Sales & Marketing Tech

How to Use Interactive Email Elements for Your eCommerce Site

Published by in Sales & Marketing Tech

Email inboxes are more crowded than ever before. According to a 2017 Radicati Group study, there will be over 316 billion emails sent daily by 2021.

This email glut is especially challenging for eCommerce businesses and email marketers; it’s becoming increasingly difficult to produce campaign ideas that cut through the clutter to reach the subscriber.


Adding interactive elements to your emails is a great way to draw attention. Interactivity adds to an email’s visual appeal and improves the quality of your overall marketing campaign.

If eCommerce businesses want to stand out, they must promote and showcase offers in a captivating and enticing way. If your eCommerce business uses email marketing (if you don’t, you should be), experiment with the following five interactive elements to help you stand out.

Animated GIFs

Using animated GIFs in your eCommerce emails lets you showcase multiple product images in limited space, reducing overall email length.

Using GIFs also adds an element of liveliness to your emails and can increase conversion rate by 109%. Animated GIFs can also be used as a substitute for rotating banners, sliders, and embedded videos.

Take a look at the below email from Peel:

Email screenshot from Peel cellphone case retailer showing GIF that scrolls through images of different cellphone case colors

Email marketing campaign containing an embedded GIF (via Peel)

It uses an embedded GIF to show the various cellphone case colors offered by the company, adding life to an email that otherwise could have looked dull or boring with only static images.

Countdown timer

Countdown timers help capture the attention of your subscribers by creating a sense of urgency, letting eCommerce businesses use an interactive element to promote their sale, event, or any other limited campaign.

Check out this example from eWatches:

Email screenshot from eWatches that shows a countdown timer located at the top of the email

An email marketing campaign featuring a countdown sale timer (via EWatches)

This email contains a prominent countdown timer in the first fold, letting subscribers gauge how much time they have left to shop the sale.

Highlighting the urgency of the offer helps move viewers down the funnel toward a purchase decision.


Sliders let you display multiple images in a limited space; users can click through and navigate the images, spending however much time with each image as they want.

This interactive element is best suited for eCommerce businesses looking to showcase multiple products or services, include features and descriptions, and pair each slide with a different CTA.

Here’s an example from Adidas:

Email screenshot from eWatches that shows a countdown timer located at the top of the email

An email marketing campaign with an image slider feature (via Really Good Emails)

Subscribers can use the arrows to click through the email, interacting with multiple product categories and actively selecting which products they’re interested in.


Menus provide the experience of a website within an email. Using the right menu in your email lets users surf through various categories and options, all without leaving their inbox.

This interactive element gives eCommerce businesses the opportunity to include everything customers need in one concise layout.

Take a look at this email from Nordstrom:

Screenshot of Nordstrom email marketing campaign with menu function highlighted.

An email marketing campaign showing an open and closed menu (via Nordstrom)

This email has a menu in the first fold, which can be expanded by clicking it. The menu provides a convenient shopping experience by letting users navigate to various categories and pages on the brand’s website or in its app.

Hover Effect

The hover effect changes preselected elements in an email when a user hovers over them. This interactive element can be used to highlight CTA buttons or specific sections of copy to increase click-through rates. The hover effect also lets you add animation to the hero image and content of the email.

Check out this email from Nike that has content hidden in “hover-over” buttons. At first glance, there is no text in the email, but when a viewer places their cursor over the “+” symbol, it shows the text associated with the image. This helps Nike focus the viewer on the image, rather than the text.

Screenshot of Nordstrom email marketing campaign with menu function highlighted

Nike email marketing campaign showcasing the hover effect (via Really Good Emails)

Have a contingency plan

Despite all these benefits, there are some drawbacks to using interactive email elements, primarily related to which email clients support which elements. Let’s take a look at where you can safely (or not so safely) use each;

  • GIFs: Outlook and Lotus do not support GIFs; these email clients will show only the first frame of the GIF. If you use either of these clients, using GIFs in your emails will have the opposite of the desired effect.
  • Countdown timer: Outlook and Lotus will render the first frame of the timer as an image, undermining its very purpose. If you use either of these email clients, you’re better off using copy to indicate the sale’s impending end.
  • Sliders: All email clients except Thunderbird and Apple mail support sliders and provide a seamless experience.
  • Menus: All mobile native apps render menus in email smoothly, while desktop email clients do not. Windows mobile operating systems do not support this interactive element.
  • Hover effect: The hover effect works in some versions of Gmail and, Apple Mail, and Yahoo!. For all other email clients, this element will not render correctly.

Are you ready to experiment with these interactive elements in your eCommerce email campaigns? Circle back and leave a comment letting us know how it goes! Have a favorite email marketing campaign that uses interactive elements? Drop it in the comments below!

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

About the Author

Kevin George

Kevin George

Kevin is the head of marketing at EmailMonks—one of the fastest growing Email design and coding companies, specializing in crafting email newsletter design templates, PSD to HTML email conversion, and providing free responsive email templates. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes "email marketing." He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email campaign best practices on his blog.


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