With so much emphasis being placed on Gmail’s new inbox format the announcement by the Gmail team that they are now supporting Schema.org markup, has flown mostly under the radar. For marketers, however, this new “offering” mostly designed for the convenience of the Gmail user could play a much more significant role than the new design and auto-filtering.
For those unfamiliar with Schema, you can think of it as special standardized code, managed and organized by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and other companies which, according to Schema.org, rely on this code to “improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages.”
It isn’t exactly a natural leap from that definition to how this technology can be used in the email inbox, but to significantly oversimplify the undertaking, Gmail can now read Schema markup code added to emails during the coding process, and bring the key desired “actions” of an email directly into the subject line.
For marketers, this means that your customer can skip the opening, reading and clicking within the email, and go directly to the desired action. These inbox “Actions,” as Gmail refers to them, have the potential to drastically change how marketers do everything from building email campaigns to measuring email performance.
Actions that ask for reaction
There are essentially two types of Actions: In-App and Go-To Actions.
The In-App Actions are those that allow the user one click access to activities that can occur entirely within the inbox experience, such as adding a coupon to their Google Offers account.
Go-To Actions present buttons that take users to other websites to perform more complex tasks. While there are a handful of Actions available now (as well as one “interactive card” designed exclusively for the airline industry), Google anticipates many more being added in coming months. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at some of the initial Actions that Gmail is helping bring directly to the inbox:
RSVP Action : The RSVP Action allows your recipient to respond to an invitation to an event straight from the drop down menu that Gmail places in the subject line. Clicking “Yes” or “Maybe” will automatically place the event on their calendar, and let you know they’ve taken action. We see enormous potential for marketers in Events and Entertainment, B2B Conferencing, Travel and Tourism, Retail, and more, to market events using this tool.
Review Action : At DEG, we have many retail and manufacturing clients who find consumer ratings and reviews to be among their most valuable marketing assets, but they can be difficult to collect. The Review Action offers Gmail users a simple one-click opportunity to provide a rating and a text review of any product or service. Marketers can now collect feedback, and drive more engagement around a purchase or experience with a lower barrier and level of effort than ever before.
One-click Action : The one-click action is designed to initiate any task that could be performed with one click on a website, such as adding a movie to your Netflix queue, or following your company on twitter. While this Action requires some minor activity on the website side, as well, it has tremendous potential given the breadth of activities it can bring to the inbox for organizations of all types.
Go-to Action : The previously-mentioned Go-to Action is the one which DEG anticipates will be most popular with our clients. It is designed to initiate more complex activities such as making a purchase on a retail site, checking in for an upcoming flight, applying for insurance coverage, or buying tickets to a concert or sporting event.
While this change does have the potential to impact your marketing programs, there are a few things to consider before taking the leap.
- The schema markup in your emails must be written in one of the two accepted formats: Microdata and JSON-LD.
Currently (and likely until the schema markup that Google has created for these actions becomes standardized and adopted by Schema.org), using this technology requires you to register and receive approval from Google for each email you intend to send. Google has stated that they are prepared to turn these registration requests over quickly. According to Google’s registration process:
- Emails must be authenticated via DKIM or SPF
- Emails must come from a static email address, i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emails must follow general email guidelines
- Actions have more requirements:
- The highest-fidelity action available should be used. For example, if an interaction can be achieved by an In-App Action (One-Click, RSVP, Review), that must be used. For more complex interactions, Go-To Actions can be used.
- Actions should be used for transactional mail where a high interaction rate is expected. They should not be used on promotional bulk mail.
- Go-To Actions:
- Must deep link into the specific page on which the action can be performed.
- Label of button needs to reflect clear action to be taken and must be true to page the user is going to
- Label of action should not contain punctuation or all caps. Must be short and concise.
- Low failure rate and fast response for services handling Action Requests.
- Because they are not designed to be sent as bulk blasts and won’t be approved as such, you must place strong emphasis on segmentation and on the relevancy of the emails you are sending. Don’t forget, your future approvals from Google will hinge on levels of interaction with your Schema-carrying emails.
- You’ll need to consider what percentage of your email users are on Gmail. While these advances represent significant opportunity for some companies to expedite consumer interactions, the level of effort may not be worth reaching an insignificant population. Two important notes on this point:
- Schema markup included in emails which are received by other, non-Gmail email clients will simply be ignored. The emails will be rendered the same as if they did not contain the code.
- Yahoo! and Microsoft could very likely introduce Schema support in their webmail products soon, as well. Particularly if/when the convention is adopted and standardized by Schema.org.
- Last, performance measurement will need to be re-thought. By bringing the key desired actions to the inbox, traditional open and click-through rates won’t apply here. Marketers who use these metrics to make ongoing decisions, or have them auto-populated in broader marketing dashboards for executive reporting, will need to consider the impact of adding inbox actions.
Stay tuned for more. The strategists at DEG are already working with our clients to determine how best this change can be incorporated in their email programs. As we implement and test inbox Actions over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be developing case studies and likely a follow-up to this blog post.