As Gmail Turns 10, A Look Back on Growth and Changes
On April 1, America's favorite email service will be a decade old. The game-changing service is so much a part of our daily lives that it's hard to believe that Gmail is older than the iPhone and just months younger than Facebook.
There are four major internet service providers (ISPs) — Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and Gmail — making up more than 60 percent of marketers’ databases. Unlike other ISPs, Gmail has evolved based on user feedback. The birth of the service was inspired by an email user who was tired of struggling to locate her messages buried deep in the abyss of her inbox.
Even though Gmail is relatively new to the email game, it's the fastest-growing email service and, according to a recent report from Yesmail Interactive, Gmail users are more engaged than users of the other ISPs. Yet frequent changes mean that marketers have to stay on their toes. In just a decade, Gmail has made email marketers think twice about their campaigns and reaching their customers via their inbox. As marketers continue to interact with a growing and engaged subscriber base, they should consider the following:
Subscribers love Gmail
Interface changes have little effect
Gmail has proven itself to be an email chameleon — the environment may change, but the service remains consistent as it adjusts to new changes. Just last week, Google announced it's testing out grid view, a more visual way to display marketers’ emails within the Promotions tab. Think of it as Pinterest for Gmail. Only time will tell what effect this new change will have on marketers, but it comes as no surprise since there have been a slew of controversial changes to Gmail.
Last December, Google announced images would load automatically in Gmail and recipients would no longer have to click "display images below." Google now hosts all email images on its secure servers to minimize the risk of viruses and malware and conceal information about where and how users read messages.
Prior to this change, marketers were concerned about the new tabs feature, which automatically filters incoming messages into different categories. While this update was intended to improve security and privacy for subscribers, marketers have wondered how the tradeoff affects their email marketing efforts. Yesmail took a deep dive into a client's emails opened by Gmail users. It found that, as of the end of January 2014, Google's image caching had little to no impact on the ability to collect user agent information. This means details like device and browser/email client used by readers, as well as opens (even after the initial occurrence) are still relayed to the sender. Of course, it's still very early to assess long-term effects of this Gmail practice, but our preliminary look found no significant changes in reporting.
Marketers anticipated Gmail users wouldn't see promotional emails, but when analyzing last year's fourth quarter performance results, Yesmail found that user engagement over the past 90 days was the highest with Gmail (11 percent). Worries about the tab changes were unwarranted, and unless email marketers experienced deliverability issues with Gmail, they could treat their subscribers like the rest of their audience and keep their strategy the same.
It's not unlikely Google will continue making changes to its email service in the future. So far, the changes have worked to the advantage of marketers. Furthermore, growth in the number of subscribers (and active subscribers at that) shows no sign of slowing. Happy birthday, Gmail!
Michael Fisher is the president of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, a solution provider that brings together multichannel marketing platforms and data.
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