If you use Gmail, you will notice that the right side of the preview for some of your inbox messages contains small buttons. These buttons are “Actions” or “Inbox Actions”. It is based on open standards from schema.org. Currently, Gmail is the one provider with extensive adoption. It also has a very large share of the market, and this improves the chances of Inbox Actions improving the experience of your user base greatly.
Usually, these Actions will add great convenience when users are interacting with your emails. They can perform actions without necessarily opening the emails. RSVP’s and reviews of products are made very easy and straightforward with Actions.
By displaying the interactions plainly, recipients will speedily work through the emails and get a richer display of the content of emails.
Inbox Actions make the recipient’s interaction with the email simple and direct
As it stands, Inbox Actions are being abused a lot. Therefore, Gmail has put some strict measures to ensure only good senders can use it. Therefore, for you to use it, you have to authenticate the domain. Also, use URLs that are secure for actions, and register with Google so that you can be whitelisted.
Don’t worry because everything sounds difficult and time-consuming. Trust me, it is easier than it sounds.
Inbox Actions On Your Email As Per Gmail’s Requirements
Inbox Action set up is very straightforward. Register with Gmail so that you can be Whitelisted. You are required to meet all the basic requirements. Below are some of the requirements you must meet.
To be registered and whitelisted and to enable Inbox Actions with Gmail, there are registration requirements and guidelines that you must meet. These requirements are good practices, as they will help you greatly. You can use Gmail Postmaster Tools to stay ahead of any delivery issues and troubleshoot problems that are likely to arise. Let us now look at the requirements.
You must be sending high volumes of emails: A minimum of 100 emails should be sent to Gmail addresses in a day. Your history for sending emails must also show that you have been consistent in sending bulk emails for some weeks.
Your spam complaints must be very low: Gmail Postmaster Tools can help you with this. Use it to check whether you meet this requirement.
Only transactional emails can include Inbox Actions: The guidelines provided by Gmail explicitly list this. Hence you cannot use it for your bulk marketing emails. (Aritic Mail also allows transactional emails only, so you are good)
Your Actions must have secure links to only those you can use
Authenticate your emails using DKIM or SPF: Aritic Mail recommends the use of SPF and DKIM and DMARC.
The email address you use to send must match the domain name from the authentication: If you are using sub-domains, it is also fine. Provided the main domain is a match. Therefore, “something.example.com” will be a perfect match with ‘example.com”
Send the emails from a static address: For example, “email@example.com”
Email Actions should be in place before making applications: You should send a live test email to Gmail from the real address for further testing purposes.
Follow all the Gmail Bulk Sender Guidelines: If you are using Aritic Mail, we handle the majority of the guidelines.
Take some time to ensure that you meet each of the requirements before you start the setup process of Inbox Actions.
Setting Up Inbox Actions For Transactional Emails
Gmail offers four Inbox Actions, and their level of configuration varies. The simplest one will require a URL for one-click Actions, a label, and description. However, other Action will need more and will need your application to have multiple endpoints to process the different requests initiated by the Actions. Let us now see Actions and how they function.
Writing of Actions markup
The examples that we will be using will focus on Microdata since Aritic Mail removes script tags from templates and will not allow JSON-LD markup. This will help to ensure that the examples work for Aritic Mail templates and any other that is found in your codebase. Whenever you want to switch the Actions markup between JSON-LD and Microdata, use the handy RDF Translator. It saves your time and simplifies everything for you.
While dealing with reservations, events, and order tracking, you can easily do it on your own with JSON-LD or Microdata. It is not too complex, and you can effectively handle it. Even so, you can also use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. You can provide the current markup for the messages, choose the structured data you wish to create, and you will receive a prompting from the tool for the data required to create the markup based on the structured data that you have chosen. The process will be faster and easier. It will also help you recognize other vital information that you can include in the notification.
Other than the basic Action information required, you can include the publisher information to the markup. The publisher information will create metadata or certain types of interactions and give more detailed information to the recipients. This makes it more valuable and precious to the recipient.
Testing Actions Markup
Once the markup or Action is written, it has to be tested to ensure that everything is excellent. It is a tiresome process to test emails. Therefore, Gmail has made a provision for this using the Email Markup Tester. This tool will test the action code and confirm that it is written correctly. To make things even better, it also provides you with all the elements that you may require for a certain type of Action.
Once you know that you are using a valid markup, you can put it to test by sending an email to yourself. You will be able to see the Action in your Gmail inbox provided the “from” address and the “to” address are the same, that is at gmail.com, and you can test the Actions. Perform the test using a gmail.com address because domains that are set up with Google Apps will not show the Inbox Actions up until the sending address is whitelisted with Google. Also, note that the email with previous dates will not have the RSVP’s displayed by Gmail. Therefore, to effectively test RSVPs, use dates, use future dates. To get more information about easy and quick testing, check out great write-up about using Apps Script.
Actions that are expiring
Gmail will not always present Actions for dates that are in the past for things like events, travel reservations, and so on. This is by default. Even so, you can choose to add expiration dates to the Actions. For example, if you have time limited coupons of a certain page, connected to the action is about to be outdated, you can set the starting and ending time for the Action. Even so, you must use ISO 8601 format for your dates and time.
Securing Action Requests
Some actions are glorified links, and there are those that will change your system’s data. “In-Line Actions” refers to those that change the state of the data, and you should secure them. These Actions have special requirements for handling and processing on your system. To get here, we understand that you should use Actions with URLs that are secure and must come from domains that are authenticated by SPF and DKIM. Even so, server logics are encouraged so that the endpoint of the Actions can be secured. This further helps in enhancing the security. Gmail offers the vital pointers to help you in implementing the security measures. However, you have to write the code and logic within the application.
To curb the Replay Attacks, we recommend you to use Access Tokens with In-Line Actions. This will ensure that the interaction with In-Line Action happens one at a time and when one attempts to reuse the interaction, the results will be unsuccessful. , Secondly, ensure that requests coming from Google are verified using Bearer Tokens. To clarify things, Gmail will always offer basic documentation that will help in implementing the security features. However, remember that the code will live within the application for the verification and handling of requests.
Thirdly, you can include the User Agent to give a verification that shows the request comes from Google. This is a powerful technique for stopping accidental usage, but User Agents is manipulated easily. Therefore, do not rely entirely on it. Include other methods to ensure better verification.
So, What Can You Do With Inbox Actions?
Now that you have understood all the requirements by Gmail that helps to enable Inbox Actions from the sending address. Now, we can have a look at the different Actions we have and the power they carry. As of now, we have four types of Actions that Gmail supports. They are One-Click Actions, RSVP Actions, Review Actions, and Go-To Actions. If you are running an application that does not support the use cases, there are other meaningful and creative ways that you can use Inbox Actions to help the clients.
These Go-To Actions are the easiest actions you can use. They apply to all kind of situations. You can make the link available for one to follow and be directed to something else without necessarily opening their emails. This makes them fast and convenient. One great thing about these Actions is that when a person interacts with it, the email will be marked as a read email immediately. This eliminates a lot of hassle. This is unlike other emails that do not have it. The email must be opened.
These actions are the simplest while implementing. For each email, they offer a reusable link.
Within this Action, you will link to a page rich in information, or you can also link a particular content on a page using anchors. A perfect example is the reset password emails. Since you have configured the Go-To-Action, the recipient will not need to open the email. They can head straight to the reset password form. When they interact with the action and then get directed to the reset password page, they only need to spend few minutes to get it done.
From the standpoint of view, Go-To Actions are by far the easiest to implement. Essentially, these Actions are hyperlinks. Therefore, all that is required is a URL (the “target”), the button’s text (the “Name”), and alternate text (the “description”). Once you have all these, you are ready to go.
Another benefit that Go-To Actions offer is deep mobile linking. The Target attribute on a Go-To Action will always require a URL. You can also add content found in mobile apps whether Android or iOS using links. Therefore, when a recipient opens a link on their mobile device and the device has a native app, instead of going to the web, the link will direct them to the app. Interacting with native apps will help make the experience better. Even so, if the app is not there, you can direct them to the web URL.
One-Click Actions are actions that make it very easy for the recipient to interact with the system without needing to leave Gmail. This can include things like queuing the latest movies, checking in, confirming your subscription to a newsletter, and more.
The only thing that limits this type of action is the fact that their interaction is limited to a one-time thing. While you can interact with Go-To Actions sometimes without the state changing, with One-Click Actions, you can only do this once. Even so, their function makes a lot of sense because you can only confirm a subscription once. Also, you will not check-in more than one time.
One-Click Actions come in two types. The Confirm Action and the Save Action. From a standpoint, they are a bit similar and especially in their use. Even so, their result is what makes them different. The confirm Action will typically change the state of information while the save Action will add to your list of items. The design of the inbox for the One-Click Action will differ from that of Go-To Actions because all they offer is a one-time interaction. Once the interaction is complete, you can find a checkmark next to the Action label.
Here are a few ideas for One-Click Actions.
- Add to queue (songs, movies, and other kinds of media)
- Subscription confirmation
- Request for approval
- Acknowledgment Request
- Add to list
- Add to cart
Typically, what makes the One-Click Action different is the fact that their code has a Handler instead of a Target. This makes the biggest structural difference. This URL is activated when there is an interaction between the user and the Action button.
This is where things start to get a little complex because there is a higher level of interaction between the user and the Action within Gmail, which is not as seen by the other Actions. The user will typically cause a menu to open up, and it will offer other options to RSVP online.
For invitations and calendar events, RSVP Actions will help you to add RSVP to them. Therefore, you will be able to reply to information as well as give updates should anything change.
When you add RSVP Actions, a perfectly formatted RSVP option is visible in the email.
When you are using these Actions, make sure that you include the start and end dates, the location, and the RSVP options. The options come in three; yes, no, and maybe. Every response option should have its own URL. This gives clarity and better experience. RSVPs are very complex in nature and can cause you a lot of headaches. Thus, you can extend it to include information concerning the additional guests.
Reviews are the last type of actions we will look at. They are most commonly used for restaurants, albums, movies, hotel stays, or any other product or service rendered. The Review Action will typically prompt the user to give a review using stars usually one to five stars. They will also include some space for the user to include text reviews. It may be required or optional.
The Review Action will help people review a product, a restaurant, the services rendered, or anything else. It is done using star rating as well as text reviews, and this is directly in one’s inbox.
A Review Action will give rise to a review from within the email whenever it is reviewed the way it happens with RSVP Action.
With Review Actions, you will require more code and properties so that the ratings, the information about the item reviewed, and the metadata for the rating as well as the text inputs. Pass it to the review handler.
Review Actions are targeted at services as well as products offered to customers. Other than that, one can also use Review Actions to prompt customers to give their feedback easily and conveniently. You can choose to give the recipients the option to review all the receipts that they receive from the company.
What Comes Next?
Now you should submit the registration form to Gmail. For every email as well as Action that you look forward to offering your clients, you should submit once for each. This may take some time. Therefore, always ensure that you plan ahead of time. Also, we advise you strongly to read the registration form repeatedly ahead of time. When you are aware of this, nothing will get you by surprise after submitting your application. From there, you will have to wait. Typically, after you have applied, it should take at least one week for the application to be processed. Even so, give it more time just in case it takes longer.
At any given time, including Gmail’s Inbox Action to the transactional emails that you sent to clients will greatly impact your clients and their user experience. However, you will first have to determine the number of the userbase that uses Gmail before you go deeper into the whole process. This will help you ensure that many of your customers will enjoy the benefits of the features. One last thing to remember, always cross-check the requirements from Gmail for a sender to be approved and be whitelisted so that they can offer Inbox Actions.