Marketing to the New Gmail Inbox

Google is in the process of rolling out a new inbox interface for both mobile, and desktop. Designed to automatically filter common message types, the customizable tabs break your email into Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums, and Primary. The tabs are an attempt to make inbox overload syndrome a thing of the past, segregating common, but not always vital, emails into their appropriate category. Although Gmail has long had very customizable filters that would allow you to categorize messages in the same way, the automation of the new inbox is totally new.

Gmail is rolling out a new inbox that auto-filters emails based on content

Gmail is rolling out a new inbox that auto-filters emails based on content

It’s still unclear how these new tabs will impact marketing, Google has not mentioned any update to the spam filtering or any revamp of the Spam folder. However, it’s clear that instead of focusing only on the Inbox, marketers will now be trying to stand out in the Promotions folder. With the Promotions tab requiring an extra touch or click to get to, some users may ignore it entirely. The Primary tab is reserved for emails only from other people, so getting here will be intentionally out of reach for most marketers.

Interestingly, social networks will also be impacted in the same way as marketing emails. Users will be required to switch to the Social tab to view updates from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Many users never go out of their way to view these messages, but will check them when they appear in their inbox. Now that a user needs to check the Social folder for these updates, it’s very likely that open and click rates for these services will drop off. Even worse for companies like Facebook, Google+ notifications will appear in a red box in the top right corner, effectively circumventing the Social folder.

Since Gmail is still rolling out these changes it’s difficult to say what the long term ramifications of these changes will be. Will the Promotions folder become the de facto spam folder? Will social media see a drop in users returning to their services via email? It’s very likely that open rates will decline, but it’s also possible that users opening messages in the Promotions folder will be much more likely to click through to your site, since they are searching out your messages. For now, getting into theright folder on Gmail should be achieved by following best practices, maintaining proper authentication, and making a strong connection with your subscribers before they are mailed.