What New Gmail Updates Mean for Email Marketers

Posted by Chace Barber on

It seems like everyone has been talking for weeks about the changes Gmail is making—and they are finally here, mostly launched and live. Personally, as a Gmail user, I like them. They add the right balance of function and fun to keep Gmail as the most popular email address you can have right now. As an email marketer though, my reaction is little more than a shrug.

While there are a lot of great changes to the interface and the user experience, they will, for the most part, have little to no impact on email marketing. You can read the full list of changes directly from Gmail here. Below is a run-down of the biggest changes and whether or not they are something that email marketers need to pay attention to.

Essentially No Impact

Email Time-bomb: This may not be what Gmail is calling their expiring emails, they prefer Confidential Mode, but it’s the phrase I hear the most when talking about this feature. It sounds great, you send an email, and the content expires after a time period you choose. The catch, of course, is that you have to send the email from a Gmail email account—which is not how most serious email marketers send email. Also, this feature is not quite live yet. You will need to wait a few more weeks to see it in action.

Gmail Convergence_Consumer_Image 1

Smart Replies: Another handy feature for users; however, Gmail does not currently suggest Smart Replies for promotional emails.

See Attachments without Opening the Email: This is great for viewing that photo your Mom sent you, or opening the PDF you got from work. Attachments are not really a thing for email marketers though, so there should be no impact here.

New Sidebar: While nice, users having access to their calendar, notes, and other add-ons that they select should not impact email marketers.

Little Impact:

Security Notifications: This is not new, Gmail has had warnings about suspicious emails for a while, but they have gotten an overhaul and refresh for this release. They are now bigger and bolder so that users can’t overlook them by accident. Gmail is pretty good at identifying genuinely suspicious emails, so despite the recent issue with Microsoft’s similar warning going haywire for a day, this should not have a big impact on good email marketers. Note that this feature is not yet live, but should be available within the next few weeks.

Nudges: Gmail will remind users when action may be needed on an older email. There are not a lot of details on how this will work yet, but Gmail has said that they “don’t nudge very often.” So I wouldn’t expect them to begin reminding your subscribers about a sale that is going to expire on your behalf. Note that this feature is also not yet live, but should be available within the next few weeks.

Snooze: Gmail allows users to hit “snooze” on an email they want to read but don’t have time for right now. At the time selected by the user, the email will pop back up for them to take a look at. In theory, this could be used by busy subscribers to have your marketing message reappear at a better time. This feature has been around for a while now though through third-party add-ons, and so far it has not seen wide usage in this way. While many more subscribers will have access now that it is part of the main Gmail interface, there is no reason to expect behavior to be different with the larger group.

Big Impact:

Proactively Suggesting Unsubscribes: This is not exactly new, we actually posted an article on this back in December which you can read here. The difference is that back then it was only available to Inbox by Gmail users, and now it will be available to anyone who uses the Gmail mobile app. This is still not a feature of Gmail.com itself though or the main email UI. Marketers should use this (and the quick expansion from Inbox by Gmail to Mobile) as a warning that this will be coming in the future though. Don’t want Gmail suggesting your subscribers unsubscribe from your emails? Take a look at that blog post from December for recommendations on how to prepare.

Top Picks: It is a little misleading to include it in this list, as it is not part of the actual update launch that just went live. Instead, this is a new feature being tested on Gmail’s mobile app for Android only right now. If this does ever go live though it could easily be the most talked about and closely examined change for email marketers since Gmail launched their Categories a few years ago. You can read more about this update in a great blog by Tom Sather here.

So even though there are two potentially big impact updates out there—one is in testing only and the other is limited to Gmail’s mobile app—everything else that is actually going live in the main Gmail user interface with this release falls into the “none” or “little impact” categories. So go enjoy the new Gmail, I certainly plan to, but don’t stress or worry about it as an email marketer.


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About Chace Barber

Chace Barber is a Technical Account Manager at Return Path. He is a self-described data application evangelist, because data is most valuable when applied to solve your exact situation. Chace has been helping to find custom applications of data in the internet security and email optimization fields for more than seven years. When not in the office, he can usually be found cooking or traveling. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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