What Google’s New ‘Inbox’ Means for Your Email Marketing

Google’s new Inbox email app signals a wake-up call for email marketers who would continue to send out mass amounts of irrelevant email. While it’s currently by invitation only, when the new app finally rolls out to the general public, several of its new features will reward marketers who have adopted the tenets of dynamic content, personalization and progressive profiling, and likely sound the death knell for those who have not.

Bundles vs. Tabs

When Google rolled out Gmail Tabs, users saw the end of the traditional last-in-on-top attribute. Marketing emails went straight to a Promotions tab marginalized on the right side of the inbox. It was easy to ignore promotional emails completely — out of sight, out of mind. Inbox, however, bundles promotional emails into a one-line group right in the main section of your inbox. By clicking on the bundle, you can expand it to see all the emails in the group without leaving your inbox. It’s a virtual shopping mall of promotional offers from which the user can select their favorites before closing up the bundle. And by default, when a new email arrives to a bundle, that bundle moves to the top of the inbox.

Being bundled into a group with other promotional emails is not a bad thing. Marketers only have to compete against other marketers, rather than a lone email vying for attention against an inbox full of personal and business messages that may require more immediate attention. When the user opens their marketing bundle — and they will if they know there’s relevant content to be found there in your messaging — they’re relaxed and in the mood to shop.

Bundles can be added and customized, but the default ones that come with the program include Travel, Purchases, Finance, Social, Updates, Forums and Promos. This allows the consumer to easily check on travel arrangements, see updates on scheduled package deliveries, check social media emails and more, without having to scan through an entire inbox of emails to locate the pertinent message.

Highlights vs. Snippets

Google one-ups the snippet content that traditionally appears under the subject line in an inbox message, by actually selecting relevant information and even images to display. This is a plus for marketers since many if not most are not optimizing the snippet content feature in sending out emails. Therefore, what recipients are currently seeing is most often irrelevant words and phrases and even long URLs that don’t mean anything. Another fascinating feature of Highlights is that it can display content that’s not even in the email, such as real-time flight information related to a travel email, or package delivery information related to a purchase email. Users can also click on a link right in the Highlights and go direct to a website or landing page, bypassing the email opening process altogether.

Snooze vs. Read Later

Instead of marking an email as unread or forwarding it to yourself again or setting it aside somewhere to be read at a later time, the Snooze feature allows the user to designate a date and time for the email to resurface. This is particularly useful if the email is an invitation to attend a webinar or a special sales event. This could eventually save marketers a lot of time and effort sending out reminder emails over and over.

The Uptake for Marketers

Google’s new Inbox will allow users to better organize their email messaging, and choose which messages to read at what times. This is good for both consumers and marketers, as marketing messages will be perused at a time when the user is in more of a mood to purchase. The bad news is, messages that the consumer considers irrelevant will be more easily ignored. The days of blatant mass-marketing are dwindling down, and marketers will have to work harder to create timely, targeted, high quality content emails in order to compete in the marketplace.

It should be noted, however, that unlike Gmail Tabs, which was rolled out to the existing user base over just a few months, Inbox is currently by invitation only, and even when it becomes available to the general public, users will have to download and install it. This will likely be a long, slow process, giving marketers a little breathing room, for now.