What the New Gmail Tabs Mean for Email Marketers


You may have heard that, earlier this summer, Google released a new tabbed inbox interface for Gmail. “Tabs”, as it’s being called, is an updated user interface that separates incoming emails into categories.

Although Google’s goal in creating this new interface is to create a better user experience, many email marketers have seen it as cause for alarm. But is it something to worry about, or is it an opportunity?

Read on to find out what these tabs are all about, how to discover if they are impacting the performance of your campaigns, and how you can adapt your email marketing strategy to get the best results from your campaigns.

There are five categories into which all inbound emails are now separated:

  • Primary: Messages from friends and family
  • Social: Messages from social networks, gaming platforms, online dating services, etc.
  • Promotional: Offers, deals, promotional emails
  • Updates: Important notices like bills, receipts, bank statements, etc.
  • Forums: Messages from online groups, mailing lists and discussion boards

Just as they’ve done with SEO, Google has developed algorithms to determine the tab in which a specific email will appear. So, if you’re a brand marketer, your emails are going to show up in the Promotions tab. The only way this can be changed is if your recipient chooses to change it. They can either change their settings so that your emails appear in the Primary tab, or they can disable the tabs altogether and go back to the previous Gmail inbox interface.

So, how is all this going to affect your email campaigns?

According to a recent report from StrongView, “While it’s too soon to predict the long-term impact that Gmail’s tabbed inbox will have on email marketing at large, it is safe to say that this is just the latest development in the general trend towards inbox foldering. Gone are the days of single, user-filtered inboxes. Approaching are the days of inboxes curated automatically by email clients based on historical engagement. It’s important for the email marketer to future-proof their marketing strategies to make sure that their messages continue to be seen in the emerging world of inbox foldering.”

The times, they are a-changing. And marketers need to change along with them. By taking the following steps you’ll ensure that your email strategy will continue to meet the ever-evolving preferences and demands of your audience:

1. Analyze the performance of your email campaigns to determine whether or not the new Gmail tabs are affecting your results. Use the data you glean to tweak your strategy accordingly.

2. Address Gmail tabs head-on with your audience. You can send them an email informing them of where to look for your future emails, and even ask them to change their settings so that your messages get funneled into their Primary tab. It’s a simple, three-step process, and you get bonus points for telling (or even better, showing) your subscriber how to do it:

  • Find and select an email in your Promotions tab
  • Drag it to the Primary tab and drop it there
  • Say “Yes” to the prompt that pops up

3. Create the most engaging and relevant subject lines you can. Assuming your messages remain in the Promotions tab, they will be grouped together with any other promotional emails your subscribers have signed up for. So it’s more important than ever to create compelling subject lines that stand out from the crowd. See our previous blog post for some great ideas.

4. Adopt a multi-channel approach. There’s wisdom in that old saying about not putting all your eggs in one basket. There’s no doubt that email is an enormously powerful marketing medium, but it’s never good to rely on one medium alone. Changes in technology can absolutely have an impact on your campaigns, as we’re seeing with the Gmail tabs. So make it a point to spread your efforts across channels, and extend the reach of your campaigns by including social media, blog posts, display ads, mobile apps, SMS, etc.

All that said, the most important thing you can do is to focus your efforts on continuing to make your brand relevant and important to your subscribers. This is the best way to ensure that they stick with you, remain on your email list and engage with the content you send them.

What are your thoughts on the Gmail tabs? Have you noticed an impact on your campaigns, positive or negative, since their introduction? Let us know in the comments.

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