Interactive Newsletter: Best Practices for Interactive Emails

tiny people walking and interacting on the keyboard of a laptop computer

News flash: People receive a lot of emails in their inboxes each day. So, how do you make your own company’s email offerings, such as a digital newsletter, stand out in a sea of inbound messages? One option: Add interactive content.

You don’t have to be a seasoned computer programmer to create an interactive digital newsletter. Adding surveys, games, and other interactive elements is now accessible to anyone with a laptop—or even a smartphone. Here are some strategies—and reasons—to create an interactive digital newsletter.

What is an interactive newsletter?

Interactive newsletters are digital publications delivered to a reader’s inbox that can be engaged with directly. Interactive newsletters enable the reader to interact with email content without leaving their inbox. These interactions include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Answering survey questions
  • Inputting data into an interactive calculator (and getting a result!)
  • Selecting the color and/or size of product and adding it to their shopping cart
  • Rating and reviewing purchases

Features of interactive newsletters

Advanced programming languages like HTML5 and Shopify’s Liquid help enhance interactive newsletters, enabling businesses to add even more features to email campaigns. Here are types of interactive content you might find in your next digital newsletter:

  • Surveys and polls. An embedded survey or poll offers readers the chance to respond within the body of their email by clicking boxes or typing a response. They do not need to navigate to an external website. Research suggests this can increase completion rates by 21%.
  • Quizzes and games. Interactive games and quizzes involve clicking and dragging within an on-screen module, and now these modules can appear in the content of an email. Text-based content, like trivia quizzes, loads the most reliably across all device types and software applications. However, today’s email clients (email programs on your computer) and mobile apps can typically handle animations as well.
  • Interactive infographics and images. You’re probably used to seeing graphs and charts in the text of an email. Interactive newsletters take this a step farther by allowing readers to click on those images and infographics to get more information without ever leaving their inbox.
  • Interactive GIFs and videos. Interactive email builders let you embed video clips in the body of an email newsletter, making them easy to watch because you don’t have to navigate away from your email to play them. Gifs, meanwhile, instantly make a static image more eye-catching and visually appealing.
  • Click-to-reveal and hover effects. Increasingly, interactive email newsletters function like traditional web pages. Effects now available on interactive email platforms include capabilities to change images when you click or hover with your cursor. You can also show different photographs through the use of an image slider.
  • Express checkout. A great ecommerce newsletter should help you drive sales, and what better way than to send your subscribers directly to a checkout page with the item you’ve promoted already in their cart? Shopify Email gives you the option to add an express checkout button without touching code to promote products—and more easily close the sale.

For advanced users, programming languages like HTML5 and Shopify’s Liquid also make it possible to enhance interactive newsletters and enable businesses to add even more features to email campaigns.

3 benefits of creating an interactive newsletter

From a digital marketing perspective, interactive email content is designed to captivate subscribers, boost engagement, and give you more detailed knowledge of your customer base—among other benefits.

  1. Increased engagement and reader retention. Interactive emails make it easy for your audience to engage with your content. Rather than clicking their way to an external website, they can interact with you directly in their inboxes, doing things like answering surveys and browsing product offerings. Research shows that surveys embedded in emails lead to higher open rates and higher click rates—suggesting that asking a person’s opinion makes them more engaged with the content.
  2. Improved data collection. Thanks to tools from email providers and outside sources like Google Analytics, any email campaign—interactive or traditional—can send back data about who is clicking on particular links. You can go even deeper by creating interactive content. Interactive surveys, quizzes, and product listings give your readers more opportunities to click, and thus more data for your team to utilize.
  3. Enhanced user experience. Research data indicates that 82% of email recipients prefer messages with interactive content as opposed to static content. Put yourself in a reader’s shoes: Would you rather get an email filled with long text blocks or one including an interactive game concept? If you keep your newsletters entertaining and interactive, your subscribers may already be anticipating the next newsletter dispatch.

4 interactive newsletter best practices

At the end of the day, ecommerce merchants are looking for their interactive email newsletters to drive traffic to their websites or online stores, and increase customer conversion rates. Here are a few best practices for your interactive email marketing strategy.

1. Keep the interactive elements relevant to the audience

While it may be tempting to show off all your email platform’s interactive bells and whistles, focus on including features that support your main message. For instance, your furniture-buying clients might appreciate an embedded calculator that helps them budget for a living room makeover—more than a paint visualizer that lets you virtually click and spray a palette of colors on an accent wall.

2. Balance interactive elements with informative content

Try to use interactive content judiciously—not every email needs to be chock-a-block full of surveys and games and ratings and GIFs. Balance out your interactive features with noninteractive text blocks, and with traditional email headers and footers.

3. Measure and analyze engagement

Take advantage of the interactive format by tracking what elements of the email get clicks—and which don’t. For instance, a tool company may find that an interactive video about its high-priced power drill isn’t getting many clicks, but an interactive photo carousel about related accessories does. Your email platform will likely offer analytical tools (maybe, on the paid plan) that can help you track and examine traffic and other data.

4. Keep the design clean and simple

Some of the most important components of an email are the things you don’t include. As you design your interactive newsletter, incorporate proper spacing and ample white space. This helps eliminate visual chaos and steer focus toward the elements you care about most.

Interactive newsletter FAQ

How do I create an interactive newsletter?

Using an established email-building platform is an easy way to create an interactive newsletter. Consider options like Shopify Email, MailerLite, Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, and Sendinblue to set up your digital newsletter. Most of these platforms have free options, but the interactive features may be limited to paying subscribers.

What is a dynamic newsletter?

A dynamic newsletter is a type of interactive email newsletter that changes based on user input. For instance, each email recipient might receive a message with a customized text box that the user can interact with. It might feature content based on the user’s past purchases or customer service interactions.

What platform is best for interactive newsletters?

The interactive newsletter is an evolving format, and email platforms are continually updating their offerings. Features that are currently exclusive to one platform may exist on all platforms within a year’s time. Therefore, choosing the best email platform may depend on which aligns with your business ambitions. For those in ecommerce, that might be Shopify Email, built with online stores in mind. If in another field, you may want to consider exploring market stalwarts like MailChimp, Sendinblue, MailerLite, and Campaign Monitor.

What are 5 elements of an effective newsletter?

Effective email newsletters typically contain these five elements:

  1. A strong subject line. Subject lines go a long way toward determining whether an email gets opened. Choose one that is pithy and accurately represents the content in your message. If your email features something interactive like a quiz, mention that in your subject line.
  2. An email header. Use an email header, found at the very top of the newsletter, to establish a visual aesthetic for your newsletter series. Many emailers insert a company logo or signature color scheme in their headers.
  3. Content blocks. Give your newsletter substance by including substantive blocks of text that dig into your chosen topic. Or, if you’re committed to an interactive newsletter, insert sections with quizzes, surveys, polls, interactive video clips, online calculators, or another element involving reader input.
  4. High-quality images. Your newsletter can be mostly text, but break it up with some high-resolution photos (at least 300 dpi) and graphics that will render clearly on any web browser, email client, or mobile app.
  5. An email footer. Conclude each email newsletter with a footer that contains your company’s mailing address, website, and social media pages. Your footer also can feature an Unsubscribe button for those who choose to opt out of your mailing list.