All-clear: Tabbed Gmail doesn’t affect (my) click rates. What about yours?

Did you notice some alarmism lately? Gmail introduced a new inbox, which auto-sorts emails into tabs. Marketers fear, their emails become less visible and response rates drop now that they are filed under a promotions tab. After all, Gmail is one of the two biggest email providers. (The other one is good old

So… do those marketers have a reasonable concern?

A study from a MailChimp employee, who looked at 1.5 billion emails, seems to confirm this. According to the figures released, open rates have been lower 3 consecutive weeks after Gmail introduced the new inbox compared to 15 weeks before, suggesting a huge impact!

However, I have my doubts. I asked the newsletter subscribers of this blog what they think: Will tabs make emails to Gmail users less efficient? Their answers have been somewhat divided – 3:2 no:yes. There’s no clear majority.

Luckily, email marketing success is highly measurable…

7 months of data

What do the performance indicators tell us? Let’s have a look at how click rates developed over time:


The list grew nicely. Each month had a larger rectangle area than the preceding one. Gmail is by far the most important mail provider. However, click rates dropped, as indicated by the lighter green to the right. The decrease from January to July affects all three email providers.

Here is another representation of the data:


According to the figure above, response rates at Gmail were have been higher before they introduced the tabbed inbox. That’s similar to what MailChimp found out. However, it does not seem like the new tabbed Gmail pulled them down. In fact, they dropped before the announcement, rather suggesting seasonal effects, list fatigue, or deliverability problems. (Note the two Hotmail and Yahoo! bumps in May.)

The sprinkled red dots represent the actual Gmail click rates. As you can see, there is much variance in the data. Unique click rates ranged from 5.63% to 19.57%. It’s all just the regular newsletter, which goes out every Friday (subscribe). Afaik, Gmail classifies it as promotional, although it doesn’t promote any business.

As a side note, the overall unique click rates of the newsletter are not that volatile. The average unique click rate across all email providers, most of which are corporate accounts, has always been about 11%:



The new tabbed Gmail is there and we got to deal with it. It’s not clear, yet, if it impacts response rates negatively in the long run. So far, so good.

However, one should monitor the numbers. Instead of relying on aggregated benchmarks from third parties, better look into your own data. Do they reveal problems, like transactional emails that are misclassified as promotions? Then try letting your subscribers move those messages to their primary tab.

A good starting point would be the segment of your most engaged gmail users. If you get those fans of yours to report the misclassification to Gmail, maybe the model adapts and applies a correction to all emails? One can only speculate. But it’s worth a try.

What has your tabbed-Gmail experience been so far? I’m curious.

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