Allison Banko

Email Deliverability: Is Gmail’s tabbed inbox a B2B challenge?

November 18th, 2013

Originally published on B2B LeadBlog

Just when you thought you had this whole deliverability thing down, another challenge rises to the surface.

This time, it’s in the form of Gmail’s tabbed inbox.


Google’s new email feature automatically classifies users’ email messages into categorized tabs, including:

  • Primary: friends, family, highly valued messages
  • Social: social network updates
  • Promotions: deals, offers
  • Updates: bills, receipts
  • Forums: online groups, discussion boards, mailing lists

The tabs seek to make email a less overwhelming process for users. However, for marketers, it’s provoked the opposite response. Marketers are worried about their messages being ignored if their emails don’t get delivered to the primary inbox.

While Gmail’s tabbed inbox has incited its fair share of panic in the marketing world since its rollout a few months ago, does it prove to be something you should be concerned about as a B2B marketer?

After all, Gmail is typically consumer-focused, presenting these tabs as more of a B2C hurdle.

In the B2B marketplace, you’re dealing with deliverability to in-house email platforms, so this won’t be an issue, right?

Well, not so fast.

Tom Sather, Senior Director of Research, Return Path, explained the idea of a market-specific email platform is fading. Sather referenced research published by Garter that predicted “at least 10% of enterprise email seats will be based on a cloud or software-as-a-service model.”

“I think we’re going to start to see those lines blur between what a B2B domain is versus what a B2C domain is,” Sather said. “There’s always been a clear-cut difference between them [previously].”

But, even if some of the consumers you’re targeting haven’t outsourced their email platforms, it’s still likely that those consumers do have a personal Gmail account.

This, of course, presents another opportunity for you as a B2B marketer. That’s more real estate you can target to get those consumers to convert, Sather said.

Gmail tabs also allow marketers to purchase ad space within the promotions tab – another viable tactic to pounce on. It parallels the concept of your typical display ad.

“You can purchase an ad and it doesn’t matter whether you’re actually sending to Gmail users or not,” Sather explained.

Though Gmail’s tabbed inbox presents such opportunities for marketers, it has still invoked fear through negative media attention in the marketing realm.

Spencer Kollas, Global Director of Delivery Services, Experian Marketing Services, said the tabs tool has already been practiced in the industry for years via Hotmail and Yahoo’s “other inbox” plug-in.

“We’ve been through these types of fire drills in the past in this industry,” Kollas said. “The bottom line is if you are sending relevant information to users that want it, they’re going to find a way to open it and they are going to engage with your brand.”

Studies are disproving the scare tactics, too.

Return Path published “Analysis: Gmail Tabs Don’t Stop Shoppers” pulling data one week after the tabs were publicly introduced, illustrating early on that tabs aren’t a bad development for email marketers.

The report showed that highly engaged users – those consumers who matter most to a marketer – increased their read rate with tabs by 2.11%. The study explained “Gmail’s tab feature made it easier to do something they like doing: shop.”

Based on the above findings and opportunities, Gmail’s tabbed feature could make it easier to do something you like doing, too: attracting consumers.

Related Resources:

Email Marketing: Your Deliverability Questions Answered

B2B Email Marketing: How reputation, content and brand management affect deliverability

Email Deliverability: Getting into Gmail?s ?Priority Inbox?

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