In July, Google unilaterally decided to sort and filter Gmail users mailboxes for them. By introducing Tabs, Google proactively directed each inbound email to one of five tabs; primary, promotions, social, updates and forums. Commercial emailers went nuts. Assuming they were being unfairly ghettoized, they said Google was out to screw them.
As it turns out, you get what you need and expect. A new study of early responses to Gmail Tabs by Return Path shows that people who frequently engage with commercial email aren’t deterred or bothered by the tabs. Medium users are still medium users and the unresponsive are still unresponsive.
Tabs have been a convenience for the 11% of Gmail users who love commercial email. They are reading roughly 60% of the emails they’ve opted into. The promotion tab is an easy access door to the shopping information they desire. These people love the idea that deals come directly to them. They want to know what’s going on and what’s on sale. They were never going to be put off by a sorting solution because the content is anticipated and important to them.
The bulk of Gmail users (88%) are moderately engaged with email. Most have opted in for lots of stuff some of which is no longer relevant and some is top of mind. They are reading email at about the same rate with fewer commercial emails ending up in their SPAM boxes. These guys pick and choose based on From lines, SUBJ lines and offers.
Not surprising, the people who don’t open, don’t open using Tabs. For them the promotion tab removes email that was going to be ignored anyway. They read less but are less annoyed by irrelevant messages. The goods news for merchants is that they represent just 1% of Gmail users.
Some vertical merchants, notably airlines, credit cards and daily deals, have seen significant increases in engagement post Tabs. Social networking and dating senders saw a dip which tracks with downward trending engagement rates.
Gmail Tabs hasn’t hurt retailers or consumers. And since Tabs don’t apply to mobile usage, now approaching 50% of all email opens, any future negative impact can be mitigated. It’s one less thing to worry about during the highest email volume season.