If you’re a Gmail user, you might have noticed that your inbox got a bit of a makeover this week. The “new inbox” as they’re calling it is an auto-sort feature that pushes different types of emails to different tabs. These tabs are fully customizable, but the standard packages are Primary, Social and Promotions. This means that, with the help of a few algorithms, emails from your friends and co-workers will land in the Primary inbox and all those “@FrankTheTank is now following you on Twitter” emails will land in the Social inbox. And in scary news for us marketers, promotional emails from brands will be tossed from the main inbox to the Promotions tab.
It’s not immediately clear what the algorithm uses as identifiers. For example, while Eater Chicago and Portable emails landed in my Promotions tab, Dabble, Copyblogger and Social Media Club Chicago emails ended up in my Primary inbox. So, what does this auto-designation mean for those of us sending out daily, weekly or monthly marketing emails?
On the positive side, being banished to the Promotions tab is not nearly as bad as being left do die in the spam filter. While an email mistakenly labeled as spam ends up sandwiched between male enhancement ads and European dating site invitations, an email identified as “promotional” will simply be in a slightly less visible tab. New email to this inbox still shows up in the overall new email content — so those of us who play the inbox zero game will feel compelled to either open or delete that email. Plus, the alert label for each tab is color coded and immediately visible fron the Primary inbox.
On the negative side this filter could very likely make brand emails all but invisible to those who don’t want to be bothered by promotional email. This tab could simply fill up without ever being checked. But these folks were kind of a lost cause anyway, weren’t they?
What can we as marketers do to fight this new filtration system? It’s easier said than done, but it all comes down to compelling content. You’ve got to send an offer, coupon or content roundup compelling enough to get users to make visiting the Promotional tab worth their while. Even better, you could send content so good that subscribers actually alter their inbox rules to give your brand a VIP parking spot right in the Primary inbox.