5 Best Practices for Including Animated GIFs in Emails

Rohan Mendiratta

Written by:
Rohan Mendiratta

Nov 04, 2020
An animated illustration of an animated email being opened out of an envelope.

Once a funny novelty on the internet, animated GIFs have become commonplace in the last decade. And their popularity is well-deserved – GIFs are more engaging than a simple image but also easier to digest than a video. 

From evoking rib-tickling emotions to injecting some life in email product promotions, animated GIFs are an effective communication method.

How effective, you might ask!

David Sierk, an email marketing strategist at Dell, discovered this when he broke tradition and sent out a rather unconventional email, a far cry from Dell's standard email templates.

The email featured an animated GIF showcasing the Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook turning, folding – basically in action.

Due to this, Dell witnessed a 103% hike in conversions and a 109% boost in revenue, simply because the Ultrabook was animating in ways a prospective buyer would check it out at a store.

Should you hop on the bandwagon and bring your emails (and marketing campaigns) to life with sprightly GIFs? We say, yes. 

But hold on! It may have worked for Dell and countless other brands in the past but is a blanket animated GIF strategy for everyone?

A study by the Nielsen Norman Group indicates that many recipients don’t appreciate animated GIFs in their marketing emails. So, it merely stands to reason that you use this tool with purpose and caution.

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What Not to Do When Using GIFs in Emails

Other than including animated GIFs, there may be several reasons why your last email marketing campaign failed to generate the kind of engagement you were pinning hopes on. Figure out those reasons after ruling out the ones listed below that include animated GIFs.

Don't Send Incompatible GIFs

One of the primary reasons why an animated GIF email communication can fail is if your GIF is incompatible with the customer’s email client. It happens far more often than you would think, and when it does, the whole point is defeated. 

Prepare for such a scenario. How? If an animated GIF does not “animate”, make sure that at least the static image carries the message correctly.

You can do this by ensuring that the moving picture’s first frame has the entire text. It reflects poorly when an incompatible static GIF tells a different story than the message your email carries.

Don't Use a Slow-loading Animated GIF

You know pretty well that your customers are bombarded with several automated marketing emails in a single day. Even if you capture their attention through your subject line, they will open and glance through the email only briefly.

If, in that brief moment, your animated GIF does not load or there is a buffer circle pinned on top of it, the customer will trash the email.

How can you ensure this doesn’t happen? Use a GIF between 0.5 MB and 1 MB size. Run your personalized animated GIFs through a size optimization application and then insert them into the final email.

Lastly, restrict the colors and frames in your GIFs and fix their width to 600 px – same as standard newsletters.

Study Your Target Audience

For email marketers, the whole point of drafting email communication is to encourage the audience to take action, preferably towards making a purchase.

Not all audiences relate with animated GIFs and are likely to find them unprofessional. Some might even consider such emails as low quality and mark them as spam, thus hampering your email sender score.  

Therefore, a significant amount of research must go into studying your prospects, getting them to give you feedback on what they liked, and disliked about your previous email communication.

Sure, visual memory lasts longer than textual one, so if not animated GIFs, use striking and static imagery.

Don't Force an Animated GIF

Inserting an animated GIF just because it’s cool to look at does more damage than good. Use this tool only if it adds gravitas to your email communication, not when it is unnecessary baggage. How can you ensure whether you are forcing a GIF or not?

Ask yourself, is the message in the email loud and clear regardless of the GIF? Is the email great without it? If yes, then you don’t need the GIF. Emails marketing new products require more imagery to explain how they work, which is where animated GIFs become very useful.


5 Ways to Use Animated GIFs in Emails

Every brand must figure out animated GIFs’ potency and relevance and whether it suits their target audiences. Here are four tried and tested scenarios where animated GIFs can lead to a spike in conversions and sales.  

Launching a Teaser

Keep your audiences at the edge of their seats by creating curiosity using animated GIFs.

Whether you’re launching a teaser for a new web series, bumper discounts for fashion sales, or a new product, GIFs give you a fun way to keep them guessing. ‘Telling them without telling them’ can be beautifully achieved with animated GIFs, as shown in the example below.

Launching a Product

Your new product may be packing a world of incredible features that are likely to get sidelined when you explain them through a long text-heavy email.

Why do that when animated GIFs make it super easy to show your products’ prowess visually? Using this tool for a product launch can likely hike conversions, as seen in Dell's case.  

Launching a Feature

Features are like a product within a product and deserve the same treatment with animated GIFs as launching a new product. Watching an animated GIF operate a new feature will leave a lasting impression on the viewer, much like how Dropbox does it.  

Launching a Discount or Offer

Animated GIFs work well for introducing a discount or offer. You can use kinetic typography and enticing imagery to reel in potential customers.

While drafting a discount GIF, make sure the text part remains static, so the offer doesn’t disappear for even a split second, while the designs can keep switching.

This way, prospects can get an idea of the products the offer stands on. You can also set a timer on the GIF itself until the discount is valid to create a sense of urgency for purchase.

A GIF template promoting airline discounts available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Best Practices for Integrating Animated GIFs in Emails

Now that you know what not to do, let’s concentrate on what to do and how. Employ the following practices to draft emails with exceptional animated GIF imagery.

Combine GIFs with CTAs

Ok, so you have shown your customer an engaging GIF. What next? What step do you ideally want them to take now that they have your email open?

This is what they may also think momentarily before trashing your email unless it has a Call-to-Action button. Check out the example below to know what we mean.

A GIF template promoting an online course available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

The pairing of this CTA button in the launch GIF tells you what to do next without investing too much time. Several subscribers otherwise would have lost interest even if they had to go fishing for the trailer.

Animate the Right Part

In a nutshell, GIFs become too slow to load when you over-animate. Also, no point lending too much motion, as that only distracts the viewer and thwarts engagement.

Sometimes, your product is one whole and does not require viewing from various angles – a wristwatch vs. a laptop. Look at the well-designed GIF below for inspiration.

Here, only the hearts animate by increasing and decreasing in number. The wristwatch image stays static, which works in the brand’s favor as there is never too much clutter, and the product gets imprinted in the mind of the prospect.

Create Instead of Replicate

There are countless animated GIFs readily available in the free domain that you can fit within your product or service context. Avoid that as much as possible! Because others are using those. You want your email pitch to carry original content.

If a prospect has already seen the animated GIF you send them, it might tarnish your brand’s image and decrease trust. Besides, personalized GIFs are on-point because you tailor them as per your product’s tone and prospects' intellect.

Therefore, creating GIFs instead of replicating will a) convey your message precisely and b) keep your audience engaged, even if for a few more seconds, which is where your edge lies.

You can choose applications available online to design catchy GIFs. The GIF below is a refreshing example of originality.

This GIF carries an element of curiosity and gives you an action button for a CTA, which you can’t help but press to see what happens next. It offers the viewer a chance to interact or take action, which is what the brand wants.

Ensure Seamless Looping at the Right Speed

Decide whether you want your reader to experience an infinitely animated GIF or one that creates motion for a set number of cycles.

After figuring this out, ensure the speed of the entire GIF activity is not too fast. Too slow, and you will lose the prospect, too quick, and chances are, they will delete your email or mark it as spam.   

Animated GIFs are essentially a bunch of pictures sewn together to create a dynamic story. If you choose a definite number of movement cycles, make sure the animation ends on an image that has your brand’s logo and offer(s). Sounds complicated? It’s not!

When you customize your GIF, a good email marketing software will guide or prompt you to sew frames together in the right way.

You can also add some festive music to your GIFs. For instance, if you wish to send all your customers a Christmas card GIF, a carol in the background may not be such a bad idea.

You can also use a GIF maker like Visme to create a seamless loop that looks great every time.

Create engaging animated content with Visme.

  • Add animated icons and illustrations
  • Increase interest and engagement through your design
  • Add enter and exit effects to create fully animated content

Sign up. It's free.

Do a Test Run

Great, you have your email all set with the perfect animated GIF embedded, but are you sure it works across devices and operating systems? You can be, by doing a test run.

Whether you are using an in-house GIF maker or a third-party platform, spend some time doing a pilot send to many systems used by colleagues, friends, and even parents. 

Ask your team to check test email on their smartphones, parents on their desktops or laptops, and friends on their tablets to ensure that you have successfully embedded your animated GIF.

Also, cover the entire gamut of operating systems by testing your email on Android, iOS, Microsoft, and Mac OS. Know that, while they are images, GIFs do not work on the same principles as JPGs and PNGs and are more prone to incorrect displays. So, test, test, test!


Start Using GIFs in Emails to Engage Your Audience

GIFs are a powerful tool, which, when deployed, steal the show. It often happens that the prospect will only remember the GIF and forget who it was from. Such is the potency of this medium, especially with younger audiences. 

The bottom line is that GIFs are good in emails by and large, but you cannot take them lightly. So, what are you waiting for? Start creating your own GIFs quickly and easily with Visme and upload them right into your email marketing software to wow your audience.

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    About the Author

    This post is written by Rohan Mendiratta. He helps marketers with building an engaged audience and increasing their sales via SendX: Email Marketing Software.

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