Email tip – how should marketers react to Google’s Inbox?

You’re not the only one overwhelmed by a zillion emails each day – Google’s developers are too. They’ve also noticed that consumers use their inbox for way more than just reading their email. For many people, their inbox is a virtual hub for daily life – a place to store important reminders, deadlines, documents, to-do lists, and personal and professional messages. Well, Google listened and delivered.

Meet Inbox

Inbox, Google’s new email app for Android, iOs, and the web, is taking the integration of social, email, and a to-do list to the next level. The app is consistent with Google’s minimalistic design style, but aesthetically more similar to a social network feed than the Gmail inbox look we’re used to.

Pictured on the New York Times,

Inbox

Inbox features / Impact on marketers

We’ve broken down Inbox’s features from what we’ve heard around the online water cooler. We’re also taking a stab at how it’ll impact email marketers.

Highlights is a big deal feature of Inbox.  Similar to most social networking feeds, you’ll see previews of your email messages with important information at-a-glance and photos on the main screen – before you click into the email. Highlights marries email with Google’s rich search functionality and automatically pulls real-time data from the web.

For example, an email from your airline will show real-time updates about your upcoming flight, without you having to click through to the airline’s website. You can click on the email to see the underlying message, but you won’t HAVE to click, and our guess is most people won’t bother to read the underlying message at all.

Impact – Highlights are going to shift the email marketers’ focus from snippet text to snippet content. Instead of scanning “send” names and subject lines, grabbing readers’ attention will take optimized graphics and real-time updates.

Highlights will also impact email success metrics. Users can click the highlight to arrive at the landing page without opening the email, making email opens less of a success indicator.

Bundles automatically organizes similar-type emails together, so you can check them out at your leisure. (Similar to Gmail’s tab view that automatically organizes your primary, social, and promotional emails into separate tabs within your inbox.) Bundles takes the tab view a step further by giving users control of how frequently they receive specific types of communications.

Impact – Bundles will make it easier for unengaged readers to become even less engaged. With that said, your loyal readers could become even more engaged, as they’ll pick and choose the emails they want to read and how frequently. Relevant, targeted, and timely messages (and incentives never hurt!) will be key to retaining less engaged readers and attracting more loyal fans.

To-do list functionality is built into Inbox allowing users to create tasks and reminders that appear alongside their messages. The to-do list is smart, pulling relevant online data that far surpasses manual text reminders. Similarly, Inbox lets you pin important messages to revisit in the future, or snooze an email and have it reappear in your inbox at a specific time. The speed dial, located in the bottom right corner of the app, lets you quickly email popular contacts.

Impact – The rich to-do list functionality and speed dial could entice users to interact with their Inbox even more frequently than they do now. We’ll have to keep our eye on the snooze feature to see how it impacts email engagement, especially for time sensitive communications.

Will Inbox kill Gmail?

Inbox is hailed as a long-term replacement for Gmail, but Google swears Gmail isn’t going anywhere. Google expects most people will either stick with Gmail or switch to Inbox, not use both. Inbox is rolling out slowly – it’s invite-only at the moment, and we haven’t gotten our hands on it yet (BLAST!). Between needing an invitation and requiring users to download the app separately from your Gmail app, Inbox’s adoption is expected to be slow at first.

Takeaways

Following mass adoption, Inbox will likely disrupt how readers interact with their inbox. Creating targeted timely emails will be even more important. Inbox’s rich, visual, and interactive environment will make it easier for readers to scan their inbox for content that sticks out and speaks to their needs and interests. We’ll follow up with more detail once we can test Inbox out for ourselves, but we’re looking forward to raising the bar on our own email standards to stand out in this new environment.