Gmail Does It Again: The New Promotions Tab

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UPDATE: In April 2015, Gmail Grid View was quietly retired. It is no longer available for use with Gmail accounts.

If one topic dominated email marketing conversations in 2013, it was definitely Gmail tabs. The auto-organization of consumer inboxes struck general fear and uncertainty in the hearts of email marketers everywhere.

General consensus among the email community is that brands sending quality messages won’t run into any trouble with tabs. Subscribers will seek out valuable content they genuinely want in the Promotions tab.

Buckle your seatbelts, my friends. Gmail has done it again.

The Gmail team has released the next iteration of the Promotions tab to users who opted-in to try it. Taking a page out of the Pinterest playbook, Gmail is bringing large graphics and infinite scrolling into the Promotions tab:


Source: Official Gmail Blog

Gone are the days of representing an email with just a from name, subject line and preheader text. Gmail will now represent each email in the Promotions tab with a large image, displaying messages in a grid format with heavy emphasis on visuals rather than just plain text.

Other recent Gmail developments like Quick Actions gave marketers the option of adding additional functionality to select messages. Grid view in the new Promotions tab affects all messages. However, subscribers are still able to choose between the current list view or the new grid view, so marketers should plan their emails with both experiences in mind.


To control how your emails show up in the new Promotions tab, you’ll need to implement specific markup—called schemas—into the HTML of each of your emails. Gmail outlines all the details, including code samples, on their Developer site.

The code allows you to specify the featured image that should represent your message in the Promotion tab grid view:


You can use GIF, PNG or JPEG images, but animated GIFs used as featured images will be rendered as static. Additionally, featured images are cached in the same way that Gmail now caches images inside emails.

For emails that don’t contain this specific code, Gmail will use an algorithm to determine which image from your email should be featured. While this algorithmic gamble can sometimes turn out well, it is also resulting in some oddly cropped photos and text:

In some cases, they are forgoing an image altogether and displaying plain text instead. In this example from Kayak, the text shown in the featured image area was pulled from the fourth article in the email:

To have a strategic presence in this grid view, design a featured image to represent your message and implement it using Gmail’s code. Otherwise, you risk a sloppy appearance in the inbox at the whim of Google’s algorithm.

The sender name and subject line still come from your actual email, as they do today. For the grid view, the sender name displays up to 20 characters, and up to 75 characters for the subject line, so keep these numbers in mind if you have a high percentage of users opening your emails in Gmail.

The sender image is pulled from your company’s verified Google+ profile. If you haven’t created one, now might be a good time to set one up! For senders that don’t have a verified Google+ profile, the logo portion of the message is the first letter of your sender name in a serif font:
Email without verified Google+ profile


Similar to how ads are integrated in the current Promotions Tab, ads are also included in the new grid layout. Apart from a small icon in the top-left corner and a different background color, ads in the new Promotions tab look the same as any other email.



Notably absent from Gmail’s official post on this development is any mention of how these changes will be reflected in their mobile apps. We are assuming that this initial trial phase is desktop-only, and mobile developments will be saved for a final release.

Keep in mind that this new Promotions tab redesign is still in an opt-in trial phase—so it’s likely to only affect Gmail power users and devotees for now. Elements could change or disappear when/if it is rolled out to all Gmail users. There are many unknowns at this point, but we’ll keep you updated as we find out more.

However, we’d still recommend preparing for the new Promotions tab now, as subscribers who opt-in to participate in the trial already have access to this new layout.

Your preparedness also depends on how many of your subscribers are opening your emails in a Gmail environment. Worldwide, Gmail currently accounts for about 10% of opens.

Use our free Which Gmail Tab? tool to quickly send a test and see if your email is destined for the Promotions tab.


Find out which Gmail Tab your email will appear →


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