How Promotional Emails Look in the New Gmail Inbox (App and Desktop Client)

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Google has sent the email world into a stir again with the launch of a new email app called Inbox. But don’t panic, let’s look at the impact on your promotional emails and how you can work with it rather than against it.

Google’s Inbox app has created a range of reactions – excitement, disappointment, delight, panic. But before you get ready to say goodbye to open and engagement rates, read why the future is not actually as gloomy as you might think.

There are plenty of articles about how the new app works, but we’ll look specifically at the effects on promotional emails.

The Inbox Home

First Impressions

When a user first opens the Inbox, they will see their different bundles – the name of the categories that emails fall in by default. And these are:

  • Travel
  • Purchases
  • Finance
  • Social
  • Updates
  • Forums
  • Promos

This is similar to having tabs in Gmail. And time has already shown us that there’s no need to panic about tabs. Emails landing in the ‘Promotions’ tab are still successful because subscribers will visit the tab when they’re in buying mode.

Good news: The most recent email sender names now appear after the bundle name, whereas Gmail only indicated the number of new emails. For unread emails, the sender name will appear in bold.

Emails that stand out

If your email includes information on a purchase, attachments, contact cards and travel information, they will have more space dedicated to them, which makes them stand out more easily. Gmail also pulls information from the email like parcel tracking, shipping status, flight details, etc.

Good news: The elements above are fairly industry specific. But one thing any industry can include is an embedded YouTube video. These immediately catch the attention of the users.  However, clicking on the image will open the YouTube video right away, so there is a chance that they won’t open and engage with the rest of the email.

How do emails look like in the Promo Bundle?



The first thing you notice is that your emails now have your logo attached, which is not a feature in the desktop version of Gmail. Some senders will have their logos next to the email, whereas some just have the initial of the brand name. If you have a Google+ brand page, but your logo is not showing, there are other factors that could cause this problem. They include a Google+ brand page that is not verified, or not having SPF and DKIM setup for the domain.

From name, subject line and pre-header text

If an email is unread, the from name and subject line will be bolded, which makes it subtly stand out from other emails. What’s interesting to note is that in the desktop version there is a set number of characters on each line. If these three elements take up less than that total, Inbox will start pulling text from the rest of the email to fill in the gap.

Also, if the users set a reminder connected to your email, this will replace the pre-header text in the mobile app version.

Don’t panic: if the user has taken the trouble of setting a reminder, then they are already engaged with your email and it’s important to them. Having a reminder also puts your email in the Inbox home so you have even more visibility!

Character count

We wanted to see exactly how many characters you have to impress your subscribers. So we tested it on an iPhone 5s, a Google Nexus 4 running Android  and a Windows desktop with a 1990 x 1080 screen. Once the email is read, it won’t be bold anymore so it can squeeze in a few extra characters.

Inbox app iPhone

  • Subject line: 30-32
  • Pre-header text: 34-36

Inbox app Android

  • Subject line: 31-32
  • Pre-header text: 35-36

Inbox on desktop – In a maximised window, the pre-header text will follow the subject line and the character allowance for them combined is 142 – 158 depending on the width of the characters, and whether or not you use capital letters. The smaller the screen, the more this limit goes down, but you have a very good chance that the subject line will appear in its entirety.

How the email looks once opened

Once opened, the subject line, logo and sender name get the same exposure as they would in Gmail. Gmail Inbox doesn’t recognise CSS and media queries, so pinching, scrolling left and right, and resizing might be necessary to see the email on the mobile app.

User actions and how they affect you

The main user benefit of Gmail Inbox is that they can easily organize their inbox with a set of possible actions at the touch/tap of a button, or by swiping on the mobile app. They are:

1. Pin – if users decide to pin your email, it will place it on the home screen without having to open a bundle to see it.  Also, users can switch the Pin view on to see only emails they have pinned previously, functioning like a to-do list. It’s another reason why your emails should be very relevant to your audience. Without that, they wouldn’t have a reason to pin them. Also, if they decide to pin the email while it’s open, Inbox will prompt them to also set a reminder.

2. Reminder – this will show up in the Inbox home, replace the pre-header text in the preview pane, appear between the subject line and sender name once the email is open, and appear in the search function.

3. Done – you might see this as your worst enemy at first, because it moves your email from the inbox into the Done category where subscribers can forget about it.

Good news: marking an email as done is much easier than deleting it, and because the email still exists, it will show up in the search function.

4. Snooze – users can snooze until the following day, week, someday, a specific date & time or a location. Someday will move the email to the ‘Snooze’ category so it’s similar to the ‘Done’ function.

Good news: it can be in your favour if people snooze until they have more time to shop, until they get paid or until they use the location of your shop to pop the email back when they’re on location. That means your marketing message will resurface at the perfect conversion time.

5. Search will go through all emails including done items, snoozed items and it also shows reminders associated with the emails. The order in which they appear is from most recent to oldest, pulling the top 5 most relevant to the search criteria first.


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