Matt Grove of Mailchimp published a recent post with an in-depth
study of the effects of Gmail’s new inbox tab rollout. Gmail dropped this bomb
on email marketers roughly six months ago, which spiked a lot of pushback from
the email marketing community. Matt mined a ton of data that was pulled from before the
rollout, during the rollout, and after the rollout. The amount of data that was
plucked was amazing! We’re talking 29 billion emails were analyzed, with 4.9
billion opens and 4.2 billion clicks! That amount of data is indeed
overwhelming, but the assertions and decisions you can make based on that
amount of data are definitely worth considering.
Gmail Tabs Quick Overview
Essentially what Gmail did was add tabs inside your inbox
that filtered and delivered certain types of emails across each of those tabs (primary,
social, and promotions). When you log into your account, by default only emails
in the “Primary” tab are shown. All of your social notifications and promotions/company
newsletters were being buried alive in the “Social” and “Promotions” tabs
making it harder for the end user to view those emails. Gmail’s goal behind all
of this madness was to unclutter your inbox and only show the things you really
want to see. And then, if you have time, you can glance over at the emails in
your social and promotions tabs whenever your little heart desires.
What Were the Results?
- Timing: Gmail emails were opened at a slower rate
than AOL, Hotmail and Yahoo emails. Compared to the other email service
providers, Gmail users are opening their emails less within the first 18
minutes, and opening them more 40-55 minutes after each sent campaign.
- Opens: The email open rate was hit hard by the
tabs rollout. Down just over 1.5% which is nearly twice as much as the other
- Clicks: Stayed fairly neutral, no significant
change either way.
- Unsubscribes: No shift as a result of Gmail tabs.
Being fresh out of the professional sports retail industry,
I was curious to see how Mailchimp’s results stacked up against ours at Just
Sports during the same time period. I was assuming that our results weren’t
going to be very dramatic in any direction given that we were an established
brand, with a very clean email list.
- Opens: down roughly 1.5%
- Clicks: up by roughly 1%
- Unsubscribes: no shift
My Conclusion to the Madness
My conclusion is very simple. With what I’ve seen with the
data from Just Sports and Mailchimp, fewer people are opening your emails (at
least in a timely manner). However, more clicks are being generated. This means
that you are getting more interested eyes on your emails. People who really
want to view your emails are viewing your emails. And since they truly find you
engaging they are clicking through to your website more often. The people who
in the past would have briefly opened your email, and then as fast as they could,
chucked it in the garbage, simply just aren’t seeing your email anymore.
What to Do Now?
Besides always trying to get better at providing relevant
and awesome email content, I have two tips I think you can do right away if you
haven’t done so already.
- Do an audit on your email list. Is it really
worth having subscribers on your list who haven’t engaged with your company in
over eight months? Filter your list by recent engagement and get rid of the
extra weight. Essentially you or your company is paying for a lazy,
non-engaging subscriber. Get rid of them. Remember a healthy list is a happy
- You can educate your subscribers on how to move
desired promotional and social emails into their primary tab. Once a subscriber
tags your email as “Primary”, all future emails from you will show up in their
primary tab. Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner has an awesome
explainer video on doing just this!