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Changes to Gmail have some travel marketers running scared, fearful that emails to their customers will end up under a new and dreaded “Promotions” tab, which feels a little spam-like.

Google is well into a global rollout of the changes, which transform Gmail from featuring one catch-all inbox to dividing incoming emails into three categories: Primary, Social, and Promotions. (There’s still a Spam category, too, which is unchanged.)

Travel marketers have found that some of their newsletters, surveys, deal offers, coupons, and even calls-to-action — such as informing customers about an app update — may be falling under the Promotions tab. And that means their customers will have to consciously navigate to and peruse the Promotions tab to find an email that previously was readily visible among all other emails.

Alternately, users can find the email from a certain company under the Promotions category, drag that “conversation” to the Primary category, and then Gmail is geared to remember that the user wants to view future emails of that type from that company under the Primary tab.

“This change raises the stakes for travel marketers,” says Drew Patterson, CEO of Room 77, adding that companies face the challenge of building heightened trust from their customers as information overload makes email marketing ever-more competitive.

The impact of the changes has been mixed, says Ginny Soskey, who handles inbound marketing for Hubspot.

Soskey notes that MailChimp reported a small drop in open rates among its customers while Hubspot claims that the changes have had a positive effect among its clients — an average of a 58.9% additional email opens and 63% more unique email opens in June compared with May, when Google started rolling out the changes to Gmail.

There are a couple of ways to view the fact that Gmail users initially, at least, will have to open the Promotions tab to find some of your company’s emails.

On the one hand, they may never view your email if it lands under the Promotions tab and they choose not to go hunting for it.

Others see it as potentially making Gmail users more engaged with your company.

“Gmail users have the potential to be more engaged with emails in a certain tab once they open the tab,” Soskey says. “They are actively seeking out that type of message instead of wading through an endless firehose of emails in the main inbox. Plus, you’re going to have to compete with emails from your subscribers’ loved ones [under the Primary category] and notifications from social networks [under the Social tab].”

Best Practices

A Google spokesperson tells Skift there are two things to keep in mind about the changes:

  • Don’t mix categories of content in your company’s emails. An email with news about your company shouldn’t also contain a coupon or deal offer, for example.
  • Ensure that varied types of emails come from different senders at the company so that they don’t all get thrown into one bucket, i.e. Promotions.

Soskey of Hubspot also has some pointers:

  • A company may choose to do nothing if email-open rates happen to be increasing. “If people are still picking out your emails and engaging with them, so celebrate,” Soskey says.
  • Monitor analytics to see if open and clicks are dropping or increasing.
  • If Gmail open rates and clicks decline, then instruct your customers to select the Promotions tab, and then have them choose to put that email from your company in the Primary tab.
  • Analyze the content of your emails. “Take a hard look at the content of your emails to see if it’s really content that your subscribers would love,” Soskey says. “Examine subject lines, sender names, content of the email, personalization features, and calls-to-action (among other email elements) to see if any could be improved.”
  • Test the changes you made “to see if any changes to those elements can move the needle on open rates and clicks,” Soskey says.
  • Make any decisions based on your own data, and not necessarily trends you are hearing about in the market.

Despite the increases in open rates and clicks that Hubspot claims its clients have experienced, Soskey acknowledges that “this is definitely a tricky curveball that Google has thrown our way, but it’s not the end of email marketing. People will always want to hear from companies they love — it’s just up to us to make sure we’re creating and sending lovable content their way.”

Otherwise that content could end up in the depths of the Promotions tab.

Photo Credit: A new Promotions tab in Gmail has travel marketers fearing that their newsletters may never even be seen by their customers. Google