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.

Google Trend for Gif in Email in 2018

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.

Animated GIF

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:

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 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.

When should you use animated GIFs in email?

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:

  • 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 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?

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 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.

animated GIF sample 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.

What size & weight should your anim GIFs be optimized for?

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.

Email embedded gif loading time chart

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.

Which email clients support animated GIFs

Unfortunately HTML email has many limitations and one of them is that even animated GIFs will display as a static image in:

  • Outlook 2007
  • Outlook 2010
  • Outlook 2013

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.

email clients that support animated GIFs

Source: Litmus

How to add an aminated GIF to an email?

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:

  1. Double click on any image
  2. Choose the Upload files option in the Gallery
  3. Browse your GIF
  4. Hit upload
  5. 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.

30+ Animated email template examples

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.

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.

Netflix's notable animated GIF usage in the email

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.

Animated email template example from Wistia that use GIF instead of video in their emails

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.

Animated product images in email

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.

Animated product image example in email design.

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 email template example

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 like Boden did in this email.

E-commerce animated email template sample.

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.

Men's fashion Animated GIF email template sample

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.

Ace hotel shop shows how to embed gif in email

Why to be the same if you can be different, right?

Yummy GIFs in food industry emails

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.

Custom designed Gif Sample from Caviar

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.

Animated GIF in email can be used in the food industry too.

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.

Animated email template example from Vimeo

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.

Asana's animated email sample

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.

Animated GIF pretending it's the software in an email.

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.

Animated email hero image in the newsletter from AWeber

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.

Starbucks colorful and attention grabbing GIF email template samp.

Event reminder / promotion spiced with animation

Here's an extraordinarily colorful event reminder or event promotion email from FoxFuel.

Animated event reminder email.

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 banner in 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:

  • User-generated content: Images from the previous event/party.
  • Testimonials from past attendees
  • Highlights from the planned event/party
  • Agenda
  • 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 be able to convert more subscribers to attendees.

E-commerce transactional emails love animated GIFs too

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.

Animated shipping confirmation email template sample

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.

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.

E-commerce promotional animated GIF email sample from Pur

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.

Animated timer placed in email content

Christmas animated GIFs

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.

Christmas email with embedded GIF.

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.

Attention grabbing gif in the emails head

Here's another very minimal but still funny email from Fundbox, a financing-provider for small businesses.

Minimalistic animation in email

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.

Halloween GIF for email

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.

Animated Halloween email template example from LOFT

Birthday greetings

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.

Animated Happy Birthday email sample from Nike

Instead of a drawn animation Pizza Hut uses a real image of a cupcake extended with a single lighted candle.

Happy Birthday GIF in email

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

Due to picky email clients, that tend to ignore Javascript, countdown timers in email are always implemented as small animated GIFs that will be generated in real-time by the image hosting server.

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.

Embedded countdown timer in email

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.

Adidas use a countdown timer in a promotional email.

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.

Reminding subscribers with a countdown timer in ecommerce email.

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.

Are you ready for some animation?

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.

Author
Roland Pokornyik

Roland Pokornyik

CEO / Co-founder @ Chamaileon.io & EDMdesigner.com