Changes to Gmail: What you need to know and how it will affect email marketing

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Google has made some significant changes to Gmail. The most significant is likely to cause more issues for email marketers – it is the introduction of tabs to your inbox.

The tabs enable auto-sorting of incoming mail:

  • Primary – The real emails from real people
  • Social – Alerts from social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc
  • Updates – Receipts and statements (bank, travel, pay pal and so on)
  • Promotions – Sales and marketing emails

Positioned at the top of your inbox, you can preview anything new in them. You can also drop and drag to re-attribute emails to different tabs. Gmail will refine your choices.

On Android or iOS apps, the primary inbox will appear and then you swipe to see other tabs, which is pretty nifty.

Gmail has also added “action buttons” in the subject of the email. So you can do the following things without opening the email automatically:

  • RSVP to invitations
  • Interact with links from Netflix and Spotify without leaving Gmail
  • Confirm registrations

The bad news for email marketers

The issue which has yet to fully emerge is that the promotions tab may well become a pit users forget about.

Any emails coming from professional email systems, like MailChimp will be likely pushed to promotions. Many small business owners use systems like MailChimp or Constant Contact and so on for legitimate communication.

Certainly an enormous amount of emails coming from these systems are not spam and in fairness also have a good regard for unsubscribe facilities. So far, companies like MailChimp are only reporting a small drop off in open rates. It is likely to be another 12 months before we fully see the implications.

However, unless the subscriber remembers to re-attribute the email to the primary tab, it is likely the email marketer’s message will fall into an echo chamber of the promotions tab.

What you can do as an email marketer?

    • Don’t panic, it may actually qualify your response rates better, as your emails don’t get lost in the inbox sea of everything.
    • Send an email to subscribers instructing them how to move your emails into the primary tab.
    • Learn from example:  Delta’s Skylines Dining program sent an email with a subject line that read, “Urgent: Your SkyMiles Dining emails need attention” followed by a message that offered, “…two easy steps to send our bonus offers, restaurant updates and earning opportunities to the front of your inbox.” The email told readers to drag SkyMiles Dining emails from the Promotions to the Primary tab, then click yes so that, “You’ll never miss out on an offer or update.”
    • Take this opportunity to clean up your act! Only send relevant and valuable content; content people will actively look for.
    • Watch how email is changing. The good news is there are lots of changes and innovation going on in email by all the big players. If email marketing is important to you, ensure you sign up to all the latest blogs and be across the new developments.
    • At least follow the main providers: Gmail; Yahoo!; Microsoft Office; Apple.

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.


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