What Google’s new ‘Inbox’ app means for email marketers

Google unveiled its new ‘Inbox‘ app on Wednesday via an invite-only system, causing an Internet uproar. Already being hailed as “the next generation” and a “total reinvention” of email, Inbox by Google is making serious waves with features like an integrated to-do list, the ability to “snooze” emails until triggered by a certain date or geolocation, and real-time Google updates of certain kinds of content in your emails (e.g. delays or changes to your existing flight reservation). As no surprise, all these features come neatly packaged in a streamlined, swipe-friendly, and mobile-optimized layout. So what does all this mean for email marketers?

One new feature is important for email marketers in particular: Inbox organizes your emails for you into what it calls bundles, or themed labels shown as a single-line, collapsed folder. Designed to cut down on inbox clutter by grouping important messages together, pre-made bundles include categories like Travel, Purchases, Social, Updates, and Promos. Users can tap to expand the folders, which will display the subject lines and senders – or ignore the bundle entirely. Some marketing sources have already expressed concern, calling the app a “disruption” and a source of “heartburn” for email marketers.


Sound familiar? It should. Google caused widespread panic when it introduced “Tabs” into their inboxes last year, which sorted promotional emails into its own section, away from users’ primary inboxes. Marketo provided tips on how to survive the “Gmail Tabs Marketing Apocalypse,” retailers sent pleading messages asking customers to move their emails to the primary inbox, and Groupon blamed Tabs for “double-digit declines in email open rates” that contributed to a $2.6 million net loss in Q3 of last year.

Don’t panic yet: Gmail Tabs did not, in fact, derail email marketing, and neither will Inbox by Google – as long as marketers don’t rely on batch-and-blast email tactics. Flash sale sites like Groupon depend on daily email blasts to convert shoppers; for timed promotions engineered to create a sense of urgency, instant visibility is crucial for sales. Retailers who understand the importance of increasing Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), on the other hand, have different objectives in engaging through email. Nurturing customers toward advocacy through multiple channels and personalization will build brand loyalty and lessen the reliance on immediate subject-line visibility.

Simply put, already-engaged customers will still engage with your brand, even if emails are shifted to a different folder. It’s now up to marketers to create a personalized shopping experience for customers that will keep them engaged – and spending.