Last fall, Google launched Inbox by Google, a new email app, which it hopes will one day replace Gmail for both people and businesses. It’s still unclear if that will be a mandatory change for Gmail users somewhere down the road, but for right now it’s opt-in, and still only available by invitation.
On Monday, Google announced that it’s ready to start opening Inbox up to some users for work by way of Google Apps. The real question is: Is this something businesses actually want to use?
First, let’s take a quick look back at what Inbox actually does, in case you haven’ tried it.
Inbox is essentially an expansion of the categories Google launched in Gmail last year. Certain types of messages are grouped together. Inbox uses what it calls “bundles,” to put together messages related to purchases, finance, social media, promos, travel, updates, and forums. You can toggle any of these on and off.
“Inbox highlights the key information from important messages, such as flight itineraries, event information, and photos and documents emailed to you by friends and family,” says Google. “Inbox will even display useful information from the web that wasn’t in the original email, such as the real-time status of your flights and package deliveries. Highlights and Bundles work together to give you just the information you need at a glance.”
Inbox also lets you add reminders, which come with a “snooze” option. You can temporarily dismiss them, and they’ll come back later. Users can use Google Now or the Google Calendar app to set reminders, which will then later appear in Inbox. Any reminder snoozed to a specific day will also appear on your calendar. If you like, you can actually snooze emails to places rather than times.
There’s no question that the description makes Inbox sound like a really useful tool. Getting used to the experience, however, is not something that comes easily for some. For one, it involves trusting Google to actually show you all the email you want to receive, and whether it’s the case or not, it doesn’t always feel like you’re getting everything you’re supposed to.
It’s one thing to have that feeling with your personal email, but when it comes to work, I’m not sure businesses are ready to accept that. According to Google, businesses are indeed interested.
“Since we launched five months ago, one of the biggest pieces of feedback we’ve received is that Google Apps customers want access to Inbox at work,” says Director of Product Management Alex Gawley. “That’s why were excited to kick off the next phase of our journey: collaborating with you to bring Inbox to work.”
“Even before the first invitations went out to use Inbox for your own email, Googlers have been using it to get more done at work,” Gawley adds. “Whether it’s snoozing the expense report notification until after the big presentation, or adding a reminder to schedule lunch with a favorite client, Inbox helps put email on your terms. And since Inbox was built on the same infrastructure as Gmail, it meets the same high security standards you expect from email.”
Gawley does acknowledge that every company and person is different, so Google is putting out some feelers on how businesses want to use Inbox. It’s enabling the experience for a “small group” of Google Apps customers for the time being as it “learns about their needs, challenges, and use cases”.
That’s certainly a better approach than just thrusting it upon everyone. Google seeks to find out if businesses people want to use Inbox as their primary inbox at work, if employees are heavy mobile users, and if they want to partner with Google on user studies.
Interested businesses can email firstname.lastname@example.org from their Google Apps for Work admin account to apply for an invitation to the program. Google says it will work “very closely” with the early adopters, so not everyone will be accepted right away. The company will expand the program over the coming months, however.
“Inbox wasn’t created to reinvent email, Inbox was created to help you reinvent the way you get things done,” writes Gawley. “This means we need to understand more about how things get done (or don’t) today. And with your feedback, who knows, we could reinvent the way people work.”
Google recently shared the following infographic looking at how people are using Inbox to get things done so far.
Hopefully they’ll release another one of these once it’s been used in the workplace for awhile. It will interesting to see what the stats look like among business owners and employees.
Last week, Google announced the availability of Inbox for the iPad and Android tablets as well as support for Firefox and Safari.
If you’re an email marketer, you have plenty of things to consider with Inbox, particularly if it becomes widely adopted. More on that here.