An update to Gmail this has not been fully rolled out should cause some concern to email marketers. Gmail has created three new tabs at the top of the inbox labeled, “Primary,” “Social,” and “Promotions.” Rather than having one unified inbox, it now sorts messages into these three categories.

Sounds Innocent — Why The Scare?

Since Google has now taken it upon themselves to sort and categorize Gmail inbox content, this could have a significant effect on your email marketing promotions. There’s a strong likelihood that your emails, sent out through a third-party email marketing platform, will land directly into the “Promotions” bucket.
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If DVR and TIVO has taught marketers anything, it’s that people watching television really don’t want to be bothered by advertisements. This new Gmail feature basically turns email promotions into the TV commercials that are very obviously placed in between regular programming segments.

This translates into Gmail since users will now see their “Primary” inbox as the source of their “real” email that is deserving of their attention. If this does, in fact happen, it’s very likely that little to know attention will be given to the other tabs, in particular “Promotions” since that label screams “Ads!” and “Ads!” scream “Spam!” to many users. Although this is totally incorrect and a complete mislabelling, it’s the reality.

The update is new and the rollout has not even be completed, but at this point the basic takeaway is — This could be bad!

Not JUST Gmail, This is GMAIL We’re Talking About!

Gmail is estimated to have 425 million users, so we’re not just talking about a small segment that can be ignored here. One of the most popular email services is Gmail, with many Gmail users falling under the Gmail Apps platform, which has been widely adopted by businesses as a competitor to Microsoft’s enterprise offerings.

Losing Gmail subscribers could be extremely detrimental to email marketers. Staying on top of what happens with this rollout is imperative.

How-To Remedy This Situation

It’s too early to give a definitive best practice for how this should be handled to address the loss of email viewers, but a few email marketers have taken a proactive approach to this by sharing updates via their blogs and social platforms to let their subscribers know that they may not be getting their email if they happen to be a Gmail users. They’ve then provided the steps to essentially white-label the email address that is hitting the “Promotions” bucket, so that they go into the “Primary” bucket instead.

Again, it’s early in the game, but Gmail is too important to claim ignorance on this one, since it could have a dramatic effect on your email open rates from a very important segment of users.