Analysis: What Impact has Google's Change in the Gmail Interface had on Open Rates?

Back in October I posted an article entitled “What Google’s changes to the Gmail Interface Means to Marketers”.  To tersely recap, in July Google made a change to its email interface client, Gmail, where it’s one main inbox was separated into different tabs. These tabs essentially act as separate inboxes, where emails of similar groupings are placed. According to Alex Gawley, product manager with Gmail, in an interview with Marketing Land, this change was made because “[Google] wanted to give [their] users more control over their inbox”. 

Gmail, in their internal studies, found that people would skip over emails and deal with them later. They decided the best groupings based on this research would include tabs for Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.  Basic rules were created to decide what tab an incoming email would go into, and user control was given so that a person could move emails from one grouping to another. 

For Digital Marketers, the question was simple: how would this change impact their open & click rates?  If all incoming Promotional emails are now going into one specific inbox, would users ignore them or see increased conversions? After only a few months of its implementation, it’s very early to decipher results but trends are starting to appear.

The first trend comes from Litmus, who is reporting that since Gmail Tabs were introduced there has been a 7.75% decrease in opens. Again, as most digital marketers know, a few months of data is a short term sample and it’s difficult to say if this is just seasonality or evidence of a long term trend. 

What is also affecting this number is how the Tabs rollout isn’t universal across different email platforms. Users with a Gmail address can view their email in multiple clients including Outlook, Apple Mail or other mobile devices. However, only the tabbed inbox view is available in the desktop Gmail web client or the Gmail app for iOS and Android. In fact, only 19% of Gmail opens occur in its web client or app!

Gmail App   
You may have noticed that Email Marketers are addressing this by sending emails to their users to move them into the sought after Primary tab so they are notified immediately. This is an important strategy, but it shouldn’t be the end.  

Start by analyzing open and click reports around the 2012 & 2013 timeframe before and after July 1st targeted at Gmail specific users. See if the tabs are affecting your database, and then act by including notes in the header/footer of all your future emails letting users know about the Primary tab.  Go a step further and include that language on your website or landing pages. 

With these simple steps, you will be prepared as Gmail tabs see further adoption and replication by other email marketing platforms.

For the latest news and tips on Digital Marketing strategies, make sure to follow Bridgeline Digital on Twitter.


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