In the world of email design, special occasions have come to mean one thing: Getting animated! As in, including an animated GIF in your email design. The big takeaway: email marketers increasingly see animated GIFs as a must-have for volume-heavy email days.
This Valentine’s Day was no exception. In fact, we saw so many Valentine’s Day themed animated GIFs in emails that they’re going to be our primary focus today. Check out how brands are using animations, and consider these email design GIF tips for the next big campaign on your calendar.
Why use an animated GIF in email?
As we’ve written about previously, GIFs and email go together like peanut butter and jelly. Here’s why:
- Animated GIFs are an image file just like a standard .gif image, so they’re simple and straightforward to include in email
- Since video in email still has limited support, animated GIFs are a good way to add movement and create visual interest
- Animated GIFs are naturally eye-catching and entertaining in a world of mostly static emails
- Animated GIFs have been proven to increase engagement and conversions from email (this campaign from Dell increased email conversion by 103% and raised revenue 109%)
Still, email marketers generally agree that too much of a good thing isn’t always positive. As a result, animated GIFs are still used sparingly in emails. Brands don’t typically animate a promotion email or a newsletter. Instead, animated GIFs are used for special occasion emails—like Valentine’s Day—when they’ll add the most value.
The Valentine GIF-scape
Here’s how brands used animated GIFs in emails this Valentine’s Day.
GIF Method 1: Hook your audience with an animated hero image
Adding a little animation to your email’s hero image is one way to level-up a simple email design. Hipmunk, the travel company, animated its cute chipmunk mascot for V-Day.
The e-commerce site Uncommon Goods took a similar approach, using llamas to show the “llove.”
We appreciate the break from cliché pink-and-red—and how the brand isolated the animated portion of the image to decrease the size of the GIF image file.
Our GIF Grade: B
The simplicity of the hero-image GIF works: without clutter, your GIF gets the attention it deserves—and will hopefully drive clicks. But, this method is also a basic approach, and as brands increasingly use GIFs for holiday campaigns, we expect to see GIFs used more cleverly.
GIF Method 2: Create a curiosity gap
We often talk about how the best emails are made up of teaser content. You don’t have to say everything in an email—just enough to intrigue your audience to click through the message. This Valentine’s Day email design from MOO is a perfect example of that technique. Here’s the animated GIF:
And here’s the full email:
Can you tell what’s in the box? Or what the promotion is? Nope! The only way to do that is to click. Plus, the header and CTA button work together to help encourage you to do just that.
Our GIF Grade: A+
Used sparingly, this GIF method is one of the best ways to engage your audience members. The email, promotion, and message are all more interactive—and fun!
Method 3: Show off your products
Animated GIFs are useful for featuring products in a way that can be more engaging, effective, and space-efficient than a series of static images. To promote last-minute gift card purchases, Bliss creates a simple rotation GIF as its hero image.
Here’s the full email:
As for Estée Lauder, its Valentine’s GIF flashes between images of lipstick and the lipstick in use.
See the full email here:
Of course, showing your product in a rotating series of images isn’t the only way to use GIFs. Grovemade, which makes wooden tech accessories, thought outside the box by using its products to create this beating-heart animation.
Check out the full email:
Our GIF Grade: A-
GIFs are great for showing off products, but they’re even better when you show them off in an unexpected way (like Grovemade) or in a way that demonstrates the product. Image carousels and product tours in emails also allow readers to get more information without navigating away to a landing page. When customers can quickly and easily see how your product works, that transparency can help lead to a purchase.
GIF Method 4: Drive attention to a video
With Apple’s launch of iOS 10 last fall, we were excited to see the return of HTML5 video to email. Still, video in email support remains limited and technically challenging. In the meantime, brands are turning to animated GIFs to help readers preview a full video. Here’s a recent example in Sephora‘s V-Day email:
And here’s the video GIF in the full email:
The message has a lot going on, so it’s easy to see how the GIF might get lost in the shuffle. Still, we like how the video GIF is supplemented with products used to achieve the look, giving readers a chance to browse within the email.
Our GIF Grade: A
Animated GIFs are a great alternative to including video in email. Think of a video GIF like a mini trailer for the full-length piece. If you can show a little bit of teaser content—and create a curiosity gap—you can encourage readers to click through to the main site.
GIF Method 5: Focus on the numbers
Brands offering a special holiday promotion can use a GIF to keep the email focused on the discount. That’s the technique Paper Source uses to promote their 50% off sale:
And here’s the full email:
Similarly, Petsmart has a rolling discount GIF, showing the amount you can potentially save:
See the full email here:
This approach also creates a curiosity gap because readers won’t know how much they might save until they click through to the site to shop. If something is intriguing enough, readers will want to satisfy their interest.
Our GIF Grade: B
Some numbers-based GIFs don’t serve much of a purpose but others, like the one from Petsmart, do more to get readers excited. If you’re doing to go with a simple animation centered on your discount, see if there’s a way to add a layer of curiosity or meaning.
GIF Method 6: Keep it sweetly subtle
Plenty of animated GIFs add a simple flourish to emails without being the center of attention. That’s the approach Loft takes in their V-Day email design:
Our GIF Grade: B-
Since oversized GIFs can be slow to animate and eat up data plans on mobile, we like that these GIFs don’t take up a lot of space. Still, it’s hard to measure their value, since they don’t serve a direct purpose in the email. To check if a simple GIF like this makes a difference for your audience, make sure to do an A/B test!
GIF Method 7: Need a GIF in a jiff? Try user-generated content
Not every email you create needs to go through painstaking rounds of design and development. With a trusty template and some creative thinking, a good email campaign can be assembled quickly—even with animation. One way to do that? Simply source user-generated content from aggregation sites like Giphy. This is most likely the approach Subscription Addiction took for their simple Valentine’s Day email design, which features a popular meme from Parks and Recreation:
Here’s the entire email:
Our GIF Grade: C
Of course, everyone enjoys a good meme now and then. While using one isn’t the most creative or unique approach, it will still do when in a pinch!
Design your next email with an animated GIF and go Pro!
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