Direct marketers are already working out how to adapt to Gmail's new Priority Inbox system amid fears that the new feature could lessen the impact of email marketing.
The new service is being rolled out to users of Google’s Gmail system this week. It creates a two-tier inbox: one for ‘priority mail’; and another for the remainder of a person’s emails. Google will also retain its spam filtering system.
The internet search giant has come up with the priority system to help users cope with the amount of emails they receive in a day.
Users can switch on the feature in a click, instead of setting filters and creating multiple folders as they had to with previous services. Gmail will then adapt the way it treats incoming emails based on the account owner’s pattern of usage.
The introduction of the system will now put a premium on creating messages that can make it into the ‘priority’ inbox.
Guy Hanson, director of email services at dbg and a member of the DMA's Email Marketing Council, welcomed the system, saying it would "force email marketers away from the 'scattergun' approach to mass broadcast and encourage them to use best practice".
"Sending email based on data insight such as previous purchase behaviour or customer profile will increase their relevance and mean organisations are providing email communications that people want to interact with. The reward for this will be better inbox positioning with less competition," he said.
As one of the behaviours it will pick up on is the tendency for the account holder to reply to a message, marketing emails – especially those sent from "do not reply" email accounts – will be at a disadvantage. It will also deprioritise emails that are routinely deleted without being read.
Elliot Ross, senior creative designer at e-Dialog London, said: "The key to getting into the priority inbox is relevance. The user is now actively teaching filters what they want to read, so every mailing should be as useful and engaging as possible.
"This means segregating your lists, following design and HTML best practice and cutting out irrelevant ‘blanket blasts’ to everyone. It might even mean mailing people less sometimes."
He feels, however, that marketers should not see the advent of ‘smarter’ inboxes as necessarily being a bad thing.
"Bear in mind that whilst the user will check the priority email first, in this folder they will be scanning things quickly and looking for things to act upon. The users mind state once they come to read the regular inbox afterwards may be easier to engage with for some marketers," Ross said.