This article was last updated on February 19th, 2019.
Animated GIFs have been very trendy in both content marketing and email marketing in the past two years, but it doesn't mean that you should be using them in all your communications.
A well-positioned GIF will surely add to your email's value and will help you to make more of your message, but if you overdo it, you might quickly end up with high unsubscribe rates.
That's something you don't want to for sure, so let's go through the basics of GIF usage in email marketing.
Pros and cons of animated GIFs
Generally speaking, GIFs are the friends of email marketers because they:
- Help you to spice up your email designs and to engage with your readers
- Are a great replacement for embedded video, which is not supported by most email clients
- Grab the attention of people and deliver emotions in a more personal manner
- Can increase click-through rates when used properly
Of course, there's a dark side of GIFs too, for example, because they:
- Are not supported in all email clients
- Are too heavy for emails, if not appropriately optimized
- Will annoy some of your readers (especially older generations)
Maybe not only older generations, but some people like me are also getting a bit tired of GIFs. I've closed many articles in my life that included way too many animations that distracted from the real content.
When should you use animated GIFs in email?
Of course, not every business is suited to use GIFs. I can hardly imagine a prescription drug company using fancy GIFs on their website or in their emails.
If your brand talks to younger, tech-savvy audiences who meet GIFs every day, you're good to go, but always make sure that your GIFs:
- Help you to reinforce your message
- Highlight the most important parts of your email better
- Emphasize features of your product or service
- Add some fun or excitement to your message
- Won't offend your audience
If you're not sure about the last one, go back to the drawing board / get rid of your GIF / or segment your list more accordingly.
When you are sure you want to add some movement to your emails, you can either create your own animations or Google for free resources.
Of course, Googling is what most email marketers will do, but do you want to be like them, or are you ready to invest some time to create custom GIFs?
Custom GIFs are easy to create or order
Believe me, it's not that hard to create custom images for your use case, and they will usually get a better response than a random GIF from Giphy.
If you are a Mac owner, you might try Giphy's GIF maker. It's straightforward to use and is 100% free.
Let me show you a surprisingly compelling animated GIF from Moo.
This animation will undoubtedly grab your attention. It delivers the brand's message and looks awesome.
Of course, creating an illustration like this requires a great deal of practice and expertise with image editing software. Thankfully, you can easily find freelancers on Fiverr or Upwork who will do the job for you on a budget.
What size & weight should your animated GIFs be optimized for?
No matter if you choose to download a free GIF, create your own or pay for a custom one, you have to keep in mind that GIFs can get heavy fast.
The more frames and colors you have, the larger your file will be and the slower it will load in email clients, especially when viewed on mobile.
I would advise you to aim to reduce the size for your animated GIF to less than 0.5 MB or max. 1 MB if possible, since if you go well above this limit, your email might load too slowly for your readers.
The actual size of the GIF should always be the smallest possible, depending on your design of course. The width of the image should not be more than the width of your email (600 px or so).
Forget about optimizing your GIFs for retina screens. You don't want to end up with files that exceed the 4 MB limit.
Whether you downloaded a free GIF, created your own, or paid for a custom one, make sure to run it through an optimizer tool.
In this article, I used ezgif.com to optimize the animated images I found online.
Which email clients support animated GIFs
HTML email had some limitations in several Outlook versions one being that animated GIF images were shown as static images.
Since the latest update of the Outlook in 2019, we can happily announce that animated GIFs are displayed in:
- Outlook 2010
- Outlook 2013
- Outlook 2016
- Office 365
GIFs are working on web Outlook clients and Windows, but no confirmation yet about the Mac version.
Apart from that, animated GIFs still work well in all other webmail and most desktop and mobile clients. See a complete list below.
Go ahead and send out those animated emails!
How to add an aminated GIF to an email?
After you made sure that the size of your GIF is optimized for email and that the first frame includes all essential information, you can easily upload it to the Chamaileon email editor by following the steps below:
- Double click on any image
- Choose the Upload files option in the Gallery
- Browse your GIF
- Hit upload
- Choose the desired image in the Gallery and click on it
You might need to set iframe width and height to "auto" to make it look good on mobile.
You can easily add it using these steps in our free email template builder by registering here for free.
30+ Animated email template examples
Now you already know the answers to all the "why" and "how" questions, so let's move on to some real-life animated email template examples that have been used by many brands.
I decided to group the various examples by use case or industry hoping that it will help you to better navigate this vast collection.
Animated GIF instead of an embedded video
Unfortunately, embedded video is not supported in most email clients, so email marketers need to use animated GIFs to deliver a video-like experience for email readers.
Netflix is one of those media companies that regularly use animated GIFs in their email communication, and I have to admit that they do a pretty great job.
The only problem with animations like this is that they often will be over 1 MB. I guess it's not a problem for Netflix's audience since Netflix can count on most of them having access to quality internet connections anyways.
Here's another excellent example from Wistia.
Besides the fact that Wistia is a video hosting site, they are real experts in video production, so an email like this strengthens one of their brand values and acts as a great attention-grabber.
Animated product images in email
A bottle of cologne is maybe not the most exciting product to sell online especially since you can't smell it — you either need to believe your eyes, the brand, or your memories about that smell.
I'm sure that's the reason why Hawthorne, a cologne company, came up with this exciting email design concept.
This won't help readers smell it, but it will unquestionably grab their attention and make more of them click on that huge call-to-action.
Animated GIFs can also be used to show off certain features of a product. In this email template below, Away does a pretty great job of presenting the product. What they lack though, is a clear call-to-action button that the recipient would be able to click right away.
Use of animation in fashion industry emails
Animated GIFs work like a charm in the fashion industry as well. You can easily make your email lively with the use of vivid colors, and a bit of animation, just like Boden did in this email.
It also works with men's fashion, especially if you have powerful images that you can join together as a colorful animated GIF.
The email template below from Ace Hotel Shop is more surprising than beautiful, at least for a person like me. It's far from being a regular fashion photo indeed, but as far as I can see it well-represents their irregular brand.
Why be the same if you can be different, right?
Yummy GIFs in food industry emails
This is another simplistic solution concerning design. It didn't take too much time for the designer to create this short animation, but it gives an extra twist to the message for sure.
I guess instead of simple potato chips I would have used a nice burger or something like that. It makes my belly more excited.
I can easily imagine a campaign like this with a personalized image that includes the favorite (most ordered) food of the customers. I bet that the personalized version would be at least 10-20% more successful than the simple one.
Here's a more serious meal from Blue Apron, a subscription food box company.
Doesn't it look tasty? Not for veggies or vegans though, sorry. However, apart from that, I believe that an animation like this can strongly reinforce the message and make more people click on the actual call-to-action button then without the animated GIF.
Software features illustrated with GIFs
Many SaaS companies use animated GIFs in their emails to showcase some of their (new) features to their customers.
This animated email template example from Vimeo shows how users can customize their Vimeo albums if they subscribe to a Vimeo Plus membership.
This email design aims not only to present a feature to the users but also tries to convert them to paid customers. Isn't that smart?
Here's another very simplistic, but to the point email from Asana.
Just like the Vimeo email above, this email is focused on free to paid user conversions, since a paid only feature is highlighted in the animated GIF.
This kind of email is quite popular with mobile apps as well, since a well-timed animation feels like as if you were using the real-application in your hands.
ZocDoc not only showcased the essential features of the application in this email but managed to give a boring software product a friendly persona by adding that little "wink" effect to their logo.
Customer (re)engagement emails
Sometimes a fancy but minimalistic hero image in the newsletter is good enough to capture the attention of readers.
In this email, AWeber did a pretty great job of reinforcing their message, which offers users a set of free Valentine's Day related GIFs for free. Clearly, their goal is to get their users back into AWeber and make them create Valentine's Day-specific email campaigns right away.
In order to add some fun to their standard re-engagement emails, Starbucks added a simple, but very colorful GIF banner that grabs the attention of the reader and will make them scroll through the email that includes seasonal offerings.
Event reminder / promotion spiced with animation
Here's an extraordinarily colorful event reminder or event promotion email from FoxFuel.
It doesn't tell too much about the event indeed, but delivers a fun mood and will make their subscribers click if they are ready for some booze.
A stylish, animated banner in the email template can help you to promote more serious events too. For example, Cirque du Soleil does a great job by merely adding a video-like background to their event promotion email.
Animated GIFs will work well when you need to promote fun events, but be careful not to overdo them.
Here are some other creative tips that an event management company or a party place could use to spice up their emails:
- User-generated content: Images from the previous event/party
- Testimonials from past attendees
- Highlights from the planned event/party
- Special offer: food or drinks
- And many more, just be creative
Check out this detailed event reminder email design guide, and see how other companies double down on their email game to convert more subscribers to attendees.
E-commerce transactional emails love animated GIFs too
In most cases, transactional emails are not the most fun to look at. Most of them are boring, include only fundamental information about the order you placed, maybe some product images, the status of the order, and that's it.
This is precisely what Postable was tired of, and instead, they decided to add a fun animation to their shipping confirmation email template.
This animation doesn't have any direct effect on Postable's email ROI for sure, but I'm pretty confident that it leaves their brand more present in their customers' minds.
Looking for more inspiration for your emails? Check out this article about transactional email design best practices. You won't regret it.
Animated promotional emails
Even when you have a boring product, you can experiment with making it exciting by adding a fancy season-themed animation for you e-commerce promotional emails as The Pur Company did.
The lively colors and the ocean waves make this email an exciting one. I think the SHOP NOW "ghost" button should be made more visible, though. The current version is a bit hard to see, mainly because the attention of the viewer will surely stay on the orange swim tube in the middle.
A much less-animated GIF can work too, and you can add it even as a background image, taking into account that the background image won't be visible in Outlook clients.
Christmas animated GIFs
It's easy to get tired of boring Christmas emails, to be honest. That's what 1973 Ltd. realized, and they came up with a genuinely cool email where Santa rocks the roof.
This email doesn't want to sell anything right away but definitely works as a great reminder and greeting card for 1973's clients and subscribers. For more inspiration for your Christmas emails, have a look at these 15+ inspiring Chrismas email templates.
Here's another piece from an online bookstore, which added a very basic animated GIF to their newsletter that anybody can create from two static photos in 5 minutes, but it still does an excellent job of grabbing attention.
Here's another very minimal (but still funny) email from Fundbox, a financing-provider for small businesses.
It acts as a reminder and also a re-activation, re-engagement email, so they can stay in their customers' minds or remind those who haven't logged in to Fundbox for quite a while.
Halloween GIFs in email
You can come up with a fun Halloween-themed email, even if your business is entirely irrelevant to the holiday itself.
For example, in the email below, "the knot", a wedding planning website, used a lovely animation with pumpkins to direct the attention of their subscribers to a $500 gift card lottery.
Here's another fun Halloween animated email sample from LOFT.com where they promote a flash sale and free shipping offer with an attention-grabbing gif banner.
If you know subscribers' birthdays, you can easily take advantage of it and send them targeted, personalized, timely offers for their birthday.
This is what Nike does and to make their animated email template even more exciting. They added a lovely animated banner, plus a special 25% discount.
Instead of a drawn animation, Pizza Hut uses a real image of a cupcake extended with a single lighted candle.
What I especially like in this email as that instead of messing up the animated GIF with a call to action they make the readers scroll all the way down the email to see what's in it for them.
Countdown timer - Animated GIF examples
The GIF itself won't count back till zero; it will only count back a minute or so and will jump back to the beginning time when it ends. It's a good enough workaround to make people act faster because of the fear of missing out (FOMO).
FOMO is a popular strategy used in all sorts of promotional emails, be it a product promotion, a discount, or a seasonal offer.
For example, Vodafone used a simple, black & white countdown timer in this Black Friday email to push their readers to act right away.
Of course, you don't need to wait for Black Friday or the Christmas holiday season to come up with a discount. You can simply make up your occasion, as Adidas did.
A countdown timer works in this case as well, and will surely make more people click on the discounts if your subject line was powerful enough to compel them to open the email int he first place.
Countdown timers can be used wonderfully without discounts if you have something special to count back to.
In this example, below Bellway used a countdown timer to remind their subscribers that some new offering will be available soon.
The countdown timer and the style of the email look pretty good and fit the brand identity. The only thing I see missing from this email is a clear call-to-action button. Instead of the underlined, capital "HERE" texts I would advise them to add a large enough, actionable CTA either on the image or in the blue content block below.
Learn more about countdown timer usage in emails that follow latest best practices.
Note: If you still haven't found an example or a template that you want to use in your campaigns, you can take a look at our email template collection from the app with already predesigned email templates.
You can use them and add your GIFs using this free email template designer, builder, and editor.
Are you ready for some animation?
I hope you are ready and inspired enough to add a little fun and personality to your emails.
Whether you run an e-commerce business, a restaurant, or a rather stiff B2B event management company, be brave and use the power of animated GIFs in your emails and deliver a more engaging brand experience to your subscribers and clients.
Are you proud of your animated email? We would love to see your examples in the comments section.