Why Gmail’s New Tabbed Inbox Can Be A Winner For Email Marketers

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In a recent post we talked about Gmail’s new tabbed inbox which, if you use the service, you’ll start to see roll out over the next couple of weeks.

In a nutshell, in an effort to overcome email bombardment and inbox chaos, the update will see user’s messages being routed to different folders; ‘promotions, updates, primary, social and forums’ depending on their content and the sender.

Why Does This Matter To You?

Last summer, Gmail announced that their service had 425 million monthly active users. As a result, they’ve now overtaken Hotmail and are the largest email service in the world so I’m willing to bet that a number of your businesses email recipients receive and read your correspondence via Gmail.

Does Google Hate Marketers?

As I’m sure you can imagine this news has distressed many marketers. Laura Atkins, on her ‘Words to the Wise’ blog wrote about hearing the update described as ‘a war on marketers’ and ‘as a conspiracy to stop all email marketing’. She even saw a few marketers call for an organized boycott of Google AdWords!

I have to admit, when I first read about the update I was a little concerned that businesses messages would end up in a glorified spam folder, but once I’d stepped away from my laptop and taken the time to digest the information away from the online cries of my panicked peers, I decided that the update probably isn’t sounding the death knell for email marketers after all. In fact, it could well be doing just the opposite.

Here’s Why:

Research firm ‘User Interface Engineering’ conducted a study little over 18 months ago that aimed to find out how people used ‘all those options, controls, and settings that software designers put into their applications’.

They ran their test with Microsoft Word and found that ‘less than 5% of the users they surveyed had changed any default settings at all’. Although the study was specifically looking at a Microsoft product, I think it still illustrates that the average non techy computer user keeps their ‘settings in the exact configuration that the program installed in’.

Unless Google force adoption, I suspect we’ll see a relatively low adoption of the new tools. There’s some mixed opinion around this though - take a look at CNET.

Searching Supersedes Filing:

Secondly, I don’t know about you, but personally, one of the things I love about Gmail is that there is little or no need for over the top filing, managing and tidying. Why? There’s so much storage it’s unlikely that you’ll (ever?) need to delete old emails to make room for newer ones. Also, as you’d expect, they run a pretty top notch email search facility within their inboxes. In fact, they once said themselves that:

Instead of sorting by date or sender, you can enter keywords in the Gmail search box to find the exact message you’re looking for. It works just like Google search: if you’re looking for a message that contains the word “shopping,” simply type shopping in the search box and press the search button’.

Increased Engagement:

Thirdly, even if all of your Gmail using recipients defy all of the above predictions and reorganize and shape up their inbox regimentally, I still think the promotions tab is potentially a very powerful tool for marketers.

For email consumers that do use this Tool to manage their inbox, your messages will be there in one place for them to access when they choose, at a time when they are most open to engaging with you. And consistent research has shown that consumers on average only sign up to 10 brands they want to hear from. So the clutter won’t necessarily be that cluttered!

For marketers who use opt-in style list maintenance (which we all should be!) and who are emailing engaging, personalised, targeted content that brings value to the opted-in reader, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be a ‘go to ‘tab.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you read about these changes on the Google blog or is this the first time you’ve been alerted? Either way, can you see any other positives or negatives that I may have missed? Let us know in the comments down below.

  • Luella

    I was initially anti-tabs but as a Gmail user, my experience concurs with your ‘increased engagement’ point Matt. Nice one, thanks!

  • Nathan Thompson

    This was a good read Matt- something I’ve been discussing lately with a client actually.

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