We see a ton of great GIFs everyday and, as the Head of Customer Happiness, I probably see a few more than the average bear. Those funny animated images and diagrams regularly show up in internet searches, within image ads, and in text messages from friends. But have you ever thought about using them in your email campaigns?
It may surprise you, but animated GIFs (when executed properly) can actually help you connect with your subscribers by articulating your brand voice, selling your products/services, and engaging your audience. Adding an animated GIF to your email is dropping that extra shot of espresso in your coffee — it’s a big boost that pushes your productivity into overdrive (but only in moderation)! Here are ideas about how to use GIFs effectively to help you muster the creativity needed to make awesome GIFs for your audience.
What is a GIF Exactly?
GIF (which stands for Graphic Interchange Format) is a type of file used for images and it has been around since the beginning of time (okay well since the early days of the internet). These images can be either static or animated. Animated GIFs actually contain a series of images which follow one another rapidly (like a digital flipbook) to create their animated appearance. (But unlike flipbooks that are often filled with stick figures, animated GIFs can show anything from creative illustrations to moving photographs.) Animated GIFs are getting increasingly popular in business settings because they create dynamic messages for consumers.
As Jason Rodriguez explains in A Guide to Animated GIFs in Email, “A lot has changed since the 90s. Animated GIFs are enjoying a renaissance both on the web and in email marketing. While there is still some debate as to how you actually pronounce ‘GIF’, most will agree that GIFs can be an excellent marketing tool… Using an animated GIF adds an element of delight to a campaign that isn’t typically possible with static email designs.”
Using GIFs in Your Email Campaigns
Everyone loves GIFs because they’re fun and entertaining, but people don’t always picture them in a business setting. However, GIFs can certainly be used in your professional email marketing. In fact, GIFs can improve your marketing campaigns in the following ways:
Business owners often showcase products using animated GIFs because they demonstrate products in use and display different views of the products. By showing off products in a dynamic setting, email recipients feel more connected to a company’s offerings while seriously upping the “cool factor.”
Even if individual products are not being featured though, promotions can be made into animated GIFs to display text in a way that gets people to pay attention. These promotions can be crafted to be creative and humorous so that recipients will remember them and act on them.
Your audience receives tons and tons of emails everyday. So many, in fact, that going into their inboxes can sometimes feel like a game of Asteroids as they try to dodge companies bombarding them with newsletters, product announcements, and promotions. For this reason, you need to do something to make your audience care about your emails and value them above all of the others competing for their attention.
Animated GIFs help companies stand out from the competition while providing value to readers. This is an award-winning combination that will entice people to actually open and read your emails. (You won’t actually get a ribbon for this but you’ll improve engagement, which is just as good!) But using just any GIF won’t do. You have to make sure that the GIFs you’re using are high quality and entertaining so that readers will pay attention and want to share them.
Creating a Call-to-Action
GIFs that just look pretty and don’t direct readers to take any action are a waste of everyone’s time because they don’t provide any value to the reader and or sender. Effective GIFs will utilize a call-to-action to get readers to engage with them and drive traffic back to the company’s website, blog, or social media channels.
Enabling Digital Storytelling
Unlike a regular email that just conveys information to a reader, an email with an animated GIF allows the sender to tell a story for the reader. Animated GIFs are especially helpful in the case of complex information because they allow for information to be broken down into bite-sized pieces and conveyed visually so that’s easier to understand. For this reason, many professional companies choose to use animated GIFs to explain complicated things like software features, financial concepts, how to put something together, and the maybe even the meaning of life.
This same digital storytelling can be used to tell the story of the business itself. For companies with a rich history or strong social mission, animated GIFs can help convey the business’ purpose as well by weaving a tapestry of emotion and information.
Improving Conversion Rates
Several marketing studies have shown that using animated GIFs compared to using static images can actually increase the CTR and conversion rate of an email campaign. Bluefly did one such study and found that the use of animated GIFs increased CTRs by 5% and overall revenue by 12%. MarketingSherpa did a similar study with Dell’s newsletters and found that CTRs increased by 6% while revenue increased by a whopping 100%. These studies show us that while it’s impossible to predict how much of an increase will result, the trend is positive for both email engagement and email-related revenue when animated GIFs are used. (The same can be said of the use of unicorns in emails to me, but that’s a different story!)
Enjoying Widespread Compatibility
We already know that GIFs are wildly popular but they enjoy fairly widespread compatibility as well, which makes them effective for use across a wide audience. These days GIFs are supported by all webmail and most email and mobile software clients.
The only major players that don’t display animated GIFs properly are Outlook 2007-2013 and Windows Phone 7. These providers just show the first frame of an animated GIF, which means that it’s important to have your most important frame be first so that you can ensure that recipients will see your key message. Start your animated GIF off on the right foot and it will be effective no matter how your email is being viewed.
For information on how to make animated GIFs, check out this great PC Mag article. It’ll give you tips on how to animate GIFs on the web and where to go to create quality GIFs for use in all of your communications.
3 Tips to Maximize the Impact of Your GIFs
Now that you know how animated GIFs can benefit your email marketing efforts, here are some helpful tips on how to maximize the impact of your GIFs:
Just like lawn gnomes, your animated GIFs should be small. Without sacrificing quality, reduce the size of your animated GIFs to ensure that they will make it to recipient inboxes. Cutting back on the number of frames will keep the size down. Try to keep your GIF size under 125K to allow it to be easily viewable on both computers and also smartphones.
Use the GIF Early
If you’re using an animated GIF and also plain text, insert the GIF first so that it will be above the fold in the email. This will ensure that recipients don’t miss the animated GIF that you worked hard to create. Just remember GACF – GIFs always come first!
Test your Email Campaign
Testing your emails is the most important part of running an email campaign. No matter what kind of content or visuals your emails contain, be sure to A/B test every element of your emails – the subject line, the first frame of your animated GIF, the length of your GIF, your accompanying text, etc.
Now that you have a sense of how to get started using animated GIFs, try them in your next email marketing campaign and test the results to see if your campaigns experience the same lift that other companies are already experiencing.
Happy Sending! <3, Blue