Gmail Opens Drop 18%: Are Tabs to Blame?

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Over the past few months we’ve heard a lot of buzz surrounding the release of Outlook.com and Gmail’s new tabbed inbox. It’s likely that we’ve seen the extent of any changes to Outlook.com opens for now, but we’ve been keeping a close eye on Gmail. Everyone’s been asking if the new tabbed inbox will have a negative impact on email opens.

Gmail opens have been in constant flux since 2011, seeing as low as 2.9% opens and as high as 5%. Overall, there’s been a positive trendline over time, with about a 21% change in the last 24 months. However, looking at just the past year, Gmail opens have decreased 13% since July 2012, and 18% in in the past three months.

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Google announced their new tabbed inbox on May 29th and since then, we’ve seen a 7.75% decrease in Gmail opens, with numbers in the 3% range for the first time after more than a year of figures at or above 4%.

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This may be evidence that Tabs are impacting Gmail opens, or just another blip on the radar.

Another data point to consider is where Gmail users actually open their email. Gmail users can open their email in any email client, using programs like Outlook, Apple Mail or mobile devices. And not all these environments support the tabbed interface.

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Since the tabbed inbox is only present in the Gmail webmail client and official Gmail apps for iOS and Android, I wondered how many people were actually using those clients to read their Gmail. If the majority of Gmail opens aren’t occurring in the official tab-supporting clients themselves, we may not have much to be concerned about. After analyzing nearly 5 million opens made with Email Analytics, we could see which email clients users with @gmail.com addresses were using to open their mail, and deduce how many are using a tab-supported inbox. Here’s what we found:

  • A whopping 66% of Gmail opens occur on mobile devices, with only 19% opened in a web browser. The remaining 15% of Gmail opens occur on desktop email clients.
  • The #1 email client for Gmail users is the iPhone’s built-in mail program, with 34% of all Gmail opens.
  • Android is #2 with 20% of opens, followed by the Gmail webmail interface at 19%.

Frankly, I was shocked to see that only 19% of Gmail opens actually occur in Gmail.

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To put things in even greater perspective, Gmail opens only account for about 4% of total email opens, and less than half (41%) of those opens are occurring in email clients that support Gmail tabs.

So while Gmail opens are slightly down, it may be too early to tell if tabs are to blame.

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