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Gmail Tabs-A 4-Year After Action Report

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The year was 2013....

The year Google declared war on email marketers by introducing Gmail tabs.

This seemed to be a cry of war to email marketers. Many thought these new tabs meant Gmail users will have little to no visibility into campaigns, ultimately decreasing revenue. Some marketers even deployed campaigns asking subscribers to move their messages to the Primary tab:

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s take a look at the impact of Gmail tabs, four years later. Gmail tabs are only used by one out of three users, compared to 100 percent of users when the tabs were launched. That’s a 66 percent decrease over the last four years.  As a refresher, here are Gmail’s five categories:

Primary: person-to-person conversations from contacts or other personal messages that are not in other tabs

Social: messages from social networks and online dating apps  (i.e Twitter, LinkedIn, OKCupid)

Promotions: marketing emails, such as deals and offers

Updates: updates that are automatically generated (i.e. shipping confirmations, bills, receipts, and statements)

Forums: messages from discussion boards and forums, such as Reddit

To everyone’s surprise, the new Gmail categorization did not negatively impact marketers. As a matter of fact, the Promotions tab is the second most adopted tab (right behind Social), with a 60 percent adoption rate according to our study. Many Gmail users actually prefer having their messages categorized, as it leads to one centralized area that users can look into for specific types of messages. Think that Gmail users don’t bother with the Promotions tab? Think again. Almost half of Gmail users (45.1 percent to be exact) check their Promotions tab at least once a day, according to our study. People are using their Promotion tab to filter their marketing messages easily, allowing them to react quickly to deals.

Despite the decrease in adoption over the years, a large majority of Gmail tab users still use this feature to sort their mail. With this is mind, marketers need to monitor their messages to ensure they are being classified correctly. Emails from the media and entertainment industries saw the most misclassification, while most retailers saw the majority of messages classified as Promotions. The pet, sporting goods, and deals & rewards sector had the most messages classified in Promotions tab, with over 96 percent of the messages classified. Our advice for avoiding misclassification? Send different types of email consistently from different sender addresses, and avoid sending different types of content in one email.

For more information, be sure to check out our study and watch our on-demand webinar—Ask the 3A Media Experts: All About Gmail.

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