Ecommerce Retailers are Battling the New Gmail Update
When you think about Internet marketing, you probably think of social media, banner ads, videos, etc… However, plain old email is still one of the most valuable marketing strategies for ecommerce retailers. That is why Gmail’s newest update sparks panic for ecommerce retailers who are trying to reach consumers.
This past summer, Google introduced a new system in which it delegates incoming email into folders of different categories within the Gmail inbox. What this means for ecommerce retailers is that these emails will never see the light of the customer’s main inbox unless the Gmail user chooses to change his/her settings. In order for the Gmail user to see the email, he/she will have to click into the “Promotions” folder where the email will be stored.
Small-to-medium sized business and flash sale sites rely more on email marketing than their larger counterparts, so this change is especially concerning for them. Even non-profits are feeling the negative effects of Gmail’s new inbox.
A non-profit, civic group called Avaaz calls Gmail’s email changes the “Biggest threat” they have ever faced. The group appealed to Gmail users by asking them to reply to the email in order to prompt Gmail to give Avaaz higher priority in customer inboxes:
“Replying now is the simplest way to send a signal to Gmail that you want to receive Avaaz emails. And if we all do, it could show Gmail that Avaaz is valuable, and help ensure that thousands of members who might miss this email to still receive Avaaz alerts, and have a chance to continue to take action with us.”
Other companies like Gap and Groupon are also asking their customers to move their emails to the primary inbox folder. There is no indication of whether this is working, as Google does not disclose how their customers move their email around their inboxes.
“I don’t like it,” said Ada Polla, chief executive of Alchimie Forever, a skin care brand. “My guess would be that you might log on to your Gmail 20 times a day, and look at promotions once a week.”
Studies have shown that other inboxes such as Yahoo and Outlook have an open rate of less than one hour, while the new Gmail inbox has a longer time of 24 hours. This time difference is especially concerning for flash sale sites that rely on a quick open rate.
“One of our limitations is we’re a flash site that starts our sales at noon, so that’s the primary way that we communicate with our members, through e-mail,” said Elizabeth Francis, Gilt’s chief marketing officer. Gilt has been using banners at the top of their email saying, “Drag and drop me into your Primary tab!”
Gmail has nearly a half billion users. According to a study by Forrester Research and Shop.org, 80% of marketers investing more money in email marketing this year than last, and the change to Google’s email platform will likely cost retailers a lot of money this year.
Intercom reported record low open rates since the new design was rolled out:
The reasoning behind Gmail’s makeover is due to the overload of emails that a typical person gets on a daily basis. Google wanted to help organize email so that important emails were not lodged in between campaigns. There are three default tabs: Primary, Social and Promotions.
“Our goal with the new in-box was really to help users stay on top of everything that’s coming into their in-box,” Alex Gawley, a Gmail product manager, said. “It was difficult to parse this list when messages of very different contexts were all kind of intertwined.”
However, some accounts show that this change could be good news for retailers. For example, Gmail user, Mary Morgan, said that she used to delete marketing messages when they interfered with her daily tasks, but now she sets aside time to read them.
“I love that Gmail has figured out a way to automatically put everything into different tabs for me,” Mary Morgan said.
It is still too early to tell if the change will cost Internet retailers their subscribers. However, three research services, Yesmail Interactive, MailChimp, and 3DCart, have determined that the amount of time consumers open ecommerce email has only dropped by 1%.
Despite the change, ecommerce retailers should continue to use email best practices in order to engage users. Retailers should still focus on sending highly engaging and relevant content to their customers. Rather than fighting the change, ecommerce retailers can accept it and use it to their advantage with Gmail Sponsored Promotions, ads that are placed into the promotions tab and act like emails.
Could this be the beginning of the end of email marketing?
Information was derived from NYTimes.com.