Google just announced a new app called “Inbox” that has the potential to transform the way we email. But it also looks like it’s going to seriously annoy advertisers as a result.
One of the key features of the Google Now-like app is “Bundles.” Basically, Inbox automatically bundles together certain kinds of messages like bank statements and purchase receipts so it’s easy to scan through them quickly.
Another feature likely to catch the eye of advertisers is “Highlights” which helps you find key information like flight itineraries and event info, but it also pulls in information from the web that wasn’t in the original email like the real-time status of your flight.
There also hasn’t been any mention yet on how or if display advertising will be integrated into the Inbox app. On Gmail, Google scans the content of your emails to serve relevant banner ads.
The big immediate problem for advertisers is that all the key features we do know about are pushing their marketing emails further and further down the agenda in terms of priority.
Brand emails will be siphoned off into a “Promotions” Bundle, similar to the Promotions tab on Gmail. If Inbox really takes off, Bundles is going to start getting worrying for advertisers.
When Google introduced Tabs for “social”, “promotions” and “updates” last year to Gmail, many email marketers proclaimed it the death of email newsletters as we know it, as messages from brands were funneled into the baskets users check far less frequently.
Those proclamations were a tad dramatic, but were along the right lines. Research last year from MailChimp found the number of emails opened by Gmail users fell more than twice as much as any other service as they utilized tabs to ignore unwanted communications. However, Gmail open rates *did* start accelerating when it rolled out a feature that allowed images to be downloaded automatically, as prettier emails encourage more clicks.
Gmail accounts for 40% of all email on the web, ahead of the next biggest client Outlook.com with 23%, according to email testing and analytics company Litmus.
Advertisers consider Gmail an important advertising medium. But its move towards email that you don’t even need to open is troublesome (for them) — not least when they can’t keep talking about “open rates” when trying to determine the success of their campaigns.
And all this comes at a time when consumers — or those in the US at least, according to recent Forrester research — are actually happier to read marketing emails than ever before. The industry thinks this is partly because we’re checking our mobiles more often (so more likely to browse emails to pass time) and also because brands are making their emails more interesting, targeted and relevant than ever before.
Just as they’re starting to get their acts together, it seems Google is trying to take one of marketers’ most valuable email assets away from their grasp.
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