Is Email Innovation an Oxymoron? No! Here’s Why

I hope we all can agree at this point that email is not dead. But is it innovative?

All around us, other digital channels are barraging us with new technology and experiences. Just in the last week, we have Facebook’s Slingshot and Amazon Fire launching. And any day of the week a new bevy of mobile and wearable devices, social networks, and even purported drones dropping off packages on our porches is announced.

This array of bright and shiny new digital disruptors is always blinding us, while email hums along in the background year-after-year, delivering messages and driving responses. Email just doesn’t make big headlines due to innovation.

This begs the question – are there any clear examples that prove email innovation is a reality?

I say yes. When I look across email marketing technologies, programs, and user experiences, I see innovation throughout the inbox and expanding cross-channel more than ever. So let’s take a look at the innovation that’s hiding in plain sight while everyone is scanning their Google Glasses and watching that drone float by. I present…

The Definitive List of Email Innovation, circa 2014:


  • Video/GIFs are making emails more visually compelling and dynamic
  • Responsive design for mobile is delivering optimized cross-channel experiences
  • Templates provide design efficiencies and opportunities to deliver customized, dynamic content based on user attributes
  • Scalable designs provide content flexibility


  • Email effectively drives user-generated content gathering, such as ratings, reviews, and more
  • Email supports content curation in the form of surveys and polling to derive favorites and other information from consumers
  • The email channel can also provide input on marketing preferences, as shown in this example from Sears ShopYourWay:


  • Or the input may be focused on a customer service element and trigger ongoing communications, such as this example from


  • Dynamic email content is delivered based on device, location, and more – in the below example, IHG provides a weather forecast that dynamically populates at the time of open:


  • Social graph integration is bringing heightened relevancy to TripAdvisor’s emails by customizing subject lines and other content based on social connections
  • Emails with social sharing functionality enables amplification of messaging to a targeted market by an influencer, again increasing recipient relevancy
  • Using emails as a data-gathering source generates actionable data for future messaging in email and other channels
  • Dynamic email content capabilities drive a more custom, relevant consumer experience and stronger response
  • Testing the optimal inbox experience is made simple with email automation
  • Email provides a great venue for crowdsourcing input on a product for promotion, a catalog cover, or generating other consumer input, boosting relevancy and interaction


  • “Text to join” campaigns are delivering streamlined customer experiences to quickly opt consumers into email when they don’t have a computer nearby
  • Email is a strong driver of mobile app drivers, leading to more engaged consumers across channels
  • Social networks are also being leveraged to drive new email subscriptions via tabs focused on the email program call-to-action, sweepstakes, or social content highlighting the email program value
  • Social login gives consumers ease-of-use for account creation and email subscription by populating a usable email address and other data, leading to solid deliverability and also a payload of social profile data to use for targeting


  • Email response data can deliver insights that drive marketing strategies in other channels, such as targeting lapsed email subscribers that were once customers with display retargeting
  • Data analysis provides a more holistic consumer view with new tools for data visualization and pivoting attributes based on cross-channel response data
  • Social data provides data to fuel personalization, such as brand likes, birthday, email, and location information

And, while we’re on the topic of innovation, the inbox experience itself will continue to drive innovation as ISPs improve the user experience. One case in point, Gmail recently announced a field trial program for their image-based promotions tab that “lets you view the Promotions tab in a more visual way,” intending to give consumers more visuals to help them find what they’re looking for faster.

All of these proof points on email innovation bring us to the present tense, the intersection of the here and now where email innovation is clearly alive and well. So, when you think about email, think about the innovations you can put into the mix to support your marketing objectives. Don’t stagnate – innovate! The opportunities are clear, so leverage them to put some life back into your email customer lifecycle today.

Related reading

Flat business devices communication with cloud services isolated on the light blue background.
Image from Desigual welcome email to new subscribers.