29 June 2023

How annotations for Gmail promo tabs help sell in eCommerce — the Epicenter case study

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Table of contents
  1. About the company
  2. About Gmail annotations
  3. How email marketing is built at Epicenter
  4. Why did Epicenter need to use annotations?
  5. Inspiring annotation examples and tips from Epicenter
  6. The results of using Gmail updated annotations
  7. Wrapping up
About the company

Annotation for the Promotions tabs is an option that enables brands to show users promotional content as soon as they open their email inbox, driving users to the brand’s site before the user even opens the email itself. This improves interaction with users and increases OR and conversions of promotional emails.

Dmytro Sadovskyi, head of direct marketing at Epicenter, shared his experience working with annotations in eCommerce.

Examples of annotations for the Gmail promo tab for eCommerce

(Source: Emails from Epicenter)

About the company

The Epicenter group of companies is a Ukrainian ecosystem that includes the Epicenter and New Line retail chains, the Intersport-Ukraine multi-brand sports store chain, the Epicenter-Agro agricultural holding, the Epicenter Ceramic Corporation tile production plants, woodworking production Osmoloda, and logistics facilities.

The leading online channels used to attract customers include the online store EPICENTRK.UA, social networks, and email newsletters.

About Gmail annotations

Google introduced annotations in promo tabs in 2019 and, in March 2023, released several updates to this tool, including the following:

  • adding a product carousel to the annotation;
  • lowering the requirements for single images;
  • allowing users to specify the amount of the discount, the promotional code, and the end date of the sale.

Click here to find out more about how the updated version of annotations works and how to measure the tool’s effectiveness.

How email marketing is built at Epicenter

Let us tell you a few words about Epicenter’s overall email marketing strategy.

At Epicenter, the in-house email marketing team prepares email newsletters. The distribution base is measured in hundreds of thousands of subscribers who have purchased goods in the online store or who subscribe to receive news and special offers.

For example, before Black Friday, addresses are collected on a separate website page for those who expect a discount.

The main features of email marketing in Epicenter include the following:

  • The preferential use of promotional and trigger emails
  • Templates with one product or a selection of product cards and product categories for promotional emails
  • Email templates that differ in format and appearance to keep subscribers interested
  • Promos targeting different audience segments and select individuals who will be more interested instead of sending them to the entire base

At Epicenter, the CDP Yespo omnichannel platform is used to prepare and send emails and to perform analytics. Initially, the Stripo editor was also used to simplify the design of annotations in Gmail promo tabs.

"We started using annotations in 2019. At first, we made them in Stripo and inserted some HTML code into our emails. After a while, Yespo got a Stripo plugin with this functionality, so we started annotating right there. It’s very convenient because it’s a tool we use every day."

Dmytro Sadovskyi, head of direct marketing at Epicenter

Why did Epicenter need to use annotations?

The key objectives of using annotations were the following:

  • create emails that attracted attention; even if they were not opened, subscribers would still have an image in their inboxes;
  • improve Open Rate indicators;
  • increase site traffic and sales.

Since 2019, Epicenter has been using this tool because annotations attract attention and make promo emails stand out from the crowd. The email might be among the best, but the Google algorithm shows it to all subscribers only sometimes. Google’s algorithm decides who to show it to.

"Unfortunately, there are no direct analytics, so it is impossible to calculate the tool’s effectiveness precisely—to measure the success of this tool and track whether annotation was shown or not. We could only compare Open Rates. These increased at the beginning of use because this tool makes the email stand out from all the promotions.

Email marketers often write about the lack of analytics on annotations, and they very much hope for a solution to the issue of collecting data on this tool, for example, in CDP and ESP systems."

Dmytro Sadovskyi, head of direct marketing at Epicenter

By the way, we at Stripo describe how to evaluate the effectiveness of annotations using a pixel added to the image.

Inspiring annotation examples and tips from Epicenter

Use the exact image size

It is essential to select an image size that will be displayed well on different devices. Google recommends using a 538 × 138 px size for annotations with single shots or sticking to the 3.9:1 ratio.

In 2023, Google lowered the requirements for images but added a new rule: Images must contain a minimum of text and must display the message. Most common image aspect ratios are supported; the recommended ones are 4:5, 1:1, 3:2, and 1.91:1.

However, the image should look good and not lose important information when it is cropped on different devices. Epicenter email marketers created templates in which the place of each element was precisely calculated.

Annotation for Gmail promo tabs with exact image size

(Source: Email from Epicenter)

You can read the complete guide on working with updated sizes of single images and product carousels in annotations for Gmail promo tabs.

Add essential information about the promotion

Be sure to use attention-grabbing details, including the "lost benefit syndrome." Show a promo code, and add a badge in addition to the main image. That is, if you are advertising a discount, show the specific percentage and the end date of the promotion.

Annotation for Gmail promo tabs with discount

(Source: Email from Epicenter)

Here is another example that includes crucial information:

Annotation for Gmail promo tabs with the amount of the discount

(Source: Email from Epicenter)

Add the dates of the promotion

For a short-term promotion, for example, when the promotional code is conditionally valid for three days, it is necessary to indicate in the text that it expires in three days. This information is then highlighted in promotions.

That is, if you specify the end date, then before this date, the Google algorithm often sends the email again to subscribers who have not yet opened it. Thus, Google creates a nice automatic reminder.

Annotation for Gmail promo tabs with date

(Source: Email from Epicenter)

Here is another example:

Annotation for Gmail promo tabs with promo code

(Source: Email from Epicenter)

Annotations are not only for promo emails

In addition to promo emails, you can use annotations for digests with valuable materials and for emails with product categories to attract the attention of subscribers who may not yet be ready to buy something.

Annotation for Gmail promo tabs for digest emails

(Source: Email from Epicenter)

Here is an example of annotation for emails with product categories:

Annotation for Gmail promo tabs for product categories

(Source: Email from Epicenter)

The results of using Gmail updated annotations

Comparing the effectiveness of email campaigns with and without annotations, Epicenter noticed that campaigns with annotations had a 10–15% higher OR.

Wrapping up

Annotations in Gmail promo tabs are a powerful tool that can draw readers’ attention to your brand and help make your brand stand out and be remembered. Try using Epicenter and the updated capabilities that allow you to create annotations using the Stripo editor, and leave your subscribers with a memorable impression.

Try the Stripo annotations builder today
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