Gmail's Changes Improve the Inbox Experience

Note: This blog post was written by Michelle Paul, Director of Product Development. This is the second of two posts on Gmail’s changes; you can read the opposing view point here.

A little bit of background: I actively turned on Gmail’s new inbox feature in June because I was giving a webinar about email marketing and I wanted to include some up-to-date info about what’s new in the field. I had intended to just try it out for a few days and then switch back — instead, I’ve stuck with it, and I’ve found that it works really well for the way I use email. (Note: I’m only talking about my personal Gmail account — we actually use Gmail here at Patron Tech as well, but for that one I’m sticking with my old organization method.)

I’ve been using the new Gmail inbox for about six weeks, and I like it.

Gene referred to the “Promotions” tab of the inbox as being “second-tier,” and that’s the first place I disagree. Having my email sorted into these categories doesn’t diminish any of them — it just makes it easier to find things, and to manage my time. The Promotions inbox isn’t a graveyard — it’s a holding pen for a whole bunch of things I’ve subscribed to, but that I don’t necessarily need to respond to or act on as quickly as I would an email from a friend asking me to make dinner plans. I’ve been doing a better job at keeping up with important emails from my friends, family, and colleagues because they’re not buried under all the other stuff I get, and I’ve been doing a better job at keeping up with the email newsletters I want to read!

So what does this mean for open rates? As Gene said, it’s probably too soon to tell. I know a lot of people in the industry are worried about having their emails ignored now. I see it this way: I’m an opt-in subscriber to a LOT of lists. Am I going to stop caring about all those lists at once, just because they’re not in my primary inbox? I doubt it. I’m pretty sure I’ll notice their absence quickly. That means I have a huge incentive to visit that Promotions tab regularly — it’s where ALL my newsletters and commercial emails are going. It might take me a little longer to get to them than it did before, so we might see an impact on open/click rates in the first few days after sending, but I don’t anticipate people forgetting about those emails entirely.

I wonder if most of the negativity around this change isn’t just that people don’t like being labeled “promotional.” If that tab was called “Cool messages sent from organizations and companies!” but otherwise functioned the same, how would we all feel?

Again, there’s a lot that remains to be seen, as real data starts rolling in about how people use Gmail’s new inbox. (I’ll also point out that arts email open rates have always been higher than the industry-wide average — across all PatronMail clients, the average has been 20% in the past six months.) For now, I’m enjoying how the endless stream of Facebook, Spotify, and Pinterest updates is out of my face… but always there for me on the Social tab.


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2 responses to “Gmail’s Changes Improve the Inbox Experience

  1. The only thing I object to here is Google doing it automatically, because I’m a control freak. The fact is, this is how I manage my email (both work and personal) already, using Gmail’s great filters (and iCloud’s somewhat less great ones). I like a clean inbox. It’s where I keep things I need to act on. I also don’t want all the marketing emails and various notifications I get (and WANT) popping up notifications on my phone when I’m out and about. So those all get shuttled to their own folders, like secondary inboxes. When I’m at my desk I can see that those folders have unread messages and can check them at my leisure. (I CAN check them on my phone too if I want to of course, through the magic of IMAP.) Michelle is right that it might take me a little longer to get there, but Gene’s right that because I opted in I do want the email. And I don’t want it getting lost in a cluttered inbox. When I have time or need a break from “important” work stuff, it’s there waiting for me. I know far too many people who get far too many emails and miss important stuff but would never think to create filters (or unsubscribe, but that’s another story). I can see this being really helpful for them.

  2. I tried the tabbed inbox on gmail for a few weeks and eventually switched it back. I do see the value in what Google is trying to accomplish, but the feeling of lack of control when the mailbox tries to categorize things for you automatically is a bit too unsettling for me. I’m looking for a tool that gives me more control, while automating some of the manual work of sorting through emails.

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