Inbox by Gmail - A marketer's friend or foe?

Inbox by Gmail - A marketer's friend or foe?

Nov 26 2014 | by ROBIN PAINTER

A few weeks ago, Google unveiled Gmail’s new Inbox product, proclaiming that it will last for the next decade. Yet understanding how Inbox could affect email marketing will be crucial to marketer’s future success. 

Inbox has been fashioned in answer to the laborious task of monitoring a relentless stream of emails that overload a user’s inbox. This new email platform is intended to simplify this process, allowing users to better organise and manage their emails, and gain ease of access to the relevant information they require.


Inbox allows users to organise their emails, using Bundles.

In the existing version of Gmail, Labels allow users to manually group emails, or set an automated function in place so that incoming emails are organised and, as the title suggests, labelled.

In Inbox, Labels have evolved and are now called Bundles. Aside from giving the user choice of label configuration, Inbox comes with standard Bundles in place. These automated bundles will mark emails under the following headings:

  • Social - social media emails and other social media services
  • Finance - finance invoices, bills and bank statements
  • Purchases - purchase invoices and delivery updates
  • Updates - alerts and information from online accounts
  • Travel - hotel and flight confirmations
  • Forum - messages sent from discussion groups and mailing lists
  • Promos - marketing special offers and promotions

These default Bundles can be edited to suit the user’s preferences, enabling the application of certain rules and filters to particular labels.

Bundles will display at the top of the inbox and, when selected, will expand to show the emails within. This feature isn’t mandatory and bundle settings are easily controllable within Inbox.


Inbox admin made easy

Inbox comes equipped with an array of shiny new features that should allow users to keep on top of a myriad of emails. Emails will collect in the inbox either under bundles or individually, and then the user will be able to sort each email assisted by the following features:

  • Done - Done is a separate inbox where emails will be sent to that a user has already dealt with. Any email that a user doesn’t need to perform a further action on can be sent to the Done inbox.
  • Highlights - relevant information from emails is displayed in the main inbox, beneath the subject line and preheader. This will allow users to scan the relevant information that they need from certain emails within the inbox without having to open the email. For example, if a friend sent some pictures, users would be able to scan through them in the inbox, without delving deeper.
  • Pin - pinning emails informs Inbox that those emails are important. All pinned emails will stay within the main inbox until they are unpinned.
  • Snooze - the snooze feature boomerangs emails away for a while, allowing users to receive them and deal with them at a later date.
  • Reminders - allows the to-do list to appear with a reminder within the main inbox, such as to remember it’s Algernon's birthday so send him a picture of a fat cat.
  • Sweep - the sweep feature helps users to clear their inbox of unwanted items. When clicked it will clear all unpinned emails into Done. This feature will enable users to quickly clear their whole inbox, an individual bundle, or manually select a handful of emails and sweep them. 

A condensed to-do list

The Bundles and new management features (pin, snooze etc.) are intended to transform a user’s inbox into an efficient checklist of things to do, as they will only have to act on the emails that need dealing with. The user will be able to create tasks and set reminders in their inbox, which will appear alongside their messages.

But how does Inbox bode for marketers?

Google has predicted that for those who start to make use of Inbox, Gmail will become obsolete. Yet, Inbox is still invitation-only, and users might not take to the new platform.

It will be interesting to see if Inbox is received in a similar way to that of Google Wave; a short-lived messaging system which launched in 2009 but deterred users because of its complicated features.

The promo bundle

However, if users do start making use of Inbox, one of the features that could pose a specific problem to marketers is the standard Bundles attribute that will group all promotional emails under the Promo label - any marketing content sent to a user will most probably sit under this label, making it easier to ‘swipe’ away and ignore.

It is therefore imperative that the content and headlines of emails engage with users, are not misleading, and that the emails add value to an inbox; being informative, rather than bombarding a user with promotional material and offers.

The highlights feature

The Highlights feature, which will allow a user to scan the relevant information of an email whilst still within the inbox, suggests that open rates will be lower. This is due to the user being able to gain the information they required without having to open an email.

However, email marketers will be able to add images, offers and actions, so that these assets appear as highlights in a user’s inbox. Marketers will be able to use these highlights as incentives to encourage users to open emails.

In conclusion

It would seem that if Inbox proves to be a hit, the chance of marketing material being ignored is likely to increase. Yet, if the content that email marketers are sending is engaging and relevant, the new tools which Inbox provides should allow users to cut out irrelevant information and focus upon the engaging content that effective email marketers are providing.