3 Surefire Reasons to Use Animated GIFs In Your Email Marketing

Chad White from the Retail Email Blog has posted a lot in the past about animated GIF usage. He recently tweeted that he hasn’t seen many animated GIFs lately, and as I dug through my inbox looking for examples I started to wonder why.

Since they are virtually compatible with all major email clients except for Outlook, animated GIFs are a genius way to infuse some personality into an email marketing campaign. Even subscribers viewing a message in Outlook can still see the first frame of a GIF shown as a static image, so you can still illustrate important details in the first frame.

Animated GIFs sound too tricky for you? They aren’t so bad, I promise. By the end of this post, you’ll know everything you ever wanted (or needed!) to know about the image format. Plus, you’ll see 3 different ways you can use them to create animated messages for your own email campaign.

First Things First. An Animated What?

A GIF is an image filetype made specifically for the web. The majority of people use them because of their small file size, but another great use is for animation in emails.

Animated GIFs simulate video so that you can see scrolling features, products in different colors or blinking calls to action without having to leave your inbox to visit a website. You can think of an animated GIF just like an old flip book movie. Your eye perceives a fluid motion when presented with several images in succession.

With an Animated GIF, You Can:

1. Highlight Different Products

Email marketing is one of the best ways to promote your business and expose prospective customers to your products. But with limited space and limited attention spans, sometimes the best emails go unnoticed mixed in among a slew of similar catalog-style messages.

An animated message can help you appeal to lots of different people without bothering with segmenting and using advanced email analytics. (This is especially good if you’re just starting out and don’t quite know exactly what subscribers want to see yet.)




Pottery Barn often uses animation in their emails to depict several products at once. It’s a double-duty move: it grabs readers’ attention and gets a variety of products face-time that wouldn’t be possible in a static email.

You can do the same thing with your messages, too! Sites like gickr, gifninja and Make a GIF take the hard work out of the process. All you have to do is upload your product images, then they instantly animate them for you – making an animated GIF for your email campaign in mere seconds that you’d upload to your email like any other image.

2. Simulate Product Demonstrations

Some products are more complex than others and take a little bit of explaining before you can really appreciate their benefits. That’s why informercials for products like ShamWow and Bumpits remain popular to this day – they provide demonstrations and explain the features and benefits that accompany them.

Williams-Sonoma does an excellent job of using animated GIFs to do just that. They created three simple images to explain exactly how their Breville Pie Maker takes the hard work out of pie making.

It’s not as hard as you’d think to do the same thing. Essentially, you just need to snap 3 or 4 photos to illustrate the most important steps for using your product, then use text to explain the rest of the details. Add them to one of the sites above, and ta-da! Instant animated GIF for your message.

3. Draw Attention to Your Call to Action

Even if your messages do a splendid job of displaying everything your company has to offer, they can sometimes fall short when inspiring readers to click-through to your site.

While actionable phrases like ‘shop new products,’ ‘see limited-time offers’ and ‘get 50% off’ are strong in their own merit, adding a little pizzaz with animation will surely catch your subscribers’ attention.

Fred Flare uses simple animation to bring attention to their call to action. You can animate action words and link them to the desired pages on your site, too, using a site like Text Anim 2.0 to generate your text. You can pick the font and color, type in your text and save it as an animated GIF.

Your To-Do List for Animating Your Emails

  1. If creating an animated loop of images, visit a site like gickr, gifninja or Make a GIF. Upload your product images, then they’ll turn them into an animated GIF. They’ll give you the URL for the image, so make sure you copy and paste it to someplace safe.
  2. If making an animated call to action, use a site like Text Anim 2.0, where you can easily animate as many words as you want using different fonts and patterns. They’ll also give you the URL for the image, so keep it safe.
  3. Insert the image in your email, then send yourself a test copy to see the animation in action!

Think You Will Give Animated GIFs a Try?

Not only can animated GIFs make your messages more creative, appealing and unique, but they can also help you earn more money, too.

When online retailer Bluefly tested their animated GIF usage, they found that animated shoppers who clicked through generated a 12% increase in dollars spent compared with non-animated shoppers.

Let us know if you decide to give them a try – we’d love to hear how they work for your campaign!