The challenge to marketers is that these innovations are changing the process of micro-decisions that a consumer goes through each time an email is received. For example, by embedding a quick action button in a subject line, marketers can enable recipients to respond to a CTA and be taken to an intended landing page without opening the email. And that's not the only innovation that enables consumers to interact with messages without actually opening them. Google's Grid View allows recipients to compare all offers in the inbox with a highly visual, banner-like representation of the messages and offers. The bottom line is that the email conversion funnel is getting disrupted.
Here are a few tips for marketers looking to survive in this fast-changing landscape:
Accept the unknown. In typical Google fashion, new functionality is almost always launched as a short field test and then quickly rolled out as optional features to all users. It’s unknown how much these recent product launches by Gmail have penetrated the inbox, as many of the features are optional and managed by the recipient. Google is also not especially quick to share this information with marketers. For example, when Gmail released the inbox unsubscribe option, marketers had to work closely with their ESPs to gain access to any unsubscribes captured by Gmail via feedback loops vs. the traditional ESP-provided unsubscribe link. There was a gap in time before the Gmail unsubscribe information was provided to ESPs and marketers, which caused a commensurate gap in reporting.
Expect that benchmarks and trends will change. As the new features become more commonplace and widely adopted, trends will change. There will be questionable trends upward and downward that seem unexplainable when compared to prior time periods. Here are some anomalies you might see:
It’s an exciting time to watch a mature channel like email evolve into a sophisticated workhorse that continues to dominate at driving engagement and enhancing customer relationships. While evaluating success may temporarily get confusing for marketers, these changes are sure to keep our beloved channel going strong for a long time. Disrupt or be disrupted!