Will Email Marketing Be ‘Gmailed’ Out of Existence?
Google reorganized the Gmail inbox and the change has sparked fear and doom in the hearts of email marketers. The new Gmail inbox groups users’ mail into categories — primary, social, promotions, updates and forums — that appear as tabs. The new inbox was announced as a way for users to get an at-a-glance view at mail and decide when and what they want to read.
Has the company with an informal motto of "don't be evil" killed email marketing as we know it?
The primary inbox for years across internet service providers (ISPs) was a blend of all mail. Email marketing messages, business email and memes from your great aunt Flo happily coexisted in one email inbox. Gmail has upended that long standing tradition by automatically organizing mail into categories.
With more than 400 million active Gmail users, and that number growing every day, the change left many marketers feeling they had lost the inbox. The general consensus was that if mail was moved from the primary inbox, opens, clicks and engagement would go down.
This isn't the first time that email has been pronounced dead. It's also not the first time, of course, that dire predictions regarding the fate of email marketing have happily failed to come to fruition. Despite well-meant warnings to the contrary, neither spam nor the subsequent spam filters, the advent of social networking platforms, nor the development of RSS have heralded the death of email marketing. The same will be true of Gmail's new inbox.
Remember when …
Spam and the subsequent spam filters were going to kill email marketing. The development of RSS was going to send it to an early grave. Facebook was going to topple email from its seat of power and make it as extinct as the dinosaur.
In addition to the previous statements, even Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com once said email was over. However, since the company spent $2.5 billion this summer buying an email marketing company, perhaps it's now been resurrected.
HubSpot reported that its users saw an average of 58.9 percent more email opens and 63 percent more unique email opens in the month after Gmail's new feature was rolled out. At Campaigner we're seeing that those who had good open rates prior to the change continue to see the same. However, those who had poor open rates to begin with actually have been negatively affected. So why is this the case?
Email marketing isn't only a viable way to connect with consumers, it continues to have a return on investment that comes in only second to organic search. Email and product marketers have always adapted to changes and continue to see a return on their efforts. Google hasn't killed email marketing, but it has put another nail in the coffin of old-school "spray and pray" marketing messages.
The reality is that engaged users who value your content will continue to open your messages whether they're in the primary or promotions tab. In fact, the promotions tab could make it easier for users to find your messages.
Competing for attention in the promotions tab isn't a game changer. You were always in a battle for consumers’ attention. Savvy consumers register for more than one list. They want to compare, and to do that they need information.
The game hasn't changed, but there are higher penalties for not adhering to the rules. Know and leverage data about your subscribers. Use your email marketing analytics to deliver personalized, relevant messages. Spend time crafting quality content that's compelling to your audience.
The bottom line hasn't changed. With or without Gmail's tabbed inbox, the key to successful, agile email marketing campaigns is providing personalized, relevant, compelling content to a receptive audience. Gmail's changes aren't the first, nor will they be the last. By focusing on quality content, however, email marketers will successfully weather the tabbed inbox "storm" as well as the inevitable yet unknown "storms" on the horizon.