Outlook's focused inbox

Once you’ve designed your beautiful email, tested it and pressed ‘send’, you’re at the mercy of the email client. Even the most rigorous testing can’t account for every eventuality. It is different if you are Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail or even Thunderbird.

With software updates arriving regularly, the email client you tested ten minutes ago might be an entirely different beast once your campaign has been delivered.

A scary thought? Not really. This is all part and parcel of email marketing, but it pays to stay informed.

With that in mind, it’s worth considering some changes Microsoft have made to Outlook. Principally, something known as the Focused Inbox.

What Outlook’s Focused Inbox?

Microsoft have created the ‘Focused Inbox’ for users of their venerable email client.

It’s a new tab that appears in the Outlook app for Android and iPhone. Moreover, is also being rolled out on Outlook.com and to users of Office 365.

It’s actually an update to the poorly-named ‘Clutter’ tool. However, it does a lot more for the user than simply move emails to different folders.

The Focused Inbox uses tabs – much like the Gmail equivalent – designed to make life easier for users by automatically grouping emails into specific buckets.

It also gives users the ability to dictate how email arrives in their inboxes.

Email is sorted by importance with those deemed worthy of top billing sent to the Focused tab. Everything else ends up in the ‘Other’ tab, but can still be found in the inbox.

How does it rank email?

Outlook ranks emails based on how often a user interacts with them. Including the sender and the type of content included.

For instance, an email from a friend should end up in the Focused tab. So should any newsletters that the user regularly reads.

The user has the ability to adjust this ranking and make changes to exactly which type of email appears in Focused and Other.

So, how does this impact email marketing?

There’s no reason to run for the hills following the introduction of Outlook’s Focussed Inbox. And the reason is simple; it works on a very worthy principle – common sense.

Because emails are graded based on the user’s interaction with them, the system will deliver only the most relevant, trusted email to the Focussed tab. That means if the emails you send are right for the recipient and engaging enough for them to read regularly, you’ll appear there, too.

Wrapping up

No algorithm is perfect, and Microsoft will doubtless be tweaking the way the Focused Inbox works regularly, but it’s unlikely it will ever stray far from it’s main goal, which is to deliver and sort email based on its relevancy to the reader.

The more targeted and personalised your messages, the more likely you are to get noticed in modern email clients such as Outlook – and that’s a very good thing indeed.

The key is to avoid thinking of a feature like this as something which is designed to irritate marketers and push their messages to the back of the queue; they’re designed to help users organise chaotic inboxes, and if you’re doing your job properly as an email marketer, it should benefit you in the exact same way.