Google recently made modifications to how Gmail displays images. Here at Fishbowl, any time a tweak like this occurs, our product team digs in to see how the email marketing landscape is affected. We sat down with Jes Karg, Product Manager for Enterprise Email, to get the scoop.
How exactly did Gmail change the way it displays images?
Jes Karg, Product Manager, Enterprise Email: Gmail explains in their blog post that “instead of serving images directly from their original external host servers, Gmail will now serve all images through Google’s own secure proxy servers.” With this, Gmail is caching images immediately upon an email opening and automatically displaying them, removing the need to click on the “display images below” link. If an email is opened for a second or third time, Gmail will display the images they have cached on their proxy servers, rather than re-requesting the images from the host server.
What does that mean for email marketers?
JK: These changes will affect the way data can be collected upon loading an image. Thankfully for Fishbowl clients, the impact is minimal. We have only seen slight impacts around device reporting.
These changes won’t affect how we track opens?
JK: No, since we only report on unique opens, we are able to track opens the same way we always have. However, we may see open rates increase slightly around guests using Gmail as anyone who opens an email will now be captured, whereas before we would only see opens once images had been downloaded. That’s something we’ll keep an eye on.
What have you noticed to be affected with device reporting?
JK: Since images are now being retrieved by Gmail’s proxy server, it looks like the proxy server is opening the email. Because of this, we are losing some granularity in our device tracking data. We have seen “Gmail image proxy” show up as a new device in our reporting. This new bucket reflects all opens from Gmail webmail and mobile apps.
Sounds technical. What is the impact?
JK: Whenever someone opens an email using Gmail webmail or mobile app, we will no longer have insight into what device, browser, and operating system they are using. This means we can no longer compare mobile vs. non-mobile opens in these cases. However, this only impacts Gmail users that are opening emails via Gmail webmail or mobile app. Gmail users that use a different email client, such as the native mail apps for both iOS and Android, are not affected.
This is great info. Thanks for explaining the changes, Jes.
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