Litmus Live Boston 2019

Written by Wilbert Heinen

After attending The Email Design Conference for a number of years, which has since been renamed Litmus Live in London for a number of years. This year I was allowed to travel to Boston on behalf of e-Village. The birthplace of the American Revolution and the city where, according to the locals, I absolutely had to try a “lobstah roll” and “Clam Chowdah”. Quite good, by the way!

After a day of sightseeing and walking the Freedom Trail, it was time for Litmus Live! Unlike Litmus Live London 2 full days instead of 1. Here too there were 2 tracks that you could follow. Namely a marketing and development track. I always prefer the development track, but I sometimes found it very difficult to choose between the presentations in both tracks in Boston. Sometimes it is wise to look a little further and that is why I have changed tracks a number of times. For example, with the marketing track there was a Gmail presentation about the promo tab, and they had some interesting things to say.

Gmail Annotations

Soon we can also expect an update from Gmail Annotations where you can apply catalog cards and alternative subject lines in addition to the current promo cards. And in contrast to the current situation also in Gmail on desktop. You can provide the catalog cards with links that go directly to the landing or product page and can also be measured. This can mean that your number of e-mail opens can decrease, but also that your customers are faster where you want them.

Future of Gmail Annotations

AMP for Email

Indeed had a presentation about how they use AMP Email to display job openings in a smarter way with less code. They ran into quite a few things during this process, including the fact that AMP for Email is still not supported in the Gmail App. But also problems with retrieving data. Or as they themselves said:

“When you work with bleeding edge software, sometimes you have to be ready to bleed.”


Switching between the different tracks was already a success, partly due to the Gmail info, but it does not matter whether you are an e-mail designer, an e-mail developer or an e-mail marketer. You play a role in email marketing in your organization, so it’s up to you to pay attention to the statistics, both the positive and the negative. In addition, it is important for everyone within e-mail marketing to know how your content creates certain expectations, how design can steer, but also can deduce, and how the success of your e-mail ultimately also influences the success of the company.

You do not only have to see the success of your e-mail directly in terms of revenue, but it can also benefit your branding or result in cost savings for your company. You can think of an informative e-mail so that your customer service is less frequently called.

Taking responsibility was an important recurring theme during Litmus Live. For example, your responsibility as a brand during a disaster. Do you have a plan in place to ensure that your commercial e-mails can be temporarily and quickly switched off? Or what kind of data AI and Machine Learning are fed? Within the e-mail marketing profession, we all have a responsibility. After all, we are dealing with people instead of records or profiles.

Great Responsibility

Good intentions alone are not good enough. Your customers and their needs must always be number 1. You develop customers with the highest returns and the highest value when you consider their needs as a priority.

The same customer gives, or rather nicely said, permits you to leave your message in the inbox and that is a great thing that we should handle responsibly. Finally, the recipient can withdraw this favor at any time.

Email marketing?

Email in itself is not marketing, but rather designed to communicate with each other. Or as Matthew Smith of Really Good Emails said:

“Email is not marketing. Email is relationship designed.”

In a good relationship, communication is good, but perhaps even more important: Listen well. Do not make assumptions, but dare to ask for information that you do not have. By making good and responsible use of the recipient’s data, we have the opportunity to be able to serve that same recipient correctly and thus show that we also listen well. Don’t tell me what is for sale, just show me what I have told you what I want to buy.

Accessibility is not a progressive enhancement

It is the responsibility of e-mail developers to ensure that the code of, and the e-mail itself is accessible through the use of semantic html and in the case of images and interactive elements ensure that there is always a readable fallback for screen readers. If this is not possible, there is perhaps something to be said for the removal of the interactive element. “Accessibility is not a progressive enhancement”, but a requirement!

Jobs to be done

Email designers should work with copywriters on the alignment, images and (size of) texts in emails, but the use of color, contrast and legibility is also important to make it accessible to as many people as possible. In addition, the email also simply has “Jobs to be done” such as:

  • Show that you are listening
  • Help to process the message easily
  • Save time
  • Hold attention

With in most cases the ultimate goal to generate conversions.

The e-mail designer and the copywriter must also create atmosphere, because in many cases the customer is ultimately not interested in your product, but more in what your product delivers to him / her. You often see this clearly reflected in advertisements from successful brands; they more often sell a feeling or lifestyle instead of what the product can do. To experience that feeling yourself or to create that lifestyle yourself, you need that product. Take into account the fact that your brand is not what you think your brand is, but rather what your customer and the public think what your brand is and what it stands for.

There is more

In the coming weeks we will look in more detail at four topics of Litmus Live Boston 2019. For example, we’ll tell you everything about how you can use the Gmail Promo Tab , which is the dark side of “Dark Patterns” , we’ll explain everything about cognitive tax in an email and we’ll explain everything about “Gamification” .

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Ultimately, if I have to summarize the entire conference in a few sentences, what I remember most is that we have to remember that we communicate to and with people, who don’t want to be bored, and enter into relationships with them. Simple, clear and accessible e-mails, in which you show that you also listen to the recipient, will work best in the end. But that you can definitely challenge this “best practice”. More importantly, however, we must act responsibly and stop applying techniques that you would not apply to your own friends / family and that make people buy more products by making those same people feel guilty and anxious. This is simply wrong and we are and can do better than this. Email marketing and marketing in general must be empathetic and ethical.

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