Gmail Priority InboxThe big debate in the email marketing community this week is the introduction of Google’s Gmail Priority Inbox. The service will allow the Gmail user to classify incoming mail in a way that is relevant to them.

Many email marketers question what impact it will have on the industry. The answer can be summarized quite simply: the relevance of emails and the interaction with the recipients will have to be focused on more than ever. But then again: what is new and what did you expect? Google and the likes have to care about relevance if they want to stay relevant themselves for their users. It’s exactly the same in Google’s search algorithm changes.

Despite all the buzz in email marketing circles, the arrival of Gmail Priority Inbox shouldn’t be a concern for any good email marketer. Email marketers (and other marketers for that matter)  MUST focus on the relevance of their emails and their content/offering.  Not just for recipients but also for the sake of email deliverability which increasinly is about relevance and engagement and thus the recipient as well. Hopefully Google’s Gmail Priority inbox will be an extra ‘push’ to do so.

Email is great unless there’s too much of it

Although many people, me included, still predominantly use email desktop clients like Outlook, most people have at least one web-based email account. Gmail and other web-based email clients (such as Windows Live) are often used to subscribe to newsletters. For many people it’s a way not to use their “most personal” email address for downloading papers, subscribing to newsletters, etc.

The YouTube movie by Google that introduces Gmail Priority Inbox (check it out below) clearly indicates where it will be positioned. The video starts with the sentence “Email is great…unless there’s too much of it.”

How does the system work? It is very simple: Gmail verifies with which emails people interact (opening them, reply etc.) and in this way “learns” which mails are more important than others for the specific recipient. Based on this Gmail will continuously arrange the incoming emails from important to less important.

Apart from the algorithm that steers the system, the user can also determine which messages are more important than others.

Or, in other words: people are in control of their inbox which is becoming more “intelligent”. A good initiative from Google and even one that is  necessary. Before you could also manage your Gmail inbox to some extent, but after some time those – certainly if you use it for newsletter – it becomes one giant inbox of messages of which people probably check few regularly.

What should email marketers do to be ready for Gmail Priority Inbox?

Nothing special really. Just do great email marketing.

  • Realize that relevance is crucial on the level of timing, email content, personalization and (thus) the recipient – and act upon that realization.
  • Understand that people – aka email subscribers – have expectations and it’s important to focus on their needs and the promises made when they became member of that good old list.
  • Know that customer-centricity is key. That personalization, dynamic content and subject lines and interesting benefits customized to the subscriber are essential.
  • Gather relevant data and insights to improve customer experience, relevance, content and conversion, preferably in a cross-channel way or channel-agnostic way. That an email marketer, now more than ever should have the correct data about recipients in order to send the right content at the right time in function of behavior, needs, etc.
  • Simply practice good email marketing instead of seeing subscribers as just addresses on a list that needs to be mailed to on a Friday night as some afterthought.