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We’ve all heard of the improvements being made by Google to their Gmail service, changing how we will interact with our emails. I’ve seen a lot of wildly varying opinions on the new “˜tabbed’ inbox whereby emails are automatically categorised into one of five possible tabs:

Gmail tabbed inbox screenshot

Google’s previous introduction of their Priority Inbox to Gmail wasn’t adopted as quickly as first thought by email marketers. However, the new tabs will have a much more significant impact with many email marketers either proclaiming it will be the death of the email newsletter as we know it, and others suggesting it’s simply hype and nothing will come of it.

Having personally used the tabbed inbox for the past month, I honestly believe that email marketers simply need to be approaching the situation down the middle. You’d be a fool to ignore the changes Google are making as they endeavour to give the user more control of over their email, but it certainly isn’t going to kill your newsletter.

Will the tabbed inbox have more of an impact than Priority Inbox did?

Although the roll-out of this new inbox design will be gradual, it will be given to some users by default and both the mobile and tablet apps automatically include the tabs as standard. I’ve already been using the tabs in my personal inbox and I’ve been impressed enough to keep them despite the lack of customisation, which I suspect Gmail will eventually introduce over time. This positive reaction and feedback by the majority of Gmail users can only mean that we see the tabbed inbox becoming the ‘norm’ for most Gmail users sooner, rather than later.

How well does Gmail categorise the emails? Can’t I get around it and get into the Primary inbox?

The answer here is very well. Google have undoubtedly done a very good job in being able to correctly categorise the emails based on their content and data. The tabs are there to help make the life of the user easier and emails can be moved between tabs, or starred to make them a ‘Priority’ so they always appear in the ‘Primary’ tab upon login. Gmail learns when you move messages to ensure that they’re delivered consistently into the correct area.

Trying to get around the tabs shouldn’t be a concern when approaching your emails. Remember, Gmail users are just a part of your mailing list and of those users, not all will be using the new design yet.  You must concentrate on the aspects of your email campaigns you CAN control.

Will the changes impact my open rate?

You are the only person that can answer this question.  Have a look at the reports for open rate, filter for Gmail addresses and see what the trend has been over the past month and keep on top of this into the future.  The fact that Gmail is very good at categorising the emails means that people are probably more likely to open the mail they care about when they’re in the right frame of mind – i.e. looking in their Promotions tab when they’re in a buying mind and want to see what offers they’ve been sent.  It’s certainly a better approach than clogging up one view in an inbox, making the user delete emails immediately in frustration of the sheer volume that is visible to them.

What should I focus on when it comes to my email campaigns and the Gmail changes?

Your focus must always be on writing engaging email content, testing new, interesting and varied subject lines and finally, ensuring that you’re on top of your data and reporting to feed those changes back into each subsequent campaign.  Remember, if you’re resting, you’re not testing!  Test, test and test again – it’s the only way to drive forward successful email campaigns that grow an engaged list of recipients.

The tabs may be a significant change to the way in which a Gmail user interacts with their emails, but if they want to hear from you then they’ll still make the effort to read your emails!