Google Debuts New Gmail Categorization Feature, But Is It Curtains For Your Company’s Marketing Emails?

Earlier this year, Google began rolling out its new email categorization functionality for Gmail. Using new Inbox tabs, messages are now automatically categorized by type: Primary, Promotions, Social, Updates and Forums. While it may help users prioritize and organize the messages they receive, some marketers are concerned of its impact on their email marketing efforts.

In the new Gmail, newsletters and other promotional emails from companies are categorized under the Promotions tab (see tab descriptions below). This organization enables users to focus on important messages first, say, from work or family members, and then get to less important messages at their leisure. But does this change make it easier for your customers to see your message or simply delete it in bulk with all the others?


Image via Google

Matthew Grove at MailChimp, an email marketing service provider, wrote a blog post that questions the effectiveness of the new Gmail tab organization on marketing emails. After evaluating the billions of emails it sends on behalf of its customers, MailChimp discovered that there was at least some impact on the open rates of marketing emails.

Before the tabbed layout, Grove’s research benchmarked open rates to Gmail at above 13% for 15 consecutive weeks. Looking specifically at the 6 weeks around the introduction of tabs, which included approximately 1.5 billion emails, Grove saw that the new tabs feature may be reducing the effectiveness of promotional email


Image via MailChimp

Matthew wrote in his blog:

What bothers me in this case is that open rates stayed down for 3 consecutive weeks. From looking at a year and half’s worth of data, I can say that kind of behavior isn’t normal. I’m not willing to declare an emergency just yet. After all, I don’t even know what the adoption rate is on Gmail’s side. However, I would say this is an early indicator, and we’re definitely keeping our eye on it.

While it’s still early in this transition, and additional data from other sources is needed before the curtains fall on this feature, there is hope. The folks at GigaOM reached out to Google to ask for a comment on Grove’s findings. Here’s what Google said about the user’s choice in sorting email:

“If you prefer another inbox style, you can choose from any of the four inbox options or even customize the new inbox by dragging and dropping messages to different tabs or electing to have certain senders always get sorted into a particular tab.”

So it would appear that if a user manually drags your newsletter or offer to the Primary tab, it should be sorted there with each new message you send. User choice has always been a factor in the receipt of marketing emails (via opt-in) so it’s nice that Google has options for reading them.

As The Connector readers know, we at Carabiner Communications are big proponents of quality content in all marketing materials we develop on behalf of clients. With this new Gmail feature, now more than ever it would appear delivering relevant and valuable content to your customers can mean the difference in your emails getting an encore or being dragged out of the spotlight.

What’s your take on Gmail Tabs? How do you think it will impact the way you communicate with your customers?

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