Email is an essential part of conducting business, and especially within the real estate community. From communications with clients to conversations with vendors, email is the fastest way to share information — but it is not always as secure as it should be.
Google is tackling this vulnerability with a web redesign, which looks to solve other workflow challenges, as well. The redesign was rolled out to the first batch of Gmail users on April 26 — they can choose to opt in or out of the new interface for the time being. Google plans to eventually release the new version to all 1.4 billion users.
So, what do these changes mean for the industry?
Google's new confidential mode is the biggest addition, and makes sharing sensitive information easier for real estate businesses. The new capability comes with the option of two-factor authentication. Agents can now request that clients or other recipients input a unique code (sent via text message) in order to open a confidential email.
Now, sensitive data such as contact information, Social Security numbers and transaction documents can be sent with less worry that the paperwork might get into the wrong hands. And with integrated rights management (IRM), agents will now be able to block forwarding, copying, downloading and printing of specific messages to ensure only the appropriate individuals have access to the email.
Additionally, Google is seeking out stronger security measures to protect against phishing—the No. 1 internet-based fraud—by implementing more visible warnings that are color-coded instead of relying on the small banners it previously incorporated. While more internet savvy consumers may not need the larger banners, this change will make it more secure for agents who communicate with clients via email, as they won't have to worry that the client missed a fraudulent email due to small text or alert size.
The new interface better ties in the G Suite of products, such as Google Calendar, Google Keep and Google Tasks. An added right-side panel now allows users to organize meetings, take notes, plan out their day and more without leaving the initial Gmail screen. For agents who are constantly fielding calls and prospecting, being able to notate conversations or set up meetings without flipping back and forth between tabs can be an enormous time-saver. If agents want to focus solely on emails, Google also added a collapse option to the left-side navigation that allows users to either show or hide the menu.
Top-performing agents receive a slew of emails and it can become difficult to gauge what needs immediate response and what can wait. Google's new algorithm-run prioritizing now does a lot of the work for the user. A nudging email feature uses the same technology of Google's Smart Reply Options to resurface emails that are marked as time-sensitive by the system—a great backup that can help ensure agents don't miss any important messages. Of course, agents also have the options of categorizing the emails themselves. By placing their cursor over a message, agents can select "snooze for later" to read the email at a later time, or they can also archive, delete or mark the email as read. In addition, if agents know an email with an important document is coming in, they no longer have to open the message to download the file.
A negative? Gmail is now making it easier for email recipients to unsubscribe. Agents who are looking to convert leads by sending home-buying or -selling data may have a harder time reaching these prospects. Google now alerts users if they haven't opened emails from a certain sender over a set period of time, such as a month—a large unsubscribe message appears at the top of the interface during these events.
Of course, Gmail's additions work best for users who rely on multiple G Suite products to run their business. Those who primary use Google for email may not benefit as much from the changes. And agents who are loyal to Google products will be happy to learn that no Gmail capabilities have been removed, only added on to. For those who are loyal to competing brands, they may find that Google is catching up on essential features that have already been introduced by rival companies.
Liz Dominguez is RISMedia's associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.