September 17, 2013

How Google’s new tabs on Gmail changed email marketing forever


Are e-newsletters becoming an obsolete marketing tactic?

Ayelet Noff Ilove the new Gmail tabs. Why? Because they filter out so much of the “less important” email that I used to get in my main inbox without requiring any action by me, so that I can focus on the truly important emails that require my attention.

Now, when I say “less important” email, I don’t mean spam – I mean all those promotional mails and newsletters from businesses and brands that may have interested me some time in the past or may still interest me somewhat now, but are really not important enough to carry my attention away from the emails that really matter. For example, knowing that my favorite clothing store has a special for the next week and all clothes are 50% off is perhaps something I would be interested to know, however, with this promotional email now being directly transferred to a separate tab in my inbox, I no longer even give it the little attention span that I would have given it before Gmail came out with its new tabs system.

Now some of the more tech-savvy users may tell you that the new tabs didn’t really change that much for them because they had already created their own Gmail filters manually, filtering their inbox from receiving such promotions, or by using a third-party plug-in like SaneBox. To these folks I’d say: 1) With 425 million Gmail users at last count, average Gmail user is not knowledgeable enough to know how to create these filters and therefore get “stuck” with receiving these promotional newsletters on a regular basis, and 2) The algorithm of Gmail’s new tabs does a much better job than any other sophisticated filtering system you may have created manually yourself.

The most important aspect to understand here is that the feature is fully automated and works perfectly. It has all the characteristics that a great feature should have: It’s extremely simple for the user and immensely complex for the creator. The importance of its simplicity and ease of use must not be overlooked. Once a product is that simple, everyone uses it, and this in turn creates ripples in industries far beyond email.

Social media marketing now more important than ever for brands

When Google first came out with Google advertising, I don’t think they were looking to change the entire world of advertising but rather create a system that will enable them to monetize their leading product at the time (i.e their amazing search engine) in the best manner possible. Yet in doing so, they kick-started an entire industry of click and action based advertising that uses data to target users. Before this, we had flashy banners. Today Google’s form of advertising is the dominant advertising system across the Web.

If e-newsletters were once considered a good way to reach clients, today we can officially declare the death of the newsletter and the promotional email

Google’s ability to continuously improve its products and the marketing tactics surrounding them over time is admirable — also admirable is their ability to trash products that just don’t work, but that’s a different post. Just as Google created SEO marketing and then “fixed” abusive SEO tactics by implementing Panda and Penguin, Google is now also “fixing” marketing email tactics by separating them into their own special tab and giving all of us a better email experience.

Beyond changing the way we read emails, this new tabs system has completely broken down email marketing by making newsletters an obsolete marketing tactic. Promotional mails are no longer an effective means of getting to customers. If once these mails were considered a good way to reach your existing clients and potential clients, and gradually these became less and less effective, today we can officially declare the death of the newsletter and the promotional mail.

What this change also means is that social media marketing has become more important than ever before for brands. Social media platforms have become the ultimate channels for companies to communicate with customers and potential customers because this is where the masses are. They are no longer looking at promotional emails. They’re definitely no longer checking out banners and less of them are looking at TV ads than ever before. Customers, us, we, spend our time on our favorite social networks, and this means that businesses will now need to depend more heavily on engagement and advertising within these networks than ever before.

Google+ becoming more significant as a platform

Image: Bruce Clay, Inc. (Creative Commons)

Image: Bruce Clay, Inc. (Creative Commons)

Let’s not forget that Google has its own social network as well and even though some may doubt Google Plus’s importance today, it is apparent that this social network is definitely an important element to include in a brand’s marketing strategy. Today a business can highly improve its search results and indexing on Google by posting its content on Google+. The results of a recent survey taken by B2B marketers show that they predict that Google+ will be three times more relevant by 2014 than it is now. Also, consider this: From January 2012 to February 2013, Google+ has seen shares increase by 788 percent compared to only 202 percent for Facebook.

Google is such a one-of-a-kind company, always evolving and revolutionizing complete industries. This is why I tend to agree with marketers saying Google+ will become more and more important in our lives. And with Google Glass soon becoming a mainstream product, Google will be more heavily integrated into our daily lives — eventually including, I believe, facial recognition on the street of your Google+ contacts.

So how could Google+ not become a dominant social network we will all be a part of? It’s apparent that Google will continue to revolutionize our world not only in technology or marketing but in many other industries as well. Jeff Jarvis says that the question every business should be asking itself today is: “What would Google do? If you’re not thinking or acting like Google – the fastest-growing company in the history of the world – then you’re not going to survive, let alone prosper, in the Internet age.”

Food for thought.Ayelet Noff is a partner in and founder and Co-CEO of Blonde 2.0, an award winning digital PR agency with branches in Boston and Tel Aviv. Contact Ayelet via The Blonde 2.0 website , email, or follow her on Twitter and Google Plus.

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2 thoughts on “How Google’s new tabs on Gmail changed email marketing forever

  1. It’s great food for thought, thanks for the post, Ayelet. Not sure I agree with your conclusion though until we see some data, eg:

    – what % of Internet users use Gmail? (Gmail has 425 million users)

    – what % of them are using Gmail with the new tabs turned on?

    – what % of them are now ignoring email marketing messages in their promotions tab?

    I still tell my clients to use email marketing in tandem with social media. So we’ll see over time just how impactful Google’s change is. Certainly will be interesting!