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Google's New Promo Grid View: A Visual Opportunity

Recently, Google enabled the grid view for my Promo tab, turning my inbox into an infinite-scrolling ‘Ginterest’ board. The new view occurred roughly ten months after Gmail launched the somewhat controversial tabs feature, which separates promotional emails into their own tab.

From a UI/UX standpoint, the grid view evokes a powerful “inspiration-discovery mechanism” with a “focus on images, browsing, and serendipity.” Many startups, such as Pixable and Trippy, have adopted the Pinterest-like layout on their own websites for its ability to drive user engagement and content discovery. Therefore, the new Gmail grid view comes as good news for marketers. When optimized, it’s a fantastic opportunity for savvy companies to show off their enticing promotional images and to differentiate themselves from all the other messages that compete for their customers’ attention.

In order to optimize the appearance of your email, let’s first break down the anatomy of a grid-view email in the inbox.

You can see that heavy emphasis is placed on the main featured image, as well as the sender name. The sender name and subject line are secondary, and the preheader is completely eliminated. In addition, subscribers can now delete emails with one click on the trash can icon.

Now let’s review the 3 steps for optimizing the appearance of your email:

1. Optimize images with Gmail schemas

Gmail’s algorithm will automatically choose a picture from your email to serve as the featured image. However, sometimes the algorithm chooses a non-optimized image and you’re left with an awkward looking email:

Or, it doesn’t detect an image at all, and you’re left with text from the email body in the featured image area:

If you wish to customize the featured image and other aspects of your offer email appearance, you will have to include markup language, called schemas, in your email templates. Using schemas, you can select a featured image for your email. The image does not actually need to present in the email message. The minimum size for the featured images is 580 px x 400 px and larger images will be resized to fit. Also, note that if an animated GIF is chosen as the featured image, only the first frame will be shown in the grid view.

2. Optimize your sender name and subject line

The sender name and subject line is pulled directly from your email. Gmail advises keeping the sender name under 20 characters and the subject line under 75 characters to avoid truncation.

3. Set up your Google Plus account

If you haven’t created a Google Plus profile for your company yet, now is the perfect time to do so, because the sender image in the email is pulled directly from your company’s verified Google Plus profile. Also note that you will need to enable the Google Plus related pages widget in Gmail and specify the EmailMessage.publisher property in the markup of your email.

If you do not have a verified Google Plus page and have not enabled the Google Plus related pages for Gmail widget, then the sender image will show the first letter of the sender name.

So far the new promo grid-view is only available to Gmail users who have signed up and been selected to trial the new feature. Considering that about 11% of email users are on Gmail, the grid view is still in its very early days of adoption. However, if you want to get a head start on optimizing emails for the grid view, it’s a good idea to implement schemas and start building out your Google Plus page! 

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