Last week, at AMP Conference 2018, Google announced that it will bring AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to Gmail, and in doing so has suggested a very different future for email.
WE KNOW EMAIL, RIGHT?
We use it every day of our lives. It may be a bit stuck in the past, but heck, we understand it. We even like it that way. In a world of constant — and sometimes terrifying — change, it’s reassuring to know there’s always good, old-fashioned, reliable email to depend upon.
Furthermore, with 270 billion+ emails being sent every single day, it’s here to stay. Well, maybe...
Question: Have we ever stopped to think what email should be?
Google certainly has, and we’ve been offered a choice...
TAKE THE RED PILL?
Google’s vision is a future of compelling interactions, slick presentation, and immersive rich media, right inside the inbox. High-performance live content; smooth carousels; dynamic sidebars; engaging lightboxes; immersive transitions; real-time location updates; and basic form submissions - all were showcased as impressive and exciting use-cases by well known global brands (Pinterest, Booking.com and Doodle).
A demonstration AMP email developed by Booking.com
A marketer’s dream, then, with promises of greatly increased open rates, huge leaps in engagement. No longer will email be a gateway to the web. Instead, the inbox will — in some part, at least — start to replace the web. But should it?
Isn’t there an argument that a really good and successful marketing campaign should get users out of the (Google-controlled) inbox and into the truly rich and open environment that the web already provides?
Don’t get me wrong, well-executed micro-interactions — right in the inbox — is really good news for marketers and users alike. To be able to select a delivery slot or rate a product or service — without leaving the email — enhances the user journey. On the other hand, will a user really want to browse a superficial version of Booking.com when the far richer version already exists on the open web?
Then there’s the murkier — or at least, less clearly-defined — side. This is a future where “email” and its publishing environment has the potential to be totally controlled by Google…
In the 2+ years that AMP has existed on the web, AMP pages have been promoted in Google’s search platform ahead of similarly-optimised non-AMP web pages; AMP pages must be hosted (cached) on Google’s servers; AMP pages carry 3rd party content that is also within Google’s closed environment. Even images have to conform to Google’s restricted criteria.
TAKE THE BLUE PILL?
In truth, there is no blue pill. Google already owns a great deal of the web’s publishing infrastructure which gives their proprietary AMP standard a powerful advantage. Much has already been written about Google - through its implementation of AMP, rather than its stated ambitions - riding roughshod over the spirit of the open web. This campaign suggests improvements and encourages Google to move away from its apparent anti-competitive stance.
However, our real choices, as marketers, will reside in how we do what we’ve always done… making the very best use of the tools available to us — including AMP — to truly understand our audiences, our customers, our member and our subscribers to provide relevant content and delightful experiences. That we may end up having to do much of this inside a closed, Google-owned platform is the bitter pill.