If you are an emailer the phrase you hear most is, “how is your delivery?” ESPs are constantly evolving to make sure inbox selection provides the optimum user experience; consequently making it harder for the marketer to reach the inbox. However, the ISPs are not trying to prevent marketing messages, they are just trying to ensure it offers some kind of intrinsic value to the user. Understanding what these values are, will help you achieve inbox delivery.

Gmail launched a new inbox at the end of May, which has been gradually rolled out across desktop and mobile.  The new inbox provides a tabbed layout which automatically places emails into folders dependent on their content. The inboxes are pre-set with five folders; primary, social promotional, forums and updates, although the individual has the ability to move senders between folders.

The primary folder, at a basic level contains all emails sent by an individual, the social folder contains emails from companies such as Facebook and promotional contains emails sent from a Marketer. The Spam folder is now not visible unless you hover over the navigation bar on the left hand side and click more. One could therefore infer, if you do not get in the promotional folder, you will not be seen.

The new inbox layout is not mandatory and you can choose to switch back to the classical view if you wish. What is unclear at the moment is how many people are adopting the new layout. However, with it being Google and the prompt urging you to switch, I imagine the uptake will be vast.

How do You Get in the Promotional Folder, Let Alone the Primary Folder?

Six weeks ago, we created a seed account on Gmail and sent a singular promotional email to it from a server. When this email was received into the inbox, we interacted with the email both opening and clicking on it. We did not revisit this inbox until this week. On reopening the inbox, we firstly choose to look using the classical view inbox and all the promotional emails we had sent from the server we used to do the first sending, were placed in the inbox. Once we moved to the new tabbed view, all these emails were in the promotional tab. We then sent another promotional email from a different server, which was identical to one that had inboxed from the previous server and this email was automatically placed into spam.

What this illustrates is the importance of first interaction. Securing that interaction can make the difference between an inbox placement and being overlooked in the spam file.

How do You Secure That First Interaction?

An easy and simple way for marketers to secure this is to introduce double opt-ins into your newsletter sign ups or alternatively, for a retailer to send confirmation emails and delivery information to a consumer’s email.

Secondly, you can consider offering something of value to your consumer which can only be accessed by a link contained within an email, such as a free download with no strings attached.

Thirdly, make sure whatever you are sending is targeted and relevant, so it grabs their interest and draws them to interact. The only problem here is that if this email arrives into the spam, there is little guarantee that they will now check this box. They are now more likely to treat the ‘promotional’ inbox more as what they consider ‘soft spam’ or as a personal search engine when they are open to marketing messages. Thus ensure your customers expect to receive emails from you and mention the benefits when signing up.

Lastly and most importantly, interaction is only part of the equation and you still need to ensure that you are coding your emails for optimum delivery and your IPs/Servers have a good reputation. This in itself may lead your email to be delivered into the promotional inbox, despite not having that first key interaction.

However, even if you secure this first interaction, this now only guarantees you a placement in the promotional tab. What is unclear at the moment is how the new tabbed approach will impact opens on promotional campaigns. Based on the results we have seen at Freemax from the start of June until mid-July, there has been no change in the open rates, this is supported in findings by responsys, whilst campaign monitor actually found an increase in open rates.

How do You Get Seen in The Promotional Inbox?

Subject lines will become key. You will be fighting for an individual’s attention among many other marketing messages. Therefore draw on your largest benefit or incentive in the subject line. At Freemax Media, we have found subject lines with less than 30 characters generate the highest open rates, but bear in mind subject lines with 30 to 50 characters generate the highest earnings. However here the aim is to get interaction and therefore the shorter subject line may be more appealing. If you opt for a short subject line don’t be deliberately vague or misleading.

Next is to think about the time of day you are sending. At Freemax, we find the best performing day for opens is Wednesday. The best day to send does varies by vertical, for example verticals that require research such as utilities perform better on a Sunday. Therefore I recommend spilt testing across the week to ascertain which day works for you.

Also think about the time of day, at Freemax we see open rates peak between 8am and 9am during the week, when people are browsing their emails on the way to work. Often people are looking for something to read at this point and therefore may be more inclined to open their promotional folder. Likewise we see a peak again mid-afternoon and early evening during the week. ComScore found similarl results in itsresearch.

How do You Get Out of The Promotional Tab and Into the Main Inbox?

Simply put, through personalised, targeted and relevant content.

When working out a ‘primary’ inbox strategy, think about what an individual would not want to miss. When doing this do not think like a brand and conclude they would not want to miss your ‘20% off voucher’ – if they want a 20% off voucher they know they can search their promotional tab. Therefore consider content that they would be genuinely interested in, such as what is happening at the weekend in their area. Or potentially once a week, give something away absolutely free, such as a free ebook or new perfume sample. Basically, create something that they expect to see and do not want to search to find.

How you do this will be a learning curve. Use the data you have collected from an individual to start to understand them and create a personalised journey, as opposed to a one-fits-all approach. Get this right and then the more hard hitting sales emails you send will also be delivered to the primary inbox. Remember the key is the first interaction. However be warned, the first interaction gets you into a folder but the first time you are moved to junk, you will be relegated to spam. So make sure content is always relevant and enticing.

In conclusion, the new inbox style in Gmail means if your email enters the promotional folder you are now fighting for attention among other marketers therefore you need to ensure your subject is relevant and stands out. The upside to the tabbed approach, is that an individual is likely to only view the promotional tab when they are open to reading a marketing message or looking for something specific from a brand and therefore opens may decrease but your clicks may become more valuable.

The key thing to take away is this change is aimed at delivering the customer a better experience. Therefore use this opportunity to create an innovative email strategy that makes you stand out.