A quick take on the new Gmail inbox


Being the ultimate early adopter, I couldn’t help but fire up the new Google inbox tabs first thing this morning. At first, the only thing i could think of was “Man, it’s going to be harder than ever for marketers to engage readers.” But then i decided to take a step back, play with it for awhile and then start figuring out how to advise our clients. Here are some quick observations from my first few hours:

  • This is not for control freaks. You cant create your own tabs, so if you like to bucket things a certain way, you won’t like the pre-selected buckets (currently Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates & Forums)
  • It’s accurate, but not in a good way. Immediately on switchover, 99% of my messages were correctly placed into the new tabs. However later in the day, i started getting important emails into my “Updates” tab. This means i’m 5x more likely to miss an important update. Even an update from Google support got placed in my promotions tab.
  • Inbox zero? Now you have multiple inboxes to get to zero…
  • I don’t love the UI. The tabs are spaced too far apart, requiring large mouse movements to span them. Also the new message indicators are scattered across the horizontal bar, meaning your eye needs to scan a lot of pixels to see/comprehend what should come at a glance.

So how should marketers react?

  • First of all, don’t panic. Initial adoption rate will be slow and low. Should usage increase, or you see performance changes for your gmail users, then it’s time to make some changes.
  • Segment gmail users in your list. Whether you start testing changes now or later, you’ll be better positioned to isolate results for this audience.
  • Take a positive outlook. If your promotion or message gets in the promotions tab, Google may have actually done you a favor. Instead of having to stand out in the general inbox with hundreds of messages, you’re now one of the select few . One of the chosen ones. You’re in the promotions tab, where you can engage users at the ideal moment – when they actually want to be bothered with your special offers and promotional messages.
  • Treat each email like an audition. Knowing you will be in a room full of your peers — fellow marketers all vying for the same user’s attention — be sure to put on your best performance. Use strong offers, tight language. Clear CTAs.
  • Start from the subject line . You’ll need to put your best foot forward to make it past the inbox. Consider how your subject line will look when lumped with 50 other offers. In fact, fill up your promotions box, screengrab it, and then use that screngrab to test the impact of potential subject lines.
  • Rethink your creative . Your creative should be bold, beautiful and considerate. By this, I mean that while design is important to offer a good brand experience, now more than ever you’ll need to adhere to best practices. Make offers and CTAs clear, don’t hide important info in images. And Don’t cram too much in your emails. Remember the classic rule – the more choices a user needs to make in your email, the less likely they are to choose the action you want.

I’ll probably use it for a day or so but i can’t see myself using this for business purposes. It might be a big help for my personal accounts which get flooded with mass emails.To reiterate these are just some initial observations. But until then, please be sure to share your thoughts/experiences thus far. If you want some strategic help on how this might affect your programs, please feel free to contact us.