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The deliverability impact of Gmail's quick action buttons

Thomas Senne
Senior Director of Global Deliverability

Google has been on fire the past few months with additions and changes to their Gmail platform.  Several of these changes have had major repercussions across the email marketing space. The first major change this year was the introduction of the tabbed interface within Gmail.  The impact of the tab changes has been hotly debated, but for established marketers, the changes have been positive. There’s no debating the fact that other email providers like Outlook and Yahoo! have been making changes to get their functionality closer to the Gmail interface.

Gmail introduced another change that was a bit under the radar, but potentially just as impactful -- the addition of “actions” in the Gmail interface (we first wrote about Gmail's quick actions in July - check out the post here). Actions are buttons that are displayed in the subject line of an email.  Some examples of what might appear in the buttons are: track a package, submit a review, order status and other similar things. The sender can create a button that does just about anything.


The buttons are interesting, and can be a nice driver for your customers to get to important information quickly. Let’s discuss the potential deliverability impact of these buttons.

We know that user interaction with email is a big deal for Gmail, and for any other provider with any sophistication. It’s not enough to have opens; senders need to have their recipients actually interacting with messages. Clicks and scrolls are the types of interactions that can elevate inbox placement. It would stand to reason that clicks on the quick action buttons could have a very positive impact on a program. I’ve heard questions about whether Gmail counts these clicks as interactions, but there’s no reason to believe they would be counted in any other way. These actions are clicks within the code of an email, which supports the use of the actions.

There is another side to the equation that as a sender you're going to have to evaluate. While the quick action buttons are great, and could dramatically increase the number of received clicks, there is a trade-off. Recipients who use the actions are probably not opening up the email. Will this trend continue over time, or is this just a one-off event for a recipient? Are you willing to give up a little bit of brand participation in order to give recipients a little convenience?

The best solution is probably somewhere in the middle. The use of actions should be limited to communications with a specific purpose. Transactional messages are a good place for these, but keep in mind that you give up an opportunity to cross promote and up-sell.

It will be interesting to see the adoption of the action buttons.  Will action buttons take-off and change how people use email?  It’s an interesting conversation worth watching. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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