Dealing with Email to the Mobile Gmail Inbox

Dave LawsonAccording to our Knotice Mobile Email Opens reports, open rates on mobile devices for commercial emails should reach the tipping point of 50% by the end of the year. Not only that, but data from Pew Research affirms that over 55% of American adults (not just mobile phone subscribers but all adults) now own a smartphone. One of the primary functions performed on these devices is accessing email.
If email has been a historically significant channel for driving your business, adjustments to accommodate the small screen and variety of contexts that mobility creates aren’t just a good idea – they’re now mandatory. If you haven’t made adjustments, you are likely missing out.

The roll out of the new Gmail inbox presents new challenges for mobile marketers. Real life users just want things to work. As Android’s marketshare continues to grow, you’re dealing with a Gmail account is attached to each of those service activations. However, one of the primary drivers of that marketshare growth is that many highly capable Android devices are now just the “free device” option at any carrier. Those devices aren’t just in the hands of the super user, they’re for everyone – hyper-connected and non-techie folks alike.

It’s important to keep in mind that outside the digital marketing world, real-life users tend to care very little about keeping up with the latest feature changes and whizzbang UX enhancements that are introduced by a service provider. The automated classification of messages based on keywords in the content, sending practices, engagement with messages from your domain all conspire to bury your bulk messaging which has perhaps historically been a reliable performer for you. As a reputable marketer, you may notice that your deliverability may not suffer at all, but overall viewability may plummet.

This challenge opens up new opportunities:

  • Start by considering the entirety of your interaction with your customers, from consideration-phase prospects through to loyal owners who then become return purchasers. Currently, transactional messages seem to do well to get into the primary inbox. As carriers of highly important information regarding a recent purchase, delivery, account status changes, or service updates, higher than average engagement rates often ensue. These types of messages typically may have not gotten the “branding love” that many of their promotional cousins have, which includes the optimization of them for smaller screens or touch navigation. You might want to take a look at these more closely.
  • Provide a richer branded experience in these service-oriented messages. The easier you make those emails to navigate and act upon, the better you will fare in the new mobile/Gmail world. This includes pre-filling forms upon click through, looking at radio buttons and drop-down menus for surveys, and even offering one-click phone numbers to your call center for more complex interactions.

Also, remember that mail from your domain should have a purpose. With the new Gmail features, each message is now automatically classified. Assume that around half of your mail will be seen first on a mobile device. Revisit the value of someone taking the action to explicitly opt-in to receive communication from your brand. With the respect that accompanies a high value action like that, consider things like the availability of behavioral-based data to drive relevancy in triggers.

Personalization should become even more of an asset. Consider courting your engaged Gmail population by sending them specific instructions for keeping your brand’s messages prioritized (beyond “please add us to your safe list”) and in the tab where the customer themselves would classify your brand’s outreach. On the backend, design strategies to assess what actions from messages sent to Gmail subscribers mean for not just your traditional deliverability metrics but also actual engagement. Understand from those who have opened, clicked, forwarded and socially shared on a regular basis from a mobile device within Gmail, if that is due to the type of email user they are or the type of emails you are sending. Start with your best customers (people who have actually converted meaningfully) and model your testing and future execution off those audiences that represent the bulk of your best consumers.

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