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How GMail’s Tabbed Inbox Changes Startup’s Mobile Marketing Strategies (tomtunguz.com)
27 points by ttunguz 1370 days ago | hide | past | web | 23 comments | favorite



Ugh, I absolutely detest the attitude on display here.. After a user signs up, they get an email? Okay, that's great. Most people expect/want a confirmation. But a few days later? A month later? If they haven't signed in? No, fuck you. Stop spamming me with your stupid Sales Funnel bullshit marketing emails. If your startup requires spamming your users in order to keep them coming back, then guess what? Your product/service isn't good enough.

This article is nothing more than a diatribe by a spammer who's upset that Gmail's new feature makes it harder to get his spam into my inbox.

And let me preempt the CEO of a startup who's sure to reply, telling me that THEIR product is good, and that THEIR users actually want to read the spam. Everyone thinks their special-snowflake emails are the exception, but that's almost universally delusional.

If you're sending more than a single confirmation email that the user has not EXPLICITLY requested then you are part of the problem.


I personally agree with your sentiment, but if it didn't work no one would do it. Obviously there are people out there that do not think like you do. A lot of them.

Why else would a company waste time and money on life cycle emails if they didn't work?

They have a nonzero rate of return. You are hating the player, and not the game. Humans are error prone, forgetful beings. An email reminder can often times engage them into something they intended to do but simply forgot, or became too busy to complete. In this act of reminding there is also a non zero rate of pissing off end users. The advantages obviously outweigh the disadvantages or it wouldn't be done.

I shrug and move on. There will always be an endless cycle of advertising and marketing surrounding you. The entirety of the economy depends upon getting you to exchange currency for productivity.


The problem is the externalities. It's the same as with spam. Emailing 1000 recipients is free, and there might be 1% that actually appreciates the email. However, there are 990 recipients to whom it is an annoyance. The net effect is that the startup causes more annoyance than value, but it does not need to bear the costs.


Just because it works doesn't mean you should do it, or that anyone appreciates it.


Exactly. I read this:

> Today, lifecycle emails are the state-of-the-art in customer engagement. Immediately after a user signs up, they receive an email. A few days after creating an account, they receive another email. A week later, email; then a month later, email; if they haven’t logged in, email.

And thought this article was going to be about how annoying these spammy emails were. Nope, quite the opposite.


But if you don't want to get these can't you just unsubscribe?


Sure, but it's extra effort on your part, and there's no easy way to unsubscribe in advance - after registering for a service, should I go to the settings panel (if it exists), and dig through and make sure that I've unchecked every "hassle me randomly" box?


What I've found is that some companies will invent whole new mailing lists which are opt-out so you get the spam mail and have to log on to the site to unsubscribe. It's like playing Whac-A-Mole but for email.


At first I was a huge proponent of these approaches when they first started because they got me to engage more with services I found valuable, but then it got to the point where it became absurd and lost value for all sites and now I spend time implementing filters, unsubscribing or managing settings upon the first marketing funnel type email, or going back and bulk deleting them after the fact.

The CAN-SPAM act really needs to be updated to take into account a lot of this BS or at the very least some of the mail providers should provide more protection from this. Google has gone a step in the right direction in Gmail.

One rule I would love is that newsletters are legally required to be opt-in, never opt-out or worse yet, no option at all given. Asking users to set their email settings upon signup would be another good one. Forcing companies to add this step to their signup flow would require them to think wisely about how many dozens of types of emails they are going to try to inundate their users with, and only choose those that really matter for the user to get utility from their product/service.

Long term these tactics actually hurt the entire ecosystem because users become wary of the consequences of trying out for a service. TBH I'm getting to the point where I want the signup page to show that they make available a delete account page before I sign up. I don't like the fact that when I stop using a service that my information ends up sitting on their servers for all eternity. It should delete all information within reason and anonymize any information which has been recorded in places where deleting it will degrade the service for other users.


Any app giving me a push notification saying "You haven't used this app in 10 days! Want to use it now?" will be uninstalled forthwith, and downrated on the Android Market.

Also, aren't there some guidelines for what sort of stuff push notifications can be used for? This would basically seem to fall under advertisement (self-advertisement, I guess).


What bothers me the most about the discussion from marketers regarding the new tabbed inbox is the sense of entitlement, as if they should have some sort of right to not only bother me with pointless emails to try to lure me back, but also expect me to return to their app/service (after I've opened their email and brought their funnel full circle, of course).

You read some of these outcries from marketers, and you'd think that Gmail decided to stuff all of these emails in the spam folder, never to be seen by anyone, ever. I'm speaking anecdotally here, but when I'm checking mail now I always tab through each inbox and review my new mail in each one. It's not as if the "promotions" or "social" inboxes have been blacklisted, I just tend to not care about the messages that end up in them (but I wouldn't care about them if they ended up in my primary inbox, either)

When I actually come across an email that catches my attention from a service I find valuable, what do I do? I open it (yes, even when its in the lowly "promotions" inbox). That doesn't happen too often though, because as is astutely pointed out, most of them are bullshit emails from services that I don't care about. Again, that's just my own perspective and I'm sure there is data to suggest lower open rates/conversions etc. since the UI change, but at the end of the day, the premise remains the same. Send me a relevant email that actually captures my attention, and I will open it (regardless of what inbox it falls into).


I go slightly further that there's a few companies I actually want to see the Promotions/Updates from, so I drag the email to my Primary tab and those emails will forever show up there.

I as the user, am in control.

And I thank Google for for ranking my email for me, so I don't half to.

BTW, Gmail already had the concept of "Important" email that one could filter their entire inbox by, which I used a lot. While it's not as in your face as the tabs, it had the same results.


Businesses need to use push notifications with caution and not with the same intensity they blast out email, though. It's far more disruptive. Thus, nothing annoys me off faster than a marketing-based push notification...my phone is my sacred time and lifelink.

App Uninstall.


If we start with the premise that there are more people accessing email from a mobile device then we have to take into account how they're doing that.

I have the Gmail app, iPhone's built-in Mail app, and Mailbox app. The only one of them that filters my email using the new Gmail tab structure is the Gmail app (which is not my primary mail app).

This also doesn't take into account that there are still thousands of businesses that are using Outlook to access their Gmail. B2B operations won't have to deal with the Gmail filtering as much.

There's no question that the new tab system has SOME impact but I don't think we can simply accept the numbers in the article as fact in all cases.


If it means that I stop getting those pseudo-casual emails that are apparently the preferred way to promote continued engagement or to pull me back in when I've been away for 'too long', I'm all for it.


This. Twitter is atrocious for this crap.


For me it seems simple: if I stop using a service, it's because it didn't provide value to me. Even if I click a link in a reminder email out of curiosity - that doesn't change the fundamental problem.

I'd be interested to see some numbers on the long-term effectiveness of such campaigns, instead of the short-term spike in return visits


So is Facebook.


Or, you could focus on creating a great service instead of being an ass.


Agreed on this. I'd also add a couple of things - first, deeplinking is a partial solution that a ton of (even really sophisticated) products have yet to adopt (I'm looking at you LinkedIn). Second, push notifications for iOS are still a massive pain to implement. I see sophisticated dev teams struggle getting this set up all the time. Layer to that all the different ways people use emails (marketing emails, lifecycle emails, transactional emails etc) and try to turn these systems into generating push messages, at scale, and you have an even bigger challenge. Times will get tougher before they get better.

EDIT: Focused on iOS because, as of today, that's still where the money is. From what I understand setting push notifications up for Android is far more straightforward.


Nothing says "uninstall me" like an uninvited push notification.


To me, this is part of Google's long-term strategy.

Today: user signs up with website, website has access to user via email, Google is out-of-the-loop except to serve ads to gmail users only

Future: user signs up with website, website no longer has access to user via email, website has to pay Google to advertise to searchers

This will absolutely have an impact on AdWords and AdSense.


Somewhat tangential, but LinkedIn has turned to email to increase engagement with such desperation that I am starting to short the future of the company.

"SomeRandomPerson has endorsed you. Click here to find out what they endorsed."

etc. It is a invirtuous cycle of trying to essentially trick people into doing things that trigger these emails for other people (recall Classmates.com being an earlier crash-into-Earth example of this pattern). They're trying, desperately, to fight the fact that many people simply have no need to use the service with any regularity at all, so it becomes gaming about endorsements.




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