How to use GIFs in emails to boost conversions

With the average person being exposed to around 120 marketing messages per day, what can email marketers do to grab a prospects’ interest? Considering the average attention span is only 8 seconds, you’ll need more than just intriguing subject lines, straight-to-point offers, colourful images, and bright calls-to-action.

2021 Dell XPS 12 animated GIF email
2012 Dell XPS 12 email marketing

Back in 2012, Dell’s email strategist, David Sierk, took a risk sending out a not-so-Dell-looking email. The email experimented with personalized GIFs showing its latest Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook in action. The results? 103% increase in conversion and 109% boost in revenue.

So, if you were wondering if GIFs work in email marketing, the answer is yes. Through the use of personalization, bright brand colours, and relevant emojis in emails, GIFs can become your golden trick to surprise recipients and motivate them into taking your desired action.

GIF email marketing benefits

For email marketers, animated GIFs are a tool for grabbing extra interest from subscribers and increasing their engagement. According to the 2018 survey by Litmus, the majority (78.8%) of marketers use animated GIFs (at least sometimes) in their campaigns. And when used appropriately, GIFs can provide many benefits to your email marketing campaigns:

  1. Where the show, don’t tell principle applies, use them to demonstrate how your product works instead of writing long, descriptive texts most people ignore. In fact, the CEO and Co-founder of GIPHY, Alex Chung says that GIFs are capable of conveying nearly 60,000 words.
  2. Animated GIFs’ interactive nature helps you communication faster and more successfully than with stationary images.
  3. They serve as an excellent replacement for videos, which is a great option for email clients that still don’t support embedded video content.
  4. Adding relevant GIFs to emails can increase click-through-rates and overall conversion of your email marketing campaign.

How to use GIFs in emails

  1. Define a goal of using GIFs in your email marketing campaign:
  • Do you want to show your product in action?
  • Is your plan to explain how a new feature of your product works?
  • Do you want to arouse curiosity in your audience?
  • Will it work as a teaser to something new your brand is going to represent soon?
  • Do you want to set the right mood in your email, make a receiver smile, or appeal to FOMO, for example?
  1. Find one that will be the most relevant to your particular goal. Depending on that, you will need to either create your own GIFs or choose animations from websites like GIPHY. GIPHY is an excellent option to consider (and the most popular) if you plan to entertain users, set the mood, or enhance the appeal of your emails.
  1. Ask your designer to create brand GIFs for your email campaigns. Or you can try tools like Adobe or Cloud App to design them yourself. Just make sure to optimize and save your animated GIFs properly.

Here are some tips for optimization:

  • Don’t make them too “heavy” and large. Given that your subscribers may have different internet speed, your oversized animations can affect load time or fail to display correctly. All of this will make emails less appealing.
  • Keep mobile in mind. Many users open emails on their mobile devices today. Large GIFs can fail to load and nothing frustrates subscribers more than getting a broken email from their favorite brand.
  • Consider the animation speed. Some of your recipients may have visual impairements or be unable to perceive an animation’s high speed.

What can go wrong?

As with any other marketing instrument, GIFs in emails can do both good and harm to your campaign.

Some email clients still don’t support GIFs:
Outlook 2007 to 2016 won’t show the animation but just the first frame of your message. With that in mind, make sure this first frame includes the vital info of your message.

Your audience may consider GIFs unprofessional:
Not all users enjoy GIFs or emojis in emails, especially if they don’t associate your serious brand with such “frivolity.” You need to know your target audience inside out and understand if your brand voice and tone allow using informal communication with the audience. Otherwise, GIFs can destroy your brand reputation and lower your email sender score.

GIFs load slowly:
As I’ve already mentioned, size-heavy GIFs can affect load time and/or fail to display correctly. Busy users won’t spend time waiting for them to download, so make sure to optimize before inserting them into emails:

  • Ensure the size is 0.5 MB or 1 MB maximum.
  • Limit the number of colours and frames.
  • Keep the width to 600px — the average size of emails/newsletters.

Your GIF serves no purpose:
With no value, whether informative/educational or entertaining, a meaningless animated image brings nothing but an adverse reaction from users. So, before adding a GIF to your email, ask yourself:

  • Will it work in the email?
  • Will it provide any value?
  • Is it really worth sending?

If your marketing message is clear without animated GIFs, don’t use them in your campaigns. GIFs aren’t a universal remedy, and they won’t save your email campaign if its content isn’t of high quality and value itself.

Brand examples that use email marketing GIFs smart

Headspace animated email example
Starbucks GIF email campaign
Loft GIF email marketing example

When used right and not overdone, animated images can be an excellent tool for any email marketer. They help grab the users’ attention, involve them in communication, demonstrate your product, and motivate them to take your desired action.

Many brands use GIFs in email marketing, celebrating the growth of engagement and conversion. The trick is that they do in-depth research to make sure their audience will react positively — and use them with purpose.

If you’re not sure what image types you should use, click here.