New Gmail promotions tab means special retailer coupons

Gmail's latest redesign has retailers to scrambling to keep their promotions front and center in customers' inboxes. Here's how you can benefit. 

Mike Blake/Reuters/File
A Google logo is seen at a Best Buy electronics store in this file photo illustration taken in Encinitas, Calif., in April. In response to Gmail's new layout, many retailers are asking their customers to move their promotional coupons into their primary inboxes.

Technology companies are always trying to improve their products and get a leg up on competitors; frequently such competition results in finer, nuanced tools and products for the consumer, as is the case with the latest iteration of Gmail, in which incoming emails are automatically grouped into three tabs: "Primary," "Social," and "Promotions." But while consumers may herald these new default organizational tools, some retailers and marketing gurus are becoming worried, and as a result, attentive shoppers stand to profit.

Gmail's Promotions Tab Causes Retail Marketing Hysteria

The Gmail redesign lets users customize tabs to their liking. But by default, those pesky notification emails from Facebook and Twitter will fall under the "Social" tab, and newsletters and emails from retailers, discount sites, and the like will show up under the "Promotions" tab. If you decide you'd rather get messages from LivingSocial, Kohl's, or Facebook in your primary inbox, you can simply drag an email into the primary tab.

While the new design has rolled out gradually, it's making waves in marketing departments across the country. Companies are worried that being out of sight really will put them out of mind for consumers; they worry that if subscribers don't see those emails in their regular inboxes, customers will stop reading them and stop shopping their sales.

Many companies, from newegg to Kate Spade, are taking the proactive route asking their readers to keep retail emails front and center in primary inboxes, and not hidden away under promotions tabs. And while in theory you could just simply click the promotions tab and browse through a daily blast of sales and coupons, early research conducted by MailChimp indicates that users might not actually do so with the same regularity as before. MailChimp compared around 1.5 billion emails delivered to Gmail addresses in six weeks during the introduction of the new tabs. They found that open rates dropped from 13% to 13.5% to a steady 12.5% after the redesign. A 1% drop may seem like a small percentage, but it is a big deal to advertisers, who will likely alter their mail strategy to fix this differential.

User Optimization: Organization Is Key, Take Advantage of Special Promos

For Gmail users who want to make the most of a prioritized and organized inbox, there are a few different ways to customize your setup. First, if you're not thrilled with certain marketing emails being filtered out, you can drag an example of one to the primary tab, indicating to Gmail that you would prefer emails from that account to appear in the main inbox. Or you can completely do away with any and all tabs and revert to the old layout via the settings menu.

Either way, you will want to keep an eye on the promotional emails you've subscribed to, especially in the near future. Google plans to let users keep deciding how they want to organize their updated inboxes, and recently told marketers that there's nothing they can do about the "black hole" promotions tab. Surely this has made at least a few companies anxious about the fate of their mass emails — and shoppers might stand to benefit from their scrambling. For example, Gap recently sent an email to tabbed Gmail users offering a 30% off coupon for moving Gap messages from under the promotions tab to their primary inbox.

Since the updated version of Gmail is still in its infancy, we will likely see more emails like the one from Gap being delivered. To remain up to date on your retailer subscriptions and daily deals, you'll either have to check the promotions tab regularly or move select stores' emails over to your primary inbox. Of course, you could always re-sort your emails back to the promotions tab after the initial panic phase subsides and deals become less frequent. With the new Gmail, it really is up to you.

Angela Colley is a contributor to, where this article first appeared. 

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