It turns out that the funky Gmail tabs at the top of the in box -- Primary, Social, Promotions, Forums -- have little to no impact on marketing email performance, but a closer look at click performance presents a more complex story. In my opinion, the increase in emails being read from smartphones will reverse a negative trend.
The Epsilon study -- Gmail Tabs: An In-Depth Analysis -- analyzes several months of aggregated email data at Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft Hotmail. The study took place earlier this year. Gmail garnered the highest click rate in June, with Gmail consumers clicking 14.5% more frequently than consumers at Yahoo, the next-highest inbox provider.
By October, that difference between Gmail and Yahoo fell 4.2%. Interestingly, Yahoo users clicked 25% more often than Hotmail users in June, and by October the percentage fell to 18.2%. Moreover, Gmail's October click rate was 75% of its June rate, while both Microsoft and Yahoo rose in click rates -- posting 87.5% and 82.5% October over June numbers, respectively.
Epsilon also analyzed the Gmail open rate by device. In June and July, approximately 60% of emails opened in Gmail were on a smartphone or tablet. The number rose 10% in September and October. The rise in views of marketing emails on mobile devices may in part explain why open rates at Gmail did not fall as much as click rates. The study explains that iPhones render all images by default, and open-tracking pixels will fire more frequently, creating the appearance of a higher open rate.
Gmail tabs affect the click performance of marketing campaigns -- creating what Epsilon calls an out of site, out of mind scenario, reducing the effectiveness of email marketing programs.
suggests that consumers viewing Gmail emails on a smartphone could put a major strain on marketing programs, according to the study. I disagree. Promotions will have a better chance of earning clicks
and conversions when viewed on a smartphone. You're much more likely to view all the emails because they are not segregated within Gmail tabs.
How many of those clicks lead to a search on either an engine or Web site? The study does not provide those details, but the story isn't over until the conversion. Please chime in if you have any data that follows the path from opening an email on a smartphone to a search on a Web site or engine that led to a sale.
"Touching Smartphone" photo from Shutterstock.