Entering the kinetic email age

September 14, 2015 by Brenna Solop

Remember when email took the world by storm, replacing a significant portion of “snail mail”? The shift didn’t happen overnight; it took time for the public to understand, trust and embrace the new technology. Advances in digital marketing may move quickly, but we in the industry cannot expect to change user behavior overnight.

Consider that email has traditionally been a “one click” or “single action” environment. When a new idea such as kinetic email challenges this convention, there are ways to effectively strategize its use in your campaigns and properly introduce its features to your audience.

Kinetic email – the evolution of responsive design

You may have heard the energetic term “kinetic” being bounced around – appropriate since movement is the main idea behind this advancement in email communication. But to fully understand its appeal, we need to look back at another technological breakthrough.

Once the mobile boom occurred a few years ago, email designers saw the writing on the wall – or perhaps we should say “on the screen” – and responsive design was born. It was finally possible for content and layout to resize to the screen of the device on which it was viewed. In designing those layouts for mobile screen sizes by manipulating the CSS, developers eventually discovered that content in the email could be interactive and dynamic. This capability was coined “kinetic.”

Kinetic email design acts as the next stage of responsive, giving the user multiple ways to interact with the content and layout before he or she takes a committed action.

Kinetic emails

Why is it desirable?

Studies in user behavior tell us that the average viewer spends 3-15 seconds looking at an email communication, with the average Apple user spending even less – only 0-3 seconds. Obviously, there’s a huge advantage in holding someone’s attention, and if used cleverly, kinetic design can help in that regard. It can also remove steps to purchase because they’re being completed within the email rather than on the website. Within the email, subscribers may be able to view color and size choices, or choose between perks such as free shipping or a percentage off their order (we’ll dig deeper into those possibilities in a follow up blog post). This creates a more interactive atmosphere, and that’s a good thing.

Still, you must bear in mind that too many steps provided by kinetic design can be overkill. You don’t want to add more work for the viewer; complicating what was once a simple action can turn off your audience, so be smart about its application.

Does it make sense for your brand?

The key is to determine whether or not kinetic capabilities complement your brand. What do you offer? Who is your customer base? Remember, an email marketer needs the user to interact with the email; they won’t just hover or toggle instinctively. Will your customers stick around to watch, explore or play? Carefully consider products/images/topics that will offer an engaging experience. It has to result in more than just a “wow” response; in needs to encourage transactions. It can also be difficult to predict response since this sort of breakthrough is likely more exciting to those of us on the development side than it is to the end consumer.

To prepare your customers for the novelty of kinetic email, you could notify them in advance. However, a smarter way to approach the introduction might be through the use of simplified tabs and navigation. Too many options would start to look like a full blown site – unnecessary.

Is kinetic email the future?

It’s a bold innovation for sure, but it’s still too early to determine its value to email marketers. To be truly valuable, it must consistently get people interested in making a selection – and a carousel of pretty pictures only goes so far. A savvy email marketer knows that flashy functionality can be an attention-getter, but it must be used when and where it makes sense. Aim for a smarter execution to make the most of a kinetic set up.

Want to learn more about the latest trends in email design? Watch the video recording from our recent webinar, Digital Eye Candy: Email Creative Strategies that Wow!