To start with an interesting fact: like email, the Graphics Interchange Format, aka GIF, is older than the World Wide Web. Here’s one of the earliest GIFs ever made.
This humble GIF from 1987 was created by a team of developers at CompuServe, whose objective was to share high-quality image files without hogging too much of a computer’s memory.
Today, the GIF plays an eminent role in digital and email marketing, as our email animation examples will show. In fact, according to Experion, 72% of email marketers who used animated GIFs witnessed a higher click-to-transaction rate. Inarguably, one of the most successful uses of GIFs in marketing is that of Dell’s Convertible Ultrabook launch that saw a 109% increase in revenue generation.
Evidently, the GIF is not just a fun way to share information, but a real game changer when it comes to marketing and revenue generation. It is cost-effective, entertaining, and ever trending. On the technical front, GIFs are small, load quickly, and are a great alternative to embedded videos.
In this post, we explain why, when, and how to send animated emails. Let’s get started.
Why Use GIFs In Email?
While brands may differ in their need for GIF in marketing, the main reasons why marketers should consider incorporating GIFs in email include the following:
- To spark interest in the subscriber’s mind: Using a GIF is a great way to hold the subscriber’s attention, allowing them to pause and consider your email at some length.
You might want the subscriber to take a desired action on the email. The GIF in your copy will make the subscriber scroll toward the relevant CTA button. Just like the following re-engagement email from Hulu.
- To launch a new product: Borrowing from Dell’s example, a prominently GIF-centric campaign is highly recommended for product launch emails. Consider this email from Burberry. The 360-degree view helps customers know the product better.
- To minimize explainer text: It is a known fact that our brains process visuals faster than words, which might explain the general preference for visual content over text. If you had to explain something particularly intricate, you might want to skip text, and switch to a GIF. That’s what Netflix does in the following email.
- To surprise: Marketers concur that surprise is still a very effective way to market to consumers.
This is because surprise is addictive, and it triggers behavioral changes. But above all, surprise induces emotions, which alone has been the driving factor behind many successful campaigns over the years. Moo’s email below is a brilliant way of using GIFs to surprise.
When To Use GIFS In Email?
No matter the fame of GIFs, email marketers should be wary of inducing a possible GIF fatigue in their subscribers.
It’s not sufficient to know how to make animated emails. Remember, we’re not talking about GIFs in an informal sense. While GIFs may be an informal way of sharing information, they’re still part of a marketing strategy, which necessitates temperance in order to have the best results.
For one thing, repetition is built into the fabric of the GIF. GIFs loop endlessly. In fact, watching a GIF for two minutes straight might be enough to annoy a person. Now think about having to receive every email with a cumbersome GIF spiraling before the eyes.
Therefore, you should use GIFs sparingly, dedicated mostly to special/seasonal emails, such as product launch emails, discount emails, holiday emails, event invitation emails, newsletters, product update emails, etc.
Below is a nice example of a GIF-using discount email from Pur.
Secondly, animated GIFs that flash content between 2Hz and 55Hz may be harmful to photosensitive viewers. It’s a very serious limitation, never mind the efficacy of GIFs. So, even if you are using GIFs for the right purposes, you need to consider the unique challenges of your subscribers.
The following Flash Sale email from MeUndies, while aligned with the nature of the email, may be inimical to photosensitive subscribers.
Thirdly, don’t create or use GIFs just for the sake of it. The point of using a GIF is to accentuate the core message/information, not to distract the viewer away from it.
Consider this email from Postable. The GIF is in perfect alignment with the intent and message of the email. It’s also minimal, which lends a touch of sobriety to an email that is chiefly informational.
How To Use GIFs In Email?
Email clients differ from each other in their terms and conditions on incorporating GIFs in email. While it is not possible to cover every ESP, keep the following in mind if you’re thinking of using GIFs.
- Use a small file size: Large files defeat the very purpose of using GIFs in email. So, the file size of a GIF should not exceed 5 MB. Ideally, you want the file size to be 1 MB or lower in order to prevent slow loading.
- Use the first frame as the freestanding image: Unfortunately, a perfect file size may not always be a total guarantee of a GIF playing properly in a subscriber’s inbox.
There might be various reasons (ESP glitches, device issues, etc.) why a GIF won’t play on certain inboxes. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the very first frame of your GIF works as a freestanding image.
- Maintain brand consistency: It is often tempting to include a highly trending GIF in your emails. While staying relevant is a strong way of vibing with your subscribers, it is equally necessary to customize GIFs according to your brand identity.
For instance, a particularly glitzy GIF may be more suited to a brand like Tattly rather than DropBox, right?
Generally, the point of using a GIF in email is to make the subscriber hover over the email content, and absorb the information, in order to make them scroll toward the CTA button.
- Use embedded links: If you are using a GIF website to source your GIFs, you can easily embed the URL of your chosen GIF into your email.
N.B. Do not include third-party GIFs in your email without first verifying their copyright license. You don’t want to be guilty of using other’s GIFs without giving them due credit. Avoid all avoidable legal repercussions.
GIFs are a great way to spark up emails, and deliver delightful experiences to your customers. But of course, you can’t afford to overdo the GIF. Broadly considered, the trick lies in ensuring maximum engagement with minimal resources.