[Posted by Alyssa Nahatis, Director of Deliverability, Neolane, Inc.]
There’s a lot of buzz in the digital marketing industry about Gmail’s new tabs within the email interface. To summarize, Gmail users now see three tabs in their inbox: the Primary tab is reserved for one-to-one & personal communications; the Social tab includes notifications from social networking sites; and the Promotions tab is the new section for bulk and marketing communications. This change isn’t an email marketing killer. It just reinforces the fact that we, as digital marketers, must be more relevant and exciting than ever to keep our customers engaged.
Gmail subscribers now have two folder options for receiving marketing emails. Yes, I said two, not one, because we mustn’t forget the dreaded spam folder. The spam folder is the first point that must be circumnavigated when sending to Gmail. By maintaining a list that’s clean (low undeliverable addresses and spam traps), and highly engaged (high opens/clicks and low complaints), your emails should be delivered to the inbox of the Promotions tab.
I’ve received questions about whether it’s possible to have marketing emails routed directly to the Primary tab. Gmail allows this by simply dragging and dropping an email from one tab to another, but puts the control in the hands of the individual consumer, not at a global level. Gmail will also ask whether it should be a one-time move, or if the user wants all future emails routed directly to the Primary tab. This leads to the question, “Should I provide messaging for my Gmail customers asking them to drag my emails from the Promotions tab to the Primary tab?” While it can’t hurt, just like “Add us to your address book or safe senders list” messaging, overall adoption may be low. At the point of online registration, include language such as, “Look for our welcome email in your Promotions tab” for those with Gmail addresses, and make sure that it’s sent as close to real-time as possible.
These tabs are not a game changer for email marketers. Just like with Gmail’s primary inbox two years ago, Gmail subscribers will learn to adapt. They will learn to seek out your messages in the new Promotions folder when they want to browse or shop. It will be up to you to keep the offers enticing so your customers remember to look for them, or even better, anticipate them.
I see the immediate impacts of this new interface being more short-term. Initial campaign performance will likely experience a short-term dip because the average subscriber won’t be checking this tab as regularly as their Primary inbox. This will also make flash sales and short-time offers more challenging.
But, it brings great opportunity for you to engage with your customers across other channels. By setting up automated cross-channel campaigns, you can trigger a message through a different channel if a Gmail customer doesn’t open your email after a certain period of time. It also brings opportunity to drive your customers to a preference center where they can indicate their preferred channel for communications from your Brand or Company.
Email marketing isn’t going away. You can see that with the new subscribers who opt-in to your list. You see that the channel is engaged by the customers who continue to open, click, and even transact with your emails on a regular basis. But, as marketers, we need to focus on having a digital cross-channel conversation with our customers, not just single channel communications.