Gmail is trialling an overhaul of its ‘promotions’ tab. Here’s what's in store and how you can prepare to make the most of it

Posted by Hannah Stacey 15 Apr 14

Good news! The ‘promotions’ tab in Gmail just got a facelift, and it’s looking pretty smart.

Google has been dabbling with Gmail’s advertising platform a fair bit since it rolled out its Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) beta early in 2013, designed to give marketers new, increasingly smart ways of targeting prospects in the comfort of their own inboxes.


The latest addition to this offering, coming about nearly a year after Gmail segmented users’ inboxes into ‘primary’, ‘promotions’, ‘updates’, etc. tabs will see the ‘promotions’ tab transformed into a Pinterest-style visual banquet - for a group of field testers initially, but with the potential to be rolled out across the platform.

This news will doubtless be welcomed by digital marketers the world over, for whom the change to tabulation saw their carefully-crafted email outreach efforts relegated to the ranks of the ‘promotions’ tab, raising fears of low open-rates and poor click-through (and these weren’t unfounded - read this post from Mailchimp on the topic).

The nitty gritty

So what exactly is the deal with these changes? In a post on the Gmail blog on the topic, product manager Aaron Rothman writes:

“Promotional mail has a lot of images, from pictures of snazzy new shoes to photos of that rock-climbing gym you’ve been wanting to try. But right now, those images are buried inside your messages—and with only subject lines to go on, it can be a challenge to quickly pick out the deals and offers that interest you most.”

The new layout revolves around an updated ‘grid’ view, that transforms the promotions tab from Gmail’s regular ol’ stacked arrangement to a collage-style affair (see the GIF below for a better idea).

Unlike standard text-based promotional emails, images now rule the roost with a large cover-photo style making up the bulk of a promotional ‘pin’, as well as the opportunity to include a sender photo. Google has also included infinite scrolling, “making it easy to quickly scan through your messages and find the ones that look interesting” - which will make picking high-quality, eye-catching images all the more important.

Lovely! But how do I make the most of it?

The new layout is only at the field trial stage at the moment, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t make a head start by prepping for the almost inevitable shift to visual promotion. A good first step would be to sign yourself up for the field trial which, if you’re selected, will give you the first-hand experience of the new promotions layout (lucky you!).

Likewise, Google has issued advice to email marketers about all the tech specs associated with the new format, advising the featured image should be more than 580px x 400px (the sender image is taken from your Google Plus profile). More on the specifications here, but be sure to bear these in mind for anything that you’re mailing out from now on.

So there you have it: the visual web is about to shake up your inbox and, if you’re a digital marketer, revolutionise how you reach your customers and potential customers with email promotions. Get planning!

Hannah Stacey


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