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Inside Gmail Tabs

Posted on 10.31.2013

- By Chad White, ExactTarget, a Company -

via Website Magazine's Email Experience Channel ::

5 Reasons to Embrace the New Inbox Layout

The introduction of Tabs in Google’s Gmail has generated concern among email senders about how the new filtering feature will affect open rates. Here are five reasons why those concerns are overblown:

1. Tabs only affect a small percentage of your subscribers.
On average, less than 2 percent of email opens occur on Tab-supported Gmail clients, according to Litmus. Gmail’s new inbox mostly affects the shrinking number of desktop users, not the growing number of mobile users.

2. Highly engaged subscribers — which generate the most email revenue — have been positively impacted by Tabs.
According to Return Path, these subscribers are opening more promotional emails and inbox placement rates increased slightly after rollout of Tabs. Most of the decline in opens has been among less engaged subscribers.

3. The Promotions tab is shifting engagement patterns.
There’s growing evidence that Gmail users are checking their Promotion tabs once every day or so and then engaging heavily with the emails in that tab. That may mean that Tab users are less responsive to unexpected or unannounced flash sales, for instance, but they are engaging with the Tab consistently.

4. The Promotions tab is a virtual mall.
Having your emails in the Promotions tab will be a net positive for most brands. When subscribers go to that tab, they’re in a buying mood — or at least more in a buying mood than when they’re interacting with emails from their friends and family in their Primary tabs.

When users go to the Promotions tab, they expect to find promotional emails and that’s what they get. This allows them to focus and get in a shopping mode. Just visiting the Promotions tab is a signal of buying intent, in the same way that visiting the mall is.

5. Consumers are still adjusting to Tabs.
While Gmail announced the roll out of their new inbox interface in May, it is still being rolled out. Gmail users are in an adjustment period. Some will end up turning off Tabs while others will move email streams around until they get senders’ emails into the tabs that are most convenient for them. The behavior that we’re seeing right now is really unsettled and does not represent the new baseline.

The long-term effects are also unknown. Marketers could very well reap additional benefits from users that keep Tabs enabled, but that will not become evident for some time. For instance, since promotional emails won’t be competing directly with emails from their friends and family, Tabs users may become more likely to stay subscribed to promotional emails longer, producing a more accurate subscriber lifetime value. For the same reason, Tabs users may be more inclined to sign up for promotional emails in the first place, so list growth could benefit.

Gmail Tabs should be embraced as a welcomed change. We’ve seen similar inbox changes before — like Gmail’s Priority Inbox and Hotmail’s Sweep functionality — and none of them impacted email’s return on investment, which is still stellar. In general, email marketers should applaud any development that improves the email experience for users.

About the Author: Chad White is the principal of marketing research at marketing cloud platform ExactTarget, a company, and author of “Email Marketing Rules”.


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