As Google started rolling out the new tabbed inbox feature, promotional mails from marketers started reaching a new inbox meant for all such mails called “Promotions” and not the default inbox now called “Primary”.

Gmail created 5 new tabs to route emails depending on their intent.  Gmail has not published on how it is doing, but they are doing a pretty good job of classifying the emails on the intent. Hence we feel it would be wasted effort to spend too much of a time investigating on how to reach a different inbox tab, by modifying content, sender address, sending domain, switching email provider, and such tactics. It may harm marketer’s reputation with gmail which may lead to mails landing in spam or being blocked.  Some marketers might have escaped from Google’s new feature for the moment, but believe that Google is pretty good at what they do, and eventually no one escape, from whatever tactics the marketers may use by using Amazon SES or own SMTP infrastructure to send emails or altering the email headers or subject lines.

If you look closer, gmail has not fundamentally anything with their approach. Gmail had always a feature called Labels, to categorise the mails, but it was user configurable. A user could set rules or filters to apply labels to incoming mails and classify them by Labels, which would be seen as a folder.  The new tabbed inbox is exactly similar, but done automatically by gmail using proprietary algorithms and history to route messages to tabbed inboxes as follows:

  Gmail Inbox Primary icon   Primary Messages from friends and family, as well as any other messages that don’t appear in other tabs.
  Gmail Inbox Promotions icon   Promotions Your deals, offers, and other promotional emails.
  Gmail Inbox Social icon   Social Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, gaming platforms, and other social websites.
  Gmail Inbox Updates icon   Updates Notifications such as confirmations, receipts, bills, and statements.
  Gmail Inbox Forums icon   Forums Messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists.

Marketers should live with their key stake holders that is ISPs like gmails, yahoo, hotmail, rediff, AOL and their customers and respect their decision or behaviour.  When marketer’s mails are relevant and engaging, their stakeholders will trust and do business with them.  Hence the fundamentals of marketing communications has not changed. We believe gmail has not changed any of the fundamentals in their approach.

Gmail has a given a new place for the mails belonging to a particular category a label. It would prevent mails from getting cluttered in one inbox. Now the customers knowing where they have to look for a particular kind of mails, they can look into the Tab. The tab provides the count of emails, the brands which are communicating with you and such.Hence it is easier now for customers to look at their marketer mails quite easily.

In order to gmail tabbed inbox, the rules of engagement and reputation still count. If  Marketers throw the pretty good things they followed so far in engaging with their customers, the mails will end in spam folder.

Knowing these, how could marketers being still worried about the impact of these new changes in gmail.

First if you can’t measure, you can’t put any control mechanism that can give a better result.

Start measuring from the end metric, which is conversions (not open rates or click rates, which are intermediary metrics). If you don’t have a mechanism to measure conversions from email campaigns, it is time to implement now, as it is the core metric.  Once the conversion metric in place, start measuring it every week by gmail customers, yahoo customers, hotmail customers and such.  If you see the numbers going down by ISPs, now you could think of strategies. You could further drill to abandon carts by ISP, click rate by ISP and open rate by ISP and try to optimise at each intermediary stage from backwards.

Now think of strategies understanding the issues if they are specific to gmail or across the entire customer base.

If they are specific to new gmail tabbed inbox, consider educating the customers on the new tabbed inboxes and how could the customers live with it and see their brand communications, how to identify them with the name. If their customers would like to see them in “Primary” tab, educate them on how to “Star” the mails and drag them to “Primary” tab from other tabs. Encourage your customers to reply to the emails for  interacting with the brand and run automations to trigger off actions on such reply emails.  Further ask your gmail customer to add your sender address to their contact list or address book.

For your customers to do those actions, don’t forget to make your emails look attractive, relevant and be compelling to open them, click the link and visit your site and buy things.  Understand each customer actions, and get to know them better by seeking more information. Identify the channels (email, SMS, Facebook, twitter, or direct) your customers best engage with and communicate smartly across channels. Use all history you have with your customers to send relevant and compelling offers.

Use dynamic content or serve content that is in real time directly from your CRM system or web site so that the customer can get the offer that is live now on your website.  You can also gamify the mailers by serving such content such as surprise coupons, free shipping, and etc. Reduce the steps from email open to buy.

Do you want to further know the impacts of new gmail tabbed inbox and the rules of  engagement, reach out to Kenscio’s Account Managers or drop an email to for a detailed whitepaper.