Email Must Get Interactive Or Forget About Gen Z

I think everyone in email marketing harbours a secret fear. What if the naysayers and doom merchants are one day proven right and it turns out that email does have a limited appeal once Generation Z flexes its financial muscle?

To give you an idea of how soon that may be, this weekend while all the sane souls in London were at Stamford Bridge watching Chelsea lift the Premier League trophy, the first player to be born in the twenty-first century took to the field for Manchester United. The player, Angel Gomes, was not alive when the first Wembley Stadium was demolished to make way for today's structure, nor was he around when Parachutes was released by Coldplay and Music from Madonna hit the shelves. So this is already starting to happen.

Interestingly, a Marketing Tech News article about Gen Z comes up with several ways that retail brands can be more relevant to the guys who will replace Millennials. There is talk about ordering on iPads in-store with chatbots and virtual assistants helping youngsters make purchases that are delivered by drones. As you may have gathered, email is not mentioned once.

Now we all know that email is the ROI master and is a powerhouse for recognising customers cross-channel in a mobile-first landscape where the cookie has literally crumbled. But we can't be sure that Gen Z will see email as relevant unless the industry gives a concerted effort to making it more meaningful.

For me, this has to mean at least starting out with interactive emails. There's an article on Skyword outlining examples. The basic principle is that if you keep sending plain text to people, you are going to get a lot fewer interactions with your messaging than if you make it interactive. So hold polls, use sliders to move people through your range, and allow them to add an item to a basket within the email. All of this is possible. It might take a lot of faffing about, but if it's your email list and it's your ecommerce software, it's a "doable" proposition.

The point is that with interactive email you can do something right there and then. Yes, this is usually the point where I bring up how complicated people like airlines make it to do what they've just asked you to. How do you upgrade a ticket on a mobile device when you need to remember a bunch of customer and booking reference numbers? Why not have a slide, why not click a "yes" and then be transported to the page with what you have selected in your basket, ready to check out?

Interactive emails isn't tech for tech's sake. This will be vital. When we talk about Gen Z, we're talking about people for whom swiping right for a date (it is right, isn't it, not left?), booking hotel stays at the press of a button and telling Alexa to reorder a loo roll. If it can't be done at the touch of a button, or a simple command, if your systems can't be aligned without Gen Z having to connect the dots for you, then give up -- this generation will pass you by.

So right here, right now, we can continue to remind ourselves there is no better performer in digital than email marketing and think that this is "job done." Or we can look at the challenges ahead and figure out how we stay there. That has to be the course of action. And if you think static emails and remembering customer reference numbers will cut it, forget it.

Email marketing must start becoming intuitive and interactive. It has to be helpful. Press a button and you're done. If not, a chatbot or messaging service will be more than happy to take over. 

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