In late March 2014, Gmail introduced a grid-like Promotions tab. Currently, this new inbox is only available for users that have opted-in and are using the Gmail web interface. There has been no news as of yet on whether it will be implemented for any of their mobile apps.

Taking a page out of the Pinterest playbook, Gmail is bringing large graphics and infinite scrolling to the Promotions tab. Talk about a visual inbox!

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. The featured image, sender name, subject line, and sender image are crucial to ensuring that your emails look great (note that preheader text is no longer displayed).

Ads are also included in the new grid layout and, apart from a small icon in the top-left corner and a different background color, ads look the same as any other email. Kind of sneaky if you ask us!

The Vistaprint email on the left is an advertised and promoted email.


It’s too soon to tell! Since the Promotions tab grid view is still in a trial phase, it’s likely to only affect Gmail power users and devotees for now. However, if you’re seeing a high percentage of Gmail opens, then it’s definitely something you need to keep in mind.

What should you do?

If you have a high percentage of Gmail opens and your emails are going to the Promotions tab (you can use our handy free tool to check out which Gmail tab your emails will appear under), then optimizing for this new grid-like inbox is definitely recommended.

To control how your emails show up in this new inbox, you’ll need to implement specific markup—called schemas—into the HTML of your email. We’ve developed a handy (and free!) Gmail Promotion Tab Code Generator to help you create the code you’ll need to add to your HTML email campaigns.

The code allows you to choose the featured image for the Promotions Tab view of your email:

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

The email on the right is an example of a Promotions tab email that with no image.

If a featured image is not specified, the end result may be that no image appears for the email in grid view. As seen in the example above, text pulled into the space reserved for the main image doesn’t create an ideal experience.

Viator doesn't have a verified Google+ profile, so their sender image defaults to "V."

The sender name and subject line still come from your actual email and, in this new inbox, the sender name will display up to 20 characters while the subject line will display up to 75. The sender image is pulled from your company’s verified Google+ profile. For senders that don’t have a verified Google+ profile (we recommend that you do!), the logo portion of the message is the first letter of your sender name.

For emails that don’t contain the specialized Schema code, Gmail will use an algorithm to determine which image from your email should be featured. While sometimes this algorithm gamble can turn out well, it often generates some undesirable results.

To have a strategic presence in grid view, designing a featured image to represent your message and implement it using Gmail’s code is crucial. Otherwise, you risk showcasing a less-than-desirable image in the inbox. While it’s too soon to say whether open rates will be affected by this new inbox, it definitely makes the inbox a more visual place. Email marketers may be able to use this to their advantage.