Just when things seemed to have been settling down from Gmail's new tab feature, email marketers got thrown another wrench.
The latest change to Google's mail program regards the caching and display of images. The days of Google asking if we want to display images from the emails in our inbox are dwindling.
Now, Google will take all images in emails and cache them on their own servers, instead of downloading the images each time from the sending source.
Great! Right? Doesn't this mean that images within the email will be displayed automatically?
Yes, for the most part, most emails will display the images automatically (as long as your default preferences are set to do so). However, while this may provide faster viewing for end users, the caching of the images does affect email statistics.
Open rates are usually determined when a specific image (a tracking pixel) within the email is downloaded from the originating source. However, since images are being cached on Google's servers, the email will lose some of the tracking data.
For email marketers, this can be frustrating as it is not possible to track multiple opens. The initial open of the email will still be tracked; however, the location may show up as Mountain View, CA (Google's server location) on email reports.
Google's reasons for this change are to protect users from viruses and to speed up emails. It can be beneficial for consumers, but can negatively affect marketers.
It should be noted that, as of this post going live this change is affecting not only affecting Gmail opens, but also Gmail App opens .
This is the second major change to Gmail's web design that has affected email marketers within the past year, and it definitely sparks the idea that there may be more changes coming soon. We will continue to monitor these changes and their effects on email marketing.