What Gmail’s New Sorting Feature Means – For Users and Marketers

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Over the next few weeks, Gmail’s 425 million users will notice that something’s different. The world’s largest email service (it blew past now-defunct Hotmail in terms of unique users) will soon offer a feature that automatically filters incoming emails into separate tabs based on the type of each message.

Google will give Gmail users the option to organize their inbox into some or all of the categories below.

  • Primary: Messages from family, friends and other people you appear to contact regularly (plus messages that don’t fit into the other groupings).
  • Social: Messages from social media networks, dating services, etc. Here you’ll see “So and so commented on your Facebook status.”
  • Promotions:  This is where you'll find things like sale notifications from retailers, daily deals and so on.
  • Updates:  Here’s where many of the unexciting but important things wind up—bills/statements, receipts, order confirmations.
  • Forums: Messages from discussion boards, online groups, and mailing lists go in this category.

You’ll be able to move messages between categories or set filters in case Gmail incorrectly sorts your emails. It will then adapt to your sorting preferences. If you don’t like this new inbox, you can switch off the filter categorization and stick to your current Gmail settings (i.e. the “classic” Gmail inbox or other optional inbox views).

What does this mean for email marketers?

As Gmail gradually rolls out this new sorting feature, we’ll be keeping a close eye on inboxing and email engagement rates to monitor any sort of fluctuations. We don’t expect any drastic changes to take place though. Here are our initial predictions:

  • Standard inboxing versus bulking detection won’t change, since based on our research, Gmail will still offer its standard spam folder.  
  • Increased email organization can result in increased engagement rates for marketers’ active subscriber base, since brand messages will be easier to locate and less likely to get lost in a crowded inbox. Active subscribers who look for messages from Brand X may set up filters so they can easily access Brand X emails in the users’ preferred folder.
  • On the other hand, improved email organization could potentially lead to lower engagement rates for less active subscribers who have become inactive over time or were inactive since subscribing to Brand X’s email program. These unengaged subscribers will have the option to place Brand X’s messages in a folder that users look at even less often or ignore altogether.

Time will tell how these new Gmail features impact both the user experience and email marketing tactics, but we’ll keep you updated as developments unfold.

Author Bio

Brad Van Der Woerd

Brad provides global email deliverability leadership and management for Yes Lifecycle Marketing’s Intelligence Products team. His expertise includes providing digital marketing strategies, email deliverability consulting and best practices to a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies including eBay, Visa, Gap, US Bank and many more. Brad holds 10 years of experience within digital marketing and is passionate about team engagement, people development and driving results for clients.