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After Google recently announced extensive changes to its inbox – essentially separating different types of email into different inboxes – there has been extensive speculation on what this might mean for the future of email marketing. Some misinformed doomsayers are calling these changes a harbinger of the end of the email marketing industry. This overzealous reaction disregards the fact that email marketing has shown remarkable effectiveness and resilience over the more than two decades that it has existed. Throughout that time email marketing has weathered many storms, seen technologies come and go, and managed to grow and evolve with the times to remain one of the most effective means of communicating with consumers online.
The focus of Google’s new innovation is to remedy the popular email marketing myth of “inbox overload”. Google themselves, in promotional material for the new inbox features, says, “sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around.” However, as the Direct Marketing Association demonstrates in this colorful infographic 40% of consumers will receive no more than three brand emails a day, while 63% receive no more than six. Marketing firm Merkle also reports that 74% of consumers would prefer to receive brand information through email marketing over any other medium.
So, Google is framing these inbox updates as a remedy for a nonexistent problem. Google being Google it is hard to believe that they are not aware of the numbers behind the “inbox overload” myth, so what’s their real angle?
Gmail is free for a very simple reason: it brings users into the sphere of Google products. It also allows Google to mine valuable data from consumers for its search and targeted advertising businesses. If Google believed that its new inbox changes would somehow damage its core business it simply wouldn’t make them. So there must be some additional benefit to the updated inbox.
As Google updated the inbox it also did away with the small banner ads that used to surround Gmail messages and replaced them with new ads that look and behave like emails; this highlights the effectiveness of email marketing. By consigning all marketing emails to a single tab Google has not reduced their effectiveness. Instead they have made it easy for consumers to view all of the brand emails they receive in one simple location, quickly and easily. Far from being relegated, Google has actually enhanced the effectiveness of these messages, enabling a more direct line into consumer’s inboxes for email marketing.
The Gmail “promotions” designation for brand emails has caused some email marketers to stick with the strategy of sending fewer, more targeted emails, but this idea misses the point. Email is a powerful, free marketing tool. If billboards and bus ads were free would anybody recommend utilizing fewer of them? Of course not. Email marketing is powerful because it is a direct channel into an important aspect of most people’s day-to-day lives. If anything Gmail’s new segmentation actually accentuates the ability to send more emails.
Customers can’t open an email that isn’t in their inbox, and they won’t recall a brand that they don’t encounter regularly. By creating the promotions tab Google has given license to email marketing campaigns everywhere to increase email volume. Far from being the email marketing apocalypse, Gmail’s new inbox features present exciting new ways for brands to enhance the effectiveness of email marketing in the years to come.