While built by the Gmail team, Inbox is not meant as a replacement for Gmail. The team over at Google assured that “Gmail’s still there for you, but Inbox is something new.” Inbox is currently only available for @gmail.com addresses—it is not yet available for business app email addresses. At the moment, it’s only accessible via the Chrome browser, and iOS and Android apps.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN FOR EMAIL MARKETERS + DESIGNERS?
While Gmail moved towards a more visual inbox with the introduction of the Pinterest-like Promotions tab (still an opt-in feature), Inbox takes it to a new level with Highlights. Highlights showcases information from the email in the inbox view underneath the sender image, from name, subject line, and preheader text.
This feature enables users to see key information, such as flight itineraries and photos, without having to open the email. Similar to quick actions, you can use a little code, called schema, to include these visible actions in the inbox. You can use these markups to add images, reservation information, and more directly within your subscriber’s inbox!
Despite all the innovation and forward thinking displayed by Inbox, it appears as though these advancements have been layered on top of Gmail’s existing rendering engine, which lacks support for responsive design. That’s right—Inbox doesn’t support responsive emails. This isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s still disappointing. Gmail mobile apps for iOS and Android (as well as Gmail on the web) have a long history of stripping out CSS—and the media queries that make responsive email design possible—placed in the <head> of HTML emails.
There is no support for responsive email in Inbox (or the Gmail app) whereas iOS Mail offers full support for media queries.
- No support for media queries. Be sure to use mobile-friendly design elements like a single column design, large text, and touch-friendly buttons so Inbox mobile app users can easily interact with your emails.
- Uses Google+ profile picture. Like Gmail’s visual Promotions tab, the sender image is pulled from your company’s verified Google+ profile. For senders that don’t have a verified Google+ profile, it will display the first letter of your sender name.
- One line of preheader text. Similar to Gmail, Inbox displays one line of preheader text next to the subject line. Use this critical space to further encourage your subscribers to open your email and take action.
- Images automatically enabled. Last year, Gmail started downloading images automatically (of course, after they’ve been cached and checked for viruses). You can rest-assured that your subscribers using Inbox will see your design and associated content. However, you’ll still need to optimize for images off through the use of bulletproof buttons, ALT text, background colors, and a proper balance of imagery and live text, since many other clients do not display images by default.
Continue to send relevant, timely emails
With this new inbox essentially burying marketing (and even transactional emails), it’s more important than ever to only send emails that resonate with your subscriber. Relevancy is crucial! And, as always, be sure your sender image, from name, subject line, and preheader text are optimized to encourage opens.
In addition, consider longer lead times for your emails. If your subscribers have set their bundles so they only receive them once a week, then they miss out on key deals and promotions.
DON’T send an email about Inbox
When Gmail’s tabbed inbox was released, there were a flurry of emails explaining how to “move us to your Primary tab”—we don’t recommend sending those. If your subscribers are engaged with your brand, then they will actively search for your emails (and perhaps even pin them!). Wouldn’t you rather send an email with an impactful, relevant CTA than ask your subscribers for a favor?
You may see a decrease in Gmail opens…but don’t worry!
Similar to quick actions, Highlights enables users to take action without opening an email. While it may affect open rates, Highlights are a great opportunity for email marketers. Not only will the visual element help your email stand out in the inbox, but they offer direct access to conversion opportunities without users needing to open an email. While your open rates may decrease, your conversion rates may go up (that’s a win!). Test to see what resonates with your subscribers (maybe an A/B test on the image used in Highlights?).