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Gmail redesign could make marketing more difficult

Friday, 19 July 2013 | By Myriam Robin

A new Gmail redesign means marketing emails will no longer appear on the front page of people’s inboxes by default, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of email marketing to Google apps users.


The new email design, being progressively rolled out to Gmail users as well as corporate Google Apps accounts, divides the inbox into four default tabs: a ‘primary’ tab with personal and important emails; a ‘social’ tab showing Google+ updates; a ‘promotions’ tab showing emails from companies including email marketing emails; and an ‘updates’ tab showing available Android updates.


On smartphones, the primary tab is the one immediately visible when the app is opened and users must navigate to the other tabs. Users can set up certain emails to go to any of the tabs, but Google by default will filter emails from companies into the ‘promotions’ tab.


In a blog post, Google said the change would help users deal with email overload.


“Sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around,” it said. “All of these emails can compete for our attention and make it harder to focus on the things we need to get done.”


However, digital marketing expert Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels says the redesign could impact email marketers negatively. She expects to see an initial drop in the engagement with email marketing campaigns, at least initially.


She says small businesses using email marketing should alert their subscribers to the possibility of their emails being filtered into the ‘promotions tab’. “They should be saying to people, ‘if you’re on Google apps and you still want to receive offers, check your promotions folder, or mark us as ‘not promotions’,” she says.


“User choice – the user always drives the experience – has always been Google’s philosophy. And they have a very successful marketing model underneath their business.


“But I think you’ll probably see drops in engagement given emails are being automatically put in the promotions folder which many people will not check.”


The rise of smartphones, which allow email-checking on the go, has made email marketing one of the most effective marketing channels available to small businesses, she adds.


However, businesses whose emails are not valued by their clients are likely to see their emails obscured and forgotten.


“Email is an extremely effective marketing channel if used properly. It’s not on the wane at all. But a lot of businesses don’t do it very well,” Gamble says.


“They don’t send useful, targeted information, they don’t segment their list properly, or they don’t set up proper email campaigns.


“But to be honest, businesses that are using their email marketing poorly are probably having their emails junked already, so this change should have little impact on them.”


Many businesses use Google Apps to manage their email, including Woolworths (the largest Google Apps user in the world), Specialty Fashion Group, and Australian Hospitality & Leisure. Google Enterprise global head Amit Singh said recently there is no doubt more than half of all Australian companies will use Google Apps.


In September 2012, Gmail was the world’s sixth most popular email client, behind Outlook, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.