In August of 2010, Google announced a new Priority Inbox feature for its e-mail program, Gmail. This feature uses an algorithm to filter messages into categories based on the user’s e-mail habits. High-priority messages are put in the “Important and unread” folder at the top of the screen. Google filters these messages based on keywords, the people you e-mail the most, and other characteristics, such as whether the message was sent to one user or a mailing list. If a user tends to open and respond to messages from a certain address or with certain keywords, Priority Inbox should be able to recognize that. Other messages go into the “Everything else” section. Users can also star messages that they want to keep handy or return to later and move them into the “Starred” folder. Users can also train the program by using two buttons that let you mark messages as unimportant or important and adjust the section labels.

One technology blogger found the program extremely accurate; Priority Inbox correctly identified his most important messages 50% of the time when he first started using it. After a few days, the program was identifying messages correctly about 80% of the time. Google’s product director for Gmail, Keith Coleman, says that it should take about two weeks for Priority Inbox to become optimally efficient at recognizing e-mail behaviors. Also, Google recognizes that Priority Inbox may not be helpful for all users. Users who don’t receive that much e-mail or don’t need to prioritize their mail have the choice to still use the old Gmail format.

Implications and Action Items

Priority Inbox is an indication of the next trend in technology innovation: relevance. Because customers are inundated with so much information online, they value programs that look at past behaviors to make their lives easier. Rather than inundating consumers with information, cutting-edge companies are finding ways to improve customers’ lives by delivering content that customers are directly interested in.

Here are some guidelines for deploying e-mail marketing with Google’s new Priority Inbox feature:

  • Determine what percentage of your mailing list is using Gmail.
  • Develop e-mail messages with clear calls-to-action that encourage users to respond or open the
    message immediately.
  • Provide relevant and engaging content to viewers so that e-mail algorithms will sort messages into high-priority folders or users will star messages that they want to return to later.

For more information on Google’s Priority Gmail function, visit

Author: Michelle Fares, RTC Relationship Marketing