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Google Inbox Clicks With Marketers


When Google introduced Gmail tabs last year, it caused email marketers to worry that their finely crafted messages would be sentenced to certain death under the promotions tab. Another pang of anxiety hit the marketing community last week when Google introduced its Inbox email app, but after early investigation of the new entry, at least three email experts saw mostly positives in it for commercial emailers.

Brad van der Woerd, director of intelligence products at Yesmail, sees Inbox as separate and distinct from Gmail. In his view, it’s a functional mobile organizer that savvy marketers will exploit to get customers opening more of their emails than they did before. “This is definitely a response on the part of Google to the fact that two thirds of emails are now being opened on mobile devices,” van der Woerd says. “Google is offering people a much more sophisticated approach to organizing their emails.”

Unlike Gmail tabs, which offers users five groupings (primary, social, promotions, forums, updates) to choose from, Inbox allows people to create their own “bundles” of email types. One can make distinct groupings of emails—those containing purchase receipts or bulletins from dating sites, for instance. Users can also set reminders to deal with important emails at a later time.

“People sign up for the promotional emails they receive, so they want to see them, but they get lost in the shuffle because they don’t get them at the perfect time in the day,” van der Woerd says. “Being able to set a reminder on them is an ideal scenario for marketers.”

It’s also a serious upgrade for consumers, which is just as important, says Jim Davidson, manager of marketing research at Bronto Software. “Before I consider what marketers’ reactions will be, I want to see what the user experience is for consumers, and in that regard I’m impressed with Inbox. It’s an email experience that’s like going to Pinterest,” he observes. Like van der Woerd, Davidson thinks the reminder option can be a boon to email marketers. “You can set a reminder for when you’re at home or you’re in the vicinity of a store.”

Display options used in Inbox also can work in marketers’ favor, Davidson says. The primary display highlights the key information from emails, such as event information, documents, and flight itineraries. Inbox can also add real-time information that isn’t in the original email, such as when a package has been delivered.

“Google is to be applauded for its efforts to make email—still the most utilized communications channel on the Internet—more productive and pleasant,”  says Phillip Merrick, CEO of Message Systems. “The new Gmail Inbox bundles feature brings to desktop and smartphone apps similar functionality to what Google first introduced with Gmail Tabs. The promotions folder sparked concerns that open rates of marketing emails would plummet.   However, the sky didn’t fall and both users and marketers have adjusted.” 

Van der Woerd agrees, noting that Yesmail’s analysis of the effect of Gmail tabs turned up a 1% increase in opens. “Obviously the best practice for marketers is sending out the most relevant emails they can,” he says. “But Google organizing the inbox and giving more flexibility to users should turn out to be a positive for marketers.”

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