I don’t usually use write about email and inboxes, but Gmail’s recent change in how email is organized could be quite important for people who do marketing in this industry.
For those unaware, Gmail, which is the most widely used email provider in the world, has now begun separating messages into three tabbed categories: “Primary” (the most important, personal email), “Social” (email related to social media), and “Promotions” (mass emails that are generally trying to sell you something).
JCK e-newsletters—as well as those of our competitors—now fall under the Promotions tab, but considering it includes what we deem useful information we’d very much like to change that. (You can do this on a personal basis by dragging our newsletters to the “primary” tab. And, of course, you can subscribe to the newsletter by clicking the link on the bottom of this post.)
It’s difficult to gauge the impact of this change, but marketers are clearly concerned. For all the talk about social and mobile marketing, most still find email the most effective way to communicate with customers. List organizer MailChimp says it has seen a “small but definite drop” in open rates since the Gmail reshuffle.
So this does mean that email advertising, which has always been easy to ignore, is now easier to ignore than ever. As part of my job, I get a lot of promotional offers from jewelers. Most of them are, I’m sad to say, pretty boring. Actually, I’m not that sad to say, because a lot of them are really boring, as they talk almost exclusively about offers for 30 percent off this item or that. That stuff works, and it obviously has a place. No one’s suggesting ditching it, as J.C. Penney tried to do. But it would be nice to get an email with content that I would actually want to open up and read.
It could be about the history of gems. It could be weird facts about the industry. It could even be tied into the news, maybe something about a celebrity’s engagement ring, the kind of thing we see on jewelers’ blogs. And it could be nicely written; one early secret to Groupon’s success was that it got young, hungry comedy writers to craft its descriptions. Even if you didn’t buy the offer, the email was generally entertaining enough to stand on its own.
…needs to be useful. It needs to be interesting. It needs to be so good that they’re looking around for it if they don’t immediately see it in their Primary in-box.
The Promotions tab is going to make it very clear if your audience has tuned you out, either because you stopped making a commitment to first-rate content, or because your promotion-to-usefulness ratio got out of balance.
We “train” our audiences to open our emails by putting really good stuff in there.
It’s always hard to get consumers’ attention, but what’s happening with Gmail is giving marketers an additional layer of challenge that wasn’t there before. The question now is, can we overcome this new hurdle? Or will jewelers’ emails end up like the rest of the Promotions tab clutter—ignored?