In 2013, Gmail introduced a tabbed layout to give users more control over their inboxes. This layout sorts messages according to several different Gmail tabs. Users pick the tabs they want to use, and Gmail sorts incoming messages based on these custom parameters. One of the Gmail tabs is specifically for promotional messages, which is not good news for retailers who use email marketing to promote their brands. The new Gmail layout has had a significant impact on retail marketing efforts since its introduction.
The three main tabs used for the new Gmail layout are primary, social, and promotions. Gmail sorts incoming messages into one of these categories, giving users control of how and when they see certain messages. The social tab is for messages from social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, and the promotions tab is used for newsletters, special offers, and similar messages from retail companies. Newsletters and special offers do not show up under the tab, causing several email marketing companies to report decreased open rates.
Several weeks after the introduction of Gmail tabs, Mailchimp reported a 1 percent decrease in open rates across the board. This does not seem like a big deal, but it is if you have a large list. If your list has 200,000 names on it, a 1 percent decrease translates to 2,000 fewer people seeing your messages. Litmus.com and Returnpath also reported lower open rates since the introduction of Gmail tabs, which is alarming for the retail industry as a whole. Pat Flynn, the owner of the Smart Passive Income blog, said his open rate fell from 50 percent to around 37 percent after Gmail tabs hit the market. He reacted to the change by asking audience members to manually add his email address to the list of emails that would be displayed under the primary tab.
The new Gmail tabs do present a challenge for retailers, but the challenge is not insurmountable. Now is the perfect time to focus on making your messages more useful for customers. You want people to have a reason to click on the promotions tab and look for your messages, so send discount codes or useful information. If your company sells clothes, consider creating a report on spring fashion trends and sending it to a certain segment of your list. Instead of promoting your products, give people information that will naturally lead them to what you have to offer.
Gmail's tabbed layout is a great way for users to control what they see, but it is somewhat of a challenge for retail marketers. If you insist on talking about product features and company achievements, you will find it difficult to get people to click on the promotions tab and look for your messages. If you tailor each message to your audience and focus on giving relevant information, your customers will be more likely to look through their Gmail tabs to find your content.
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