Remember when marketers everywhere panicked over Gmail’s promotions tab?  Well, Google has done it again, and is taking the promotions tab one step further.

 Gmail is experimenting with a new layout that resembles Pinterest, and is turning emails into an infinite scroll of thumbnail images.  Now, instead of just a subject line and from address, marketers will be able to attract attention with a compelling image right in the inbox.  Google released this image to show us how:


What a Visual Promotions Tab Means for You

The latest development from Gmail means that there’s even less room for junky, irrelevant email marketing spam.  Your email content will still need to be personalized and targeted to your audience.  And if your email lands in the visual promotions tab, your email image will play just as big of a role as your subject line does in getting your message opened and read.

Gmail’s visual promotions tab is another development stemming from the trending dominance of visual communication.  The popularity of online video, infographics, Pinterest, and Instagram all point to the ability of great design to help us digest information in a noisy and complex world.

Tackling images and design may sound overwhelming to small business marketers, but it’s actually a great opportunity for the SMB space.  Unlike a large Fortune 500 corporation, small businesses are nimble.  As a small business marketer, you can adapt quickly to changes like this one, take risks to find out what works best, and carve out an opportunity to stand out in this visual inbox competition.

In addition, I think that this new development transforms the promotions tab from a wasteland where emails go to die into a showcase for engaging eye-candy that will keep consumers scrolling.   Consumers have already fallen in love with using infinite scrolling images on Pinterest to curate products and dream purchases.  Bringing the same design to the inbox could mean great things for marketers.  Imagine your best customers scrolling, mesmerized through their inbox where your email image and logo await.

 With Images Front & Center,  What’s a Non-Designer To Do?

As a small business marketer, you are used to being a jack-of-all-trades because there isn’t always extra budget for graphic designers or sophisticated design tools.  But don’t worry.  Design is really about solving a problem visually – and small business marketers are excellent problem solvers.  You’re talented, and creative.  You just need the right tools.  Here are a few to get you started:

  • Canva is a simple graphic design tool for the masses.  Use it to easily create eye-catching email images as well as flyers, banners, presentations, and social media assets.

  • DeviantArt Muro is a free, in-browser design app that is less complex than Photoshop, but more robust than MS Paint.  Use it when you want to create something from a blank slate.

  • Colourlovers compiles colors, patterns, palettes and trends you can browse or create.  Use it when you need a little color and design inspiration.

As you add “design” to your checklist of “Things to be Great at Today!” don’t forget that design and content go hand in hand.  A stunning visual in the inbox is totally superficial.  It might get them to open , but will your prospects click through and convert?  They will if your content is as scrumptious and inviting as your email image.

If you want to take part in the Gmail promotions tab experiment, you can sign up here for the field trial.  Be a guinea pig now so you can deliver your prospects a great experience when the new layout goes live.