It's early days, but email startup Rebel has launched technology that allows the inbox to become the checkout. That's right -- right there and then within the email, a recipient can scroll around the goods on offer, make a choice and check out.
How amazing is that? There can't be an inbox owner on the planet who doesn't get annoyed at receiving an offer and then not being to transact or doing anything through the message. The offer is just a dumb bunch of text and a link. Even when that link is clicked on, it often goes to a completely generic page, leaving the customer to click and poke around the site trying to find the right offer. I can't tell you the number of times I've done that only to find that I'm now in a general part of the site and the offer I clicked on isn't applying, for some reason.
Regular readers of this column will know I've been calling for emails to become smarter for ages. My favourite example of why this is overdue are those stupid messages you get from an airline or a car hire company urging you to upgrade. You're tempted, click on "yes" and then be asked for reference numbers and booking codes. Ever tried cutting and pasting a bunch of info from a tiny mobile screen into the text panel on a mobile Web site?
And therein lies the rub. In the days of desktop, brands could afford to be lazy, when people would cut and paste codes with a mouse and would sign in twice to go through and perform a task.
Now we're in a mobile-first world, where the majority of emails are being picked up on a smartphone -- so being lazy just won't cut it any more. You've got to help customers become more loyal and to upgrade, and that most definitely does not include cutting and pasting, pulling down menus once you get to a mobile Web site.
Mobile email has to be intuitive and fast -- there is no better way of providing this than emails that act as a shop window and a checkout service.
The elephant in the room here is the ease with which social users can browse through carousel ads. If email doesn't get its act together and provide a similar interactive service, where everything can be done in the inbox, spend could well go the way of social instead.
So it's very early days -- but being able to tempt a customer, convert
them and take their order all through an email must be something worth getting very excited about.