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Black Friday, Email Marketing and GMail's New Inbox

It's Saturday, the day after Black Friday, and my inbox is loaded with promotions about expiring offers, extended sales, and upcoming Cyber Monday. It reminded me that this shopping holiday relies heavily on email, GMail's new format now has a very significant impact, and that I had written an unpublished, related blog post about the subject early in November... Here it is! email promotion

Much has been made about the new Gmail interface and it's implications on email delivery / readership. Gmail now organizes emails algorithmically (Primary, Social, Promotions and Updates). This effectively filters emails from brands and commerce providers into sub-folders like Promotions and Updates. And while it is consumer friendly (I much prefer it) - it has significant implications for on commercial providers.

There are some good pieces about those effects - including from MailChimp who claims that open rates across their network drooped from 13% to 12%. Litmus did a similar study and noted a 7.75% decrease in Gmail open rates.

Perhaps that is why Bonobos sent the following email over the weekend. Instead of merchandising new products or a sale - the emails's primary (and only!) purpose is to have recipients move Bonobos into the Primary inbox.

Not only is that savvy - it is proof of how important email is to merchants... and how important these interface changes can be.


Google I/O by the Numbers... Theme: Scale

Browsing the headlines is a pretty powerful and interesting way to digest Google I/O as they are driven by big, important numbers: - Google Drive : 10m users and coming to iOS / Chrome OS (TechCrunch)

- Gmail: 425m users (TechCrunch)

- Google Apps: 5m businesses and 66 of top 100 universities (TechCrunch)

- Google Chrome: 310m *active* users (TechCrunch)

- Google+: 250m users and 75m daily users (with the integration into search and mail, I still would love to understand what constitutes a true user / true usage). (TechCrunch)

- Google Play: 600k Apps, 1.5B installs/month (TechCrunch)

- Android: 400m activated devices, 1m more each day (TechCrunch)

- Google Nexus 7: $199. A price that makes them able to compete in the tablet market - as cool as Microsoft's new device is, it is rumored to be *more* expensive than the iPad. That won't work.

- Google Glasses: $1,500! Really?

More Thoughts on Facebook Messages / Facebook Email

I don't claim to be great at email... But I am *way* worse on Facebook messages.

It is embarrassing how many emails I have missed over the months... and I should get some blame for those mistakes - but the product should get at least as much. Things just get lost and it's more of a chat product than an email product. ... which wouldn't be an issue if I weren't getting so many messages via Facebook (kudos and a sign of growth / FB as indentity platform).

I have 3 inboxes now: Polaris, Gmail, Facebook. Each is equally important and very different. And each has issues. Doing email just isn't as easy as it should be =(

I've written about this before:

- Facebook Messages: Uncomfortably Somewhere Between Chat, Messages & Email. - It’s Time for Facebook to Rethink Email.

Some other quick ideas: - allow me to separate chat and email. - integrate messages into iPhone mailbox (either integration or forwarding). - pull chat into an actual chat application (desktop) and email into an email experience. Gmail does this well. Learn from it.

- biggest move & most obvious move? Really build out an email product. why not? Facebook has become more of an identity platform than a pure social network. That's a more valuable stance, by the way. Email (and my email address) are a key part of online identity. Google knows this well...

Google Adds Persistent Header, Footer to New Gmail Theme.

Persistent headers / footers have become common, hip design treatments. It of course makes sense: actionable links / content follow you throughout the page... so better navigation is always nearby & easy. If you're unfamiliar with persistent headers / footers (what I refer to them as) - they are 'toolbars' that stick to the page as you scroll. So when you begin moving down, the header sticks and usually has key navigational links and/or content on it. As an example, check out ESPN's scoreboards (here) - ESPN launched it early on and I raved about it.

Google is now applying the persistent header and footer to GMail. It's an interesting way to implement it because they have moved the core functions for the inbox and the individual message to the persistent header (archive, reply, forward, etc). And they have moved a new horizontal ad unit to the persistent footer (again, both inbox and message).

Google Unveils New Ad Units: Email-able Ads

Over the past couple days, I have been seeing the following ad units in my GMail accounts:- the top sidebar ad is prominently separated from others - it is in an entirely different treatment that includes a branded image - and it has an email icon atop

When you click the ad, it opens into a full screen unit that is essentially an email. It appears in the GMail mail format with four buttons atop the screen: Return, Save to Inbox, Forward and Dismiss.

Google describes it: "It's a new type of ad you can save to your inbox and forward on. If you dismiss the ad, you won't see it again."

It is an interesting effort because it enables the small ad unit (no different than a traditional AdWords unit) to bloom into something shareable, potentially social and much bigger (from two lines of text into an entire, rich-content experience). While that is conceptually very cool, it puts a burden on advertisers to make content that is worthwhile of sharing / keeping. I have cycled through a handful of of these email ads and have found nothing relevant to me or worthy of being shared.

Google Voice & GMail - More 'In the River' Marketing

I write a lot about product marketing and the concept of "in the river" promotion / marketing. As companies more aggressively test and roll out new products / variants to users - in the river marketing becomes more important. And for those reasons, it has also become more prevalent. Here is a great example from Google, who is pushing Google Voice within GMail. To push Google Voice, Google is providing free phone calls for all of 2011. That's an aggressive, compelling promotion.

So how does Google get the message across? They place is prominently on the screen where its users are absolutely engaged and can't miss it: when you open GMail:

Entering 2011, My Daily Productivity, Work Apps

After yesterday's post (2011 as the year of The Cloud and The Mobile Office), I was moved to list the apps and tools that I use on a daily basis (... at least as of January 2011!). I am trying to capture those utilities that I use most often. This is in no way comprehensive and is not presented in no particular order. What does your's look like?

- Wordpress: and run on it.

- Vaultpress: backs everything up. simple, great product.

- Evernote: committing to diligently using this in 2011.

- Highrise: committed to using it in Q4 2010... and love it.

- Xobni: makes Outlook better. And I live in Outlook.

- Google Apps: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Chat.

- Skype: solely on the iPhone for international calls.

- Google Chrome extensions: I live on them. These are ones I use regularly: - Evernote - Quora - - Gmail Checker - Google Calendar - Web Clipboard - Google Voice - Google Screen Capture

- Google TV: I might be alone, but I love it.

- Tripit: the more I travel, the more I rely on it.

This of course does not include the list of websites and apps that I use daily... like Facebook, Quora, Netflix Twitter, Pandora, etc.

Facebook Asks Users "Who's Missing?" to Drive Friend Importing

Below is a screenshot of a new homepage module showing on Facebook aimed at driving friend importation through Google / Gmail. The unit sits above the newsfeed and asks, Ryan, Who's Missing? It then shows Facebook icons from three friends who tried the "automatic Friend Finder" and encourages me to do the same (... the fact that I previously have done that is a different note!). Simple idea - but I love how Facebook continues to:

1. eat their own dogfood by promoting content via your social graph. Facebook promotional units look exactly as they should: simple messages with social context. 2. even with 500,000,000+ users - Facebook continues to focus on driving users and virality.

When clicked, Facebook authenticates through Google and then suggests friends tied to your Gmail account:

Solving MS Outlook Pain with Google Calendar, Chrome Extensions

I am very frustrated with Microsoft Outlook - particularly the calendar... which, for every scheduling / meeting exchange, requires one to switch between inbox and calendar. As a calendar fills up, this becomes more and more cumbersome - and ineffective. It is a root of daily pain - and for those around me, complaining. So I posed the question to Facebook and Twitter: what are great examples of plugins that make Microsoft Outlook more efficient / effective:

Here is the solution I have gone with (at least thus far). It shows just how frustrated I am - since it is a lot of work - and, to Jon Steinberg's point above, it shows the role Google plays in all of this:

1. I set up a sync for my Outlook Calendar with Gmail. It works both ways and is quite easy to set up (see here).... I wish they did this for contacts too!

2. Using Google Chrome, I installed the Google Calendar Checker w/ Popup. It displays your calendar as a Chrome extension and shows appointments, dates, etc all within a drop down.

This works great if you use dual monitors and have email and browser on separate screens. It's better than Outlook on a single screen (even this small laptop) - but is still not ideal. At least it allows you to navigate the calendar (particularly by date) without having to lose your inbox position.