he's found a new feature in his Gmail that places small favicons next to certain email messages in the inbox view. The icons have appeared next to emails sent from commercial services like Netflix and make those messages stand out when users quickly scan a crowded inbox.Gmail user Dan McGee writes that
This new feature is not just a simple productivity enhancement or advertisement. The icons are there to indicate which messages include "enhanced content" - real-time updates within the body of the email messages, from companies sending the emails.
Google Explains "Enhanced Email"
Apparently this feature has been in the works for some time, at least according to the timestamp on the Google Help explanation about "enhanced content," which shows its last update was in July of this year. The explanation reads:
If you're subscribed to receive email from certain senders, the messages you receive from them will be enhanced with an interactive gadget that has up-to-date content from their website (you'll also see an icon in your inbox identifying these messages).
For example, if you receive a Pregnancy Bulletin newsletter from Babycenter, you'll be able to view up-to-date content, including the baby name of the day, and browse though the current top 100 baby names within the message. Aside from the convenience of being able to interact with certain websites from inside Gmail, the branded content will help identify that your messages are legitimate and not spoofed (we'll only show branded content when the sender authenticates their mail). We're currently testing this with a small number of senders and will decide whether to make it widely available based on user and partner feedback.
A Marketer's Dream
Real-time content updates within Gmail messages sound like a great idea as long as it doesn't slow down the loading of the message, replying, forwarding and the like. Just imagine the possibilities! In the enhanced Netflix emails, for example, you not only view your recent recommendations - you can actually add them to your queue right from within the message itself.
Image: Dan McGee
This sort of interactivity is sure to be an email marketer's dream as it allows for whole new levels of user engagement with the brand. Instead of simply dismissing the email with a click of the "delete" button, recipients might find themselves actually taking the time to read through what were once thought of as "throwaway" messages. In this information-overloaded era where out-of-control inboxes have many email users declaring email bankruptcy, doing mass deletes, and filtering all non-personal email to other folders, any extra incentive to not delete or ignore an email is a feature which marketers are sure to take notice of.
But a little in-email interactivity may only be scratching the surface of what this enhanced content makes possible. What could come next? Perhaps you'll soon be able to make purchases without ever leaving the confines of your inbox? As McGee writes in his post - wait until Amazon gets on board with that idea - our wallets are sure to take a beating!