Smarter inboxes means smarter email marketing

Gmail introduced TABs in the last few months to much debate and some uproar, the majority of which centered around the new Promotional Tab.

This is a different ‘location’ away from the main inbox, where marketing and promotional messages are filtered. This applies to the web based version and mobile app version of Gmail.

It has caused understandable concern amongst marketers, due to the potential drop in engagement levels and conversion for Gmail users in their lists. However, marketers should not be surprised by these changes.

Firstly, Gmail (and other ISPs for that matter) are constantly changing the inbox to give control back to the user.

Secondly, more email is being sent and customers expect a better experience and more control. An experience similar to that which they get with social media, some may theorise.

What it means for marketers is that we need to start sending smarter email marketing messages. This won’t be the last change from Gmail or other ISPs.

How will email behaviour change in light of Gmail TABs and what can you do about it?

One the main changes in behaviour due to the addition of TABs is that marketing email is not going to ‘interrupt’ as much as it did. Marketing email is now filtered away from the main inbox and as a result will likely be read at a more convenient time to the user. This has an impact in two major ways:

  • Email will be not be read at the time it is sent.
  • Email is read when the user has more time; as a result there is the potential for a higher read-time (link) engagement and potential conversion.

Yes open rates may drop; however read-rate and conversion will potentially increase because when people read your marketing message they have more time and are more likely to be engaged with the content.

But what does that mean for email where content is traditionally only relevant at the time of send, and therefore could be stale when read?

Content should be made contextual

Email content should now be contextual and change based on what is happening at the time of open – not at the time the email is sent.

Contextual involves making the message relevant to the users environment including timing, device, weather and more.

Here are some use cases:


  • When email is opened, advertised products can change depending on the weather. For example, different products depending on whether it is raining or sunny.


  • Change content if email is opened on an iPhone vs. an iPad.


  • If running a flash sale change the content once the sale has ended for those opening a little late. In addition, you can change stock levels of products or even swap those products that have run out of stock.

From address and subject lines are more important than ever

Due to the filtering of marketing messages into the promotion TABs (i.e. away from the main inbox), email is going to pile up. Therefore when a user visits the promotion TAB to read email, there could be a long list of promotions email.

Having a clear From Address and Subject line to stand out in the Promotional Tab is going to be vitally important.

Here is my promotional TAB as I’m writing this:

Gmail Promotional Tab

What stands out?

A From Address should represent your brand and be clear and concise.

Subject line effectiveness changes, and should be consistently tested.

Is mobile more important than ever?

As well as mobile opens hitting 60%, Gmail tabs are also on the Gmail mobile email client. Therefore mobile is more important than ever.

The action on a mobile must make sense; it is very important but is very often overlooked. When email is clicked (the action) on a mobile device, the landing page has to make sense and be consistent. Don’t send a customer to the mobile version of your website if they normally use your app.

Here are some uses cases:

  • You could promote app downloads by directing someone who has NOT installed the app to the app store, and those that have the app to open the app.
  • Make mobile email social with click-to-tweet, which opens the twitter app; if the app is not installed it will open the mobile web.

What has been your experience of Gmail TABs? How do you think they will affect email behaviour?

  • Para Friv

    Advertising and Pr are incredibly hot sectors today, this is the industry gives people a dynamic and creative, always want to refresh yourself and express their personalities. I’m one which is less excited by this information. Really thank you.