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.
Generally speaking, GIFs are the friends of email marketers because they:
Of course, there's a dark side of GIFs too, for example, because they:
Maybe not only older generations, but people like me who are getting a bit tired of GIFs. I already had closed many articles in my life which just included way too many animations that just distracted me from the real content.
Of course, not all business was born to use GIFs. I can hardly imagine a prescription drug company using fancy GIFs on their site 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:
If you are not sure in the latter 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 look up Google for free resources.
Of course, the recent is what most email marketers will do. Although, do you want to be like them or are you ready to invest some time to create custom GIFs?
Believe me, it's not that hard to create custom images for your use case, and they will pay off way better in many cases than a random GIF from Giphy.
There are a bunch of free GIF makers online, or you can use your talent and craft something using Photoshop or Gimp (a lightweight, free PS alternative).
If you are a Mac owner, you might try Giphy's GIF maker too. It's really easy to use and is completely free.
Let me show you a surprisingly compelling animated GIF from Moo.
This animation will surely grab your attention, it delivers the brand's message and looks just awesome.
Of course, creating an illustration like this requires a great deal of practice and expertise with image editing software. However, thankfully you can easily find freelancers on Fiverr or Upwork, who will do the job for you on a budget.
No matter if you choose to download a free GIF, create your own or order a custom one, you have to keep in mind that GIFs can get heavy easily.
The more frames and colors you have the larger your file will be and the slower it will load in email clients, especially using cellular data when viewed on mobile.
I would advise you to aim to reduce the size for your animated GIF under 0.5 MB or max. 1 MB if possible, since if you go well above this limit your email might load too long 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.
No matter if you downloaded a free GIF, created your own, or order 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.
Unfortunately HTML email has many limitations and one of them is that even animated GIFs will display as a static image in:
These email clients will only show the first frame of your animation, so be sure that it includes your main message and/or a call-to-action already.
Apart from that, animated GIFs work well in all other webmail and most dekstop and mobile clients.
After you made sure that the size of your GIF is optimized for email template and that the first frame includes all essential information, you can easily upload it to the email editor following the steps below:
You might need to set iframe width and height to "auto" to make it look good on mobile.
Now you already know the answers to all the "why" and "how" questions, so let's move on to real life animated email template examples that used by many brands.
I decided to group the various examples by use case or industry hoping that it will help you to get around better in this vast collection.
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 usually is that they will be over 1 MB for sure. I guess it's not a problem for Netflix's audience since most of them have 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 definitely acts as a great attention-grabber.
A bottle of perfume is maybe not the most exciting product to sell online especially since this way you can't smell it so 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 Men's Perfume company, came up with this exciting email design concept.
This won't make readers smell it either, but will unquestionably grab their attention and will 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 is a clear call-to-action button that I would be able to push right away.
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 like Boden did in this email.
It also works with men's fashion for sure. 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 then beautiful, at least for a random person like me. It's far from being a regular fashion photo indeed, but as far as I can see it stands for their irregular brand.
Why to be the same if you can be different, right?
Yet 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 so. It makes my belly more excited personally.
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 food box subscription provider 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.
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.
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 in 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 campaign 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.
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 for sure, but don't overdo them either.
Here are some other creative tips that an event management company or a party place could use to spice up their emails:
Check out this detailed event reminder email design guide and see how other companies double down on their email game to be able to convert more subscribers to attendees.
I have to admit that 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 and status of the order, and that's it.
This is exactly 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 Postables email ROI for sure, but I'm pretty confident that it makes their brand more sticky 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.
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, only the SHOP NOW "ghost" button should be made more visible. 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.
It's easy to get tired of boring Merry Christmas emails, to be honest. That's what 1973 Ltd. realized, and they came up with a truly 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 Christmast emails have a look at these 15+ inspiring Chrismat email templates.
Here's another piece from an online bookstore, that 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 in 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.
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 attention grabbing gif banner.
If you know when was your subscriber born you can easily take advantage of it and send them targeted, personalized, timely offers for their birthday.
This is precisely 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.
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, let it be a product promotion, a discount or a seasonal offer.
For example, Vodafone used a simple, black and 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 make them open the email.
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'm 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 the emails that followes latest best practices.
I hope you are ready and inspired enough to add a little fun and personality to your emails.
No matter if 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? Would love to see your examples in the comments section.