What the Gmail Tabbed Inbox Means to Email Marketers

computer_overwhelmedHint: It’s not as bad as you think

Last year, Gmail moved all of its email customers to a new tabbed inbox design. It’s broken into three distinct inbox tabs (Primary, Social, Promotion) as a means of clearing the inbox deck. It’s great for Gmail users, but maybe not so hot for marketers, who are seeing their messages moved to what looks like a slightly less ignominious version of the Spam box. Here’s what the tabbed inbox means for marketers and how to help ensure your messages get read:

Since the rollout of the tabbed inbox, some interesting observations have been made.

First of all, according to Return Path (which provides business intelligence for marketers), one in five people customize their Gmail settings to make sure promotional emails are going directly to their inbox. That’s a huge win for anyone sending emails the way marketers do. That means people are interested in getting your messages and offers, even when Gmail thinks they aren’t.

Return Path also found that only 0.12 percent of messages in the Promotions tab triggered a “This is Spam” complaint. That’s pretty significant, because .87 percent of messages in the Primary inbox will trigger that complaint. For marketers, this means that Gmail users at least want to get your message in some shape or form.

The big news in Return Path’s study, though, was that the tabbed inbox had almost no impact on read rates, across all the industries they surveyed. There were some slight declines, but some industries actually saw their read rates increase.

What’s also interesting is that according to Sailthru, an email marketing company, email open rates since the introduction of the tabbed inbox decreased 12.8 percent for Gmail, but they rose 5.2 percent for Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL. And when Gmail subscribers did open a promotional email, revenue from those opened emails rose 44.8 percent amongst Gmail users.

What’s of this mean for marketers? Relevant, timely, meaningful content is what’s going to get your emails opened, regardless of where they go. It’s true on the web, and it’s true in email marketing. Your messages don’t have a chance if they’re not meaningful to the people you hope will open them. “What’s in it for me?” is a question every one of your subscribers is asking, and it’s something you should be aggressively answering with every communication.

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