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Marketers Take Note: One in 10 Gmail Users Say Messages Are Miscategorized

New research from Return Path explores Gmail Categories adoption and accuracy; new tool helps marketers monitor and assess the impact of Gmail placement.

NEW YORK, January 31, 2017 — Gmail remains the world’s most popular free webmail service, and new research from email solutions provider Return Path shows that marketers should be vigilant about how their messages are handled by Gmail’s automatic sorting feature. Published today, The Email Marketer’s Guide to Gmail Categories reports that nearly 10 percent of tabbed inbox users say that messages are not sorted correctly.

Incorrect classification can be bad news for marketers, as Gmail users become conditioned to look for certain types of messages in a specific tab. For example, Return Path research shows that nearly half (45 percent) of tabbed inbox users check the Promotions tab—used to aggregate marketing promotions and other offers—at least once each day. Marketing email delivered to a less frequently monitored tab could be missed altogether.

“Reaching the inbox is critical in today’s competitive marketplace. And in the case of Gmail, it’s just as important that messages are delivered to the expected category,” said Cody Bender, Return Path’s Sr. Director of Email Optimization Solutions. “Gmail has created the industry’s most sophisticated email sorting system, so it’s vital that marketers pay attention to how their messages are being classified.”

The report also explores inbox placement rate and read rate for emails in each category, as well as industry breakdowns indicating that certain industries may be especially susceptible to having their messages miscategorized.

The Return Path product team has analyzed this issue, and recently introduced a new Gmail Categories feature in its Inbox Monitor product. Using data from Return Path’s Consumer Network of nearly 2 million active inboxes, the Gmail Categories widget allows customers to see how email campaigns are categorized for their actual Gmail subscribers. This data gives marketers the insight they need to assess whether Gmail is sorting their messages accurately, as well as the impact of Gmail tabs on subscriber engagement. The widget is automatically enabled for all Return Path customers.

Complete findings from The Email Marketer’s Guide to Gmail Categories can be downloaded here. Research for the report was conducted through a Google Consumer Survey and analysis of data from Return Path’s Inbox Monitor tool.

Return Path created this report based on results from a Google Consumer Survey and data from its Inbox Monitor tool. The Google Consumer Survey was conducted on December 15, 2016, and surveyed 1,628 Gmail users. Gmail classification analysis is based on more than 6 billion messages sent to Gmail users from October 20-27, 2016.

About Return Path
Return Path analyzes the world’s largest collection of email data to show businesses how to stay connected to their audiences and strengthen their customer engagement. Our data solutions help analysts understand consumer behavior and market trends. We help mailbox providers around the world deliver great user experiences and build trust in email by ensuring that wanted messages reach the inbox while spam doesn’t. To find out more about Return Path solutions, visit us at or request a demo.