It was announced this week that Litmus and Microsoft are forming an official partnership to improve the email experience for their Outlook and Mail App users, and this is likely to have a big effect on B2B email marketing.
For years the rendering engine in Outlook has limited the functionality of emails, which has prevented Outlook from displaying things in the way that other email clients can. This means that our ability to use creative and impactful content has been limited by Outlook. The partnership with Litmus, the leading email rendering company, is therefore likely to drastically expand the functionality of the emails we can use in our marketing.
Email marketing is one of the most effective channels for B2B marketers, and the majority of B2B prospects use Outlook as their email client. Therefore, any improvements in Outlook are likely to be very useful for those B2B marketers who can capitalise on them. For example:
Embedded video in emails
Outlook doesn’t currently support videos hosted directly in the email, but that might be about to change. Research shows that emails with videos can improve click-through rate by as much as 300%.
GIF images and animations
GIFs only display the first frame in Outlook, whereas proper animated GIFs have been shown to improve email performance. For example, Dell ran an email campaign with GIFs a couple of years ago that saw a 42% increase in click-through rate, and a 103% increase in conversion rate.
Interactive elements (kinetic email)
Emails could be much more engaging if we could include interactive elements. Depending on a where a user clicked, the email would move and adapt in response. On a basic level this would allow features like image carousels or live Twitter feeds, but there is massive scope for creative use of this function.
Data capture forms within emails
This is a little more ambitious, but potentially Microsoft could even allow us to use input forms within Outlook, so that users wouldn’t need to be redirected to a landing page.
Any of these new features would significantly broaden the horizons for B2B marketers. Email has always been a powerful channel, and if the Microsoft-Litmus partnership helps to increase its versatility, email is likely to be even more central to the marketing mix in future.
Obviously all these benefits depend on how Microsoft evolves the Outlook and Mail App platforms, and it will be up to B2B marketers to experiment, assess and decide which tools are most appropriate for their audience. But the move hopefully shows that Microsoft is committed to improving the user experience in Outlook, and we will be eagerly watching to find out what’s in store.