Forms In Email Marketing

Email Marketing  and Using Forms in HTML Emails

We generally discourage the use of forms in email to prevent delivery or usability problems. However, at times you might still need to use a form in an email instead of directing readers to your Website. Consider these factors before you use a form in your next email message.Those recipients of your email who use Hotmail or those who use Outlook will not be able to use the form because:

  • Hotmail email will display the form but hotmail strips all values from your
    tag and removes the name values of all form elements, rendering the form useless.
  • Hotmail recipients can enter requested information the form, but nothing will happen when they hit the submit button. They will not know it has not been received and you won't receive their response either.
  • Outlook has limitations when viewing forms in the mail client. Outlook can not see data in a "form tag", when a form is passed via email and viewed in Outlook as outlook strips out form elements.

Here are some online articles you can refer to:

http://help.isu.edu/index.php?action=knowledgebase&catid=38&subcatid=39&docid=1058
http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2007/01/10/microsoft-breaks-html-email-rendering-in-outlook/

Hotmail is not the only email client that forms will not work correctly in.  Some other popular email clients do not support forms that use “POST” method, which allows form data to appear within the message body. Instead you will need to replace it with the “GET” method, which will write all form content to the query string of the page to which the form is posted.

For example:

Most email clients that provide a preview pane don’t allow you to tab between form elements. This means that when a recipient completes the first field in your form and clicks the TAB key, the focus is automatically shifted to another part of the software. This hinders usability and can confuse your recipient.

See the charts shown below as to how email forms work with many email clients:

 

 

 

 

 

What Does This All Mean?

If the above charts don't prove it's obvious, the message is this: Rarely do forms work in an email.

The tests were done mostly on an iMac. The couple of Windows tests we performed showed little hope and the mobile (again, Apple biased) tests proved somewhat inconclusive.

Having said that, of the the thirteen tests in a variety of browsers/clients and email services, only four proved to work as expected. That's only a little over 30% of the population that has the ability to submit an email form correctly. Couple that with the percentage of folks who actually want to submit the form and you get a shockingly small percentage of feedback from end users.

NOTE: This chart doesn't put weight on the amount of users for each scenario, but with Outlook leading the PC market, Mac Mail leading the Apple clients, and iPhone atop the mobile world, we're looking at some disappointing numbers.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately for email campaign creation, it seems as though including forms just won't yield the most helpful results. As is common best practice with primative, albeit effective, email campaigns, a link to a web version of the form will still win out over 70% of the time.

Forms are meant to be submitted in a browser.

Another helpful comment we found online that is related to our results

Though we're confident in our results  E-proDirect (whose business is email marketing), has seen some success with form inclusion in emails. Here is what they had to say:

While it is true that there are challenges in using forms, we find that there are more benefits than not. In research that we have conducted, some of our recipients like the embedded forms, some like to go to the website to request information. Others still like the phone.

We always recommend to our clients that they should have multiple forms of call to action. We have had many recipients request information or submit an RFP and have never clicked through on any of the links within the email. With our forms we pre-populate the contact information (the recipient has the option to update/change) so that it is easy enough to just hit submit. Many of our clients that use the embedded forms receive a lot more leads than those that do not.

There are several technical issues that we have found with email programs - namely Outlook 2007 and 2010 - so we direct those individuals to go to the online version of the brochure. They key is to test and make sure that the form you are using appears correct in the majority of the email programs and have a backup ready for those that don't. And it is always advisable to have more than one type of call to action.

Great idea pre-filling in data! Anything that makes it easier to capture a lead is well worth the effort! And we totally agree that the key to any great product is repeated testing! Thanks E-proDirect!