One of the most interesting trends we’ve noticed this year in the FreshAddress Email Creative Archive is the wider use of email animation. We came across some outstanding examples, such as this clever Easter message.

Marketers use animation in different ways, too. Some post their animations up at the top of the email so they render as soon as the reader opens the message. Others tuck their animations deep down in the message like little rewards for those who scroll all the way to the end.

We’ve also seen more countdown clocks, as either a simple animated attention-getter or a genuine real-time animation for beat-the-clock tactics like limited-time offers or renewal deadlines.

We expected to see some creative animations this holiday season because so much rides on email creativity this time of year. We weren’t disappointed, either, as you will see from the examples in the next section.

Some background on email animation

Most animation comes as animated GIFs, which themselves aren’t new. Remember the bad old design days of the 1990s when dancing, spinning and bouncing images assaulted the eyes on every web page? Don’t forget all the creative cursor trails, either – images that trailed behind your cursor wherever you moved it on a page.

Big lesson: Less is more!

Animation gives marketers creative heft but also poses challenges.

On the up side:

  • It adds interest and both attract and hold attention in an email better than a static image.
  • You can feature more product variations (size, color, items) without making the email ridiculously long, reducing the chance that an email client like Gmail or Yahoo will truncate your message.
  • Animations can help you simplify complex concepts or highlight transformations, thus saving lots of words. “Show, don’t tell” is still one of the best copywriting maxims.

On the down side:

  • Outlook is still your enemy. The two big mobile formats – iOS and Android – support animation, as do major webmail clients and many (but not all) desktop clients. Even Lotus Notes! But Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 will show only the first frame of your animation sequence.
  • A little goes a long way. Guard against distracting readers from your primary content, whether it’s an offer, an alert or a news item. Don’t use animation just because you can.
  • Animation can bulk up your email’s file size. This could slow down load times or suck up data, both of which will annoy your subscribers.

If you want to learn more about email animation, bookmark this blog post by Litmus, which covers email animation in dedicated detail.

Top 10 holiday email animations

Click on each email to see the full-size email with animations. While you’re at it, sign up for free to get full access to the archive.

1.) Sender: Bloomingdales — Subject line: Marvelous Gifts for Moms, Sisters and Fashionable Friends — Preheader: Surprise your she-ro with cozy cashmere, designer accessories and more.

Bloomingdales 2017 Holiday Email

Bloomingdale’s is a master of subtle animation. Keep scrolling to see the animations, but don’t dismiss them as not so much. Along with the floating products, see how the designer built in the shadow for a little extra realism? This email is representative of Bloomingdales’ holiday 2017 template for its broadcast emails. Other emails in the series have animated headlines and hero images.

2.) Sender: evo — Subject line: Get Your Gifts Delivered Free & on Time! — Preheader: Guarantee Delivery by Dec. 24th – Free Economy Shipping Extension Ends at 5PM PST!

Evo 2017 Holiday Email

Wow, a lot is happening in the top 20% of this message body! What message do you need to hammer home? The subject line, preheader and top image all focus on shipping deadlines. So, the directional animated headline focuses the reader’s attention on that urgency. Without that modest flashing, the eye might struggle for something to focus on.

3.) Sender: Burt’s Bees — Subject line: Final Hours to snag your freebees!

Burts Bees 2017 Holiday Email

We could watch this email for hours. It’s a textbook example of how to combine two kinds of animations without making your subscriber’s head explode from all the activity.

First, we love the little bee in the top animation. This email is one in a series of five weeks of “freebees,” and the bee circled the week that corresponded to the day the email was sent. Sure, Burt’s Bees could have skipped it, but the bee is a charming reminder, almost like an animated Advent calendar.

Second, the revolving product display below the deal calendar allows the email to show more products without adding to the email’s length. It also appears far down enough in the email that it doesn’t clash with the circling bee.

4.) Sender: Godiva  — Subject line: FINAL HOURS: FREE Shipping for Christmas + NEW Items in FLASH SALE — Preheader: Up to 40% OFF Select Gold Collection + FREE Shipping in Time for Christmas ENDS at 1PM ET. Details Below.

Godiva 2017 Holiday Email

Here’s an animation that shows up like a little reward for scrolling through a long message. This email has a lot going on – flash-sale promotion, in-store deals, gift-guide links, in-store pick-up promotion, even a little content marketing in the form of profiterole-baking tips.

How do you grab your readers’ attention and reward them for scrolling through this email equivalent of War and Peace? With this sweet little train animation that helps make the in-store pickup promotion stand out in the long line of copy.

5.) Sender: Z Gallerie — Subject line: Final Hours for Standard Shipping — Preheader: Up to 50% Off

Z Gallerie 2017 Holiday Email

Who doesn’t love “March of the Penguins?” This clever animation tells a little story in just a few frames. We won’t spoil it for you. Just click to view the email full size and watch to the last frame. We also appreciate the detailed images the design team used in this animation, which ties in well with the headline, “Make it to the tree on time.”

6.) Sender: Nordstrom — Subject line: Markdown alert! Save on shoes — Preheader: These styles won’t last long. Shop now.

Nordstrom 2017 Holiday Email

Like Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom is a regular user of animation, whether on a large scale, as in the email featured below, or in a simple animated background, as in this Nordstrom Rewards promotion.

This email uses the template created for many of Nordstrom’s holiday 2017 broadcast emails. The animated packages at the top of the email harness the email reader’s attention, and the animated dotted line continues throughout the message, pulling the reader’s eye downward through the message.

7.) Sender: Gap — Subject line: It’s not too late to find perfect gifts — Preheader: Last day to order to get it by Christmas! Plus, 40% off everything and extra 10% off everything.

Gap Holiday Animation

The animation that got our attention is midway through this email. It also tells a little story, one that opens with a gift-wrapped package flying through the frame. Kids wearing Gap clothing fling the package to each other across animations and frame sizes until the final frame shows us what’s inside. Kudos to the clever designer who came up with this animation, which kept us in the email instead of clicking out.

8.) Sender: TeeFury — Subject line: Watch for Floating Eggos — Preheader: + Don’t miss out on $6 Ugly Sweater Grab Bag!

48hr-Grab-Bag-Sale_Email

You don’t need fancy cartooning skills to create an arresting animation. Here’s a basic animation made more memorable because the shirts are the same color and stay in the same position so the attention focuses 100% on the T-shirt design. Would this be your easiest entrée into email animation?

9.) Sender name: Macy’s — Subject line: Better get these gift deals—they end tonight! — Preheader: Hurry & get Free Shipping at $25 on the hottest holiday faves!

Macys 2017 Holiday Emial

Here’s a more dynamic version of the countdown clock, showing hours, minutes and seconds and one that might be more likely to provoke action from subscribers.

10.) Sender:  Macy’s — Subject line: Hours left for extra 30% off perfect gifts! — Preheader: Our Friends & Family savings are about to dash away—use code FRIEND now! Shop Now

Macys Holiday Gif

Animations don’t have to be images, either. This Macy’s email uses animation to help last-minute shoppers see and act on their shipping and pick-up options using a set of four text-filled images, one every 5 seconds:

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