How to Beat Gmail’s New Tabbed Inbox

Email Marketing


I have to make a confession. I am a Gmail user and I like the new tabbed inbox. Not because I am trying to ignore emails that come from mailings I subscribe to, but because now I can be organized and achieve “inbox zero” in my primary tab (even if it is not a true “inbox zero” as my other tabs are overflowing). And I like that I can now parse my emails out based on my primary email connections, social updates, and promotions. Awesome!

Note to my fellow marketing brethren: I do always check my promotions tab to make sure I am not missing any hot sales, important news updates, or correspondence from companies I love, as you will soon see.

But, maybe I am a minority, who knows? The fact is that many marketers are nervous that their emails aren’t hitting the inbox. Some are taking action, and some are more hopeful that the change will not have a huge effect on their email sends.  So, what is the consensus so far? Well, Mailchimp and other ESPs who service Gmail accounts regularly are reporting about a 1% drop in open rates so far. Not really the Y2K scare that many email marketers feared, but definitely something to keep an eye on. So how can you, as an email marketer, get your emails back in the primary inbox where it belongs?

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

In my personal life, I subscribe to a ton of emails. Groupon and Nordstroms and Travelocity galore. And I have seen some pretty creative takes on convincing subscribers to move their email into the primary tab. Let’s take a look at an example from Gilt Group, a discount clothing retailer that holds daily sales. Gilt titles their email “Gmail Users: Never Miss a Must-Have Steal!”.


And then from there they actually have multiple calls-to-actions asking me to move their emails into my primary inbox. They added a nice visual call-out in the interior as well.


And they didn’t stop there! They even gave me a set of instructions to follow in case I wasn’t sure how to move my email.


Pretty cool. Did I listen? I sure did! Moved them right into my primary. I certainly don’t want to miss another killer sale. Plus, as a marketer who works for a marketing automation company, I was impressed by their straightforward approach. The lesson here is don’t be afraid to ask. Many Gmail users might not even realize they can drag and drop, or aren’t thinking about it. If you ask and provide instructions, you might be surprised how many people listen, consider it “the third opt-in”.

Write a Blog about It

How about writing a blog about it and giving your audience instructions to move your emails? Copyblogger did just that in a recent post 7 Ways to Survive Gmail’s New Promotions Tab. They created some great key takeaways and tips for the email marketer, educated readers on the inbox, and then reminded readers to make sure they were receiving Copyblogger emails by including this handy call-out within the post:


This is a great way to get the attention of your subscribers while educating them about the ins and outs of the new tabbed format.  You don’t have to wait until a subscriber reads an email, educate them in other places as well, like on your website, your blog, or social channels.

Stand Out With Your Subject Lines

While some emailers are blatantly asking for the move, others are being a bit more passive about it. I am definitely seeing an increase in emails reading “Did you not see this email…?” or “Is our email going to spam…?”. Presumably, these emails are also responding to the new tabbed inbox, assuming that perhaps I didn’t see their offer for free shipping or 15% off because I don’t check my promotions tab. Here is an example email I was sent from Urban Outfitters:


This approach did still get my attention (hence me featuring it in this post). I like the conversational headline. The lesson here? You really need to start paying attention your subject lines. This will be a huge reason someone will go into their promotions tab, sort out your email, open it, and click through.

Be Engaging

I believe that ultimately what is going to keep the attention of your readers is creating engaging email marketing that builds trust and a relationship with your buyers. A company that does a great job with this that makes it into my primary inbox without having to ask is, and I am not even a huge cooking fan. They don’t blast me with emails, and when they do send me something they use a attention grabbing headline like “The Best Blackberry Pie on a Summer Day”. Simple, sweet, and makes me want to eat a blackberry pie while combing through emails at work. Then the email itself is highly visual:


And is it a coincidence that they send me emails after I have gone on their site and downloaded recipes? Probably not. They got my vote! I mean, you want to go out and bake a pie now (or eat one), I know you do.

In summation, the tabbed inbox does make a difference in your email marketing. Now marketers have to work just a bit harder to be more engaging in their email communication. Don’t be afraid to ask people to “opt-in” (like Gilt Group) or educate people in a non-email format, like a blog. But at the end of the day, the trusted vendor will win. What are you doing about the new tabbed inbox? We would love to hear!

And if you want to learn more about creating awesome emails, download our brand new Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing.