Marketers note - the new Gmail Inbox can affect your email campaigns

  • 6-Aug-2013

Marketing channels and the ways to reach consumers may be increasing in scope, but email remains still the dominant way digital marketers try to reach consumers. Across both B2C and B2B, a good portion of marketing budget is allocated to creating and maintaining a high quality email list. Marketers closely monitor metrics like open rates, click through rates, and response rates. For instance, you can see how much effort went into the email campaigns to raise funds for Barack Obama’s reelection and how effective they proved to be.

There are many issues that marketers face in getting their email messages in front of their target audiences (e.g., email deliverability and privacy laws). But now they may have to contend with another one – a seemingly innocuous redesign of the Gmail Inbox, but one that could have potentially serious impact for email campaigns.

Google recently introduced a tabbed version for the Gmail Inbox. Now, Google will automatically sort emails into different tabs like Primary, Social, Promotions, and two other user-labeled tabs. Users can of course override the automatic placement. You can expect a few mis-categorizations initially, but over time, you’ll have all important emails of interest to you in the Primary tab. So, in effect, Google is taking us back to the old days when email was personal, from people you knew rather than marketing messages.

I expect that as it improves their personal productivity people will take to the new design. But what’s good for consumers can prove disruptive for marketers. Most of us are creatures of habit and may not end up clicking the other tabs at all. So in all likelihood the email open rates are likely to drop further. Early evidence points to this already.

So what are marketers -- especially B2C marketers -- to do when trying to reach users of Gmail, the world’s largest email service? Perhaps the answer lies in quality over quantity. Focus on relevant content that people will find useful and engaging, so that they move you to their “Primary” inbox. Unfortunately, easier said than done. Another approach would be to engage users in channels outside of email, where your message can get past the gatekeepers.

In the end, marketers may have to rely on “pull” rather than “push.” You can read about the various digital marketing scenarios and how the technology choices you have to support them in our Digital Marketing Technology evaluations.

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