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Surprise: Gmail's Newest Innovation Prompts Little Press Idiocy


By Ken Magill

For once, Gmail has introduced a significant innovation and no one is predicting the death of email. Even more refreshing, a cursory glance at the usual suspects’ coverage—the tech press, in particular—reveals no one predicting the demise of email marketing.

As most of the readers of this newsletter no doubt already know, Google last week unveiled an experiment where Gmail address holders can opt to have their promotional messages display in images much like Pinterest.

The new grid-view feature also includes unlimited scrolling.

The new view is nothing to get worked up or excited about yet. People who want to try it must volunteer and not everyone who volunteers will be invited into the experiment.

Moreover, given the power of inertia, it is unlikely enough people will opt into the new experience to give it critical mass.

However, if Google turns the grid- or tile-view feature on by default, as it did with Gmail tabs, then things get serious.

In that case, marketers who fail to design their emails according to Google’s specifications risk having their images render improperly in Gmail, according to Jordan Cohen, vice president of marketing for dynamic email content enabler Movable Ink.

“Gmail’s new grid view is a huge opportunity for marketers to optimize open rates and conversions,” he said. “But if they don’t design to the specifications that Google has mapped out for the featured image, what will be displayed in the tile view will not look good.”

Cohen added that text-heavy emails currently do not render well in Gmail’s tile view.

“For the marketers that are doing text heavy emails, those look really terrible right now,” he said. “For the folks that are image heavy [and who haven’t implemented Google’s specs], you’re seeing something, but it’s being controlled by a Google algorithm, so it might not fit neatly. So you might see a big image with letters cut off.”

In any case, how email marketers should respond to Gmail’s new grid-view feature is beyond my area of expertise.

However, this being the Internet, real expertise is always just a click away.

Jeanne Jennings, vice president of global strategic services for email ad agency Alchemy Worx, has a nice post on ClickZ.

Matt Byrd, senior email marketing manager at Litmus, has a solid post here.

Brooke Burdge, marketing manager at Movable Ink, offers her take here.

Movable Ink is also expected to capitalize on Gmail’s latest innovation by issuing the following press release tomorrow:

(New York, NY) April 2, 2014 Movable Ink today announced the release of new features within its agileEMAIL platform that will enable email marketers to maximize campaign performance in Gmail’s new Promotions folder “grid view.” Marketers will be able to auto-optimize and personalize featured images on every open of the Promotions tab with the grid view enabled, resulting in higher open rates and more conversion opportunities.

Key features include:

Automated A/B/x testing. Test multiple versions of featured grid view images on the fly, and automatically set campaigns to display the best performing images to the majority of their recipients.

Image personalization. Include a recipient’s name, birthday, anniversary, or other personalized content into the featured image to make messages stand out from other promotional emails.  (This information cannot be viewed in grid view images as plain system text – it must be embedded in the image itself).

Contextually relevant content. Display featured images that are contextually relevant to a recipient’s time, location, device, or local weather conditions.

Countdown Clocks. Display time remaining to take advantage of special sales.

“Gmail continues to innovate and create a compelling email experience for its users,” said Vivek Sharma, co-founder and chief executive officer, Movable Ink. “Its elegant new grid view format presents email marketers with an unprecedented opportunity to engage with recipients, and the new features we are announcing today will give them the ability to move the needle on boosting open rates in a way that was never before possible.”


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