Since Google made changes to Gmail on July 16, there has been quite a buzz about the new look, especially as it relates to email marketers — and with good reason, as marketing emails are no longer in the primary inbox. Instead, they are filed into a separate “Promotions” tab, which falls after the new “Social” tab. Additionally, mobile users only see the primary tab when they access their Gmail accounts. Users must learn how to navigate to other tabs to access their social and promotional emails (or set up permissions for certain emails to be directed into the primary inbox). This change has caused immediate worry, leading to chatter about this move potentially causing the death of email marketing.

While it certainly does not make email marketing easier for retailers, I disagree with the notion that Gmail has killed this effective marketing channel. Here’s why: if you deliver personalized emails that address the recipient’s individual interests and tastes, the odds are in your favor that they will continue to open them, even if they’re required to go to the promotions tab. As I have cited before, 78 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from a retailer again if that retailer provided them with offers targeted to their interests, wants or needs (according to a recent Infosys survey). Sure, there might be a drop-off in the short term as consumers get used to the change, but emails that deliver real consumer value will not remain unopened. As Cynthia Boris from Marketing Pilgrim notes, her favorite emails are the branded coupons she receives for her birthday. That’s real value delivered to her via email that she will not ignore.

I think Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels sums it up nicely when she tells Smart Company:

Email is an extremely effective marketing channel if used properly. It’s not on the wane at all. But a lot of businesses don’t do it very well. They don’t send useful, targeted information, they don’t segment their list properly, or they don’t set up proper email campaigns. But to be honest, businesses that are using their email marketing poorly are probably having their emails junked already, so this change should have little impact on them.

While there will definitely be some hiccups along the way caused by this change, at the end of the day, email marketing best practices remain the same: give customers what they want (personalization) and they will respond.

(btw, here is another good take on this issue by DM Confidential. Your truly is quoted….)