by Brett Schenker, Senior Deliverability Manager, Salsa
When Gmail announced it was changing its layout to include various tabs/folders of emails, many were nervous that this was the end of their email campaigns for Gmail users (and email in general, since so goes Gmail goes the rest). But, I took pause with this assessment because it ignores how email works now and what’s measured to determine what’s important.
My initial gut reaction was this only affects one portion of your email list, the inconsistent supporter. Email lists generally have three groups:
- Active – individuals who constantly open and click your emails, your super supporters
- Inconsistent – these folks only once in a while open or click emails.
- Inactive – these people never click or even open your emails. Which begs the question as to why you’re emailing them to begin with?
This applies mostly to Gmail, but some other email providers too. They are looking for activity, past and present, to determine what email to send to the spam box or the priority box. Gmail knows more about what your email list is doing than you do. They measure activity down to the second as to how long someone reads an email before deleting it. They examine content to determine if there are patterns there. They know all.
So, the most likely scenario is, the active portion, since they’ve shown they want your emails, will get your emails in the primary/priority folder. There’ll be a short-term dip while algorithms work themselves out and the system learns more about those readers’ habits.
The inactive individuals will still be inactive. The emails might wind up in “Updates,” “Forums,” or “Promotions,” but those individuals will continue to not open your emails, let alone read or click anything.
The inconsistent folks will be the ones affected the most and whose behavior will be changed. They’ll either take longer to read emails sent, checking their tabs non-regularly, or they might drop off a bit too.
And this is how things are shaking out. In a report by ReturnPath, the company has found that highly engaged individuals actually read more after the Tabs rollout. Your actives should become even more active. Those that weren’t active and read very little, read even less email after the rollout.
Those in the middle, what I call inconsistent, did see a dip in their reading by about 0.75%. This could be due to the design, but the design actually allows more email to be delivered and less bulked, so an increase in volume could be the cause too.
Gmail Tabs and Their Effect On Your Email Marketing Outreach
Since these changes to mobile are still rolling out, more stats will shift since 44% of the emails opened during ReturnPath’s survey were done so on mobile, the change wouldn’t affect them yet.
They, and I, predict that emails will have a longer tail. There might be a short-term dip, but long term gain as people adjust and only check their tabs a few times a week.
But overall, this shouldn’t change what you do as an “email marketer.” We can no longer be “email senders,” only slightly changing a message to the individual. Instead we need to be “email marketers.” The difference is, the marketer looks at the entire life cycle of an email address. Working to make their experience and messaging as tailored to the individual’s tastes as possible and adjusting content, cadence and more to the individual’s taste. We’re talking micro, not macro here. We as “email marketers” need to make our case and give every reason we can why an individual should open and click emails. This involves a level of commitment that shifts email alone to a full time job. But, that’s where we need to be and what to do, to succeed in the new email world.