A couple of weeks ago, I opened my Gmail to find that the look of my inbox had changed. The inbox had been replaced with a series of tabs - Primary, Social and Promotions - and Google had automatically sorted all my emails into one of those three categories. For people who use Gmail, this won't be a surprise to you as you inbox has most likely undergone the transformation in the last fortnight.
Now, I personally appreciated this change as I now find it much easier to scan my email. However, it generated quite a lot of buzz in the internet marketing community as this means that email newsletters were no longer automatically going into the primary inbox. Cue dramatic music! It is possible to configure the tabs! Yet, it is possible to configure the tabs so that newsletters land in the primary tab. There are a number of ways to do this. The easiest way is to search for your favourite newsletters in the promotions tab and drag them to the primary tab. At the bottom of this post, I've included a great video from Mike Stelzner from Social Media Examiner that shows a couple of other ways to handle this. So, how will this affect the effectiveness of email marketing? The jury is still out on that one. Some solid analysis from the folks at MailChimp has found that the new tabs have reduced open rates, but not dramatically. But, as Jay Baer notes, we should expect this trend of automated sorting of email to continue. As he says so well, "it is even more critical than ever that everything you send or say is truly, inherently useful to your subscribers". In other words, the approach required to meet these kinds of challenges needs to be strategic and not tactical. Asking your users to customise their tabs is tactical. What's required is to provide content that is so useful that your customers will hunt it down, no matter where it is.