Gmail’s New Promotions Tab Layout: Good or Bad?

Just when you think Google has settled down for a while, it pops out another surprise. Remember last year when your emails got booted over to the third tab over from Primary and you didn’t know how subscribers were going to react? Now those Promotions tab messages are getting a Pinterest-style visual facelift.

Gmail's new promotions tab layout is Pinterest-esque.

According to Google, “To help you find what you’re looking for faster,” promotional messages will now be displayed as thumbnails using images from inside each email. Right now the feature is in experiment mode at Gmail, with people being able to opt into it. And once you’re opted in, you can switch from visually-stunning mode to plain-old-list mode with the click of a button.

So the primary question here is what does this mean for you? Is this update good or bad?

Let’s go with better for now. A lot of marketers despaired when Gmail moved their emails to the Promotions tab, but with the new display option, it could be a gift. Instead of your opens being determined by subject lines, images may lend a hand. If they’re relevant, engaging images, they could garner more opens. However, this format may also make it easier for people to dismiss your email more easily, scrolling right past it.

There’s no definitive answer yet. As with the release of the Gmail tabbed inbox, we’ll have to wait and see how events play out. We’re not our subscribers, and we don’t know how they’ll react.

While you’re waiting, don’t hesitate to optimize your emails so they look their best in this view. Don’t risk one subscriber opting in for Gmail’s new Promotions format and losing them because of a bad image in the thumbnail. So how do you pick what image shows up in the Promotions thumbnail? You can use several tools:

You don’t have to use these tools to choose an image from your email. A thumbnail will still show up, but it will be one Gmail’s mystery algorithm picks. And if your image is the wrong size, it could get cut off or display random areas of the image. So you don’t have to optimize your images, but we strongly suggest you do. Don’t wait to see if a lot of people opt in to the change or if Gmail releases it to everyone. Start optimizing your images now using the tools above.

Here are some other considerations to ponder as you wait for this change to play out:

  • The thumbnail will only allow for a 75-character subject line before truncating the rest. Keep those subject lines short and engaging!
  • Opens are usually detected when an image is viewed in an email. Google hasn’t indicated if the change will inflate opens. Keep an eye on this metric if the visual Promotions tab gains in popularity.
  •  There’s no mention of how this will affect viewing on mobile devices. But if the thumbnails stay, it may make for a more visually-pleasing and easier to read experience.
  • Don’t want a grayed-out, serif letter as your sender image? To get your company logo to show up instead, make sure you have a verified Google+ account.

One definite benefit of the new Promotions tab format is that email marketers are going to have to send better emails. Text-only emails won’t cut it, and sub-par images won’t do either. This forces email marketers to work hard at their emails, which leads to beautiful, relevant, engaging messages subscribers love.

As this update takes shape, we’ll be testing email design and sharing our results with you. In the meantime, let us know in the comments what you think of this change.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

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