6 Recent Email Advancements & What They Mean for You

Litmus recently released their 2015 State of Email report, and it’s chock-full of useful information about the past year’s advancements in the email industry. From the release of iOS 8 to Gmail’s new grid view for the promotions tab, 2014 proved once again that email is far from dead.

For the B2B marketers wondering which major advancements apply to them, we’ve sorted through the full list and picked out some of the most relevant for you. Take a look at the list below to see what action items may need to be added to your email to-do list (hint: if you have a large audience of Gmail users, there may be quite a few).

1. Automatic Unsubscribe in Gmail

In February of 2014, Gmail added an automatic unsubscribe option for all users using Gmail in a web browser. Now, Gmail users can unsubscribe by clicking a link at the top right of the email message instead of seeking it out at the bottom. While no one wants to lose their email subscribers, this feature can help reduce SPAM complaints and improve the health of your lists (previously, users would hit the “report as SPAM” button, which is much more damaging to your email reputation). Fortunately, Campaign Monitor has found that unsubscribes have not been substantially impacted by the release of this feature.

To use this feature, you cannot be a known spammer, your sending rep should still be intact, and you must be using a ‘List-Unsubscribe’ line in the mailing header.

2. Gmail Promotions Tab Grid View

While the grid view of Gmail’s promotions tab originally generated a good bit of hype, it has since died down. The grid view displays emails and images in a Pinterest-inspired layout instead of the traditional list view. This view is likely more useful to B2C companies, but Litmus encourages companies to optimize their emails for this view if:

  • you’re a retailer that sees a high volume of Gmail opens
  • you have a highly visual brand
  • you have an audience of tech early adopters.

3. iOS 8 Release

To go along with the release of the iPhone 6 and 6+ last year, Apple also released a new operating system for iPhones and iPads: iOS 8. The most notable change for email marketers is that the video tag is no longer supported. If used, the play button will still display, but tapping it will have no effect. Instead, consider using a screenshot with a play icon overlaid, and link out to the hosted video.

4. Gmail Image Caching and Automatic Image Downloads

You may remember when Gmail began caching images for users in December 2013 in an effort to improve load times and make messages safer and more secure. Shortly thereafter, Gmail introduced automatic image loading, which meant that users no longer had to click “display images below” to view the email images. As a result, email open rates increased in 2014, since many email tracking technologies rely on a unique image loading in an email for the open to “count.” Further studies from Litmus have examined open rates before and after this change was introduced, and have found that 43% of Gmail users read emails without turning the images on.

For marketers, this means a few things. While Gmail no longer requires a manual loading of images, many email clients still do. It’s important to optimize your emails for inboxes where images are off by default. In addition, image caching has made it impossible to distinguish opens in the Gmail webmail interface from opens made on the iOS and Android Gmail mobile apps. Unfortunately, this does create some challenges when it comes to accurately collecting data.

5. Outlook 2015 for Mac

Does your email audience contain a large number of Outlook users? If so, listen up! Last October, Microsoft released Outlook 2015 for Mac. Currently, Outlook 2015 is only available for some Office 365 subscriptions, but the final release will come later in 2015. This gives marketers some time to prepare for upcoming changes (and some continued functionality from Outlook 2011), like:

  • blocked images: be sure to use ALT text or styled ALT text to prepare for situations in which your images don’t load
  • emphasis on the “from” name: the new interface highlights and bolds the “from” name above the subject line of your email, so make sure yours is recognizable
  • highlighted unread messages: unread messages will be highlighted in blue and bolded when unread. No action needed on your part aside from an eye-catching subject line — this one works in your favor!

6. Inbox by Gmail

Last October, Gmail released Inbox, an app available for the consumer version of Gmail on the iPhone, iPad, Android devices, Safari, Firefox, and Google Chrome. The app is currently invite-only, but you can request access by emailing inbox@google.com. Inbox orders emails into “bundles” and makes it easy for users to take actions like pinning, snoozing, moving, and categorizing your emails.

While still catching on, it may soon be important to optimize emails for Inbox, especially if your audience contains a large number of Gmail users. This will require many of the same steps you’re (hopefully) already taking for mobile optimization. Inbox also makes it easy for users to discard and ignore emails that aren’t relevant to them, so as always, your job is to make sure emails are engaging, relevant, and timely.

You can learn more about the latest innovations in the email industry by downloading Litmus’ full report. Then, if you’re looking for general B2B email best practices, Pardot’s Complete Guide to B2B Email Marketing is for you. Check it out by clicking on the banner below!