Gmail has recently switched on its new tab based interface. As a general rule – when the leading email provider changes something so signifiant in its interface, it must be somewhat important. On one hand users get a cleaner, marketing free first view of their inbox. On the other hand, and marketers should really be worried about this – users get a cleaner, marketing free, first view of their inbox.
What are the changes in Gmail’s tabbed interface?
First and foremost Gmail changed the stream – like view of incoming email to a tabbed organizer, that seems to organize individual emails pretty well into 5 main categories:
Primary – usually email from individuals
Social – emails focused on social media activity
Promotions – marketing messages from brands you’ve subscribed to
Updates – usually transactional emails such as internal messages notifications, registration confirmation and others
Forums – notifications from forums or groups you’ve subscribed to
Of course – as any automated organizer system, Gmail’s tabbed interface may sometimes be wrong. Users can now move incoming emails from one tab to another and “teach” Gmail where to put incoming mail.
Why is the tabbed interface so important to Google and Marketers ?
Google, through its AdWords advertising program and contextual traffic sends much of the qualified traffic to online stores and other online marketers. It is so good at generating qualified traffic that it’s only real competitor so far is email marketing.
As you probably know – Google is all about advertising. Its main revenue source comes from AdWords and as such the “Do no evil” company needs to protect its cash cow.
Splitting the screen will lower email open rate and, in turn , email conversion rates. Soon enough marketers will find that in order to reach their established customer database they will need to improve marketing efforts in order to move their company emails from the dreaded “promotions” tab to “primary” by the incentivized will of their subscribers.
Is the tabbed inbox going to change email marketing?
Probably. What I definitely know is that online retailers will need to adapt to this change or risk cutting off one of their most profitable traffic sources.
Another thing that I find obvious is that this type of interface change will soon be adopted by all major email providers such as Hotmail or Yahoo Mail and than we will see the real impact this change had.
David Ogilvy famously said “The customer is not an idiot. She is your wife.” back when advertising was less about media budgets and more about customer understanding and providing ads that use the type of message your customer actually wants to hear.
Ogilvy was also famous for his approach on advertising. When all others were ignoring research he took an almost religious approach in discovering customer insights so that his ads can deliver information rather than boring or obnoxious advertising.
Years later the world has changed. 2012 meant an increase of 21.1% in global ecommerce. The total ecommerce sales have reached $1 trillion for the first time in history and are still going strong, according to eMarketer.
The revolution is here and both retailers and customers have started looking more careful into online shopping. Yet again we find customers are still not being treated as they should be. In the world of bits and code lines we started expecting users to act like robots. Click here! If this than that! Choose now! Rather mechanic, don’t you think? That can improve and below you will find 3 tips on how to improve your customers’ experience.
1. Be relevant
Customers still like offline stores better than online stores. Why? Basically they are more accustomed with this type of shopping experience. They’ve done this all their life and feel better about shopping offline. But we, as marketers and retailers, know that “classic retail” is just as artificial as online retail. Of course there are people around doing the same thing, you have the store associate there to help when in need but most of all you have relevant merchandise and relevant stores.
How often had you walked in a supermarket only to buy groceries and had one of the sales people jump in front of you yelling they have a 70 percent discount on a certain brand of TVs? Well you hadn’t – that would be creepy but it does happen all the time in online stores, especially those dealing with a certain not so smart selection of merchandise.
We once had a customer that dealt in fashion. They had huge success online and thought about expanding to other areas. First accessories. We thought – well a nice dress is nothing without a pair of earrings to match it. Then came travel. Mmmm… fashionable people need to … travel? Next came electronics, household appliances which was weird enough for fashion retail but the “piece de resistance” hit the fan when we noticed, standing graciously underneath a beautiful pair of shoes: a jar of pickles. On discount.
Needless to say that is NOT the best way to stay relevant to your customers. It’s hard enough to build a brand on a single industry and unless you can magically profile users like Amazon or Facebook do, you will not be able to jump wagon to another industry.
2. Be more than Online, Offline and Mobile. Be Connected Across Channels.
In a recent study by Accenture focusing on customers’ habits of shopping seamless research showed that users feel they need to be treated the same online, in store and on mobile interfaces.
That is, of course, pretty intuitive. We believe that we have the right to be treated the same no matter where are we shopping. As customers we feel that we should be earning loyalty points for both online and offline.
As retailers and marketers though we find that connecting online and offline operations (usually treated as two separate divisions or even companies – as was the case with Walmart and Walmart.com) is a bit of a hassle. It’s not really easy integrating informational systems to serve the customers as they would like to be served. That shouldn’t stop us as 49% of customers expect seamless treatment across platform when it comes to promotions. Moreover 43% have a unified account when it comes to their favorite brand and expect to use this account to shop faster across channels.
“Webrooming” (the practice of getting information on products online and than purchasing offline) has been growing steadily, with 83% of customers reporting they purchased a product in store after previously researching it online. That’s just a little part of the changes multichannel shopping brings aboard.
3. Make it Simple
How many products does Amazon sell? Probably millions. Chances are you will be seeing a tiny fraction of those whenever you feel like shopping there. Even more – those are the products you are actually interested in. How does the company do that? It keeps tracks of your purchases, visits, ratings, and a couple of other indicators you can read about here. It then matches these options with other’s to return a sorted product list that you are most likely to enjoy and buy. Presto! Simplicity.
The thing is customers are not robots. They have a very short attention span compared to what most online retailers expect them to. They need a simple way of getting to their desired products. A couple of things you can do to improve on these are:
track users behavior and predict their purchase intentions
improve search according to semantic searches (human talk – ex. “looking for a blue, casual shirt” might return all shirts that are blue, and casual)
hide any products that are not in user’s interest area.
As a conclusion – treat your customers as human beings. They are not purchasing machines. Facts and figures are great tools but make sure you treat your customers as you would want to be treated. Our technology has evolved a lot but our minds have not.