Gmail Inbox Tabs


If you are not a Gmail user, you may not be aware that the way that email is delivered to Gmail has changed.  When a mail is received, Gmail will separate into the tabs of ‘Primary’ (for emails from other humans), ‘Social’ (from social networks) and ‘Promotions’ (for everything else).

As a Gmail user myself, it feels like I have 3 inboxes now and not 1, but I am able to change how many tabs I see via my settings.  I have done so, but it seems fair to assume that the majority of Gmail users will not bother and keep the default setting.

Here are some key questions and answers for email marketers…

What triggers this?  If your emails have an unsubscribe option (which they definitely should!), then your email is going to default into the ‘Promotions’ tab

What effect on results?  It is very early to be drawing any firm conclusions, but initial studies from MailChimp have suggested that the Gmail open rate has dropped between 0.5% and 1%.  Too early to tell for sure, but open rates are likely to drop at least in the short term

What’s actually changed?  It is important to think about the principles of email marketing, and these have not changed as a result of Gmail’s inbox tabbing.  Your subject line should be engaging and enticing, your email should be personalised to gain attention and ideally the user would be looking out for your email – all of this is even more relevant after these changes as your email now has even more competition

How can my email appear in ‘Primary’?  The only way right now is to persuade the user to do this for you.  I have seen some great examples of fashion retailers imploring their Gmail users to change their settings for their email to make sure that they don’t miss out on the latest sale / promotion – an example via Smart Insights is below:

Gmail Inbox CTA

I think that Gmail’s inbox tabbing simply puts more emphasis on the quality of the emails that you are sending out to your audience.  The principles still apply, they are just more important now than ever.

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