New Gmail Inbox & What It Means for Marketers

“We get a lot of different types of email: messages from friends, social notifications, deals and offers, confirmations and receipts, and more. All of these emails can compete for our attention and make it harder to focus on the things we need to get done. Sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around.”

That’s the idea behind Gmail’s new tabbed inbox. You know, the one that automatically separates emails into “Primary,” “Social,” and “Promotions.”

As a user: it’s actually pretty nice. Some people have railed against it and tried to disable it, which can be done easily, but most Gmail users probably just shrugged and accepted it. After all, isn’t it great to have all important emails from your contacts filtered to the front with all social emails and newsletters you’ve subscribed to?

As a marketer: OMG it’s horrifying that you’d even think that’d be nice. Don’t you like opening up those helpful newsletters or promotional coupon emails? Does this mean you’ll just delete everything in that tab? Does it mean you won’t even glance at it from here on out?

Matthew from MailChimp did some research to try and answer some of those questions. So far, he claims to have seen open rates drop, but not drastically.

“Gmail published their blog post about the tabbed inbox on May 29, which was the 22nd week of 2013. The week after that announcement, we actually saw increased open rates. Everyone likes a new toy, and the added attention that changing the inbox brings probably skewed results that week. To compensate, I skewed my concept of the “event” to the week after the attention died down. That’s when I saw a small but definite drop.”

Some marketers have immediately started trying to find ways around getting dropped into the Promotions box. But is that the best way? After all, Google knows what they’re doing. They’re serving emails into the Primary inbox because they know those are from contacts the user needs to read and reply to. You can’t game that.

So what, then? Get more creative with email marketing headlines. Provide more inciting deals. Never send anything that isn’t offering real value to your readers. The moral of the story here is the same one Matt Cutts has been preaching from the Google Spam Team for years: don’t try to find ways to game the system, find ways to thrive within it.