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What the New Gmail Inbox Means For Marketers

Thomas Senne
Senior Director of Global Deliverability

The world of email marketing deliverability was given a surprise jolt last week, with the introduction of a new product from Google. Inbox by Gmail was rolled out in Beta last week, and is available by invite only. You can request an invitation by sending an email to inbox@google.com. If you have a friend who is lucky enough to have access, they can also send you an invite.

When Gmail introduced the tabs earlier this year, we had to re-evaluate the way we looked at our marketing campaigns. Which tab would our campaigns be delivered to? Which one of the tabs is better for marketing, transactional, or confirmation messages? Is landing in the Promotions tab a help or a hindrance? These were all questions that we wrestled with as email marketers.

Let’s recap what we know so far.

Gmail trained users to understand that marketing messages should end up in the Promotions tab. We learned that this is the tab you want those messages filtered to, as opposed to the Primary tab. Marketing messages in the Primary tab look naked when grouped with messages from friends. The propensity for messages in the Primary tab to be marked as spam is much higher than if they were in the Promotions tab.

We also learned that engagement finally arrived with the addition of Gmail tabs. Behavior of email can vary from person to person, depending on individual interactions. Understanding the types of messages and frequency your customers are looking for is key to success at Gmail. You can’t game the system and force messages to a certain tab with any special treatments. The Google algorithms are in control at Gmail. The way to success is with good old fashioned relevant marketing.

This brings us to the new Inbox product. If you liked the Gmail tabs, you will love Inbox. I see Inbox as Gmail on steroids. Inbox retains some of the tabs names, but also adds many more groups. Inbox is looking to bundle messages of the same type together. In my Inbox right now, I have Promotions, Updates, Purchases, Finance, Forums, and Travel. The bundles are also mixed in with individual messages from friends and family. It is a very efficient way of dealing with inbox overload, and a handy way to find exactly what you are looking for.

The interesting features of Inbox are the way you can swipe mail away on the app to delete or save for later. The save function is one that is great for marketers, and could give messages a second life beyond the initial open. You can also create new groups on the fly, and set reminders for yourself directly in the app itself. This is again good news for senders, because it keeps eyeballs in the inbox.

There are not any real to-do items to prepare for this. The right direction is to continue working on positive engagement and conversation within an email campaign. If you can interest recipients in the message you deliver, the proper metrics will come. Gmail is going to filter messages the right way for their users. Trying to get around the mathematics of Google; is in my opinion a mistake.

Embrace the changes, because these are positive ones for our industry and for senders with great content. Google continues to push the envelope and once again sets the bar high for other email clients. Don’t get stuck trying to decide what happened, rather think about your customers and what they want. That formula will bring sure success in Inbox or just Gmail.

Check out the eBook "The New School Marketer's Guide to Deliverability" for tips to maximize your email marketing and engagement. 

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