In Part One, I covered off on the more immediate impact of the updates that Google made to their email products because the changes they made to the Android app had greater potential for impact to consumers AND marketers. Auto-fit by default on Android is a big deal.
While the early reviews I found (here’s one, and another) seem to be primarily split along the philosophical lines of folders vs. no folders, I am actually finding the auto-sorting function a huge visual relief. I had used OtherInbox for a while but found that all the various categories were actually too granular. The five categories make decent sense and functionality has been fairly true to the descriptions provided by Google.
After test driving the new Gmail Tabs, I’ve found a few things that I think are noteworthy for marketers and subscribers, alike.
1. This option is still in (beta), people **
The majority of the folks that are still checking their Gmail accounts in browsers are not being forced to use these new features. It is an optional configuration. I understand this feature was in Google Labs for a while before making its debut, so there must have been enough traction or interest in this feature internally at Google to carry this feature into public release.
Do you remember how long Gmail was listed as being in ‘beta’? Hats off to Google for continuing to try new things instead of sitting back and doing nothing. It’ll be some time before anyone should attempt to say anything definitive about whether Gmail tabs will rise to ‘default’ status or whether it’ll go the way of Google Wave.
** UPDATE: It appears that the tabs have been rolled out to all Gmail users but it is still something that users can disable. Guess it didn’t go the way of Google Wave. **
2. Do you ever really go look at an email twice?
Rarely, if ever, right? Some of the micro-griping so far is that the tabs don’t go back and apply to the past emails in your Gmail archive. Puh-lease. This can’t possibly be a real issue when you can search for them with the handy, dandy search bar we’ve all come to know and love. Folder or no folder, retroactive or not, the reality is that most people look at an email once and then move on.
3. Work email vs. Personal email vs. Promotional emails
What I continue to get sick of hearing are the loosely phrased indictments of how we have too much email to sort through. Work email can be overwhelming and there are lots of habits/tricks that can be adopted to make that aspect more sane (ex. InboxZero). Personal email is stuff you get from your siblings or parents or friends (aka people) where SMS and Facebook Messages seem to be overtaking anyway (and that’s fine!). Promotional email is the stuff us marketers seek permission for and hope will be noticed by our subscribers and prospects.
The Gmail tabs accomplish the task of providing subscribers with one less thing to visually organize. I can expect to personal, promotional or transactional messages in one of the tabs.
4. Subject Lines and preview text become even more important
The sea of sameness will devour your email subject line on any given day. Your Sender Name suddenly becomes the most discernible piece of real estate in the Gmail inbox. Emoticons suddenly might become more of an every day player. Preview text will have to evolve beyond system-generated stuff like “This message contains images …”
If you’re a marketer that thrives on coupons, then Gmail tabs may just solidify the Promotions tab as your subscribers’ digital coupon book that they carry with them everywhere. And that’s probably just fine. It’s better than clipping those coupons anyway.
5. Inbox within the Inbox
Perhaps you’ve set up an account like the one above just for promotional emails. While it serves as a separator between personal and promotional emails, the reality is that an account like this is another inbox to check. For those that do not want to have one more email account to check, I think that the Gmail tabs provides a nice option of an inbox within an inbox and could free some people from the burden of additional email accounts to check.
One last nugget to put all of this into perspective: Gmail tabs impacts a fraction of the shrinking webmail following thanks in large part to the continued rise of smartphones and tablets. Let’s try to keep calm …