New Gmail Inbox Format — Do Marketers Now Face a Bigger Challenge Getting Emails to Gmail Subscribers?

Google’s Gmail recently rolled out a new tabbed inbox interface that automatically categorizes emails into five different folders. Will it have a substantial impact on the way users read emails and, subsequently, marketers’ ability to reach prospects and customers? It’s too early to definitively answer that question, but here we take a look at the new inbox and its potential effect on email-marketing campaigns.

Gmail's New Tabbed Inbox Interface
Gmail’s New Tabbed Inbox Interface (Click to enlarge.)

According to a recent Google blog, the new Gmail inbox will be rolled out gradually and is designed to put users “back in control.” The new inbox uses “simple, easy organization” that includes the following tabs: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.

The person-to-person email conversations people want to read are sent to the Primary tab, which gets top priority. All other emails are automatically sent to the following secondary tabs:

  • Social: Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, and other social websites go here.
  • Promotions: This includes marketing emails, such as sales deals and offers.
  • Updates: Auto-generated updates, such as confirmations, bills, and receipts go to this tab.
  • Forums: Messages from discussion sites and online groups go here.

The new inbox is optional, and users can select the tabs they want to use — from none to all five. Messages can be easily moved among tabs, and specific senders can be set to always go to a certain tab.

What Does the New Gmail Inbox Mean for Marketers?

For Gmail users who choose the new inbox, promotional emails and email newsletters will not show up in their primary inbox — unless they drag the promotional emails from one of the secondary tabs and choose the option to have all future emails from a particular organization classified that way. Therefore, some users may never see, open, or click-through your marketing emails and newsletters — unless they look in the other tabs.

If a lot of Gmail users choose to use the new inbox interface, then marketers may see drops in email performance metrics. But there shouldn’t be any significant negative impact on the engagement metrics Internet service providers (ISPs) use to determine whether emails are spam, since most marketers will likely experience similar drops in opens and click-throughs.

Could the New Gmail Inbox Actually Benefit Marketers?

On the other hand, if people do go looking for promotional offers in the secondary Gmail tabs, they’re clearly more interested in shopping for products and services and more likely to convert. Plus, if users see fewer promotional emails, they will be less likely to get tired of them and, thus, not mark these emails as spam.

The big question is: Will a lot of people choose to use the new Gmail inbox? If they do, there likely will be an impact on marketers. But only time will tell.

For you Gmail users out there who’ve already given the new Gmail inbox a try, do you like the new tabs? What kind of impact, if any, do you think it will have for marketers?

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