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Essentials of Using GIFs in Emails: A Comprehensive Guide

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is an extensively used file format for graphic images on the World Wide Web. Besides being an obvious standard for developing quality images on websites, it is used for adding quality images even in email. GIF is better than any other format if you want to add lossless, compressed animations in your email design. The animations can either be a cut from a scene or slideshow style animation displaying numerous still frames picked from different images.

Few Technical Aspects Regarding GIFs

GIF format works on the patented LZW (Lempel-Ziv-Welch) compression algorithm, owned by Unisys. At its backend, GIF uses the 2D raster data type that is encoded in binary form. Email develops a short sequence of images within a single GIF file. It is an 8-bit indexed file type, offering a range of 256 (or less) different colors. These can either be a standard selection or an image-dependent selected made by the user. CompuServe designed it in the early days of the Internet.

The amount of compression will rely on the image type. A full color continuous tone image would not compress to less than 30% of its original size. On the contrary, a solid color vector image should compress even more. The GIF file format is compatible with layers, thereby imparting transparency and animation.

The Advent of GIFs in Emails (Some Case Studies)

In the year 2007, Lake Champlain Chocolates tried their luck with GIFs to enhance the performance of email campaigns.

To their sheer surprise, it improved their conversions 49%.

Take a look at the kind of GIFs they had included in their email.

Half a decade back in 2014, Dell lifted 109% revenue with the help of a GIF-centric email campaign.

Ever since then, the use of GIFs has extended to several innovative applications across diverse industries. There was a time when GIFs were not supported by Outlook. We have come a long way from that phase and GIFs are now compatible with every email client except the past versions of Outlook. This has paved new avenues for the usage of GIFs in emails without getting worked up about rendering challenges.

That said, let’s walk through the different uses of GIFs in emails.

Travel Industry

Travel industry thrives on sharing appealing imagery with the globetrotters and inspiring wanderlust in them. By using GIFs in your travel industry emails, you can entice them to plan a trip and buy from you. You can even promote a huge range of destinations with different packages.

See how cleverly Hawaiian Airlines has used a cinemagraph type of GIF and highlighted the discounted prices.

Let’s take another example of Carnival Cruise Line. They have incorporated a creative scroll in the email that ends with a beautiful GIF. It will not only draw the subscriber’s attention but also compel them to click-through and convert.

Ecommerce and Retail Industry

Ecommerce industry can harness the power of GIF in emails by displaying the vast spread of products through animations. It will give the email recipients a clear idea about the kind of products on sale and encourage them to make the purchase.

Take a look at this email design by J.Crew.

Take a look at how Sambag uses GIF to win over the email subscribers and stands out in the cluttered inbox.


Telecommunications is largely based on how well you can reach out to the larger mass. Netflix sets the perfect example of how to do it, with an awesome cinemagraph to promote their series “House of Cards”.

Service-based Companies

B2B email marketers and service-based companies can experiment with innovative GIF ideas to promote their offerings.

Moo not only sends an awesome GIF in the email, but also takes the story forward on their landing page.

Here’s how.

Advantages of Using GIFs in Emails

Besides making your emails visually attractive, GIFs have several advantages as enlisted below.

Build better brand reputation

If you want to add a personality to your mundane emails, use GIFs that will enhance your brand reputation.

To start with, you can consider animating your brand logo and see how it resonates with the subscribers, like Hollister does.

Demonstrate the usage of your product

GIFs can be effectively used to demonstrate how a product works and build confidence with the subscriber.

Have a look at how UncommonGoods explains the usage of a long-distance friendship lamp with the help of an interesting GIF.

Enhance occasion-based email marketing

Whether it is a subscriber’s birthday or an important occasion like Christmas or Halloween, you can use GIFs to leave a stronger impact.

For example: Dorothy Perkins sends a wonderful birthday email along with a discount offer.

Boden features two cutely animated reindeer in their Christmas email and promotes 50% off sale.

How to Embed a GIF in Email?

After you have prepared the GIF to be included in your email and optimized it for best performance, you can use the code below to embed it.

<img src="" width="200" height="300" alt="EMAILWeb" border="0">

It is similar to the code used to embed static images.

Compatibility with Email Clients

Animated GIFs work on all email clients enlisted below.

Desktop Clients

Lotus Notes (6, 7, 8.5)

Outlook 2000-2003

Outlook for Mac

Apple Mail

Windows 10 Mail

Webmail Clients


G Suite

Yahoo! Mail



Mobile Clients

iOS Mail

Android (Default)

Android (Gmail)

Android (Gmail IMAP)


Using GIFs Judiciously

GIFs should be used reasonably because your subscribers might get bored of seeing the same kind of animated emails. Ultimately, it will lead to reduced subscriber engagement. Apart from this, you should also consider the aspect of email accessibility. Animations with flashing rates ranging from 2 Hz to 55 Hz can aggravate the condition in individuals with photosensitive epilepsy. Visually impaired individuals may find it difficult to read and review the text written on a GIF, so make sure to have smooth transitions between two frames.

Wrapping Up

Although GIFs have been around since three decades, they will be a part of email designs for quite a long time.

If you are looking forward to sending a unique email with a GIF, just get in touch with us and we would love to help you out.

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