Did Gmail Reduce Retailers’ Christmas Bounty?
Did Google, specifically Gmail, put the "bah humbug" on e-tailer’s Christmas sales? According to reports, there are some who think so.
Six months and one holiday season after relegating e-commerce e-mails to a promotional folder in users’ inboxes, results from Gmail are mixed. Early on, the Boston Globe noted retailers’ concerns that messages were being "effectively classified as junk mail by shunting them to an inbox ghetto." Concerns were expressed about fewer customers clicking on sites "because they didn’t read the e-mail promising 40 percent off."
Allegedly intended to improve service for both users and marketers, the changes also altered retailers’ ability to see who had opened ads.
The New York Times‘ technology section observed that "any tiny change that the internet giant makes has cascading effects for businesses across the web," citing concerns from a skin-care brand about people checking their junk mail folders for promotions infrequently. Flash sale sites worried that time limits would be missed.
Initially, Yesmail Interactive, MailChimp and 3DCart calculated a small, one percent, decline in the rate e-commerce e-mails were opened. It appeared Gmail users were also waiting longer to click than Yahoo and Outlook users.
Several months later, the Times reports Epsilon, Sailthru and Mailchimp have been monitoring changes, comparing clicks and purchases via Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL. Their findings weren’t uniformly discouraging. Some data showed Gmail users spending more while others showed them spending less. Epsilon’s retail customers, for example, reported reduced revenue from Gmail users. Epsilon’s SVP of digital marketing services also observed that not seeing messages meant customers weren’t reminded of brands, further reducing potential purchases.
MailChimp, which analyzed 29 billion e-mails sent over six months, found Gmail’s open and click rates declining by similar amounts of just over one percent, "both significantly larger" than Yahoo or Hotmail.
Sailthru, the Times explained, compared Thanksgiving weekend e-mail activity year over year at Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL. Black Friday findings revealed Gmail open rates declined almost 13 percent, while increasing some five percent for the other three email providers. Gmail users were more likely to spend, however, leading their VP of optimization to conclude, "Retailers will need to individually examine whether the gains in quality are enough to offset any loss in quantity from the dip in opens."
- Fewer Gmail users are opening retailers’ messages this shopping season – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
- Retailers Fight Exile From Gmail In-Boxes – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
- Retailers say Gmail treats all their messages as junk – Boston Globe (tiered sub.)
Do you think Google’s changes to Gmail had a significant impact on pre-Christmas sales? What, if anything, should retailers do in response?