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Inbox, the new app for Gmail, was launched by Google in late 2014. Originally an invite-only app, it was the first update to the nearly 10 year old Gmail. Lucky for us, the app is now open to anyone with a Gmail address, so let’s talk about what this means for email marketers around the world.

Key features

The pioneering concept takes best-practice ideas from features like Google Now (e.g. swiping ‘card’ style layouts) and inspiration from Eric Schmidt’s rule of ‘be responsive’ for email – that is to say, respond to emails quickly and set yourself reminders. Inbox is currently competing with the likes iOS app Mailbox – owned by Dropbox – and is constantly looking to improve upon its ease of use. Here are a few key features worth noting:

Grouping / Bundles

There are several key features of Inbox, making it a highly desirable app for Gmail users. All emails are bundled by date and grouped into the following categories: purchases, finance, social, updates, forums, promos. Because of this feature, brand promotions will likely fall into the ‘Promo’ bundle, making email marketing much harder for brands.

Bundles float freely in a user’s Inbox, which is an improvement on the way Gmail groups emails into tabs as it is very easy for users to ignore tabs. In Gmail, promo emails aren’t immediately obvious in the main inbox screen because the user first needs to open the group tab. Whereas, in Inbox, the level of prominence given to promotions depends on how the recipient has interacted with the promo previously. For example, if they weren’t engaged before, promotions will be de-prioritised; if they were engaged, bundled promos will be nice and prominent


Inbox now shows users the most important info available (e.g. flight status, purchase confirmations, attachments) at a glance by creating preview cards that contain the pertinent information. On account of this Highlights feature, users can see and cycle through images/video without even opening an email. Inbox also allows flexibility for the user as it enables them to create their own highlights by ‘pinning’ an email.

Snoozing & reminders

Inbox has created a snoozing feature, helping to prioritise messages, In addition to snoozing, users can set reminders for themselves. This can prompt them to respond to emails that they have otherwise put off. What’s more, users can set location-dependent reminders (only triggered when they reach a certain proximity).


Google have completely focused on the mobile experience, acknowledging that this is the main place that users view and respond to their emails. Users can swipe to snooze, archive or delete emails within Inbox but unlike Gmail, all replies are handle in a single screen which can definitely be seen as a big improvement for the user.

Adapting to change

It was important that Google listened to what their users wanted when they designed Inbox due to the fact that there had been very little updates to Gmail in over a decade. What do these changes mean for brands trying to target consumer though? And how can brands ensure that they can overcome the obstacles presented by Inbox?

Keep it personal

Google will be scanning emails and if it picks up on any generic language within an email, it is likely that that will be bundled with other promotions.

Brands must focus on the personalisation of emails, making sure that that more personal language is used. In order to engage the user language must sound less like an advertisement and more like an email from a friend or colleagues.

Spare the links

Inbox tries to filter friend emails from company/brand emails and, in order to do that, it monitors the language used. It looks at the quantity of links and images in an email, as well as the placement of them. A link or two is, of course, common practice in personal emails but 15 links to different pages of the same website likely indicates that the email is a promotion.

Ask for help

Inbox is keen to serve its users; it wants to know what areas can be tailored and improved. It allows users to create their own rules around how emails should be grouped. Brands should consider linking to the relevant Google page with instructions on how the user can move the email away from the promo bundle and ensure it always show up in their main inbox. The Inbox app will then start to learn which emails the user like to see grouped together.

Break it down

Inbox is a very sophisticated platform. Therefore, brands need to be equally as sophisticated in overcoming any obstacles that Inbox poses. Brands should look at building a separate email list for those with Inbox by Google and those with standard mail clients. In order to do this, brands can include ‘Click Here if you want emails that have been optimised for Inbox by Google’ within the email. This will also allow the sender to take advantage of key features like Highlights (where we know attachment previews will show up) for those that use Inbox.

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