Why You should use GIFs in Email Marketing

by Federica Rustico

13 min read
Last Updated: December 30, 2022

We all get emails. And we’re all annoyed by how many we receive. Most of the dozens or hundreds of emails in our inbox are either from our boss (oh no, not him/her again), some shipping company notifying us of an order’s delivery date (so that's where all my money goes), or some business trying to sell us something. The one thing all of these emails have in common is that they’re all aimed at getting our attention and getting us to take action. 

I’m happy to hear you’re offering Black Friday discounts. But the truth is, if I started buying from every brand who emailed me with a discount I would be poor. So, how am I going to pick who to buy from, which email to throw in the spam box, or… who to unsubscribe from? 

Email marketers know very well the competition they are up against. So how can you make your marketing emails different from those of your rivals? Simple, you just need to find more creative ways to get us to stay glued to your email. The first thing that probably comes to mind is inserting videos in emails. But, due to email attachment size restrictions, sending even a tiny video through email is nearly impossible. So what now?

Don’t worry, you’re not stuck in a dead end, because GIFs have come to the rescue. Whether you're promoting a business or product or showing your animation work, GIFs are a great tool to captivate and engage your audience. So let’s get into why you should use GIFs in your emails and how they’re going to improve your click-through-rate. 

What is a GIF?

GIF, or "Graphics Interchange Format," is a fantastic tool for grabbing and holding a reader's attention. These moving images appear in text messages, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Instagram, Snapchat and many other places. But what is a GIF? A GIF is a series of images contained in a single file, akin to a video without sound...but fortunately, much smaller! They are therefore perfect for sending our tiny animations and motion graphics projects through email for improved promotion. YAY!

Reasons to use GIFs in emails

Since every time you’re sending an email you’re competing against others who are trying to grab your subscriber’s attention, you need to utilize every chance you get to encourage subscribers to interact with your emails! While a static image might be a suitable choice, your emails must be so compelling that readers won't be able to turn their attention elsewhere.

Animated GIFs are excellent for boosting email marketing engagement. GIFs can be used in emails to convey a sense of excitement, humor, or surprise. GIFs can be useful in enhancing your marketing efforts, regardless of your goals, including education, instilling interest, information, or entertainment. Here are the top reasons you should be using GIFs in your email marketing campaigns.

1. They grab attention

Remember how you’re competing to get your subscriber’s attention? Well, GIFs are a fantastic method to get the attention of your followers. They can be used to highlight a key message or call to action, making it more likely that recipients will take notice. Plus, they can help increase click-through rates, as recipients are more likely to click on a moving image than a static one. Why? Because GIFs' repetitive motion can quickly focus users on your emails, drawing them to your CTA. This guarantees that people comprehend your entire message. 

2. They show off your personality

We’ve been through this already—consumers don’t just want a stuffy corporate communication style, they want authenticity from brands. GIFs are a great way to add some personality to your email marketing. They can help to break up the text and add some visual interest. They can also be used to highlight a particular message or offer. They simply add flair to your emails, making them more engaging and fun to read. 

3. Great for revealing a new product or service

When you want to introduce your clients to a new line of products, GIFs can be used to present the range of your products in an interesting way. You can use your imagination to create the perfect GIF for your email campaign because this promotes creativity.

4. Teaser or countdown to upcoming event

GIFs offer a chance to tease a forthcoming event or piece of information. By doing so, you can pique the interest of your subscribers in the upcoming content. In order to increase subscribers' eagerness to interact with your emails, you might also want to arouse a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). It really works! 

5. Easily explain a complex concept

You might occasionally need to simplify a complex product's features so that users can grasp them. GIFs can assist you break down stages to demonstrate to your subscribers that things are easier than they seem, rather than just a few uninteresting screenshots. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, what about an animated picture? 

6. They boost consumer loyalty

An instant trust factor is created when your prospects witness GIFs of your product range, product demos, or product characteristics. They are more willing to give you their time, money, and personal information as a result of their increased confidence.

7. They improve ROI

Your primary goal as an email marketer is to generate income, am I right? Including GIFs in emails has been shown to increase ROI (return on investment). Even the conversion funnel is accelerated by it. How? GIFs captivate your audience and persuade them to read your email. Your captivating email copy will persuade them to click the call-to-action button once you've captured their interest. The reader will browse your website after arriving at the landing page and, ideally, make a purchase. Increasing the results of your email campaign as a result. We have research to back this up! In order to promote their new Convertible Ultrabook, Dell ran an email campaign in 2014 (yep, it's still relevant today). What were their rewards? a 103% increase in conversion rate, a 42% increase in click-through rate, and a 109% increase in income.

8. They're the best alternative to video

Videos are excellent for showcasing your goods or sharing client endorsements. However, they are large, expensive to manufacture, and too long to hold someone's interest. All of the negative aspects of videos are transformed into their positive aspects by GIFs. 

Considerations for Using GIFs in Emails

Although GIFs can be a wonderful addition to your email marketing strategy, as in everything, there are a few things to think about beforehand. 

Make sure the GIF will automatically play in the email

You should take into account various email clients and make sure they will support your GIF files. While Microsoft Outlook 2010 and 2013 do support GIF files, they do not support a full GIF animation. An email client like Gmail does. It would be quite frustrating to add a GIF that your subscribers wouldn't be able to view if your reader's email program doesn't allow GIFs.

Avoid putting animated GIFs everywhere

An email with mostly text content is sometimes more appropriate than one with a lot of moving graphics. This is especially true for emails that provide updates and announcements, when text is more crucial than graphics. In light of this, you should always contextualize the GIFs you use within the context of your overall material. It's usually preferable to be safe than sorry and refrain from sharing the GIF if you have any reservations about using a certain GIF within a particular sort of email. By doing this, you can make sure that GIFs are helping you rather than hindering your outreach.

Use images easy to understand

It should be your top responsibility as an email marketer to share content that resonates with your audience right away. By using GIFs that are explicit about what they are attempting to represent, you can accomplish this objective. This comprises pictures with smooth movement, strong captions, and well-known pop culture instances. This means that you should be cautious about using obscure allusions. No matter how much you want to use a certain GIF from your favorite cult vintage TV program. This ensures that your messaging is always engaging and understandable.

Create an eye-catching layout

The true issue with GIFs is in integrating them with the rest of your design. If your email layout is looking like a mix of colors that could belong in Alice and Wonderland, something isn’t right. If  your GIF has a different color scheme than your layout or contains a caption that appears entirely out of place with your genuine message, that’s a red flag. Time to find a different solution! 

Be true to your branding

I know, once you go on GIPHY and type in whatever keyword you’re interested in, it’s going to be hard to not want to include them all! But whatever you do, be careful not to stray from your plan and end up thousands of miles from your brand identity. Even if you come upon a collection of GIFs that are too good to pass up, make sure it adheres to your branding. Try using a dedicated tool for email layout design to guarantee coherence, consistency, and visual references for your audience across your campaigns.

Where to find GIFs for your email campaigns

Super cool, but where can you find all these amazing GIFs to include in your email campaigns? If you don't currently have a ready-made custom GIF for your brand, shame on you. Just kidding! A GIF search tool can help you locate the ideal GIF to incorporate in your email marketing campaign. If instead you want to create your custom brand GIF, you can use a GIF maker. But for now, let’s stick to where you can find ready-made GIFs to include in your emails!

GIF search engines

When it comes to finding the best ready-made GIFs, there are many websites you can turn to. But GIPHY is the king of the 7 Kingdoms. Simply enter a word or phrase into the search area that best represents what you're looking for. Then click the search icon or press enter.  GIPHY will display the most pertinent (and well-liked) results out of its database of over 10 billion GIFs. To access the embed options page, click any GIF. Direct HTML code editing is possible, or you can simply right-click the GIF and download it for later. For other popular GIPHY substitutes, you can check out Gyfcat, Tenor, and Imgur (which features static images too). Just a head’s up, it’s really important not to infringe anyone’s copyright in this process. But the good news is the vast majority of stuff you’ll find on these platforms is royalty-free. That implies that you can make use of them for free as part of your GIF marketing plan. 

GIF templates

Finding a GIF with no captions (so you can add your own) and the ideal size for your marketing requirements can be challenging. Going for a customizable GIF template will save you a lot of time in looking for and modifying GIFs that weren’t originally made for the same purpose as you’d like to use them for. If this sounds good, head on over to Visme, the best platform for free GIF templates. 

GIF Makers

Because of its fantastic collection of modifiable GIF templates and straightforward GIF production instructions, Visme is also a great GIF maker. But, to access its more useful features, you’ll have to upgrade from a free to a paid plan (downer, I know). Plus, if you’d like to get rid of the Visme watermark, you have to upgrade to a paid service too. So, the following are some other top free GIF makers that (almost) entirely make making original GIFs simple:

  1. GIPHY—using Giphy is the simplest
  2. Ezgif —enables frame-by-frame editing
  3. Kapwing—great for converting videos into GIF

Use your videos and convert them into GIFs

Email size restrictions apply to all email service providers. You might quickly find yourself surpassing that threshold if you insert more than one or two videos in your email. Additionally, popular ESPs may flag your email as spam if you attach a GIF or embed a video in the email body. That will create a series of events you’d rather avoid: your sender reputation will suffer if some of your emails are classified as spam, and your IP address may be blacklisted as a result. That’s why smaller, responsive emails made from GIFs instead of videos will be more mobile-friendly. GIFs were initially developed as a solution for the issue of videos being too large to distribute over email. Among the most well-liked choices that are ad-supported are Ezgif and Cloudconvert.

Optimize your GIFs for email

Yes, you can add animated GIFs in every email platform. But the issue is, no one can guarantee a consistent user experience. So it’s completely up to you to ensure that your readers don't miss anything because of user variability, including differences in screen size, internet speed, and Microsoft Outlook's ability to disable GIFs (why do you have to be so mean Outlook?). So, the only way you can quickly ensure that everyone gets the message you want to convey is by optimizing your GIFs.

First things first: the first frame of the GIF should contain all the information you want your viewers to see. Why? Because the result of turning off GIF animations, as some email programs let you do (everyone staring at Outlook), is displaying a static image rather than a blank box. Sure, your GIF would probably communicate way more effectively the message you wanted to convey, but since that’s not under control, make sure that the photo that will replace it is still able to convey the essentials. 

Additionally, you should make sure that your GIF is at least 600 pixels wide (the standard width for a newsletter) to avoid having it cut off on smaller phone screens. The ideal file size for your GIF should be 0.5 MB, keeping in mind the data requirements of your audience. Although you can go up to 1 MB if necessary, smaller files download more quickly and have a lower likelihood of losing viewers. Too large a GIF file? Utilize a program like GIF Cutter to try and cut down on the number of frames. You can also try reducing the number of colors utilized in your own GIFs. Why? Because a GIF's file size can be decreased by reducing the amount of detail in the image. You might already have lost the interest of a valuable reader if an email takes too long to load! Additionally, make an effort to restate any information in your GIF in the email's text.

For people who use screen readers or have completely disabled picture loading, add some alt text as a final step. For every image you publish on your website, on social media, and in emails, you should follow this accessibility best practice.

Here’s a checklist to make sure your GIFs are optimized for email marketing campaigns:

  1. Make sure the first frame of your GIF conveys the message you want to send. That way, in case the subscriber has a GIF blocker, he/she will still get the point you want to send across. 
  2. Make sure your GIF is a reasonable size. Large GIFs can take a long time to load and may be blocked by email filters. 
  3. Consider using an animated GIF instead of a static image to add visual interest to your email.
  4. Use a GIF compressor to reduce the file size of your GIF. This will help your email load faster. 
  5. Make sure your GIF is relevant to the email content. Irrelevant GIFs can be distracting and may be considered spam.

Wrapping up

GIFs are a great way to inject some life into otherwise dull, routine, and uninteresting emails. However, as you use them in your email marketing, you must make sure that you are adhering to all best practices and employing all of the resources at your disposal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are GIFs good for emails?

GIFs are a great way to add visual appeal to emails and make them more engaging. GIFs can be used to draw attention to important messages, illustrate instructions, and add a bit of humor. Additionally, they are a good tool for creating shareable content, which can help to increase engagement and build brand awareness. GIFs can help to make emails more memorable and make them stand out from the rest.

Do emails with GIFs perform better?

Studies have found that emails with GIFs have higher open rates and click-through rates than those without. This is because GIFs are visually appealing and help to draw attention to important messages. They can also help to make emails more memorable and more engaging, which can lead to higher levels of engagement with the content. Therefore, using GIFs in emails can be a great way to improve performance and increase engagement.

How to insert an animated GIF in an email?

To insert an animated GIF into an email, first locate the GIF you want to use from a website or GIF library. Copy the URL and paste it into the body of the email. Then, select the link and click the "insert image" icon. If the GIF does not appear immediately, make sure to check the "show images" box. Once the image appears, it should be animated and ready to be sent.