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Focused Inbox: Microsoft Outlook Helps to Sort and Prioritize Important Email Messages

Anastasia Romantsova
Focused Inbox: Microsoft Outlook Helps to Sort and Prioritize Important Email Messages

Recently, Microsoft Outlook made some changes that could impact how your readers interact with the emails you send. Focused Inbox is a new tab system currently in use for the Outlook app on iPhone and Android operating systems, but is now actively being rolled out to Outlook.com and Office 365 users.

How Does the New Focused Inbox Work?

Focused Inbox is an update to a previous tool called Clutter which was introduced last year to automatically move unimportant emails to a dedicated folder, like Outlook’s Junk folder. But where Clutter moved emails to different folders, Focused Inbox utilizes tabs, making it easier for users to access all their email.

This new feature gives Outlook email users some flexibility on how mail comes into their inboxes. All other emails are still there in the regular Inbox, the Focused Inbox just helps users get to the important things first. The ranking is done by assessing how often emails from different people or companies are interacted with and the type of content that’s included. So, an email from a friend will go to the Focused tab, but also a newsletter that’s read and interacted with every month will too. The priority placed on emails is done by how a user interacts with them, not just the type of email.

The problem is that the software may not be getting it right. Users may have some important email in the Other inbox and vice versa. Fortunately, they can tell the software which email should go to which inbox. This way, users can simply switch between the two tabs, and anything that ends up in the ‘Other’ category isn’t as ‘out of sight, out of mind’ as Clutter. It is also possible to quickly and easily move the emails across if any items end up in the wrong place using the ‘move to Focused’/ ‘move to Other’ options.

How to move emails from Other to Focused Inbox in Microsoft Outlook

What’s in It for Email Marketers?

Outlook takes information about how a subscriber interacts with different emails to decide if an email is important or not. Depending on how the different subscribers interact with the emails, they could see the same emails end up in different tabs. It’s crucial to know that this is based on a reader’s interaction with an email – so the more targeted the messages are that you’re sending, the more likely it is to be on the Focused Inbox tab.

A few years ago, Gmail introduced Priority Inbox with five tabs to sort email coming to the inbox. This is very like the change Outlook email is introducing now. Much like what happened when Gmail made this change, marketers may feel forced to get their users to move their email to the Focused tab, but this is probably not necessary. Many people found it irritating to be told what to do with emails in their own inbox and either ignored the instructions or marked the emails as spam.

The best way is to keep emailing as you always have. Keep sending your subscribers what you promised them when they signed up and they should continue to be engaged.

Even though this new inbox layout may be helping you and increasing email opens, we know you want to really make sure your emails aren’t getting lost in an inapplicable tab. Still, you can choose to take proactive measures:

  • To encourage the sorting system to get you into the main inbox, increase your readers’ engagement with your messages as much as possible.
  • Include links for them to click if you aren’t already.
  • Even better, encourage people to reply to your emails by asking for their opinion on a topic or having them participate in a vote. (But be aware that even if the sorting system relocates you to the Inbox, readers can always switch you back, depending on their preferences.)
  • Just keep sending the content your subscribers signed up for, and if they’ve been reading and enjoying your emails, they’ll still be able to do that, and your business will still see the benefit.
  • Finally, add a note to your thank-you page telling those who use Microsoft Outlook that they’ll find your confirmation email in their “Other” area.

So, the moral of the story here is that the new Microsoft Outlook inbox layout could help you engage your subscribers more than ever before … but, it’s still up to you to create amazing, engaging, and lovable email content.

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