Marketing automation tip: Gmail changes impact email marketing campaigns

You may have heard the buzz lately about the changes to Gmail. Or maybe you’re one of the millions of Gmail users who’s seen the switch in your own Gmail account. Three tabs are now visible where before you only had your inbox stream.

Gmail promotions tab

What this means for you

The major impact is that any emails you send that Gmail deems ads or promotions are sent to the Promotions tabs. This includes nearly all emails sent from an email service provider (ESP).

Someone at MailChimp did an analysis and posted it on their blog (How Gmail’s New Inbox Is Affecting Open Rates, July 23,213) and found that “before the tabbed layout, open rates to Gmail had been above 13% for 15 weeks. And after, open rates stayed down for 3 consecutive weeks.” To make sure he got a true indication of the results, he accounted for seasonal trends and did the analysis after the initial buzz died down following Google’s May 22, 2013 announcement.

All is not lost! There are several steps you can take to mitigate this change.

Ask subscribers to move your emails

One option is to ask your subscribers with Gmail accounts to make sure all future emails from you go to their Primary tab rather than their Promotions tab. We’ll use our own Gmail inbox as an example:

1. Select the Promotions tab and find an email from a company whose emails you want to go to your Primary inbox stream. For our example we’ll use one from MarketingProfs Today.
2. Click in the box where the From name is, and hold the mouse button down as you drag the email to the Primary stream and let go.

Gmail promotions and primary tabs

3. A dialog box will appear asking if you want to do this for future messages from this company.

Gmail promotions tab dialog box

Once you select yes you will see a message that says “Future messages from [email address] will be moved to “Primary”.

While this may seems like the cure-all, a word of caution about sending these instructions to your subscribers. If my own inbox is any indication, every other company is doing the same thing so you may just irritate people into unsubscribing. Waiting a few weeks until things have died down may help keep the relationship with your subscribers on a positive note.

This is one of those times where an email blast to your entire list is counter-productive. Use your segmentation tools to only send this email to your Gmail subscribers.

Use targeted and relevant content

Regardless of how the platforms you use behave, they are only delivering what you create. The best way to make sure people open your email is to provide targeted and relevant content for them. Use personalization tools to deliver email messages to specific subscribers. The more you show you “get” your audience the more likely they are to respond to your emails.

You may be concerned that time-sensitive emails will be wasted if subscribers look in their Promotions tab infrequently. If your email service provider has a dynamic content feature this could potentially lessen the impact as well.

For example, you sent an email about your one-day sale on dresses but it expired by the time the email was read. Make sure you’ve set up your dynamic content to show your current sales items on the day the email is opened.

The takeaways

Here’s our view: this isn’t any different from what we’ve faced before. Changes are a constant across all online platforms. We’ve adjusted every time Facebook has changed their platform or rules. We’ve learned to use new sites such as Pinterest and recovered when old favorites like Tumblr changed after being bought.

So don’t freak out over the Gmail change, but don’t ignore it either. Read posts, such as this one, which give insight into how the changes affect your email marketing campaigns and adjust your tactics accordingly.

Like what you see? Check us out on Facebook, twitter, or Pinterest!