Jun 29 2006

Gmail as Competition – Another View?

Gmail as Competition – Another View?

This week, while many from the industry have been in Brussels at the outstanding yet oddly-named MAAWG conference for ISPs and filtering companies, internet marketing pundit Ken Magill had a scary, scary headline related to Google’s insertion of ads in email — Is Gmail Feeding Your Customers to the Competition?

The assertion is that Gmail’s contextual ad program, combined with image blocking in commercial emails, could easily lead to a situation where one of your subscribers doesn’t see your own content but then sees an ad for a competitor in the sidebar.

Scary, I admit, but how much is that really happening?

We analyzed some data from our Postmaster Direct business that is quite revealing, but in a completely counter-intuitive way.

The overall response rate for our mailings sent out in May across all clients, all campaigns, and all ISPs/domains was just under 2%.  The response rate for our mailings in May to Gmail users, on the other hand, was about 3.5%, a whopping 75% BETTER.

Even more stunning is the comparison of response rates in the same time period for subscribers who have joined Postmaster Direct in the last 6 months.  That’s probably a more useful analysis, since the number of Gmail subscribers has grown steadily over time.  On that basis, our overall response rate for May mailings, again across all clients, campaigns, and ISPs/domains, is just over 2.8%.  Howerver, for mailings in May to Gmail users, average response rates were about 5.6%, or 100% BETTER.

I’m not sure what to make of this.  My theory about this at the moment is that Gmail users are generally more sophisticated and therefore are better about keeping their inbox clean and only full of solicited offers, so therefore the user base is more responsive.  But who knows?  What I do make of it is that the issue Ken raises probably isn’t having a big impact on advertisers — or if it is, then Gmail users must be EVEN MORE responsive relative to the rest of the world.

Thanks to Ed Taussig, our director of software development for our list and data group, for this analysis.  Ed is also co-author of our corporate blog’s posting about subject line character length optimization, also a must-read for online marketers if you haven’t seen it.