Gmail Opens Decrease by 18 Percent, Jury Out on Tabs

gmail tabs unread

You can understand why small business owners and other email marketers get worried about email opens. After all, if a person never opens your email, they never see your great offer. No open, no sale.

And you can definitely see why these same people freaked out when Gmail introduced a new tab format to its inbox. Essentially, promotional emails were placed in a completely different tab or archived immediately, perhaps not to be read until much later.

So, it’s no surprise that conclusions could be drawn when an email analytics firm like Litmus says it has seen an 18 percent decrease in Gmail opens in the last three months.

No Rush to Judgment

But wait. There are a few things to remember before making any assumptions.

First, only about 7.75 percent of this decrease happened since May 29 when the new tabs were introduced.

Second, only about 19 percent of Gmails are actually opened in a Gmail account. Other users may open Gmail in Outlook, Apple Mail or mobile devices which may or may not support tabs, said Litmus marketing director Justine Jordan.

Add to that the fact that Gmail opens have fluctuated a bit in the past, from as low as 2.9 percent to as high as 5 percent. Though the trend has generally been upward, this could simply be another fluctuation.

As low as those numbers sound, opens can still be an excellent opportunity to build a customer relationship or make a sale.

The Size of Your Gmail Customer Base

In the end, Jordan observes, remember that Gmail opens only represent about 4 percent of total email opens and less than 41 percent of those occur in an account that supports tabs.

So, while there are certainly steps you can take in your email marketing strategy to compensate for the new tab fo, you may want to ask yourself how many Gmail customers you really have on your list.

Image: Wikipedia/Google


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

9 Reactions
  1. I think it has something to do with Gmail’s feature where you can prioritize the emails you want to read. I, for example, only read emails from my clients or people who are important to me. I always look for the yellow arrow. If it’s not present, I ignore it. I think this helped in fighting spam but it has also been a hindrance to email marketers.

  2. It’s still a bit early to identify the new tab feature as the culprit here. Whether the tab feature was implemented or otherwise, most of people’s emails still go through Gmail and they always have reasons to open them. After all, that’s how they register their accounts and subscribe to newsletters in the first place.

  3. I use SquadMail to receive all of my automated emails which has completely uncluttered my inbox and works great. Basically, the service works like Dropbox for email and lets you share synchronized gmail labels with others.

    Additionally, each label gets its own email address ( which I used to sign up for newsletters, new web apps and my social networks. So no, whenever some favourites a tweet of mine or the like, the email notification goes straight to one of my labels and my inbox is purely for what its supposed to be: personal emails from people I care about.

  4. We built a free tool for businesses that allows them to see which Gmail tabs their marketing e-mails are going into and see the Read Rates for their mail in each tab.

    Pretty interesting results!

  5. I think my Inbox is much better organized since Tabs were introduced. And, if anything, I’m more likely to keep a promotional email now than I was then.

    I can look at deals I get for takeout pizzas or new sneakers when I’m ready for them. Typically in the past, I would usually just delete these if I wasn’t in the market for them when they were received.

    • Martin Lindeskog

      Joshua: I agree with your comment. The tab system has uncluttered my mind a bit and I can now concentrate on the primary inbox with urgent and important (see the Eisenhower matrix) email messages.

  6. No matter who says what, this new Gmail tab feature is really going to affect your marketing goal and will lower the sales. Previously some way or the other people used to see the promo emails from different companies or sites. But after this new Gmail email archiving feature people will simply ignore any promotional emails they get. The best one can do now is to update those customers via Facebook and Twitter platforms on a regular basis.

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