Animated GIFs are taking over. We see them in text messages, on social media, and in blog posts. Giphy, one of the web’s most popular GIF search engines, serves up over 2 billion of the animated graphics every day. Increasingly, we’re seeing GIFs show up in our inboxes, too.
According to Litmus, 56.5 percent of email marketers reporting using animated GIFs in their marketing emails at least some of the time in 2018.
That means there’s a pretty good chance you’ve at least considered using GIFs in your eCommerce emails.
[bctt tweet=”The majority of brands now use GIFs at least some of the time in their marketing emails.” username=”jilt”]
Why should you use GIFs in your emails?
- They’re eye-catching and grab the reader’s attention.
- They’re great ways to simulate video, which isn’t supported in email clients.
- They can be useful to demonstrate how a product works or explain a complex idea without words.
Furthermore, GIFs can boost your conversion rate. Email Institute found that animated GIFs produce click-through rates 26 percent higher. BlueFly was able to increase its revenue by 12 percent when it started using GIFs.
When Dell sent its first GIF-centric email marketing campaign, the brand increased its open rate by 6 percent, its click-through rate by 42 percent, its conversion rate by 103 percent, and its revenue by 109 percent.
Those stats are almost hard to believe. Nevertheless, people connect with visuals, so it makes sense that visuals in motion are more engaging than static images. (85 percent of consumers say they want more video from brands, so it follows that GIFs, which are a similar art form, would also be well-liked.)
Just dropping any old GIF in an email won’t work, though. Your GIFs need to serve a purpose and advance your brand message. Check out some of these eCommerce emails that effective use GIFs, and use them as inspiration for your own campaigns.
ModCloth’s email contains a GIF that rapidly transitions through different products or variations in the same spot. This type of GIF draws the reader’s eye and helps them focus on the most important part of the email. ModCloth’s GIF is actually somewhat mesmerizing as you watch it progress.
This example show how GIFs can work to keep emails short. Instead of showing a long block of several products, you can fit them all into the same space using an animation that transition between each one.
Similar to ModCloth, Boden transitions through a number of products and styles. Instead of putting them in the same space, however, Boden lays them out on a surface. Since something is always changing and creating new patterns within the image, this GIF conveys the message that Boden’s products come in a myriad of styles that can be mixed and matched in multiple ways.
[bctt tweet=”Check out these 14 eCommerce emails that effectively use GIFs for inspiration for your own campaigns. ” username=”jilt”]
If you have a product that needs to be presented in a few ways for the reader understand its value, consider using a GIF like Away does here. They show a single product in multiple states, including any hard-to-see features (like the internal storage case in this example).
Ann Taylor uses a GIF in a delightfully subtle way here. The company adds a little mystery to its offer by keeping it secret until the reader clicks over to its website, so it shows a gift box instead of a product photo or discount code.
To build on that sense of curiosity, the GIF gives the box a little shake, kind of like how you’d shake a box to try to discover what’s inside. It’s a subtle “come get me” gesture that’s actually quite powerful.
Bonobos smartly promotes its tear-away pants with a GIF. With a product like this, the reader may not be completely aware of how it works (and how quickly). A GIF is the perfect medium to explain the process. Since the product’s main benefit is the simple and fast way of removing it, the reader wouldn’t truly understand if they didn’t see this motion.
This type of GIF is especially powerful if you sell something that needs to move to be enjoyed or fully appreciated.
Scarcity and urgency are powerful techniques to compel shoppers to buy right away, especially when they’re about to leave money on the table by not taking advantage of a sale. This email leans hard on the reader’s sense of urgency with a headline that says, “Time’s not exactly on your side…” and an animated clock GIF that’s counting down. The speedy motion of the hands on the clock enhance the sense of urgency.
Instead of focusing on marketing techniques, sometimes it’s best to simply rely on your product’s story. In this case, Estee Lauder’s lotion is supposed to help customers who want to reverse their skin’s aging, so the company put its product in motion to represent rewinding time using a “time change” motion blur effect from pop culture and movies.
This is also a very well-made GIF. Many GIF creators remove frames to make their GIFs smaller and easier to email. Estee Lauder’s GIF features a super high-quality effect while still checking in at well under 1MB.
Everyone likes photos of smiling people having a good time. SINGER22 creates a sense of excitement and celebration by having a model pop a bottle of champagne in its GIF. This GIF is fun because it puts the focus on the subscriber’s feelings of fun rather than the products. Animating her motion gives the image more impact than if it had been just a static photo. Using a GIF here makes it easier for recipients to imagine they’re about to have a fun new year, too.
Here’s another great example urgency from fashion brand Ann Taylor. There are no product photos or images of smiling people. Instead, the subscriber gets a simple countdown timer and flashing border. It’s almost like the company had to make the email quickly because it was running out of time!
This is a fun GIF from Kate Spade because almost seems like a little game (especially when you consider the copy). The GIF works for two reasons, it showcases multiple products in a small space, and it pairs well with the copy to imply that this is a limited-time offer and, just as the bags swing out of view in the GIF, they won’t be available for long.
Where most brands turn their product photos or models into GIFs, Steve Madden took a different approach. This email uses a subtle GIF to highlight two of its main benefits: free in-store returns and free shipping. This is a great way to draw the subscriber’s eye to copy they would ordinarily pass right over.
We like the GIFs in this email because they’re low-key, but still impactful. ASOS doesn’t want to dominate the reader’s attention or create a flashy design. The GIFS in email simply convey the message, “Hey look at this. It’s slightly more important than other elements here.”
This Mr Porter email uses the fireplace GIF to drive home its comfortable, homey vibe. It’s simple, cleverly done, and even though it draws your eye, it doesn’t distract you from the content of the email.
This type of GIF, in which one minor element of a photo (often in the background) is animated to include a subtle, looping motion is sometimes called a cinemagraph.
This Vans email is certainly… unique. There are a lot of things going on here, so you have to watch the GIF a few times to catch it all, but that’s a great way to keep the subscriber engaged with your email for some time. If the email is this weird, you can’t help but wonder what’s on the other side of that button… (and the oddball, almost graffiti-like aesthetic fits well with Vans image as a streetwear / skate brand).
Creating your own GIFs doesn’t have to be challenging. One of the easiest ways to create a GIF is to simply string a series of still images together. (The above examples from Away and Bonobos were clearly created this way.)
Of course, your GIFs can be more complex, but the good news is that because of the rising popular of GIFs, there are now a bunch of tools designed specifically to help you make them.
[bctt tweet=”Creating your own GIFs doesn’t have to be challenging.” username=”jilt”]
Here are some powerful tools to get started:
Giphy is a great place to browse and download other people’s GIFs. The site also has a GIF creator where you can make your own for free from a video file or slideshows from a series of images. They also have GIF-making apps for creating GIFs with your phone or by recording action on your computer screen (helpful if you sell software or other digital goods).
GIFMaker is another useful tool where you can make GIFs from static images. This tool gives you a lot of control over the GIF’s speed and how many times it loops.
CloudApp is a great tool for recording GIFs on your screen. For instance, you could make a quick recording that shows customers how to navigate your site to find a special deal or show customers how to use a companion app.
GIFs.com an impressive online GIF creator with a wide array of features. You can use some of it for free, but the full package costs $8/month. The GIFs it creates are high-definition and you have lots of control over appearance and performance, as well as a library of effects you can apply. (Really high definition GIFs will often end up with file sized far too large to email, but you can use a compression tool like Ezgif.com’s optimizer to get them in check.)
But if you want to make truly professional GIFs, you’ll need to learn how to use a high end photo editing tool like Photoshop.
Ready to insert your own GIFs to your marketing emails? Follow these best practices:
1. Make your GIF’s first frame pleasing. Some email clients—like older versions of Outlook—won’t display GIFs and instead will show a static image of the first frame. Make sure the initial frame of your GIF can stand alone and still convey your message. If the GIF depicts any vital information (like a call to action or offer), put it in the first frame.
2. Don’t use GIFs in every email. If you use GIFs too often, your subscribers will stop paying them much attention. Reserve GIFs for when you really need to grab their attention. Too many images in general can also make your emails too large and make them load slowly, especially on mobile.
3. Keep your file sizes small. Any time you send an asset in an email, you want it to be as small as possible so it doesn’t get blocked by email clients. You can use a compression tool to shrink its size, but it’s also important to optimize it in whichever tool you used to make it. Here are some tips for how to do that:
- Crop the file to focus on the action. GIF files support transparency, so making an image transparent and placing it on an HTML-colored background can reduce file size.
- Reduce the number of colors you use; more colors equals more information that that image file needs to save. And that means large file sizes.
- Remove unnecessary frames. The human eye doesn’t need many frames to see motion. Take a look at the SINGER22 email above. That entire GIF only has 6 different frames.
4. Don’t make your GIFs change too quickly. Subscribers with visual impairments may have trouble viewing GIFs that lack smooth transitions or flash too quickly (and refresh rates between 2Hz and 55Hz can harm people with epilepsy).
5. Don’t animate everything. GIFs are more powerful when they’re clear and simple. If your subscribers become overwhelmed by your GIF’s motion, there’s a good chance they’ll just delete your email and move on.
6. Make them relevant to the email’s content. Don’t use GIFs just because they’re trendy. Make sure your GIF adds something to the email’s content, otherwise just use a static image or text copy. An element without purpose is just clutter.
7. Evoke emotion wherever possible. Visuals are powerful tools to connect with people on an emotional level. GIFs are no exception. Use them to leverage your subscribers’ feelings about your brand and themselves.
8. Use GIFs to give more information. A GIF is like a video in that it shows a lot more information than a static image. Use that to your advantage by showing multiple angles, products in motion, or people enjoying your products.
9. Use more than just a GIF. GIFs are fun, but they shouldn’t be used by themselves. Make sure to include headlines, body copy, calls-to-action, and other images to support your email.
10. Test your GIFs. You can A/B test and optimize GIFs just like any other element of your email marketing program. Experiment with different kinds of GIFs to find the ones your audience responds to the best.
11. Treat GIFs like any other email image. GIFs are image files, so make sure you do the same things you would for any other images in your email. That means in addition to optimizing for small file sizes, make sure your GIFs include proper ALT text so readers with image-loading turned off in their emails clients, or who are downloading on slow mobile connections will stuff get the vital information you’re trying to impart.
Hopefully this post given you some useful inspiration to create your own GIFs. Remember: you don’t have to embed GIFs in every email, but they’re great tools to create engaging email content. Use them wisely, and they’ll pay dividends!