When to use an animated GIF in email marketing

You may send funny GIFs in group texts with your friends or see them as you’re scrolling through social media, but could they actually be a beneficial marketing tool for your business?

The answer is yes, as long as you do it correctly.

Even with technological advances in video, GIFs have made a massive comeback. Now you can reply to your friends on virtually every platform with just the right GIF to convey your reaction.  

But the iconic GIF in email marketing shouldn’t be overlooked either. And no, we’re not just talking about the premade ones from other websites—unless that fits your brand’s tone, of course. Custom GIFs are an excellent option for explaining confusing concepts concisely and boosting your subscribers’ engagement.  

In this post, we’ll go over when and how to attach GIFs to email marketing campaigns. We’ll also provide some awesome animated GIF email examples of brands that got it right.

Your guide to using animated GIF images in email marketing

Inserting an animated GIF in email marketing campaigns can either go super well or crash and burn. Don’t worry, with the right understanding of your audience and the message you want to convey, you can get it right.

Below are the pros and cons to help you figure out when and how to use GIFs in your email. And, do animated GIFs work in Outlook? We’ll go over that later, too.

Benefits of using an animated GIF in your email campaigns

If you’re interested in inserting custom GIFs into your email campaigns, you’re in luck because there are several benefits. (We’ll show you some animated GIF email examples later on so you get the right idea.)

  • GIFs make it easy to explain complicated concepts. If you’re sending an announcement about a website redesign or how to do something tech-y, creating a custom GIF can help your subscribers get the point without getting too confused.

  • They can boost engagement (and ROI). A very simple custom GIF for product launches or promotional emails can help spark interest and encourage readers to click through. Dell led the way in 2014 when the company managed to increase revenue by 109% through a GIF-centric email campaign.

  • GIFs are an excellent replacement for video. Most email clients don’t support embedded video. Plus, videos are heavy data-wise. A properly optimized GIF can solve these problems.

When used at the right time with the right content and the right audience segment, GIFs can make up a vital part of your email marketing strategy. The key is understanding how and when to send them out.

When shouldn’t you attach an animated GIF to email campaigns?

Although GIFs will work great for certain segments of your audience and certain email campaigns, they may not be the best choice for every campaign every time. You might want to step away from the GIF editor if you think the following situations apply.

  • GIFs can get annoying. Older generations may not appreciate a picture that moves without a play and stop button – especially if it moves too quickly for them to read what’s on the screen. Likewise, all age groups might get annoyed with (or desensitized to) GIF campaigns sent on a regular basis.

  • They’re heavy. With 53% of all emails opened on mobile devices, you should consider the size of your GIF emails and the amount of data they’ll consumer.

  • GIFs aren’t supported by all email clients. A lot of people browsing their inbox through old-school style email clients may see an error box instead of your flashy GIF you spent so much time on. Other email service providers may only display the first slide.

  • They can be harmful for certain people. Fast moving GIFs aren’t a good choice for any subscribers with epilepsy or vision problems.

  • You need to stay professional. Keep GIFs away from any emails that are meant to be more on the serious side of things.

As always, get to know your subscribers. A reputable email service provider can help you segment your audience based on email clients, age groups, interests, and other factors that can ensure you’re sending GIF campaigns to the right people.

Consider these tips before you attach an animated GIF to email campaigns

GIFs are tricky. Even if you think you’re reaching the right subscribers, you might still be totally off. By keeping a few key points in mind, you can help ensure that the right GIFs reach the right subscribers at the right time.  

  1. Use GIFs sparingly. Keep GIFs reserved for highlighting product launches or those other special email campaigns. It’s easy for people to get bored with GIFs if you send them in every campaign and that will defeat the whole purpose of improving engagement.

  2. Slow down. You don’t want your GIFs to move so fast that no one can read them. Older generations in particular probably won’t fancy your flashy, fast-moving GIF campaign.

  3. Chill on the colors. Bright flashing colors in their email inbox can feel annoying and intrusive and send subscribers running for the back button.

  4. Segment your audience. Consider different age groups or email clients before sending GIF campaigns. You can even create different custom GIFs to target various segments of your audience.  

  5. Optimize your GIFs. Using the right software or creator will help ensure that your GIFs aren’t so heavy that they get flagged by spam filters or don’t load in your subscribers’ inboxes.

  6. Run A/B tests. Send GIF emails to certain segments of your audience and static images to the others. See which performs best. From there, you can decide to continue with an animated GIF in email campaign, or perhaps forget about it in the future.

Run general test emails. Don’t forget to send out test emails, especially if you’re new to GIFs. Above all else you want to avoid spam and promotional filters. What’s the use in sending an amazing GIF email if no one can see it? Send test emails to yourself and some coworkers to see where they wind up and adjust your tactics.

Do animated GIF images work across all email service providers?

The short answer: no and it’s important to take this into consideration before sending any email campaign with animated GIF images. Here we’ll explain how to email a GIF in Gmail and how to email a GIF in Outlook.

How to email a GIF in Gmail

Gmail makes it easy to attach an animated GIF to email. Simply work with a creator to design a custom GIF or find a stock GIF from the internet you’d like to include.  

From there, you can easily insert the GIF into the body of your email when you edit the template. If you have any questions, talk to your email service provider about GIF optimization.

How to email a GIF in Outlook

This one is a little trickier. Believe it or not, Outlook still boasts 400 million active users in 2018. That figure doesn’t really compete with Gmail’s more than one billion, but it’s certainly a lot, so it’s important to keep these users in mind before attaching an animated GIF to your email campaign.  

So, do animated GIFs work in Outlook? Sadly, no. You may have been wondering how to email a GIF in Outlook, but GIFs are not currently supported.  

Still, if you’re set on sending a GIF campaign and aren’t sure which clients your users are using, you can simply send a GIF that gets the point across in the first frame. Outlook will still display the first frame as a typical graphic.

Animated GIF email examples that got it right

These animated GIF examples make perfect use of tactful animated GIF in email, without overdoing it.  

Pizza Express

This promotional email from Pizza Express uses minimal GIF text so it’s easy for just about anyone to read. The animated GIF images of food are a great way to show off several products without inserting a ton of heavy images into the email body.

Pizza Express gif
Image Source: Really Good Emails
 

Ann Taylor Loft

This email from Ann Taylor uses a cute GIF to highlight their current promotions. GIFs like this are an excellent way to provide that extra boost to your subscriber engagement.

 
Ann Taylor Loft gif

Image Source: Pinterest

RealtimeBoard

Animated GIFs in email, like this one from RealtimeBoard, are perfect for explaining difficult concepts without relying on video or forcing your subscribers to click a link.

RealTimeBoard gif
Image Source: Really Good Emails
 

Lou & Grey  

It’s good to add a sense of urgency to your email campaigns. This email from Lou & Gray with a GIF clock adds the perfect touch to inspire action.

Lou & Grey gif
Image Source: Pinterest
 

Wrap up

Animated GIF images are excellent for encouraging engagement with your subscribers, but be careful not to overuse them.  

As always, the key to a successful email campaign with GIFs is to understand and segment your audience. Once you figure that out, you can create custom GIFs that reinforce your message and tickle your subscribers’ interest.

 

 

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. Unlike other email providers, Emma puts their customers first. It's email marketing that works for you.

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