Gmail’s New Tabs

In an effort to overcome inbox overload, which most, if not all of us have become victims of, Google has now made tabs available for their Gmail users to help sort through the clutter in our inboxes.  The tabs categories available are Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums.  A Gmail user can now set up their mail folder using these different tabs and Google will route their mail to these specific folders.
Why is this important for marketers to understand?  As of June 2012, the latest data I’ve found on user data, Gmail had over 425 million users making it the largest email service provider in the world.   With such a large number of Gmail users, and with an average yearly growth of 25-35%, I’m sure that number is now well over 500 million.  There is a good probability that a high percentage of your email recipients are on Gmail.
Before anyone panics and decides to give up on email marketing, consider these factors.

  • Users will need to navigate in their mail settings to set up the tabs.  It is a total opt-in format, at least for now.  It was discovered in a study conducted 18 months ago with Microsoft Word that only 5% of the users surveyed had changed any of the default settings in Word.  Once, more people learn about the tabs available in Gmail, I’m sure a few more will filter into the camp that will be using the tabs, but in actuality that number will remain small, at least for a while.
  • Users will have the choice to set up the tabs or continue with the old layout.  They even have the option to return to the old format after they have tried the tabs.
  • I think this could be a boon for marketers because for those that start using the tabs, we are no longer competing with the daily bombardment of all types of emails that make it into a person’s inbox, but our emails will now go in with the other promotions emails and get sorted under the Promotions tab.  Email marketing has always been about creating compelling and engaging content that people want to read.  Having it separated and clumped in with all promotion type emails, does not mean that people will no longer read it.
  • For those who use Gmail, Google offers its users the ability to search their inbox using the power of Google search. The Promotions tab could become a good source for consumers who are looking for a particular product or service.  Instead of having to sort through tons of emails to find what they may be looking for, they can enter a word in the search window, and Gmail will deliver in an instant all the promotional emails on that subject.   This ability places the control in the hands of the consumer, so they are able to access the content they want, when they want it.  For marketers who use an opt-in method of mail list maintenance (which we all should be doing!), and who are emailing engaging, personalized, targeted content that brings value to the reader who signed up/opted-in, there’s no reason to fear.  This could become the consumer’s “go to” tab.  By consistently creating compelling content that people want and need, they may be more inclined to leave your email sitting in their promotions inbox longer than they would in their main inbox.  It could easily remain there unopened and unread in that Promotions box, until the consumer is ready to look for it.  Sure, your “Great Special Offer” may have expired, but more likely than not, they opted-in to receive your emails, because they want to hear from your brand, regardless of what particular offer your brand may have going at the time.

Instead of running from Gmail tabs, we should prepare for it, and look for the positives with it.  It may cause anguish for the traditional outbound marketer, but I believe it is just another example of the evolution that has taken place with the consumer that places them in total control of the buying process, and who are no longer being influenced by our Push marketing messages.  Today, the consumer is pushing back, and fielding our offers on their terms.  This is why understanding and using Inbound Marketing strategies are so crucial in today’s economy.  Inbound Marketing…a topic for another day.

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