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Why email marketers should care about Gmail’s quick action buttons

Quick Actions: What are they and what do they mean for those of us in the email marketing space?

About a month ago, Google announced the introduction of the quick action, which is a new kind of button in Gmail.  These buttons display in the subject line of certain emails and would let a user to take an action without opening the email.  Google’s goal is to make specific, common interactions quicker and easier for users.

Quick actions are divided into two categories: “in-app” and “go-to” actions. In-app actions can be completed without leaving the inbox. They include One-Click actions (which are supported now), as well as RSVP and Review actions (which will be rolled out in the future). Go-to actions are for more complex interactions, and direct users to a landing page where the action can be completed.

Google has identified these as something to be used with transactional messages with a high interaction rate, and not for mass promotional email marketing campaigns. Adding these actions just require registration with Google and the addition of a structured data schema to your code.

As quick action buttons are starting to appear in the Gmail inbox, I've been taking a look at some of their uses and user experiences around them. The first example I found was for one of Google's own email programs, Google Offers.

The Google Offers Experience

I first noticed quick action buttons on a few Google Offers emails.  Google Offers is a daily deals program, which sends an email each day with a few local coupons.

The creative for the Google Offers emails is pretty simple – there’s a primary highlighted deal, and then a grid of others. They’re promotional, but have a transactional feel.  They use a light, clean layout and emphasize the action. This seems to be why a quick action could be effective for this type of message.

[caption id="attachment_2641" align="alignnone" width="188"]Google Offers Email Google Offers Email[/caption]

The quick action button here allows subscribers to get the main offer without opening the email. It’s categorized as an “In-App” action – it lets a user to complete a one-click action without leaving the inbox.

[caption id="attachment_2642" align="alignnone" width="625"]Google Offers Quick Action Google Offers Quick Action[/caption]

When I clicked the “Get Offer” button in the subject line, a small progress indicator appeared. After a moment, it was replaced with a checkmark, indicating that I’d gotten the offer. The button was disabled since I’d already completed the action.

[caption id="attachment_2643" align="alignnone" width="625"]Google Offers Quick Action: Added Google Offers Quick Action: Added[/caption]

Almost immediately, I received a follow up email from Google Offers confirming that I’d added the deal to my account. I thought this was great – it gave me feedback that the action had been completed while staying in the inbox.

[caption id="attachment_2644" align="alignnone" width="226"]Google Offers Follow-up Email Google Offers Follow-up Email[/caption]

This follow-up email didn’t use a quick action. It seemed like it could have been useful – perhaps even more so than the original promotional email. The main action was to view the offer, and a “go-to” quick action linking over to my account could have been really effective.

[caption id="attachment_2645" align="alignnone" width="625"]Google Offers Follow-up Email - Subject Line Google Offers Follow-up Email - Subject Line[/caption]

The email content (offer details, how to use graphic) is included on the landing page. Bypassing the creative wouldn’t have missed any content – it would have just removed a step and gotten me to the account page more quickly.

Experience Review

Overall, the experience was pretty seamless and I could see how it would be really useful.  This quick action actually consolidated three actions into one. With a single click, it allowed me bypass 1) opening the email, 2) clicking the main “Get Offer” button, and 3) clicking the “Get Offer” button on the landing page.  The result was my intent (to get the offer) was realized with a single user action.

[caption id="attachment_2647" align="alignnone" width="625"]Google Offers Coupon Landing Page Google Offers Coupon Landing Page[/caption]

The one downside was that the experience was so speedy that it removed some of the context for the action I was taking. It left me feeling confused about what I’d just done. As an infrequent user, I wasn’t sure what happened when got the offer. After casually pushing the button, I was struck with the thought that I might have just purchased something without knowing it.


[caption id="attachment_2646" align="alignnone" width="625"]Google Offers Account Page Google Offers Account Page[/caption]

Fortunately this wasn’t the case, but I found this out only after going back into the email, going to the landing page, and then checking out the FAQ section.  It seemed like the follow-up email could be a great opportunity to improve this. It could provide me with more feedback or allow me quicker access to a page where I could see what happened in detail.

Takeaways for Marketers

After going through this experience, I think the main thing I saw is that quick action have a lot of value for real-time actions and streamlining user flows. The challenge is to balance the efficiency with context.

If you’re removing barriers to completing an action, just be sure you’re not losing valuable content and information along the way.  If there’s a risk of that happening, look for ways to give users this feedback with follow-up messages, instructions on landing pages, or links to access account information and FAQs.

Lastly, this functionality isn’t enabled in either the Gmail app or mobile website. It seems like there would be a lot of value for a one-click action like this for mobile users. This type of daily deals content is time-sensitive, local, and prone to immediate action – important considerations for mobile audiences. It’s also especially valuable if there’s a great supporting mobile experience, as there is for Google Offers.

[caption id="attachment_2648" align="alignnone" width="179"]Google Offers Mobile App Google Offers Mobile App[/caption]

I’ll be reviewing more quick action experiences in the coming weeks and posting about them. What experiences have you had with these new buttons?

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