On December 12th, 2013, a worried collective of email marketers were convinced that their world was crumbling down. Google announced that their mail service, Gmail, is to start displaying images by creating a temporary copy of the image on their local servers rather than sending out image requests to the senders’ servers. This might seem like a load of jargon to those who aren’t familiar with email remarketing, but in today’s blog we’re going to take a look at what this means and why it doesn’t mean the end of marketing world as we know it.
In layman’s terms, here’s what happened last Thursday:
Before the change, when opening an email on Gmail, your browser would see where an image was supposed to display within the message and, in order to retrieve the necessary file, it would ping the URL of the image with a request. Essentially, your computer would find where an image was stored on a server and ask to use that image. It would then retrieve the image and display the result on your screen. While satisfying your computer’s file request, the server that hosts the image would obtain a few pieces of basic information, including your IP address, your general location, the device you’re currently using, and more. Now, however, before you even see the images, Google creates a temporary copy on their own servers, meaning you never send a request to outsiders while looking through emails.
You might be asking yourself, “Why would Google go through the hassle of changing the order of things?” If you’re a Gmail user, then you’re surely familiar with the “Display Images” button you had to click in order to see an email in its entirety. This option was put in place to give you control over who could retrieve your basic information, as a way to protect users from malicious spammers. Now, however, because every image is served from Google’s servers, you’ll no longer have to click “Display Images”–everything will load on open.
The Bad News
So, why did Google’s Thursday announcement send some email marketers spiraling into despair? At first, it looked like the end for a few potent email remarketing tools:
- Retrieving device information. Knowing the type of device your remarketing email is displaying on plays a big role in making sure that every piece of information fits on-screen properly. By reading which type of device is currently requesting a file, your servers can dispatch the proper version of the image with the proper resolution. This kind of control helps email remarketers keep all the pertinent information perfectly legible and above the fold on screens of all sizes.Tip: When a Gmail user opens your email, Google’s servers will now contact yours in order to retrieve the image. To make sure your email is still nicely displayed, determine which image version looks best across all devices and serve that image whenever you receive a request from a Google IP.
- Retrieving geo-location information. In addition to losing device information, retrieving images for Gmail emails no longer gives the sender IP information, which is an essential piece of data used in determining from where the message is being opened. Email remarketers often use geo-location information to serve personalized messages to readers, taking into account local weather or the nearest retail outlet. Now, however, every image request from Gmail users is sent from an IP in Mountain View, California–Google’s IP.
- Dynamic, on-open customization. Recently, there’s been a surge in popularity for emails that display customized content at the moment they’re opened. This is useful for marketing strategies like timed sales or sweepstakes, where a new image could be displayed in an email depending on how much time is left before the end of the event.
The Good News
The loss of all this data doesn’t necessarily mean a step backward for the email remarketing business. While there’s no denying that using geo-location and device information is a helpful tool in crafting some of the most effective marketing emails, there are a few positive consequences of Google’s new policy.
- Images are displayed by default. Before December 12th, Gmail users would have to authorize the display of any image in emails. Now, however, because security concerns have been largely eliminated, images are displayed by default. This means that marketers’ creative content will be displayed without fail, which is a great way to raise email engagement. You (or your creative team) have spent hours creating emails that demand attention and generate clicks–now you can be sure that when the email is opened, the reader will see your work.
- Not everyone is affected. Although the change seems massive in scope, the truth is that it only affects those accessing Gmail through Internet browsers and official Gmail Apps. Those who use other mail clients, such as iOS Mail and Microsoft Outlook, are not affected by the new change and retrieve images the old-fashioned way. According to some early statistics, only 2-5% of people are subject to the new rules.
- Back to basics. The email remarketing business moves quickly and the most advanced tools typically generate the best results. However, at the core of remarketing is still a solid design focus. By restricting the use of a few of the more recent innovations in the business, marketers will be forced to take another look at fundamentals. With a renewed focus on design, emails may generate better results than ever.
Although Gmail is a very popular mail provider, Google’s new changes won’t change the fact that email remarketing is one of the most powerful tools in the business. To learn more about email remarketing and how professionally design creative can boost your company’s revenue, contact UpSellit.
Written by Bryan Gudmundson