Animated GIFs just keep getting better and better. More email clients support them, and email developers are becoming more inventive in the ways they use them to augment the email’s message and help it come alive in the inbox.
We’ve been collecting emails with animated GIFs for a while and debuted our first collection of holiday-themed animations in this blog post: “Happy Animations to All and All a Good GIF.”
Now we’d like to share our latest collection that illustrates how to use animated GIFs to make business-as-usual emails stand out all year long.
Animation as a strategy, not just a flashy tactic
It’s tempting to drop in an animation here, there and everywhere, especially now that they’re so easy to create and more likely to be viewed. But it’s also easy to go overboard and turn your email into a 21st Century version of those annoying early web pages with spinning images and sparkly trailers.
The best reason to add animated GIFs to your email messages is to capture your customers’ fleeting attention or help them understand your product or service value better than a still image or copy block could.
In other words, your animation should always add value to your message. There’s no rule of thumb yet for how many animations is too many, but remember that more animations equals more weight for your message. That can reduce delivery and delay the deployment in your customers’ inboxes.
The emails below show how to use animated logos, graphics and illustrations. Each one has a strategic reason for being.
5 ways to use animated GIFs in email
All the emails below are in the FreshAddress Email Creative Archive. Click each image to view the email in all its animated glory.
You don’t need to register with the archive to view the emails, but it’s free to sign up, and you can do your own searches and saves instead of having email examples pile up in your inbox.
1. Holiday animations
These are usually a natural fit for animated GIFs. Christmas and other holidays are popular inspirations but other holidays can also give you opportunities to add a little extra zip to your emails. In the United States, we see lots of fireworks and red-white-blue combinations around Independence Day. Halloween is another fruitful opportunity.
This brand uses animation only sparingly, which increases its effectiveness. Placed at the top of the page here, it’s intended to capture attention in a graphics-only message with no product photos.
Here’s a subtle take on the classic fireworks animation, which doesn’t detract from the brand’s mainly patriotic message.
Always for Me
This promo is timed for Independence Day, but it would work for any summer-themed promo when you need some extra oomph to attract distracted customers.
2. Add urgency
Countdown timers are becoming popular, both for building anticipation for an event or alerting subscribers that an event is about to end. They use a different kind of animation because they’re built on real-time open data and require a different kind of coding.
Two cautions with using countdown timers:
- Don’t fake it. We’ve seen faux countdown timers that just repeat the same 10 or 15 images counting down minutes or seconds. Trust us – you aren’t fooling anybody.
- Use them judiciously. Otherwise, they’ll lose their impact. Expect to see a lot of them in emails around Black Friday, holiday shipping deadlines and other time-pressured events.
This Bloomingdale’s email shows how to use and display a countdown timer: It’s timed to a specific event, it’s positioned at the top of the email for maximum impact, and the screenshot below shows the time has expired, so you know it’s genuine.
3. Attract attention.
If you send emails with multiple products or images, calls to action, news briefs or other elements, a subtle but carefully placed animated can put the brakes on scrolling. It can break up a long copy block or highlight a product.
Many emails will animate the product image or a banner (see examples later in this post) but this email focuses on the headline, using an animated drawing that compels the subscriber to watch it appear.
Fredericks of Hollywood
The animated image is a secondary call to action in this email but it’s related to and sets off the hero image, a striking still photo.
4. Show how a product works.
This is strategic animation in action. Your email’s job is to move your customer to your landing page on your website, where the conversion happens. So, animation showing the customer what to expect is a great way to create that motivation.
We love this little bit of animation tucked away like a surprise in the middle of a long Disney product email. The Mickey Mouse watch was a 1920s Disney foray into merchandising and is still one of the best known.
This email was part of Chick-fil-A’s big push to promote its mobile app. Customers who view the email see a sliding set of screens showing what they would see after downloading and opening the app.
Study this brand to see how you can mix still images with animated how-tos. Click the image to see the animation, which demonstrates how the featured product works. Plus, who can resist the animated gelato scoops at the top?
5. Increase the number of products.
Email developers are working with many new ways to add more product images to emails without making customers scroll for days. The animated GIF is still your old reliable, though.
This email promotes several items but it calls attention to its secondary product with multiple patterns of the featured duvet cover. Other uses include showing different sizes, colors or versions, or multiple products in a single category. One caution: time the frames so they don’t rotate too quickly for viewers to grasp the images.
Keep your eye on the strategy
Animated GIFs are more than a nice-to-have or a fun thing to play with. They can bring your emails to life and make them more interesting and engaging for your subscribers, especially when you give them a purpose beyond sheer entertainment value.
That can rebound positively on your value for your subscribers and give them more reasons to keep opening and acting on your emails – which, in the end, keeps your list strong and active.