Marketers Angry Over Gmail Changes, Claim They Impede Metrics

Although faring far better than Yahoo’s current email strategy, Google is facing tough questions from marketers over ongoing changes to Gmail. Heading into the weekend, critics suggest that new changes to Gmail would impact marketers’ ability to measure open rates within Google’s email product.

“It’s a real concern,” Barry Abel, senior vice president at Message Systems, said on a panel at OMMA’s Email Insider Summit on Friday.

The big debate among email insiders gathered for the summit revolved around Gmail Tabs and its impact on marketers’ lives. Released by Google in May, the inbox-sorting tool removes marketing messages from users' primary in-boxes and files them in a distinct "Promotions" tab.
 
It was mentioned by several conference attendees that Groupon recently blamed Google Tabs for its poor third-quarter earnings.
 
“How very convenient for them,” joked Jordan Cohen, vice president, marketing at Movable Ink. “Because [Groupon’s] stock was just in great shape before that!” piled on Ryan Phelan, vice president of digital impact strategic services at Acxiom.
 
Groupon aside, “[Tabs is] a benefit for marketers,” said Abel. “They’re going to learn how to use it.”
 
But that learning process is keeping marketers on their toes, said Cohen. “They will have to be more creative,” he said, adding that Tabs is making matters of “timeliness and relevancy” more critical than ever.
 
Bigger picture -- “we have to take control of our channel, because others are controlling it for us,” Phelan said. “Gmail Tabs is not the problem.”
 
As a backdrop to Friday’s discussion, a study released earlier in the week by marketing services firm Epsilon found that Tabs is clearly causing problems for some marketers. Also of note, 90% of commercial emails delivered to Gmail accounts now end up in the "Promotions" tab, according to a recent report from Return Path.
 
According to the report, however, Gmail users actively check their "Promotions" tab for emails; open rates have not been demonstrably affected since May.
 
The name of the game is “intent,” Tom Sather, senior director of research at Return Path, said on Friday. In other words, when consumers check out their “Promotions” box, they know what they’re getting themselves into. “Hoping that consumers accidentally open your emails is not a good marketing strategy.”

Google did not return requests for comment by press time.
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2 comments about "Marketers Angry Over Gmail Changes, Claim They Impede Metrics".
  1. Adam Penn from DX , December 17, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.
    What these conferences fail to realize is that over 44% of all emails are opened on mobile devices. Mobile email viewing has risen at a steady rate of 14% per year since 2008, and if you aren't using the Gmail app, you're most likely using the built in email app for your mobile device, which doesn't filter emails by promotion or social, so those users are most likely STILL getting their newsletters in their inbox on mobile.
  2. Adam Penn from DX , December 17, 2013 at 12:42 p.m.
    EDIT: Mobile email viewing has risen 14% since 2010.