Dark Mode and other new tools shed new light on email

Futuristic glowing low polygonal mail envelopes and

by Sunil Menon

posted on 08-04-2020

With the rise of mobile messaging, Slack, and other collaboration tools, we continue to forecast the death of email every year. However, email volumes continue to rise. In fact, nearly 294 billion emails were sent last year, and that number is expected to grow to 347B emails in 2022. As email volumes continue to grow, vendors also continue to innovate pushing email marketing ahead.

Have our own perceptions of email and the innovation needed changed as remote work gains popularity and has become the norm? Over the last couple of months, working from home, I’ve had the opportunity to think about this idea and realize that this might be a good moment to experiment with email campaigns and try out some of these new innovations. Email is doing a lot of heavy lifting for all of us in this work-from-home environment, and a forced slowdown gives us an opportunity to test new ideas and concepts. As we look at a possible re-entry in the next few months, this could help us navigate our new digital normal with new strategies. After all, necessity is the mother of all invention.

Email has always been the digital marketing workhorse that drives more engagement and more revenue than any other channel. Email is working even harder now, as we’ve seen a significant increase in volumes across industries and verticals. With new capabilities like Google AMP, BIMI, and Dark Mode, now is the time to get creative.

Dark Mode

Of all these new tools, Dark Mode is currently one of the most widely adopted. It has gained a lot of ground since it was first introduced in iOS a year ago, especially as Google has added the option to its operating system more recently. Dark Mode uses less battery life, increases legibility for some people and causes less eye strain, so it’s not hard to see why consumers like it. It’s my preferred user experience.

An informal poll shows 60 percent of users out there are viewing your email in Dark Mode, whether it was designed for it or not. So why not plan for it? It’s definitely worth considering how it affects your campaign, whether it’s the legibility of your text, or your brand image getting lost in the dark.

Whenever there is an innovation, we have to level-set expectations. Everyone wants to jump in the bandwagon and try new things. We saw it when we started doing animation and video in emails, or emojis in the subject lines of emails. But we have to have a framework to adopt this innovation and avoid just checking off boxes.

First, we need to have intention to use any new innovation, so I like to start by doing some research. For Dark Mode, you really have to consider your audience: What’s the industry? What’s the typical persona? If you’re targeting an audience of developers, who are used to Dark Mode because they spend their day coding software, they’ll probably be viewing their email in dark mode on their phones, so you’ll want to take that into consideration. But if you have a different audience, one that doesn’t even know Dark Mode exists, it may not be worth the investment.

Creative Dark Mode

We have to think creatively and first determine who in our audience is using Dark Mode. This is a little harder than it seems because there isn’t a standardized way to get it. You could try to put a pixel in your email that only renders in Dark Mode or hide an Easter egg in your email with a link that can only be seen with Dark Mode. That way you can start tracking how much of your audience is using Dark Mode and is engaging with you.

You could also be more overt about it and run a survey or add it to your options in your subscription or preference center as part of your opt-in process. You could add a question in your welcome survey or your campaign survey; this will help your measurement of ROI on this new capability so you can justify that investment internally, to your managers and executives.

Based on the informal polls, we’re seeing adoption of Dark Mode rising, so most brands will want to do something. Having this foundational research will help decide when and where to make that investment.

Once you dip your toe in and start optimizing emails for Dark Mode, pay close attention to your type and images. When the operating system adapts your email to Dark Mode, it will invert the type and background between black and white, but it won’t invert the background image, so white type will be hard to read against a light-colored background image. Use transparent PNGs for graphics, so they don’t look like white boxes on the dark page, and if your brand image is dark, you may need to set off your logo with a bit of white to keep it from disappearing in the background.

Contrast is very important in Dark Mode to keep darker text from fading out in the page. You could lose the message altogether; the audience won’t see it and it will be a terrible experience. You’ll lose your call to action and it will damage your campaign.

These are just some of the tips to consider as you consider campaigns that are optimized for Dark Mode.

Google AMP & BIMI

If you were a bit disconnected in late 2019, even before quarantine, Google introduced support for the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format with email that allows the email developer to add app-like experiences and web activities directly within email so the user can engage right within the email client. This could come particularly handy when sending emails that require RSVPs or forms to be filled out, or to support one-click purchase directly within the email client. It has the potential to dramatically increase engagement for certain audiences and targeted behaviors, and it can be tracked right back to the email.

AMP can work with existing technologies such as real time offers and dynamic content. It continues the movement to make email more interactive and personalized. Abandoned carts, progressive profiling and updating appointments can all benefit.

Bose was able to accomplish two goals at the same time using AMP in an email campaign. They used a carousel to tell brief stories from customers, on how they’ve gained value from their products, but were also able to capture new stories with an interactive form at the end of the carousel. IndiGo, an airline in India, used AMP to offer personalized and real-time flight options within their customer emails.

BIMI is short for Brand Indicators for Message Identification and is a verification method that allows brands to show a “brand indicator” icon on the user’s inbox building trust with the recipient. I’ve been following email marketing for many years and engage with a variety of brands online, so my Gmail “Promotions” tab is ridiculous. Seeing a brand indicator helps sort through it at a glance.

BIMI is an easy step to honor your brand reputation. It might seem small, but especially in these times, when spammers and phishing attacks are on the rise, showing your brand image builds up that trust and confidence, so everyone knows this email comes from your brand.

With a little experimentation and these new tools, your email has an opportunity to be very unique and creative while increasing engagement rates and hopefully brand loyalty.

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Topics: Email Marketing