In the last few months, Gmail has thrown light on two rather useful features – Priority Inbox and Smart Labels. Both are means of making the ‘most important’ emails stand out in the inbox, while putting the rest aside for later. While Priority Inbox physically separates the inbox between emails you’re most likely to respond to and the rest of your messages, Smart Labels tags messages, based on whether they’re considered to be ‘Bulk’, ‘Notifications’ and more (see below). The ‘Bulk’ label in particular allows recipients to view mass-sent messages in isolation – and that includes your email newsletters.
From the marketing bleachers, each release was followed by a collective gasp – will allowing people to better organize their email lives… Affect engagement? Will people simply select their ‘Bulk’ messages and hit delete each day? Sadly, we don’t yet have firm stats to say whether or not this is happening (yet), however we can come up with one conclusion – as email designers, marketers, or purveyors of web content, we have to make our newsletters so memorable, so relevant, that they’re worth fishing out of the inbox. For example, consider Apple’s marketing emails after a highly-anticipated product release. Would you send the iPad 2 announcement straight to trash just because it had a little green ‘Bulk’ tag on it? Probably not.
I say this because there’s this underlying idea that there must be a way of ‘fighting’ Gmail’s sorting algorithms, in the same way as some folks pit themselves (and their email designs) against spam filters like it’s a bad thing. In both cases, the solution has little to do with technically fooling the system and more to do with building valuable, subscriber-oriented email marketing campaigns. Which should have been the goal to begin with.
Overall, it’s not worth sweating over new-fangled inbox tools like Gmail’s Priority Inbox, or Smart Labels. If Gmail is being as useful as it can be to email recipients, then we should focus on the same – making our campaigns doggone useful, too.