Gmail Changes' Effects on MarketersGoogle has gone nuclear on email marketers in 2013. In May, it shuffled promotional emails into a separate tab in Gmail inboxes. Now it has now taken away a key tracking mechanism marketers have traditionally leaned on. 

Earlier this month, Epsilon released a study that concluded that tabbed inboxes are negatively impacting the ways consumers engage with brands in their Gmail inboxes. This week, CMSWire talked to Loren McDonald, vice president of industry relations at Silverpop, a digital marketing technology provider, about Google's decision to open images by default, another potential blow to marketers. 

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Marketers have long been able to track email opens using images. And they continue to do so in many cases. Images are still turned off by default in email clients other than Gmail and marketers can track when those images are opened.

But what about popular Gmail, now that Google has turned images on by default? There are two things to consider, McDonald said.

  • First, open rates are a very imperfect measure for marketers to use, especially now. Why? Because open rates will suddenly appear to be going up because all those images that previously had not been getting clicked are now opening by default. That is going to cause some reporting headaches for some marketers.
  • Second, Google will no longer be passing along detailed information about who opens those messages. Marketers will no longer get that granular data that was generated when people opened images, including device info and location information.

Some marketers will see this as a loss of potentially important demographic information, McDonald said. But not all of them. Most of Silverpop's clients don't target based on those metrics, so it won't be as big of a problem for them.

For some of Silverpop's technology partners, however, it is a bigger deal. Multivariate testing with images will become more difficult, McDonald said. So will time based promotions. Imagine an email announcing a promotion that will expire in three days. In the past, there may have been a little dynamic counter or clock image in the email that updated when the email was opened a second time. With Google caching the images, the initial image will be the only one that shows up.