Gmail Just Threw Another Game Changer. And It Looks Awesome

Client Services Director, Skip Fidura gives the lowdown on the latest bracket-busting move from Google, and why it could possibly be the biggest development for email marketing in recent history.

Apart from our Social Media Manager, we try not to use hyperbolae. I am however, not kidding when I say that the new field trial of Gmail’s visual promotional emails is going to change the face of email marketing – literally.

In short, Gmail is rolling out a new presentation view which may mean an end to ‘subject-line roulette’ for marketers – a visual grid representation of all emails that land into Gmail’s promotional tab, essentially a thumbnail of the featured image (see below).

Think of it as a Pinterest-style interface for emails. Marketers will now be able to present their campaigns visually to customers. On the face of it, this is very exciting news – a possible end to subject line testing, the ability to use richer marketing creative to lead their product and finally a level playing field in marketing based on visuals – but only on the proviso that Google deems these a success for both publishers and customers alike.

In terms of technical requirements, the featured image must be at least 580x400px – this is huge. It changes the notion of not having a big image above the fold and flies in the face of every bit of email design best practice espoused since images were switched off by default. Email marketers are now aligning closer with content publishers and social media managers, in that respect.

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Our Head of Creative Studio, Ger Ashby had this to say about developments:

“Looking at the new Gmail promotions format, the importance of using an awesome hero creative will be a fantastic opportunity to maximise a brand’s inbox appeal. The addition of the floating logo which sits above the campaign visual could offer us new ways to limit the real-estate currently consumed by the logo area dominating above the fold. These changes appear to be a great thing for designers, coders and marketing campaigners alike.”

In addition, this new trial allows sender brands to have their profile picture attached to the featured image. This requires the publisher brand to have a verified Google+ company page, fuelling more suspicions that Google is trying to get every single person with a connection to the Internet onto the maturing social network.

There are a whole bunch of tech specs, and our creative and development teams are already working on how we can adapt these natively into the dotMailer environment.

What else lies between the lines of Google’s announcement? It’s simple – the conversation is no longer about mobile-optimising your design; it’s about designing for mobile first. Because this feature is effectively a thumbnail of your email, your design needs to be ‘device agnostic’ – your starting canvas is going to be dramatically different. How will that affect the rest of your customer journey?

What does this also mean for dynamic content design? How are you going to integrate these new designs with your abandoned shopping cart emails, or other personalised campaigns? How is reporting going to change? Are there going to be new engagement metrics that we’re going to have to develop? These are the questions we are asking, and we want to explore them with our clients and partners.

We should, however, put the brakes on this over excited optimism. As Gmail have said, it is an opt-in trial – only a relatively small number of users may initially use it. Brands might want to consider getting the drop on this by encouraging their engaged subscriber base to early opt-in, helping them separate their wheat from the rest of the chaff.

In the meantime, individual marketers should definitely sign up for the trials to see the effects for themselves. There are a small number of big brands that have already implemented, and we’re waiting to hear how their emails are performing.

A huge boom in engaging eCommerce emails is on the way and it’s going to look beautiful.

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