You’ve taken your time to write an email, you’ve sent it, you’ve marked it as needing a reply… but 2 days later there’s still no response.

Then the question becomes, how do I chase while keeping our relationship happy?

The answer to that all depends on whether they actually read it yet! If you know they read it a few hours ago, you can nudge them without appearing overzealous. Or if they’ve missed it, you can cough politely in their ear to draw attention back to it.

But how? Well, as it was our 2nd most requested feature (after syncing GCal, which we’ve already done) on our survey, with 1007 votes, we’ve built a beta version of read receipts into ActiveInbox. (You know, because launching 7.1 was a little too easy 😉 ).

Want to try it before we roll it out officially?

Make sure you’re running 7.1 (everyone should have it by now – but you need to be on new Gmail, and on Chrome).

  1. First, go into our Preferences and tick ‘Enable Read Receipts’.

  2. Then, when you send an email, make sure the double tick turns blue.

  3. Finally, go into either your Sent list, or your Waiting list, and look for the blue double ticks.

Things to know

Well, #1 is this is V1 of this feature, so it may growl & hiss at you for no apparent reason. We’re waiting for your feedback to tame it for you. Seriously, please send all the feedback in the comments section; BUT, can you first see if someone has already suggested it and upvote their comment instead? (It makes my world so much nicer if each request is only there once!).

There’s a slight delay in it reporting it was read – normally only a minute or so. If you’ve sent an email to your professional crush, and you’re desperate to find out if they’ve read it right now, you can click Refresh in Gmail (the one at the top of your inbox).

Oh, and when you send to an Outlook user, they have to agree to include the tracking pixel. So it’s not 100% perfect if you’re emailing a lot of cold recipients.

Categorised in:

This post was written by AndyM

  • Michael Sloan

    Not sure if this is where we should be commenting or if it should be in the forum… First off I am very excited about this feature and voted for it myself. I have enabled it in the preferences, and it seems to be working successfully. Where is the information about whether (and hopefully each open a la mailchimp!) the email was opened displayed when you are actually reading the email. I see the blue checks in the inbox view and see if I hover I get the number of opens. Can this be displayed in more detail in the compose/reply view? Perhaps a detail button similar to the notes and sub tasks feature? Thanks in advance!

    • Here is good Michael! (We’re active everywhere, but it makes it easier for other readers if it’s clumped together).

      At the moment it’s just in the list views (inbox, sent, waiting, etc.).

      I definitely think we should have something in the conversation view too.

      What benefit would it bring you? Some real world examples would help make sure we get it right.

      • Michael Sloan

        I think when you look at the idea of a read receipt you are expecting a true/false, they opened it or they didn’t. I think want I (hopefully we) would like to see is metrics on the opening of our email not just a yes or no. It would be great to see how many times and email has been opened, when the email was opened, **holding breath** maybe even which of the recipients on the distribution list have opened the email.

        Combining all of these in a real world example:

        I send and important email to Mary, John, and Kate. When the first person, Mary, opens the email I alerted in list view that the email has been opened. An hour after sending I have not received a reply and I click on the email to go into conversation view. In conversation view I see that Mary and Kate have opened the email, additional I can see Mary opened it twice, once at 9:05 am and again at 9:37 am, the data also shows me that Kate opened it at 9:12 am. I can also see that John has not read the email yet. This helps me know that maybe I should pick up the phone and give John a call or check his calendar to see if he is in the office.

        If I had seen that all three people had opened the email, maybe even more than once, I may feel comfortable sending a follow up email specifically asking for feedback.

        Hopefully that gets the point across!

        • Hi Michael,

          I think both of these are solid, well articulated ideas… Addressing them individually…

          • I’ve tried some other tools that claim to do per-recipient opens, and there are two things I’m concerned about:
            1. It doesn’t work flawlessly. I don’t like features that only work if the right conditions line up, as it creates a lack of trust overall in the product. I’m not yet sure there’s a robust technological solution.
            2. The technical approach they use is a hack with some risky trade offs: they essentially split up the group email you’re sending into multiple single emails (one to each recipient). I’m not sure what this does to delivery-reputation (the thing that gets through spam filters) or Reply All.

            It is something I’m watching though, to see if we can figure out a way, as I do acknowledge its utility.

            In terms of timelines I think we’ll see how people engage with Read Receipts, and if it becomes widely used, then I’ll take a few more risks in trying to see if we can achieve per-recipient reports.

          • Notifications is something we can do, but I’m wary of clogging up the inbox (even though it’s the logical approach).

            The art is a real balance between seeing the notification, without it being tremendously annoying.

            Do you use any similar tools at the moment? What’s your preferred way to be notified?

  • Trevor Walter-Hughes

    Turned this on yesterday and testing today, but it wasn’t until I realized I had to click on the two ticks to turn it on that it worked. I thought at first it would turn blue as it sent!

    • Hi Trevor,

      Thank you for this – that’s actually a really useful insight!

  • effeff

    I’m SO glad to see this feature. I’ve tried at least four other mail tracking apps on the market over the last six months and can give you all sorts of feedback and comments about what works, what hasn’t, what features have been most appreciated by me, etc. If you do more customer discovery calls in the future, sign me up!

    The single biggest suggestion I have for sharing read status is to have a separate dashboard (ie webpage), not to simply have it available by hovering over an email in the inbox/sentbox.

    Thanks!
    Lois at Science Atlantic

    • Thanks Lois 🙂

      What’s the benefit to you of having a separate dashboard? Could you give me a real example from the last few days of how it’s useful?

      And, like I said to Michael, the real hard thing about notifications is not being annoying with them… so if you have an example of an interface that’s worked really well for you, I’d love to see it?

      Finally – I’m all ears 🙂 What’s your 2nd biggest suggestion?

  • silvercorniche

    Hi, I have tried and researched into email tracking services such as Vocus.io, SalesHandy, Gmelius, Mailtrack, Email Tracker, Geotrack, Mailcastr, Mailfact, The Top Inbox, Yesware, Tout app, Mixmax, Bananatag, Contact Monkey, Sigbop, Roketbolt, ReadNotify, Pointofmail, Strike, Streak, and Boomerang. I did research all these and signed up for maybe about 10 of them in search for the email tracking that matches my needs. Didn’t find any that would meet all my needs but I settled with Vocus.io but unfortunately it conflicts with ActiveInbox on some functionality (not major) so I had been using both ActiveInbox and Vocus.io at same time. If ActiveInbox can have email tracking functionality then I can finally use only ActiveInbox! Based on my extensive research, if you can have below function then you will be at the top of all the services.

    – Per recipient tracking. If you sent an email to 3 people, you will be notified of which of the 3 that opened the email. This is useful for obvious reasons if you are sending to a customer and ccing your colleagues. You wouldn’t know whether if your customer had read the email if your colleague open the email and you only know that “someone” opened the email. This may not be easy function to add but there are few companies that provide this functionality. They may not be 100% accurate but from experience I think they are accurate 80% of the time.
    – Multiple opening tracking. You currently show as “Read 8 times” but this information is not helpful. I want to know out of 8 times read, who read how many times (in conjunction with above per recipient tracking). It is also important when these were read. If the email was sent out a week ago but I got 6 read in the last 2 hours I know that the email is now getting attention or being forwarded to his colleagues so now is the time to follow up. You should have the detailed info of where the email was opened in terms of city, IP address, OS/browser info, etc. If you show that detail, I would be able to judge who opened the email if I sent an email with recipients based in NY, SFO, and Singapore in one email. I now know who is engaged and who to follow up with to take the business forward. Some email tracking services provide this functionality but not all. Vocus does per recipient tracking but only provide detailed info for the last read. Some provide detailed info for each open but doesn’t provide per recipient tracking.
    – A dashboard to show the stream of last opened emails in chronological order. The reason for this is for me to know which emails are being read now. I might have sent an email a month ago and it may be getting a spike in activity by being read multiple times or forwarded around. The dashboard shows of out of my past emails, which ones are being engaged recently allowing me to follow up. If this is at current state, I need to scroll all the way to email from a month ago to see how many open it had… which no one will do and even if you do there is no way of knowing which ones had spike in reading so missed opportunity to follow up.
    – Since Gmail group emails together, “Read 10 times” wouldn’t tell you whether your last conversation was read or they just read the earlier email from the same thread. It would be ideal if you click on the thread, you can see tracking of the individual email within the thread. Some services provide this functionality.
    – A problem with many of these email tracking services is that well known services are identified by anti-spam software hence your mail gets into spam folder quite often. Some services provide premium service allowing you to use your own domain (hence not blacklisted) at additional fee. Vocus does this.

    If you can have all of above functionalities, you would have the best email tracking in the industry. I wouldn’t mind paying a few more dollars per month as higher tier service if you can get above to work.

  • silvercorniche

    Hi, I have tried and researched into email tracking services such as Vocus.io, SalesHandy, Gmelius, Mailtrack, Email Tracker, Geotrack, Mailcastr, Mailfact, The Top Inbox, Yesware, Tout app, Mixmax, Bananatag, Contact Monkey, Sigbop, Roketbolt, ReadNotify, Pointofmail, Strike, Streak, and Boomerang. I did research all these and signed up for maybe about 10 of them in search for the email tracking that matches my needs. Didn’t find any that would meet all my needs but I settled with Vocus.io but unfortunately it conflicts with ActiveInbox on some functionality (not major) so I had been using both ActiveInbox and Vocus.io at same time. If ActiveInbox can have email tracking functionality then I can finally use only ActiveInbox! Based on my extensive research, if you can have below function then you will be at the top of all the services.

    – Per recipient tracking. If you sent an email to 3 people, you will be notified of which of the 3 that opened the email. This is useful for obvious reasons if you are sending to a customer and ccing your colleagues. You wouldn’t know whether if your customer had read the email if your colleague open the email and you only know that “someone” opened the email. This may not be easy function to add but there are few companies that provide this functionality. They may not be 100% accurate but from experience I think they are accurate 80% of the time.
    – Multiple opening tracking. You currently show as “Read 8 times” but this information is not helpful. I want to know out of 8 times read, who read how many times (in conjunction with above per recipient tracking). It is also important when these were read. If the email was sent out a week ago but I got 6 read in the last 2 hours I know that the email is now getting attention or being forwarded to his colleagues so now is the time to follow up. You should have the detailed info of where the email was opened in terms of city, IP address, OS/browser info, etc. If you show that detail, I would be able to judge who opened the email if I sent an email with recipients based in NY, SFO, and Singapore in one email. I now know who is engaged and who to follow up with to take the business forward. Some email tracking services provide this functionality but not all. Vocus does per recipient tracking but only provide detailed info for the last read. Some provide detailed info for each open but doesn’t provide per recipient tracking.
    – A dashboard to show the stream of last opened emails in chronological order. The reason for this is for me to know which emails are being read now. I might have sent an email a month ago and it may be getting a spike in activity by being read multiple times or forwarded around. The dashboard shows of out of my past emails, which ones are being engaged recently allowing me to follow up. If this is at current state, I need to scroll all the way to email from a month ago to see how many open it had… which no one will do and even if you do there is no way of knowing which ones had spike in reading so missed opportunity to follow up.
    – Since Gmail group emails together, “Read 10 times” wouldn’t tell you whether your last conversation was read or they just read the earlier email from the same thread. It would be ideal if you click on the thread, you can see tracking of the individual email within the thread. Some services provide this functionality.
    – A problem with many of these email tracking services is that well known services are identified by anti-spam software hence your mail gets into spam folder quite often. Some services provide premium service allowing you to use your own domain (hence not blacklisted) at additional fee. Vocus does this.

    If you can have all of above functionalities, you would have the best email tracking in the industry. I wouldn’t mind paying a few more dollars per month as higher tier service if you can get above to work.

    • Hi silvercorniche,

      (Let me just apologise on behalf of Disqus – you were sinbinned into their spam moderation because it thought one of the products was a link, but I’ve plucked you back out).

      So, first up – this is a fab comment, thank you! Let’s pull it apart.

      Actually, before that, can I ask what your role is? To get some context for your goals?

      Idea feedback:

      Per recipient. I discussed this with Michael. Basically, as you said, it’s forever going to be blighted by being somewhat unreliable. But I am tallying up the number of people who vote for this, and if it gets substantial I’ll try.

      Multiple open. With this, we can probably do a decent job (albeit not perfect: Google ignores multiple opens within a 30 minute window).

      Location tracking. The biggest concern here is privacy, especially GDPR. I’ll look into it, but potentially by storing the data on your local machine (with the risk it could be lost with a delete) is the way forward. At a broader scale, I do worry about the ethics of this kind of thing. Is the benefit really that great? Could you give me an example of how their location is useful?

      Surges of activity. Yes! I really like this.

      Per message views. I can’t fully get my head around what it means to accurately analyse per message reads (e.g. if the recipient also uses Gmail, and groups conversations, was a single message ‘read’?). Again, could I ask for a use-case? I get that’s it’s valuable to know a given message was read (in the black/white sense), but not how any times it was read?

      I’m intrigued by the assertion that a tracking pixel increases the chance of being spammed. Do you have citations for that? I always thought being a trusted sender (which anyone on Gmail mostly is), was the most important signal. The tracking pixel could be done on your domain for sure, but it’s not trivial.

      • silvercorniche

        Hi Andy, no problem and thanks for saving my post from being labeled spam. Below are my responses.

        My role: I run a small investment firm making mostly VC investments. I mainly invest my personal money but sometimes raise deal specific funds when I see especially interesting opportunities or follow-on rounds to my winning investments. Hence I do send out a lot of deal related emails to potential investors globally. Hence being able to track their activity/reaction to my deal info give me a clue to their interest level of the deal. I forgot to mention in my previous list but “link tracking” and “attachment tracking” are very helpful as well. Since when I send deal info, it often contains links to press releases, online articles, and presentation deck. Hence seeing not only just the mail was opened, but also the links being clicked (and by who and how many times at what timing) is extremely helpful for me to pick up phone and make a follow up call. For the presentation deck, I currently use Docsend which allows me to track when, where, how many times they open the presentation, and track how many seconds they spent on each page. So I know whether they just flip through the deck in 30 seconds or they spent 30 minutes to read the whole deck (which shows high interest of the deal).

        Per recipient: I think it’s fine as long as you tell people that it’s not 100% accurate. 70% accuracy of who read the email is better than zero percent information on who read the email IMHO. Maybe you can show who read the email when you have higher level of confidence and just show someone when you have low level of confidence. I would think it is a lot easier to identify who read the email when you send an email to 5 different companies with 5 different domain (given the different domain and IP addresses, you should be able to identify the difference more accurately) than sending to 5 people within same company with same domain.

        Multiple open: not everyone uses Gmail. 🙂 80% of the people I deal with don’t use Gmail. Most corporates are still on Outlook!

        Location tracking: I use this as a sanity check for the per recipient (or when per recipient is not available). If I sent email to Mr. A (based in Silicon Valley) , Mr. B (based in New York), and Mr. C (based in China) and per recipient says it was read by Mr. A while location says China, then I know maybe for this time per recipient is not accurate. (or maybe he is traveling but the time the mail is opened would give me further clue if mail was opened past midnight). I understand there may be some privacy issue but popular services like Docsend (in fact it’s becoming de facto service to share presentation for startup world) do provide location information so there must be a way.

        Per message views: This is actually quite important. Let’s assume I have a conversation with Mr. A and we send back and forth email so the conversation thread shows 30 email total. Let’s say the last email I sent him is a critical one I want to know whether he read the last email (the 31st email) or not. Currently, you show check mark for the entire thread. Hence the check mark could show something like read 40 times but there is no way of me knowing that 40 times read is from the previous 30 emails sent or does it include the last critical email I sent. Basically, I have no way of knowing whether the last email was read or the 15th or the 18th email in the conversation thread. I think all you need to do is attach different pixel url with each email sent hence you can track per email (vs. rather than having the same pixel url for the whole conversation thread).

        Re spam: I think for AIB, it should be fine. It is with providers who also give you mail merge functionality where spammers use that function to send thousands and thousands of emails with email tracking… I don’t have citations but it is from my experience testing various services. Pixel tracking with users’ domains is not a must… other functions listed above are at higher priority IMHO. But it is a nice to have feature as it does make the user look a lot more professional when you are tracking email and links at your own domain link rather than outside services… make it look less shady. Anyway, it’s a premium service.

        • Thank you 🙂

          Thoughts:
          * Location Tracking – ah, so a sanity check. That makes a lot of sense.
          * A bit off topic, but the DocSend timing sounds really valuable actually.

          Follow Ups:
          * For ‘Per Message Views’ – do you have an example of this in another app I could, erm, ‘evaluate’? 🙂
          * We’ve got another project that might be of interest bubbling up – do you want to email me (andym@activeinboxhq.com) and I’ll tell you a little more to see if it interests you.

  • David Shalev

    This discussion is great. If you want to see a well thought out and good presentation of a dashboard and other features users have been mentioning, please review this from SalesHandy, including the video – https://www.saleshandy.com/gmail-read-receipt/
    In terms of Spam issues, it is a very real problem with Read Receipts. I am having it with SalesHandy and had to implement their personal domain solution, which should solve the problem (I had to complain about them not including it in their basic paid package and they ultimately relented and provided it in my account).

    • Excellent, thank you David (and thank you for confirming the spam issue is real).

  • Many moons ago when I used to be an Outlook user I used to always suppress responses to this feature as being on the receiving end of someone requesting to know when I have read an email I found it incredibly intrusive and rather rude that someone should request to know in the first place. It starts a clock and the sender will be expecting a response sooner rather than later encouraging them to further interrupt my day by chasing a response. So, I’m curious – what is the benefit of adding a feature like this? Is it aimed more for people in the sales field?

  • Sash

    Not sure if someone’s said this before – but I get a confirmed read receipt in my drafts before I even send the message. This is when I’ve just created the message – so there’s no way it’s been seen because it’s brand new. I’ve only stuck two people in the “To” line, haven’t crafted the email, just saved to drafts as a reminder to myself.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/349b090d0c7e3650d697b950b043996665c187084c1254f3080c195b6b979270.png

  • Sridhar Dhanapalan

    This is awesome and it saves me having to use another browser extension to track my e-mails.

    Some other ideas, based on what I’ve liked from other products:
    – per-recipient tracking (although I am still doubtful about how well this actually works in practice)
    – link tracking
    – attachment tracking

    A few of the comments here have suggested a dashboard. This starts to make more sense when there are lots of messages and elements within them (links, etc.) to be tracked. For instance, I may send out an attachment to a bunch of people and I want to know who actually opened it.

  • One suggestion. When I click the two ticks for an outgoing message, it preserves this option for all future emails. I often send a number of emails before I realise this option has been retained. Is there a way to have the option not stick – on a message per message basis?