, I’d recommend waiting. There is a bit of a learning curve for AMP, and it requires some time and effort to test and do properly. It also bears repeating that AMP currently works only in Gmail email clients. While AMP is an open spec and can be adopted by Microsoft, Oath, Apple, and any other email provider, Gmail is the only email provider using AMP as of today.

Will this have a positive impact on my email program?
Possibly. Email is a different beast than landing pages. In fact, one of the main jobs of emails is pushing people to landing pages. And this is one reason why I am hesitant about AMP for email. While I’m excited about the prospect of email being more interactive, dynamic and fun, the drop in web traffic from email could create more of a problem for marketers.

On the other hand, if people are more engaged with emails, then deliverability should improve. It’s also unknown if Gmail will somehow identify AMP emails within the inbox without opening them, like they do landing pages with the AMP lightning bolt symbol which could draw more eyeballs.

Do we expect subscriber behaviors to change? Will Google educate subscribers about AMP for Gmail?
I think Gmail is looking to change behaviors with this by making email more of a one-stop shop. In some cases, people will no longer need to leave the inbox for any call to actions within emails. In theory, AMP should keep people more engaged in emails, and if anything like AMP HTML (the landing page version), it could result in higher conversions or higher dwell times or whatever your measure of success is.

AMP should be relatively seamless for Gmail users, meaning it shouldn’t require any education. However, it remains to be seen whether people will even trust entering information into an email, as phishing and email fraud become bigger problems year after year.

How will they make this secure and trustworthy?
That remains to be seen, but if I were to put money on it, Gmail will require senders to have a good sender reputation and authentication with SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.

So, should I opt in or not?
Again, if you love testing out new things, then yes, absolutely try to opt in. But keep in mind, it’s early access, there’s currently little support for AMP for Email, and full functionality will only be available in Gmail clients.

But I’ve been around long enough to see early retirement for everything from Wave to Grid View. And while I don’t think that AMP will go away as quickly as the others, I also don’t see it being adopted en masse by email marketers and designers. Email service providers will need to update their platforms to support it, and email marketers will need to find a reason to switch, and then make the case for that switch.

What do you think? All hype, or real promise? What would you do with AMP for email?


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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