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Mastering Email Marketing with Animated GIFs: A Comprehensive Guide

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views
12 min read
Posted:
January 30, 2024
Updated:
December 8, 2023
Author
Andrew Kozik
Reviewed by
Helena Raise
Posted:
January 30, 2024
Updated:
December 8, 2023

Contents

Capturing and retaining your audience's attention is more challenging than ever before. With infinite content just a click away, you only have seconds to grab your readers before they move on. This is especially true in email marketing, where inboxes are overflowing and open rates continue to decline. 

That's where animated GIFs come in. These bite-sized animations pack a visual punch, immediately drawing the eye amidst crowded inboxes. When used strategically, GIFs can boost engagement, highlight key information, and add personality to your email campaigns.

This comprehensive guide will explore how to effectively leverage animated GIFs to take your email marketing to the next level. We'll cover everything from choosing the right GIFs to technical optimization and testing. Read on to become a GIF master!

The Benefits of Using Animated GIFs in Emails

Let's start with why animated GIFs deserve a place in your email marketing campaigns. Here are some of the key benefits they provide:

Increased Engagement

Animated GIFs demand attention, cutting through the noise to capture the recipient's focus. Studies show including animation can boost click-through rates by up to 22%. GIFs also encourage subscribers to scroll through longer emails by adding visual interest throughout the content.

Enhanced Storytelling

A single high-quality GIF can replace paragraphs of text when illustrating complex processes or ideas. Their visual nature allows you to show rather than tell your brand's story.

Personality and Emotion

GIFs inject fun, humor, and humanity into your emails, allowing your brand's personality to shine through. You can also use them to connect on an emotional level by conveying shared experiences.

Quick Communication

Some concepts are better shown than explained. GIFs let you quickly communicate things like product tutorials, testimonials, and promotions without lengthy descriptions.

Social Sharing

Emails with strategic GIF usage tend to get shared more on social media, expanding your reach beyond just your subscriber base.

Best Practices for Using Animated GIFs in Emails 

Now that you know the benefits, let's cover some best practices for effectively leveraging animated GIFs in your email marketing campaigns:

Choose High-Quality GIFs

Prioritize clear, professionally designed GIFs from reputable sources. Avoid distorted, grainy, or overcompressed animations.  

Keep File Sizes Small 

Large GIFs hamper deliverability and frustrate recipients. For email, aim for file sizes under 1MB. Use online tools to compress and optimize your GIFs.

Limit Animation Length

Quick 3-5 second loops work best. Avoid excessive or repetitive movement that becomes distracting.

Mind the First Frame 

Some clients don't support animation, so ensure the first frame contains key information as a fallback.

Direct Focus 

Use GIFs strategically to direct attention and reinforce CTA buttons or important content.

Enhance Branding

Incorporate on-brand elements like logo, color scheme, and mascots for consistency.

Balance Movement

Use GIFs to punctuate content but don’t overdo it. Too much animation overwhelms the recipient.

Test Extensively

Preview animated GIFs across different email clients and devices to confirm proper rendering.

Choosing the Right Animated GIFs

Not all GIFs are created equal when it comes to email marketing. When curating your animated content, keep the following guidance in mind:

Avoid Distracting Movement

Excessive or haphazard animation frustrates more than it engages. Prioritize subtle, purposeful movement over elaborate effects.

Stay On-Brand 

Incorporate visual elements that align with your brand identity and messaging - colors, fonts, icons etc. This boosts familiarity and recognition.

Use for Demonstrations

Showcase your product in action through short video GIFs and tutorials. This builds value quickly and interactively.  

Limit Text Animation 

Readability suffers when large blocks of text are animated. Reserve effects for concise phrases and CTAs.

Localize Content 

Connect better by incorporating region-specific cultural references, holidays, events, etc. Repurpose globally evergreen GIFs where suitable. 

Personalize Smartly

Leverage data like customer names and behavior to provide tailored, relevant GIF suggestions like promotions or new arrivals.

Emulate Social Media 

Repurpose popular memes and viral trends as GIFs to tap into recipients' social media psychology and increase engagement.

Show Real People 

Humanize your brand by depicting real employees, customers, fans etc. enjoying your product or service. Avoid overly staged reactions.  

Feature User-Generated Content

Curate and showcase authentic GIFs created organically by your customers showcasing your brand.

Credit Original Creators

When sourcing GIFs from external platforms, always provide proper attribution to the creator. This encourages future sharing.

Where to Find Animated GIFs

Now that you know how to select effective GIFs, here are some great resources to source high-quality animations for your email campaigns:

Screen Story

Screen Story provides a great option for easily creating customized animated GIFs to use in your email campaigns. With Screen Story's screen recording and editing capabilities, you can capture unique product demos, how-tos, and other dynamic content then export them as animated GIFs.

GIPHY

https://cdn.siasat.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/GIPHY.jpg

With over 2 billion daily searches, this is the internet's GIF mecca. Tons of viral trends, meme, and pop culture content.

Tenor

https://tenor.com/assets/img/tenor-app-icon.png

Owned by Google, Tenor has a powerful GIF search algorithm. Helpful categories and suggested keywords.

Gfycat

https://www.ilsoftware.it/app/uploads/2023/07/Gfycat-logo.jpg

 Allows uploading video to convert into shareable GIFs. Handy for product demos and tutorials. 

Imgur

https://s.imgur.com/images/logo-1200-630.jpg?2

Top internet community to discover the web's best GIFs. Allows downloading and embedding.

Make a GIF

https://makeagif.com/images/makeagif.png

Quickly turn YouTube videos into GIFs. Useful for repurposing existing assets.

Adobe Spark

https://logowik.com/content/uploads/images/adobe-spark-cc3327.jpg

Intuitive graphics platform to easily create your own custom branded GIFs.  

Canva

https://play-lh.googleusercontent.com/3aWGqSf3T_p3F6wc8FFvcZcnjWlxpZdNaqFVEvPwQ1gTOPkVoZwq6cYvfK9eCkwCXbRY

Access tons of templates, fonts, and graphics to build professional GIFs for free. 

GIFMaker.me 

Another simple tool to DIY animated GIFs from video clips or scratch. No account needed.

FlipaClip

https://mms.businesswire.com/media/20220819005022/en/1548232/23/FlipaClip_Logo.jpg

Great mobile app choice for animating on-the-go. Handy sketch and frame-by-frame tools.  

Zooniverse 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/Main_zooniverse.jpg

Hire freelance animators and graphic designers to create custom GIFs affordably.

Optimizing Animated GIFs for Email

Raw GIF files are often far too large and unwieldy for email marketing. To ensure smooth delivery and rendering, always optimize your animations using these tips:

Modify Resolution 

Shrink GIF dimensions to between 300 x 250 and 600 x 500 pixels. Improves load time and mobile experience.

Reduce Frame Rate 

Cutting the frame count from 50 to 15 FPS dramatically reduces file size with minimal impact on fluidity. 

Limit Colors

Converting animations to indexed color with a 256 color max improves compression. Avoid gradients.

Crop File Size 

Use online optimizers to strip unnecessary metadata and pare down file size. 1MB max is recommended.

Choose Video over GIF

For more complex animations, professionally encoded MP4 video often compresses better than GIF counterparts.

Employ Dithering 

This fools the eye by varying pixel colors to simulate a greater range than available. Maintains quality at low file sizes. 

Lower Bitrate

For MP4 videos, adjust the bitrate lower until visual quality degrades. 30-60kbps is typical for email.

Experiment with Codecs

Try H.264 or H.265 codecs for MP4s and tools like Ezgif for GIF optimization.

Replace Some Frames 

Strategically removing intermediate frames that don't convey new information can reduce file size substantially.

Mind the Background 

Complex backgrounds overload the color table. Simplify or remove and overlay on a solid color for better compression.

Adding Animated GIFs to Emails

Once you’ve optimized your animations, it’s time to add them into your email designs. Here are some tips on smoothly incorporating animated GIFs:

Use IMG Tags 

The <img> HTML tag is the most universally supported way to embed a GIF animation in email across clients:

img srс="animated.gif" alt="Description of gif animation" width="250" height="250"

Directly Embed 

Some email editors like MailChimp allow uploading the GIF file which automatically handles the HTML embedding.

Link to Hosted File

Upload GIFs to image hosting platforms like Imgur or Giphy and link to the hosted file URL for easy embedding.

Set Dimension Attributes

Explicitly defining width and height keeps the animation constrained to the intended size and prevents distortion issues.

Mind the CTA

Since most email clients only allow linking the entire GIF, avoid CTA text in the animation and keep CTAs separate.

Provide Alt Text 

The alt attribute gives a text description for screen readers and if the GIF fails to load, improving accessibility.

Animate On Scroll

Use tools like GIFs On Scroll to trigger animations only when scrolled into view. Helps manage file size.

Include as Attachment 

If your email platform allows, adding the GIF as an attachment ensures recipients can download the asset.

Convert to Video 

For clients that don’t support GIFs like Outlook, include an MP4 video version using inline CSS for fallback.

Design Considerations for GIFs in Email

Integrating animated GIFs directly impacts the look, feel, and performance of your email designs. Keep these key design considerations in mind:

Alignment 

Left align GIFs with body text for cohesion unless deliberately offsetting for effect. Right alignment risks misaligned mobile rendering. 

Size Appropriately

Oversized GIFs disrupt text flow and overwhelm content. Moderate sizes like 250 x 250 pixels integrate seamlessly.

Complement Brand Style

Coordinate GIF hue and style with your brand colors, fonts, and imagery for consistency.

Animation Length

Excessively long animations become distracting and slow email load times. Ideal length is 2-5 seconds on repeat.

Placement

Strategically place GIFs to highlight specific content, navigation, CTAs etc. Avoid gratuitous animation.

File Compression

Heavily compress files to keep email size manageable, improving load times and deliverability.

Contrast Levels

Ensure GIF visuals contrast sufficiently with background colors for legibility and impact.  

Mobile Responsiveness 

Preview animations across mobile to confirm resizing and responsiveness work as intended.

Accessibility

Provide text alternatives, avoid rapid flashing, and test with screen readers to ensure accessible experience.

Convey Creativity

Use GIFs to inject flair and personality into designs in line with your brand image.

Testing and Troubleshooting Animated GIFs

With so many potential email clients and devices out there, rigorous testing is crucial to ensure your GIFs render smoothly everywhere. Here are some key testing and troubleshooting tips: 

Subject Line Preview

Since GIFs don't animate in the inbox preview, test subject lines communicate the essence of the content.

Outlook Troubleshooting 

Outlook blocks animated GIFs so provide a static image fallback aligned to the first frame for consistent experience.

Image Blockers

Some recipients use image blockers for security and privacy reasons. Ensure critical content isn't only conveyed through GIF animation.

Slow Loading Times

If GIFs load slowly, further compress files and reduce dimensions to improve performance.

Mobile Responsiveness

Many GIF issues arise on mobile. Thoroughly test across mobile devices at real-life screen sizes. 

Ask Recipients

Survey a sample of recipients to identify any commonly occurring GIF issues impacting their experience. 

Click Testing 

Analyze click heatmaps to see if embedded GIF links and CTAs are noticeable and attracting clicks as expected.

A/B Testing 

Try A/B testing emails with and without animated GIFs to compare performance across open rates, clicks, conversions, and beyond.

Using Animated GIFs and Video Together

While GIFs work great for short, seamless loops, video files like MP4 enable more complex narratives as they have higher time limits and file size allowances. Combining GIFs and video together in emails provides visual versatility:

GIF Overlays 

Layer text or graphics GIFs over videos to label, highlight or annotate parts of the footage.

Transitions

Use GIF fades, wipes or other transitions between video clips to pace the storytelling.

Teasers

Introduce videos with a short looping GIF teaser of a defining moment to set context and build anticipation.  

Hybrid Sections 

Design sections with a large video background behind overlaid GIF content for dynamic effects.

Animated Previews

Animate a custom thumbnail GIF that automatically plays a video when clicked for more seamless viewing.

Outro Recaps

Close videos with an animated GIF “cliff notes” style recap of the key points as a takeaway.

Fallback Alternative 

Provide a GIF version as a fallback option for email clients that may not support inline video playback.

Loading Screens 

Entertain viewers with branded GIF animations as short video clips buffer and load.

Sequential Storytelling 

Use a series of GIFs with overlapped timing to convey a narrative across time and space. 

Interactive Elements

Incorporate clickable hotspot GIFs over videos to create choose-your-own-adventure experiences.

Dynamic Captions

Animate text captions over videos in time with the dialogue to guide focus.

Measuring the Performance of Animated Emails

To determine the impact of your high-powered GIF emails, be sure to analyze performance across these key metrics:

Open Rates

Compare open rates between GIF and non-GIF emails across the same segments and campaigns.

Click-Through Rates 

Analyze clicks on links, CTAs, and other email elements to quantify engagement.

Conversion Rates

Measure the impact animated emails have on driving desired actions like purchases and signups.

Completion Rates 

For longer content, see if animated emails increase percentage of recipients scrolling through the full email. 

Browse Rates 

Review browse rates to determine if GIF integrated product catalogs or galleries generate more interest. 

Social Sharing 

Monitor social shares and interactions to see if animated emails produce more viral buzz.

Download Rates

Track GIF file downloads versus static images to identify what resonates more.

Survey Feedback

Ask subscribers directly how they feel about your GIF email designs through occasional surveys.

Unsubscribe Rates

Watch for increased opt-outs that may indicate animation is veering into annoying territory.

Avoiding Common Email Animation Pitfalls

While animated GIFs hold great potential, they can backfire without thoughtful strategy and restraint. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid with email animations:

Excessive Movement

Overdoing animation quickly becomes visually exhausting. Use subtle, deliberate motion only where it enhances content.

Distracting Imagery

Avoid imagery that competes too much for attention - flickering, chaotic, provocative etc. Keep focus on key messaging.  

Outdated Memes

Relying on stale viral references makes brands seem out of touch. Stay current on the pulse of pop culture.

Impaired Readability 

Don’t animate large bodies of text, which reduces readability. Reserve effects for concise phrases.

Slow Load Times

Large, unoptimized GIFs frustrate recipients. Keep file sizes tiny with compression tools to ensure speedy loading. 

Irrelevant Content

Every GIF should have a strategic purpose. Random animation without context only irritates subscribers.

Testing and Troubleshooting Animated GIFs

Thorough testing is key to ensure your animated GIFs display properly across different email clients and devices. 

Preview GIFs in Litmus to catch any rendering issues across mobile, web, and desktop. Check animations in Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, and other major platforms. 

Pay special attention to Outlook, which does not support GIFs natively. Provide a static image fallback aligned to the first frame.  

Also test on mobile devices at real-world resolutions. Many rendering problems happen on small screens.

Use screen readers to confirm GIFs make sense without visuals. Add descriptive alt text.

Survey subscribers directly and analyze opt-out rates to catch problems. Review engagement metrics too.

Email Marketing GIF Inspiration

Here are some creative examples of animated GIFs in email campaigns:

- Product demos 

- Branded mascots

- Cinemagraphs with subtle motion 

- Scrolling effects to reveal images

- Motion graphics to tease announcements

- Tutorial GIFs to demonstrate workflows

- Seasonal/holiday animation

- Trending memes and pop culture references

- Animated text effects in subject lines

- Hybrid designs with video and GIFs

Avoiding Common Email Animation Pitfalls

When adding GIFs, beware of these potential pitfalls:

- Overanimated content that overwhelms recipients

- Distracting, chaotic, or flickering imagery

- Reliance on stale, outdated meme references

- Animating large blocks of text that hurt readability

- Large file sizes leading to slow load times

- Gratuitous animation without clear purpose

The key is to be strategic and creative, while also showing restraint. Well-placed GIFs captivate readers when used appropriately to reinforce brand messaging.

Bring Your Email Designs to Life with Screen Story

Now that you’re a pro at creating amazing animated emails, why not take your designs up a notch with Screen Story?

Screen Story is a powerful screen recording tool designed to help you make studio-quality videos right from your Mac. With Screen Story, you can easily record your screen, webcam, and microphone all in one go.

The software includes automatic cursor animations, AutoZoom focusing, and custom backgrounds to give your videos a dynamic, professional look with no extra effort. Screen Story makes it easy to capture product demos, explainers, tutorials, and more.

So next time you need some eye-catching GIF and video content for your email campaigns or social posts, turn to Screen Story to create beautiful, engaging videos that captivate audiences. Try Screen Story for free!

Conclusion

Email marketing continues to be a top channel, but capturing audience attention remains an ongoing challenge. This is where animated GIFs can make a big impact when leveraged strategically. 

As we covered, GIFs tailored to your brand and audience not only boost engagement, but drive conversions, social shares, and help convey concepts through visual storytelling. 

By following best practices around design, optimization, testing, and strategic placement, you can take your email marketing to the next level with animated GIFs. Just be sure to avoid common pitfalls like over animation.

Focus on quality over quantity, properly compress files, and meticulously test across clients and devices. With a thoughtful, creative approach, animated GIFs can help your email marketing truly stand out.

FAQs

What is the ideal GIF size for email?

For email, smaller is better. Shoot for under 1MB in file size to ensure fast loading and smooth delivery.

How do I add a GIF to an email template? 

Use the HTML <img> tag to embed the GIF file hosted online, or upload the file directly in email editors like Mailchimp.

What email clients don't support GIFs?

Outlook 2007-2019 currently don't support animated GIFs. Provide a static image fallback. 

Should I animate text in email GIFs?

Avoid animating large blocks of text which hurts readability. Reserve animation for short CTAs and key phrases.

How do I make my own animated GIFs?

Use software like Adobe Animate, Photoshop, GIMP, or free web tools like GIFMaker to assemble and export animated GIFs.

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