Friday, August 16, 2013

What to do About Gmail Tabs?

Google introduced tabs into Gmail last month and for the past week I have been receiving emails from various companies instructing me on how to move their emails from the dreaded 'Promotions' tab to the more favored 'Primary' tab. As a result I keep getting asked: "Should we do this too?"

I'm never one to jump on any bandwagon. Especially one that seems so easy to jump on. I want metrics first... are our open rates actually declining? (Spoilers: They haven't)

But... for the sake of argument lets assume that they have. How should we go about addressing this?

My problem with these instructional emails is that they are bringing attention to a problem that the user doesn't have. The user (I'm making assumptions but go with me) has a nice newly organized email box with everything neatly tucked away into easily understandable tabs. If they don't like it, they can remove the tabs. Either way, it's a non-issue from a user perspective. They are most likely benefiting from this change.

Now along comes a brand that the user has at some point given their email address to and they're sending an unsolicited email that basically says "You may never see our emails! We're very important! Please put us with your other important emails!".

There are a few possible outcomes I see here...

  1. You've reminded the user that you exist and in the process you have given them a really easy way (and possibly good reason) to unsubscribe.
  2. You've annoyed a long time customer (the most likely type to find your email in the 'Promotions' tab) and have essentially begged them to be placed into their inbox challenging them to think about how valuable your emails are to them.
  3. No one sees your email because you were right all along and the 'Promotions' tab is a wasteland of unread newsletters from which there is no hope of escape.
I could be wrong here and I would love to see some success metrics on campaigns like this but I think there is a much better way to get your point across.

I propose a more subtle approach. I like the idea of coming at it from a place of education. "If you want this, then do this." instead of "Please do this! We're too awesome!".

This CopyBlogger article has some great ideas along this line and I wanted to add a few of my own.

You could place a well positioned message in your Welcome Email (thanks again CopyBlogger) or on the 'Thank You' screen just after someone with a Gmail account signs up. Maybe there's a paragraph attached to your existing newsletter or maybe it's a pop-up on your site when a subscriber with a Gmail address logs on.

You could even instruct users on how to go back to the tab-less interface!

I'm of the mind that if your email content is good enough and if your subscribers are engaged enough then they should have no problem finding your emails. Maybe it's even easier for them now. I have heard more than one person proclaim their love for the tabbed interface.

I welcome the change and the challenge it presents. As a user I love the clutter-less inbox but I would love to hear some other thoughts on this. Is there something that has worked?


  1. Great post - a considered approach is always (or at least usually?) best. And I happen to be one of those who likes the tabbed inbox -- although I wish I could customize it better.

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