Gmail promotions tab doesn’t spell death for marketers afterall

When Gmail rolled out it’s tabs for email organization, it defaulted most promotional material to the “Promotions” tab. If users were only passively engaging with brands sending that were sending them emails, chances are that those emails are going to this new tab and not the true “inbox”.

Then came the studies… were users opening messages still? Were they clicking messages? What were they doing?

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reports, some spelled doom, others not so much.

Laurie Sullivan, for MediaPost reports:

“Gmail tabs affect the click performance of marketing campaigns — creating what Epsilon calls an out of site, out of mind scenario, reducing the effectiveness of email marketing programs.

The study suggests that consumers viewing Gmail emails on a smartphone could put a major strain on marketing programs, according to the study. I disagree. Promotions will have a better chance of earning clicks and conversions when viewed on a smartphone. You’re much more likely to view all the emails because they are not segregated within Gmail tabs.”

This is an important point. The majority of all email is now consumed on a mobile device; split between a tablet and a smartphone (unequally). Both of these devices create a hybrid view of email, combining it all (versus completely separate tabs on a desktop). So on these mobile/small screens, a marketing message is more likely to be viewed even if it gets categorized as a promotion.

Another point I’d like to make is that Yahoo and Hotmail are legacy free systems dating back to the early 90’s… users of those accounts from “way back then” may tend (I have no data other than my own experience and some anecdotal stories from friends/colleagues) get more spam to those accounts than newer, Gmail accounts. And, many people switched from Yahoo/Hotmail to Gmail as a way to reduce spam and start anew. So, I would opine that it’s possible folks using Gmail get less spam on average, and are more engaged with brands from the start (because they are more selective). This may wear off over time…

Regardless… it still means that it’s worth educating your customers that they can add you to their gmail inbox so all messages go there instead of the promo tab. My University emailed all gmail-based student accounts with instructions on how to do this (students are our customers) – we included step-by-step instructions and screenshots.

But it also doesn’t change the fact that you’ve got to send high quality, meaningful content.

And, you’ve got to track more than just opens and clicks – but actually the call-to-action (how many things you sold, or signups you got from the link). Use that as your data point to compare campaigns. If you haven’t set up link tracking, here’s an instructional video I did for MarketingProfs on the topic.

And finally, when’s the last time you peaked at your spam/bulk folder? I know for me it was yesterday. I think all scan these folders regularly because they still contain messages that get caught in the filters (false positives). So I have to check or I miss important (or at least semi-important) messages. My reply may just be a day or two delayed.