The Gmail “Promotions” tab gets a visual upgrade with grid view

27 March 2014

When Gmail rolled out the new Gmail tabbed layout last summer, every marketer worried about how to get their promotional emails into the Primary tab or at least have them opened by their recipients in the Promotions tab. On Tuesday, Gmail announced a very cool field trial that lets you view the Promotions tab in a much more visually enticing way.

For now this is an experimental feature, you need to request it, and it may take some time for it to be activated on your Gmail account. In addition, it is currently available only for English users with addresses, and is not available for users of Google Apps.

Gmail like Pinterest

As you can see in the animated images below (provided by Google), by clicking on the Grid button in the Promotions tab, Gmail users can view their emails as blocks of images, in a Pinterest-like, infinite-scrolling layout. The result is an inbox that’s much more inviting and engaging than the standard layout, which all of a sudden looks old and boring.

Source: Google

Either the first letter of the subject line (which Gmail also highlights in its mobile client) or the sender’s logo are overlaid on the image. The sender name and the subject line are displayed right below the image.

Google grid view for email in promotions tab

The result is visually very appealing. Will it turn into more frequest visits to the Promotions tab, and higher opens and clicks? Time will tell, but marketers have good reasons to be hopeful!

Focus on images

As this test layout relies heavily on images, marketers will inevitably have to shift their focus on the creatives and away (slightly) from subject lines for Gmail inboxes. From what we have learnt so far:

  • You – the sender – will be able to tell Google which image should be used for the preview (i.e. your “featured” image).
  • If you don’t point out a featured image in the message code, Google will use an algorithm to pick one for you.

Technical details

On the Google support site there is already a page with technical details on how to set up your email messages to work well in Grid View. Some of the instructions refer to HTML code that needs to be added to the source of the message. Once Grid View becomes a confirmed feature in Gmail, we may decide to add features to MailUp to allow you to set these properties without touching the HTML code. Just a thought for now: nothing on the roadmap yet!

So… here we go with the geeky stuff.

  • Sender name: must be 20 characters or less to avoid truncation (see the image above to see where it is shown)
  • Message subject: must be 75 characters or less to avoid truncation (same)
  • Feature image: it must be at least 580px by 400px. Larger images are resized to fit properly, so it’s best to use the correct ratio. The code for the featured image should look like this:
<div itemscope itemtype="">
  <link itemprop="image" href=""/>
  • Sender logo: it’s taken from your verified Google+ Page (time to start paying more attention to your Google+ profile!). If there is no logo, Gmail uses the first letter of the subject line, large and capitalized. Code-wise, here is the source code that Google provided as an example:
<div itemscope itemtype="">
  <div itemprop="publisher" itemscope itemtype="">
    <meta itemprop="name" content="Google Play"/>
    <link itemprop="url" href=""/>
    <link itemprop="url/googlePlus" href=""/>
  <div itemprop="about" itemscope itemtype="">
    <link itemprop="image" href=""/>

See all the technical details on the Google support page at:

What’s coming next to the “grid”? Ads? A “Plus” button?

Will Google use this new layout to more effectively embed AdWords into Gmail by mixing ads with email offers? We’ve heard rumurs that this may be the plan. We’ll see!

Will Goole provide a way to “+” (i.e. like ) the offer? That would be another welcome development for marketers, and another way for Google to push Google+. We would not be surprised at all to see that kind of feature added to the Gmail inbox in the future: it would make sense (another way to track engagement), and would create a strong link between Gmail – which has a massive and loyal user base – and Google+.

And a natural development could then be for Google to affect grid view accordingly, giving priority to offers sent by marketers that have received a “+” in the past.

What do you think?

What’s your take on Gmail’s more visual Promotions tab? …and how will affect your email marketing? Join the conversation and post your comments below!

This article was written by

Massimo Arrigoni

Massimo Arrigoni

As head of products at MailUp, I spend my days (and nights) thinking of new tools that can help marketers get the job done more effectively. In MailUp 9, for instance, we just introduced a new way for our users to collaborate on email campaigns. With, we took our drag-n-drop email editor and turned into a stand-alone, embeddable plugin. The objective is to create tangible value, gather feedback, and push real product innovation based on it.

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