In late 2014, Google announced the “Inbox by Google” app. The idea of the app is focusing on improving email productivity and organisation by bundling similar emails together, letting users snooze messages for a later date and receive Google Now-style cards for things such as flight times. The aim is to create an experience that is more suited to today’s mobile world, making email easily accessible and efficient. The jury is still out on whether or not they have been successful.
How does it work
Inbox looks very different to the traditional Gmail screen. Not only is the whole interface completely different, but the traditional email terminology has changed. This isn’t an accident, as Google want their users to treat their emails like to-do lists, with it assuming that you need to do something with every email.
Terms like “marked as read” and “archived” are no more and you’re given a few options for dealing with email. The main ones are pin, snooze or make them as done:
Pin - A term becoming much more widely used on the internet, by pinning an email you’re giving it a more prominent place in your inbox. If the email is something you’ll need to come back to (such as ticket booking confirmations or important conversations), then you would want to pin it.
Snooze - Does exactly what it says on the tin. Users would snooze an email that they don’t need to deal with right now. It will disappear from your inbox and reappear when you want it to.
Done - This is for when you no long need a message. Marking as “Done” removes it from your inbox, however you will still be able to search for it.
The introduction of Inbox has also bought brand new features which build upon the backbone of this new email format.
The bundles feature
This feature groups emails together, which includes grouping emails - such as promotional emails - so that they only arrive once a week, for example. This means that Google will look for similar items and group them together automatically, such as bank statements, theatre tickets and social emails. The bundles feature means that rather than having the most recently received email at the top of your inbox, you will see the most important at the top instead.
The highlights feature
This feature is Google’s new preview option - where rather than just showing a snippet of the text content of an email along with the recipients and sender, it will show images from the email where appropriate, and occasionally even show content that is not in the email. For example, using Google’s search expertise, an email about tickets being delivered could show you the real-time status of the delivery, even if that info isn’t in the email.
The reminders feature
Currently, if you snooze an email, Gmail brings just the message back when you need it. However, setting a reminder allows users to make notes to their future selves. For example, if you get a promotional email containing an offer valid for a limited time, you can set up a reminder to use it before it expires! The reminder will then be included next to the email.
The smarter search function
Google has upgraded email search with the Inbox app as well. Now users are able to search for phrases such as “my next show” or just “theatre tickets” and using something called ‘natural language processing’ Google will give them the relevant information immediately, dug out of your inbox and presented in a card-style format.
What does this mean for email marketers?
In theory, Inbox is a promising application for its users, giving them the ability to focus on the “important” stuff in their lives, without being distracted by things like Facebook notifications. However, there’s something a little bit creepy about Google being in charge of what is shown as important in your emails, for example many users have found that Inbox has filtered out subscription emails that they want to receive and grouped them with all other promotion emails. Because of this, there is no doubt that Inbox will have an impact on marketers.
Bad email jobs no longer work. Email marketers must now be strategic and purposeful in their planning in order to reach their customers or audience. Emailing marketing needs to be timely and relevant in its content to make sure it reaches the intended recipient.
The days of unopened, uninteresting and irrelevant emails are definitely over, and part of the reason Google Inbox exists is because some marketers have abused the privilege of having a person’s email address. Google Inbox could mean that casual subscribers will become even less easy to communicate with if they don’t look anywhere outside their basic email inbox, however there is also the opportunity to allow the most pro-active subscribers to become even more engaged! There are many concerns about it, however by understanding how the app actually works, marketers can begin to adjust their strategy to achieve the high open-rates, and not just be “bundled” away.
Ways to use Inbox to your advantage
Use the highlights feature to your advantage
This change could be a plus for email marketers. The recipients will be more likely to engage with something that appears in their inbox with highly optimised bright content that’s more relevant to their subscribers, allowing them to jump to landing pages right from the links in their highlights.
Don’t get bundled!
Nobody wants all the effort and brainstorming that they put into writing a solid, helpful, high open-rate email to be put into a bundle of advertisements, unlikely to be read. Google Inbox is doing preemptive analytics of all incoming emails and so marketers must learn not only how to provide a catchy subject line and content for their readers to stand out from the promotional email crowd, but also how to do so in a way that you don’t end up bundled away with advertisements or other promotions.
Display your organisation logo as the From: Address
A great thing about the Inbox by Google is that it’s very visual. The sender of an email is displayed by an icon rather than plain text, so make sure you register with Google to be seen!
Personalise your emails
As Google will be scanning emails, any generic language will likely be bundled together with other advertisements. The more personal the language you use (especially a person’s name) the better.
Split test your emails
Increase your open rates by monitoring which subject lines and email designs convert the best and have the best open-rates. Split testing is an easy concept and many email service providers allow you do this, including Dotmailer. Check out one of previous blogs where we explain this in more detail.
Test how many links is too many
Google Inbox will try to look out for how many links and images are used as well as the placement of those links, when trying to distinguish friends from companies. A link or two in a personal email is quite common, however putting twenty links to different pages on the same website will much more likely flag in the Inbox system as being from a company. Test out how many work for you, and if multiple links lower your open rate, consider just focusing on a few important links.
Be sure to label your question in a way to convey that it’s to their benefit to inform you of their usage of Inbox (i.e. something like “Click here if you want emails that have been optimised for Inbox by Google”).
When thinking about email marketing, it’s important to keep changing and be aware of the changing email market. Despite many fears, Inbox by Google doesn’t have to be the end of email marketing! In fact, marketers could use it as an opportunity to make it even better.