Gmail's new inbox tabs. News at 11.
Yesterday Gmail announced a change to their UI. This new UI lets users configure tabs in their inbox for different sorts of email. This change has greatly upset some marketers. Yesterday I heard it described as war on marketers, as a conspiracy to stop all email marketing and as a horrible injustice to legitimate marketers. I even saw a few people call for an organized boycott of Google AdWords.
While I do appreciate many of us don’t like change, I can’t quite jump on the histrionic bandwagon. This change isn’t Google declaring war on marketers. Google is, at the end of the day, a marketing company. They live and die by marketing dollars. And before you ask, I don’t really think email marketers can organize a boycott that actually has any real impact on Google’s bottom line and causes them to change their interface.
There are a lot of reasons I don’t think this is the actual end of the world and that marketers should just take a deep breath and chill.
The tabbed interface is really just Priority Inbox v. 2. Priority inbox was rolled out a few years ago and there was quite a bit of noise about how that was going to make email marketing more difficult. While getting email to the inbox at Gmail is a challenge for many marketers, I don’t think Priority Inbox is the underlying reason. I think Gmail has gotten a lot stricter on filters, particularly content filters thus making it harder for borderline mail to get to the inbox instead of the bulk folder.
The tabbed interface is just another way of organizing mail in the inbox. Mail is not moved to any different folders, it’s still in the inbox. Users can enable or disable the settings as they desire and all of the mail stays in their inbox.
The interface is not on by default. Users have to actually go in and turn on the setting. For users who don’t set up filters anyway, it’s unlikely they’re going to take advantage of the tabs. I did take a look at the configuration settings. Gmail tries to make it clear what kinds of mails will end up in what tabs by telling you what From: addresses currently in your inbox will end up in a tab if you enable it.
Overall, I don’t think this is really going to cause horrible repercussions to email marketers. In fact, this does seem to offer some benefit to email marketers that use consistent branding. According to Mickey Chandler at Exacttarget, the interface “not only display the number of new emails in the tab, but [also displays the] names of the brands whose mails are in that tab.” This is a good thing for marketers, who now have the chance to get their name in the inbox interface.
One thing I did notice, too, was that when I enabled tabs, Gmail presented me with more advertising in the “promotions” tab and provided no advertising in any other tabs.