Gmail’s Priority Inbox will require some smart thinking from marketers

Google is changing the game with the introduction of a Priority Inbox for Gmail. Riaz Kanani, alliances director at Lyris, explains the best strategy for marketers.

Google generates the majority of its money today from making it easy for companies to acquire new customers – whether through search or other advertising placements. The introduction of Priority Inbox in Gmail looks like an attempt to make it harder for marketers to avoid having to ’acquire’ a customer over and over again through retention email communications. With Microsoft and Yahoo expected to follow suit with similar functionality in the near future, how are you going to respond?

The Priority Inbox alters the way email is listed in your inbox. Emails are now organised in descending importance (as calculated by Google) instead of by time. The goal, which is explicitly laid out in its launch video is to promote emails from people you know, and demote marketing emails that you aren’t interested in.

The ranking is determined using a range of factors – we know that opens and replies play an important part and being listed in the recipient’s address book is likely to be another factor. There is also the ability to manually promote and demote emails.

All this leads to a greater imperative on marketers to deliver emails that engage with their audience. Encouraging opens is obviously important in this new world, but clever subject lines alone are not something you can rely on over time. It is the equivalent of creating the best viral content over and over again – something we would love to be able to deliver on but is unfortunately, unachievable. If the content fails to be of interest, users will soon move on.

The result of not delivering engaging content now means your emails will get lost in the obscurity of being at the bottom of the inbox.

One of the best ways to engage with your recipients is to respond with content they are interested in and find valuable. This starts with a group of emails in a welcome programme which gradually build up a better profile of your recipients. However it should not stop there. It is worth bearing in mind that this information changes over time and therefore needs updating periodically.

Finally, continually asking your recipients for information is not likely to be well received and so using other sources of data is going to be a must.

Using recent web browsing data, such as recently browsed products on a website, to influence both the subject line and tailored content can result in emails which truly connect with the recipient.

The relevant subject line will result in higher open rates and also combat features like Google’s Priority Inbox, but the real success comes from using this type of data in the email itself. Emails based on recent browsing behaviour can more than double open rates versus just using preferences made during the sign up process. Our case studies show revenue increases of 67% and up.

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