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Top 4 Tips for Using Animated GIFs in Email

Top 4 Tips for Using Animated GIFs in Email

Even if you’re still not sure how to pronounce “GIF,” by now you certainly know what one is: A popular image format that allows for multiple frames and can provide an animated sequence. You might not think GIFs in email marketing are appropriate — but in fact, an animated GIF in your email can be a fun way to showcase your products. Here’s one example from Hanna Andersson:

gif in email

Animated GIF from a Hanna Andersson marketing email

Animated GIFs are a great way to bring motion and a sense of aliveness to a brand’s visual storytelling techniques. Let’s talk about why should you use them in your email marketing campaigns.

Animated GIFs are a great way to bring motion and a sense of aliveness to a brand's visual storytelling techniques. Click To Tweet

Why use animated GIFs in email?

GIFs are image files, similar to PNGs and JPEGs. They can be included in email the same way you’d include regular images, making them simple and straightforward to use.

Once they’re in an email, GIFs often add a sense of levity, delight and playfulness that’s eye-catching and entertaining in your subscribers’ inboxes.

colorful gif in email

An animated GIF from an email by Land’s End.

GIFs are also useful for featuring products or explaining processes in a way that’s more engaging, effective and space-efficient than a series of static images.

animated gif in email

Converse uses an animated GIF to show product options.

You can get creative with your GIFs — there’s no need to stick to solely product GIFs. Here, Cute Root used animated GIFs in email to share customer testimonials. It’s a unique and effective idea.

customer testimonial gif in email

Most importantly for marketers, GIFs have been proven to increase engagement and conversions from email. A GIF-based campaign from Dell increased email conversion by 103% and raised revenue 109%.

Dell GIF email campaign

Here’s how to make sure your GIFs in email are as effective as possible.

#1. The GIF should serve a purpose

GIFs have been around pretty much as long as the internet has. While their use in email has only recently grown in popularity, readers are already getting used to seeing them pop up in inboxes. GIFs are a powerful part of your toolbox of storytelling techniques. Don’t throw one into an email just because you can. First, think about the story you’re trying to tell. Then determine the best medium through which to tell it. For example, this GIF from Melissa & Doug communicates part of a story:

gif in email

The colorful images show different products that you can purchase for your children at Melissa & Doug’s Labor Day sale. It’s easy to look at the fun toys in the GIF and imagine your kids playing with them.

Be intentional about how you use a GIF so that it serves your intended purpose: communicating something meaningful and getting clicks.

#2. Guide readers to your CTA with a GIF

A well-designed GIF in a marketing email will lead readers to your call to action. Think about it: If the GIF is where your readers’ eyes land, then the CTA shouldn’t be far away. Successful emails give readers a clear, compelling reason to act now with a story that’s short, clear and focused, quickly building to your CTA. So the best way to use a GIF is by putting it to use in that communication stream.

Check out this clever GIF from J Crew. Since the GIF goes from top to bottom — the first number changing colors, then the second — your eye naturally keeps going down, landing on the CTA.

text gif in email

Just like images, your GIFs should all be linked to the landing page where you’d like readers to end up. Successful GIFs will lead directly to, or act as, your email’s main CTA.

#3. The first frame should communicate your key message

Subscribers’ image-viewing settings are a potential block for GIFs. People who have image-viewing turned off won’t see your GIFs. That’s why including ALT text is just as important for GIFs in email as it is for regular images.

And while animated GIFs are very well supported by email clients, they aren’t supported across the board. According to Litmus, the main exceptions are the newer versions of Microsoft Outlook, which won’t show movement but will display the first frame of the animation. That’s why it’s critical to design all GIFs with the assumption that the first frame might be the only frame your viewers see.

Here’s a handy chart from Litmus explaining who supports animated GIFs in email:

list of email clients that support GIFs

Thrive Causemetics designed a recent GIF wisely, with an opening frame that makes sense as a standalone image.

product gif in email

Assume the opening image is all viewers will see of your GIF. That way, you can make sure your email still tells a story, even if the animation fails.

#4. Consider GIF size in email 

Depending on the number of frames and their resolution, GIFs can turn into large files — which might spell bad news for your email, since oversized GIFs can be slow to animate and tend to eat up data. Litmus recommends four smart tactics for reducing the size of your GIF:

  • Remove frames. Keep the animation simple and focused, just like the rest of your email.
  • Animate only part of the picture. The image doesn’t need to change in every frame. Using layers in Photoshop will allow you to isolate animated parts.
  • Crop. Focus on the part that’s animated and trim the rest as needed.
  • Reduce colors. A significant reduction in color use can decrease the size of the file.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your GIF under 200-250 KB.

Wrap-up: Add animated GIFs in email

Visual storytelling in email is getting increasingly sophisticated and effective, and GIFs are a huge part of that. GIFs can break down complicated concepts into a few frames of fluid messaging. Just make sure to use them wisely and intentionally to maximize their effect.

Try integrating GIFs in your next email campaign with BEE’s free email editor. BEE makes it simple to drag-and-drop animated GIF files directly into your message — no coding skills required. Happy emailing!

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This article was updated on Sept. 23, 2020.

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Kelly Shetron