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Will Gmail’s Tabbed Inbox Kill Email Marketing?

Last week, Gmail introduced the "Tabbed" inbox which will automatically sort all email communications into five tabs "Primary, Social, Promotion, Updates and Forums."

The changes are designed to give users more control over their inbox and give greater focus to the emails that matter to them. Users can now move messages among tabs, set certain senders to always appear in a particular tab, and star messages to appear in the primary tab. "We get a lot of different types of email: messages from friends, social notifications, deals and offers, confirmations and receipts, and more," said Gmail product manager Itamar Gilad about the update. "All of these emails can compete for our attention and make it harder to focus on the things we need to get done. Sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around."

desktop View of the Tabbed Inbox on a desktop

The benefits for users are obvious, but (at least) one of the tabs could spark a radical shift in the way marketers set their email campaigns.

All “Promotion” emails - offers, ecommerce emails, and email from portals are now sorted under promotions. It does not appear that the content - text, images, html, colors, subject line, senders name - has any effect on the sorting. This means that Gmail is likely sorting the promotion emails by email provider, hence anything from MailChimp, DreamMail, CheetaMail, etc. will find their way to this tab.

The immediate impact of this is that any communication marketers send out will not be the first thing a Gmail user will see. They will need to click into the tab to see an email, and it’s not clear how many will they take the added effort. Subject lines might have just gone out the window.

Will we start to see big drop-offs in email open rates? Maybe not immediately, but Gmail email addresses are the second highest of all domain names after corporate addresses. If users respond positively to the shift, it may not take long for other databases like Yahoo follow suit.

Email Marketing, gmail, Google, Tech Marketing Smarts Blog