As one of the most popular email services in the world, with half a billion users and counting, Gmail’s recent inbox changes have some pundits questioning whether email marketing’s best days are behind it.
In a matter of weeks, three small tabs--- Primary, Social, and Promotion---have become giant question marks looming over every email marketer’s head. But is the alarm justified? Or could Gmail’s new inbox provide new opportunities to bring more powerful email experiences to consumers?
What About Those Three Tabs?
For those of you unfamiliar with Gmail’s "new” inbox, here is the quick take: Gmail has begun gradually rolling out changes to its inbox, which automatically categorizes each user’s email into three tabs: The Primary tab is the general inbox and the familiar main display whenever a user logs onto his or her account. The Social tab includes all social media updates and correspondences. The last tab, Promotions, aggregates all opt-in email marketing offers as well as promotional display ads that resemble emails from Google itself.
Email marketers have valid reasons to be concerned. How many times a day do we click and open an email just to feel as though we’re staying on top of our inbox? How many times do these opens lead to an online purchase or at least, a click-through to a marketer’s website?
While it’s too soon to tell whether the new inbox will have a long-term impact on actual email opens, what we do know is that now, with its separate tab, when users open a marketing email, they are doing it with purpose, and possibly, a higher level of buying intent. And therein lies the opportunity.
The Agile Email Marketing Opportunity
How can marketers take advantage of that fleeting moment when a recipient is deciding whether to continue looking or to move on to the next email? The answer is to make sure that every correspondence is timely, relevant, and highly personalized.
The emphasis on timeliness in email marketing is not new, but the technology to swap out content at the moment of each recipient’s open is. With agile email marketing technology, content within emails can be dynamically changed based on when, where, and how recipients open and interact with messages. Building relevant communications becomes easier for the marketer and results in deeper engagement with the consumer.
With only a few seconds to grab a recipient’s attention---especially folks who may not view an email until hours after it landed in their inbox---it’s imperative for content to remain relevant and fresh. Users should be greeted with alternative offers when a “One Day Only” flash sale has passed. Real-time geo-targeting should be used to display specific items based on recipient’s location at the moment of open. Marketers should have the ability to track campaign success in real time and be able to swap out content, even after an email has been sent to millions of recipients.
While it won’t alleviate all of the concerns that marketers may be feeling about the new Gmail inbox, adopting agile email marketing technologies and best practices will bring about new opportunities to improve the performance of email marketing campaigns and elevate their relevancy to a whole new level.