Gmail Testing “Top Picks”, Expiration Warning for Promotional Emails
Gmail appears to be testing new ways to display promotional emails. Recently, our Senior Email Strategist, Rafael Viana, found something interesting in his Gmail Promotions tab – it was split into “Top Promotions” and “Other Promotions”, while others have reported seeing an urgent “expiring deals” warning in their Primary inbox.
The emails in the top promotions sometimes greet the recipient with an image, as shown above, giving visual flare in the inbox while at the same time providing the email the best placement at the top of the inbox. At most, only two emails will appear in “Top Promotions” at any given time. If a user deletes or archives a “top promotion”, a new email appears approximately within 30 minutes. In theory, people will open more of these top promotions than “other promotions”, so you’re probably wondering, how do I sign up?
First off, not all Gmail users are seeing their Promotions tab split into “Top Promotions” and “Other Promotions.” In fact, even for those that have a split Promotions tab have reported seeing Gmail test the name of “Top Promotions”, with “Top Picks” or “Top Deals” instead. It appears this new feature is only appearing in the Gmail app on Android mobile devices for select individuals. There’s currently no way for users to opt-in or even remove the “Top Promotions” view if present.
It’s possible Google is testing a new feature of their upcoming Gmail redesign. Or it’s possible it’s simply a new Schema.org markup Gmail is testing first. Looking at the source code, there’s new markup that doesn’t appear in any current documentation, specifically the PromotionCard type. When we reached out to the sender of the email that appeared in the “Top Promotions”, they were unaware that their emails were appearing in “Top Promotions”, indicating Gmail is running a closed test. After reaching out to Google, they responded that they were running a trial and often run experiments.
There doesn’t appear to be a rhyme or reason for what appears in “Top Promotions” as of now. It appears to be random with Gmail hand selecting some of the emails, presumably to test response rates for “Top Promotions” where a user sees an image. In the future, it could be determined by:
- Machine learning algorithms that learn what each person considers a “top promotion.” Much like how Gmail learns what is spam and what is not spam based on engagement, it could too learn what promotions are the most interesting and relevant based on our past behaviors.
- Senders that have adopted AMP. Possibly, Gmail may try to encourage Amp for Email adoption by giving AMP Emails top placement in the “top promotions” view. This test using email markup may be easier for them to test response and reaction than waiting for a wider AMP rollout and adoption.
- The highest bidder. Could this be Gmail’s way to monetize the inbox by providing top shelf placement to the highest bidder? Since many marketers try to optimize the time they deploy the campaign to be at the top of the inbox, it seems plausible Gmail could ensure top placement for the highest bidder.
Luckily, opening an expired promotional email isn’t the same as drinking expired milk, but it does give us major FOMO which is a possible reason Google is testing a new “Deals Expiring” feature in the primary inbox. In theory, people should be tempted more to visit promotional emails if they have a sense of urgency to do so, not to mention being able to hone in on specific deals that will about to expire. This could be a part of the new Gmail redesign, or not, but in this case the Schema.org markup Expires could be what determines what’s included in “deals expiring.”
This fits in with the new Gmail redesign and the purported “expiring emails.” Whereas Gmail users can have emails expire and self-destruct, it’s easy to see how marketers could use this markup as a warning to users of a deal too good to be true that they’re about to pass up.
While these new feature tests may never see the light of day, it is interesting to see how Gmail is trying to make promotional emails more relevant, urgent and fun for its users. What do you think? Leave me your thoughts and theories in the comments below.
About Tom Sather
Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.