Gmail Launches Annotations in the Promotions Tab on iOS & Android

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Gmail has integrated a lot of the features of the sunsetting Inbox into its core email product. We can add another one to the list. Gmail just announced a new feature, certainly inspired by and experimented with Inbox, which is an extension of Highlights and Quick Actions: Annotations in the Promotions Tab.

Watch the full announcement of the feature below:

How does it work?

Gmail automatically groups and highlights email promotions that people are most likely to be interested in. Annotations can be added as JSON-LD in a script tag within the head of HTML of your email or as Microdata. You can learn more about getting started with Gmail's Email Markup here and see the full Annotations reference here.

Gmail Annotations
An example of what Gmail's Annotations looks like

To start, the following elements are supported for Annotations:

Users cannot click to a landing page from these Annotations—all clicks lead to opening the email itself. All of these Annotations are optional (you can include as few or as many as you'd like for your email). Your email is not guaranteed to be highlighted or have Annotations be displayed even if you have them properly implemented with JSON.

Gmail also updated the Promotions Tab teaser design in the Primary Tab:

Gmail Promotions Tab teaser in the Primary Tab

Preview your Gmail Annotations

Edit the code below or paste in your own code to see it in action

Or you can use Litmus' Gmail Promotions Builder to generate JSON:

Or FreshInbox's tool to generate Microdata:

Where will it be supported in Gmail?

According to Gmail, "only consumers see the new Gmail promotions tab. The experience does not impact G Suite users. These are not ads and emails are grouped automatically based on a number of factors." If you are having issues with your Annotations displaying, you can view their troubleshooting guide or FAQ.

Is this live?

This has been in beta for several months amongst select users and is now available on Gmail iOS and Android with webmail client plans for 2019.

A look at future functionality

Gmail already has plans to expand Annotations functionality, which include:

Topic Bundles Catalog Cards with CTAs
Topic Bundles Catalog Cards with CTAs
Catalog Cards for events
Catalog Cards for events
Text-over-image cards
Text-over-image cards

No timeline has been given for these future features.

Litmus is hosting a webinar with Gmail's Annotations Product Manager Jordan Manager on December 18th on how to best use this feature and answer any of your questions.

The Pros

Excellent documentation: This is the best documentation from Gmail on any feature release for developers. Kudos to Product Manager Jordan Grossman and his team on this.

Uses JSON/Microdata: Unlike AMP, this functionality is running off JSON/Microdata so everybody can start implementing this functionality in their emails right away.

Easy to consume: I think the Gmail design team did well on this as all of the Annotations are fairly minimalist and easy to scan the important information.

The Cons

Not a standard: If other email clients copy this functionality but with separate implementations, this can create extra work and further fragmentation.

Emphasizes deals: I'm concerned that Gmail is treating email marketing solely as a deal-centric communication medium and enabling and rewarding this behavior. There's too much of this going on in email marketing today as it is. Many of Promotions Tabs emails that are content-focused won't have applicable callouts for Annotations.

Not a chronological feed: Gmail is taking over control which emails it highlights using machine learning. Under this model, it seems as if important emails you care about could potentially become buried. This is a slippery slope in my opinion. Your open metrics could increase or decrease dramatically with this alogrithm as well. Also, given how much vertical space Annotations take up, it could make going through your email more tedious. Perhaps it's too early to judge given we haven't had a full inbox of these to experience yet, but that's an obvious concern so far.

Gmail taking over control which emails it highlights in the inbox is a slippery slope. Email marketers should be on high alert.

What are your thoughts?

Do you like or dislike Gmail's new Annotations? Do you agree or disagree with my pros and cons? Let me know @KevinMandeville.

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