Hey! Read this Blog Post! – Learning to Like Gmail Tabs

by Heather Keroes

If you use Gmail as your email service provider, you’re probably accustomed to having one main inbox for all of your emails (except the Spam folder, of course).  But now, things are a bit different.


The image above is the new norm on Gmail, which has revamped its inbox into several tabs – Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums.  To put it simply, Gmail is now sorting through all of your emails and organizing them by specific categories.  For example, an email from my Facebook account would automatically be sorted under the Social tab, instead of Primary.  By doing so, Gmail is not only deciding where you see each email, but also, it is determining which emails you see first.

The tabs are not mandatory.  And while I do prefer to sort through my emails and organize them myself, the new feature is starting to grow on me.  I’m not going to use this blog post to explain my likes and dislikes of each tab, but rather, to focus on one in particular – Promotions.

Have you ever signed up to receive a company newsletter?  If so, you’ll most likely find it filed under Promotions.  When Gmail’s Promotions tab “switched on,” many marketers jumpstarted consumer email campaigns, encouraging and (in some cases) pleading with their email databases to not keep them filed under Promotions.  Since, thanks to Gmail, this filing process is automatic, the consumer must make this change manually.


As a Macy’s subscriber, I received the eBlast pictured above.  There was no doubt that Macy’s wanted me to move them to my Primary tab.  Perhaps it was all of the exclamation points or perhaps it was the model with a Macy’s-branded megaphone … but in any case, Macy’s was clearly unhappy with the prospect of being relegated to Promotions.

At first, I found the process of having to check several tabs for new emails annoying.  If I signed up for promotional eBlasts, that meant I wanted to see them … right?  I was especially perturbed when emails from the Public Relations Society of America (of which, I am a member) and other organizations were also deemed as promotions.  This did not make me happy, but it was easy to rectify the issue by following the instructions Macy’s shared with me.

And do you know what I’ve realized?  I actually pay more attention to several emails, now that they’re filed under Promotions.  I can’t fault marketers for wanting real estate in the Primary tab, but I’m starting to like the new system.  Using Macy’s as my example again (I come from a family of lifelong Macy’s shoppers), I find myself paying more attention to their emails and not simply deleting or skipping over them right away.  Strange, isn’t it?

4 Responses to Hey! Read this Blog Post! – Learning to Like Gmail Tabs

  1. Amanda Forbes Mestdagh says:

    Heather, You bring up a great point. I too use Gmail for my personal email and have come to enjoy the tabs. I hadn’t thought about it until I saw your post yesterday, but I have to agree. I find that I pay more attention to the promotional emails and newsletters I subscribe to with this structure – just as you mentioned. If these promotions were delivered to the primary tab, as so many retailers want, I would be more inclined to delete them without a glance because I simply wouldn’t have the time or be in the correct frame of mind. It would be interesting to learn more about the consumer research that Google conducted to come up with such a structural change – and really an adoption to a pre-existing consumer mindset. Maybe this element was here all along, but visually and systematically they’ve designed a platform that’s more intuitive to what I, as a consumer, want to read. Very cool.

    I hope Macy’s and other are paying attention to your post. 🙂 Sort of reminds me of the small business posts on Facebook I saw after its algorithm change for the newsfeed, right?

    I might just have to try implementing some filtering for professional newsletters that are emailed to me at work. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Heather Keroes says:

    Thanks, Amanda. I would also love to see the research behind the change. I doubt that Google’s goal is to alienate marketers (who spend money on ads). As you said, sometimes you just need to be in the correct frame of mind to read certain emails … and now you can pick and choose based on the tabs. Believe it or not, sometimes I want to read an email from Macy’s, Zappos, etc. It’s definitely worth some time to play around with the filtering. I will say that I haven’t seen as many emails lately asking me to move a brand from “Promotions” to “Primary.” Either these brands are done with their push or they’re starting to see some kind of benefit. Very curious.

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