There have been significant shifts in market share over the past few years as the ISP landscape continues to change. ISPs are always changing their products and services to bring their customers the best value. Domains that are on the decline in recent years are being acquired by larger entities, thus contributing to the shifting ISP landscape.
We’ll begin with the major ISPs. Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo! maintain their hold on the market share. However, the amount of market share each one holds has shifted several times between these four.
At 37%, Yahoo had the largest share of the market in 2012, according to our own research and data. Travel to 2015, and Gmail has gained the lead, leaving Yahoo in second place. Both Hotmail and AOL have declined in popularity. They’ve declined 4% and 2% respectively since their inception.
The Evolution of Gmail
Ever since Gmail first began, Google has continued to refine the email service with the goal of making it something that customers will be happy with. Here are some changes they’ve made:
• Gmail Tabs. In 2013, Gmail significantly overhauled the user interface. This change introduced tabs as a way of organizing and sorting a user’s inbox. You can now sort your mail between the primary, social, promotions, updates, and forum tabs. Personal messages land under Primary.
• Quick Action Buttons. Action buttons appear in the email’s subject line. They allow you to do things like track a package, confirm your subscription, submit a review, or any other action associated with the email. The buttons are quite a useful addition, and can be a good motivator for customers to quickly take action.
• Easy Unsubscribe. Gmail now displays an “Easy Unsubscribe” option in each email, which expands on the “List Subscribe” feature. When “List Subscribe” appears in the email header, there’s an embedded link that sends a request to unsubscribe back to the sender, along with the user’s email address.
In addition to the discussed changes for Gmail subscribers, marketers and email service providers have their own set of features to use and benefit from.
• Postmaster Tools. With this tool, marketers can view various metrics on their sent emails, and possibly spot deliverability issues. This data comes straight from the source (Gmail) and allows marketers and ESPs to make informed decisions that will improve their email campaigns.
Why Do These Changes Matter?
As expected in a competitive marketplace, Gmail isn’t the only ISP that’s updating their services. Microsoft, Yahoo, and many others are in the race and releasing their own unique features. These changes are meant to satisfy their customers with a useful email experience. They’re constantly fine-tuning and tweaking their services to make sure that email subscribers receive the mail they actually want to receive, and that everything else goes to the junk and spam folders.
It’s a good practice to stay informed about ISP industry trends when it comes to email marketing strategy. You can plan the best strategy when you’re aware of the different features that email subscribers are using. For instance, if most of your clients use Gmail, be aware of how emails appear in the Gmail interface. In such a case, you should also learn about Gmail features like easy unsubscribe and quick action buttons, and how they may affect your email list retention rate.