The latest updates to Gmail sent the email marketing world into a spin with fears that the medium was reaching its end, or at the very least a vast reduction in the open rate of emails was imminent.
The main update is tabbed inboxes, which allow users to filter messages received into groups such as primary, social, forums, updates and – of course – promo emails.
This, in addition to changes to image rendering which are coming in at the same time, has led to concern that this new layout will allow, maybe even encourage, users not to look at promotional emails at all, instead focusing on those from friends and connected to work.
I don't believe this is the case. I actually think this is a brilliant and forward-thinking move by Gmail, allowing a busy user to focus on the information that is relevant and needed at any given time rather than having to sift through every email to decide what they want to read.
Because of this, I think this kind of segmentation will be a benefit to email marketing – and I'm confident other platforms will soon follow suit with their own takes on this.
Currently if an email is delivered at an inconvenient or busy time for the user, it is filed away or deleted and never revisited. But if users are looking at their promotional emails and other categories when it suits them, they are likely to have more time to consider the contents.
Available facts are backing up my theory so far – according to stats from Responsys, the open rates for Gmail have remained steady and even grown slightly during the past year.
Concerns have also been raised by Google changing how they serve images – moving from using the original external host servers to Google's own more secure proxy services. This could cause issues for email marketing campaigns using a small pixel to track the open rates of each email, as they will no longer be able to do so. However, as most email marketers use a unique URL to track open rates this problem will only affect a small number of marketers.
The big upside to this change is that now Google caches the images on its own servers it can turn the display images on as a default, so carefully-designed email shots will display as intended and have maximum impact.
So, to sum up, all of the hype around the updates has not really amounted to anything that can’t be overcome or used positively to improve engagement from readers. Google and other providers will always be improving their platforms and this gives good marketers an opportunity to embrace the changes and improve their campaigns to take advantage of them.