Your Field Guide to Animated GIFs in Email
By Olivia Dello Buono June 14, 2016
Elevate your emails with animated GIFs.
ICYMI, we’re huge fans of using interactive content in email. Whether you’re trying to improve your campaign, tell a story, or simply add a bit of flair to the inbox, interactive content is the way to go.
And one of the easiest ways to do so is by adding animated GIFs to your emails.
“GIFs are a great way to engage your audience with interesting, eye-catching content,” says Jay Moore, AWeber’s Educational Video Specialist. “At the same time, they’re easy to create and allow you to show off your product, concept or idea.”
There’s pretty legit research to back our love of GIFs: Marketing Sherpa data reveals that the use of GIFs in email can increase click thru rates by 42 percent, conversion rates by 103 percent, and revenue rates by 104 percent.
Let’s take a look as to why GIFs are so effective and how you can use them in your own campaigns.
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What’s a GIF?
GIF is short for Graphics Interchange Format. It’s a popular image format that’s been around since the 80’s. A GIF uses a series of images to create the illusion of motion (sort of like a flipbook). Before web-hosted video, GIFs were used to add animation to a webpage.
And since all trends come back around, we’re seeing a resurgence in the use of GIFs. From Twitter to Buzzfeed, you can’t go more than five minutes without seeing one in your feed.
The pronounciation of GIF remains the internet’s greatest mystery. 76 percent of our team says it with a hard-g (like good, golf, grape). Others say it’s soft (like the popular brand of peanut butter).
Regardless of how you say it, one thing’s for sure: we all ? GIFs.
“GIFs add personality to your emails,” says Scott Richardson, Motion Graphic Designer at AWeber. “You can show a specific thing, a product demo. There are so many practical purposes for using a GIF.”
Let’s take a look at some ways that brands are using GIFs in their marketing emails (and how you can steal those ideas for your next campaign):
To Illustrate a Product
GIFs don’t have to be all for show. They’re actually a great way to tell a story in a simple, impactful way.
Check out how we used a GIF to support the launch of our new mobile app, Curate:
Rather than relying on heavy copy, this animated GIF gives subscribers a sneak peek in seconds.
Pro Tip: GIFs are great for illustrating complex ideas in a simple way. Give subscribers a sneak peek of your latest product launch or to share a unique use case.
Feeling daring? Try using a series of GIFs to give a step-by-step tutorial.
To Create Intrigue
Want a great way to entice your readers? Take a cue from this Kate Spade campaign:
The animation adds another level of intrigue to the email, prompting subscribers to click through to see what’s inside.
Pro Tip: Sometimes the simplest bit of animation can have a big impact. The next time you’re looking to add some oomph to your emails, try adding a GIF to the mix.
To Add a Sense of Urgency
GIFs can be a great alternative for traditional countdown clocks to emphasize urgency in your messaging:
This example from LOFT shows how a little animation can make a bold statement.
Pro Tip: Your email doesn’t have to imitate the Vegas strip at 2am. Adding a little bit of movement is sometimes all you need.
“Aim for delightful, not obnoxious,” says Scott.
Or to Simply Delight
GIFs can be added to add fun and excitement for your emails, like this one from charity: water:
Their smart use of a GIF showcases the personality and people behind the brand.
But be mindful of context when using GIFs in your emails. Does it feel appropriate and strengthen the message you’re trying to send? Or does it take away from it? These are good questions to ask yourself before you hit ‘send’.
Pro Tip: “Use GIFs sparingly. If you’re using them just because, it can get old,” says Scott. “If it’s something people don’t expect from you, it will have a more powerful effect. Don’t get greedy with the GIFs.”
How to Create a GIF
“There are so many tools out there that take away the technical headaches around creating GIFs,” says Scott. “There’s no reason to hesitate. It’s such a low-risk endeavor.”
“GIFs are easier to create than a video, especially if you’re trying to illustrate something short and to the point,” says Jay. “The skill level bar is a lot shorter with a GIF.”
*The Fine Print
It’s important to note that not all email clients play well with GIFs. If you’re using a service like Microsoft Outlook, you might notice compatibility issues that only let the first frame of the GIF display. To accommodate for this, always make sure that first frame can work as a standalone.
Ready to GIF?
Now that you know how to use them effectively, GIFs can be a great way to elevate your email content. If you’re promoting a product or service, they can really emphasize a use case and serve as an educational tool. (Or simply delight your subscribers.)
Are you using GIFs in your emails? How have they impacted your stats? How do you pronounce it? Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet.