A Step-by-step Guide to Using GIFs in an Email Properly with Examples
Table of Contents:
- The History of GIFs
- How to Insert Animated GIFs in an Email
- Do All Email Clients Support GIFs?
- Pros and Cons of Using Animated GIFs in an Email
- 7 Tips on How to Master GIFs
- 2 Web Resources to Get GIFs for an Email
- How to Legally Use Stock GIFs
- Tools for Crafting Your Own GIFs
GIF is basically just a format, like JPEG or PNG. It stands for Graphic Interchange Format. It can be used to create still images, but there is a special feature to it: the images can also be animated.
Interestingly, the GIF format was first devised in 1987, which means that it is 2 years older than the World Wide Web.
As for GIF usage in an email, although GIFs have been around for quite a while, they are now enjoying their renaissance both on the Internet and in marketing.
In 2012, Dell decided to make a bold marketing decision for those times: use a GIF in the emails to market Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook. The main feature of this laptop was that it could easily transform into a tablet.
Of course, an animated GIF would demonstrate this feature much better than a static image. You won't believe what came out of this sales and marketing campaign. Dell was able to:
- Increase their open rate by 6%
- Improve their click rate by 42%
- Grow their conversion rate by 103%...
And, all of this led to a 109% revenue increase.
We are not saying that GIFs in emails will become a cure-all solution for your business. But a well-crafted GIF, used properly to communicate a certain idea, may be a winning strategy for your business.
In order to excel in including GIFs in emails, let's first learn how to insert an animated image using different email clients.
1. First of all, you have to choose a GIF, or have a custom GIF at your disposal. Let's say you found a GIF that you want to add to your email on GIPHY. All you need is this GIF's URL. Click the "Share" button to the right of the GIF.
2. Click "Copy GIF Link".
3. Find "Insert photo" in your Gmail's new message tab.
4. Chose "Web address (URL)" and drop the link in the bar. Make sure you didn't copy anything else along the way. The GIF's URL must be the last thing you copied. The GIF should now appear below the bar fully animated. Well done!
5. You can drag the GIF by the corner to adjust its size.
If you are looking for an even more detailed guide, click on the link to the Wikihow website.
- Select "Insert" in your Outlook inbox.
- Select "Online Pictures" and chose "GIFs".
- Once you chose the GIF you want, click "Insert" at the bottom of your Outlook email dashboard.
To be 100% sure you are doing it alright, check out the video tutorial from Microsoft.
In Yahoo, you can simply choose a GIF from the available files by hitting a "GIF" button.
Almost every email client now supports GIFs. Check the table that will help you quickly find out if your mail client can display a GIF:
|Desktop email client||GIFs are supported|
|Outlook on OSX||Yes|
|Lotus Notes 8 and 8.5.||Yes|
|Web email client||GIFs are supported|
|Phone email client||GIFs are supported|
|Apple (native and Gmail)||Yes|
|Android (native and Gmail)||Yes|
Sorry if it sounds disappointing, but there is no definite answer to this question. When used right, GIFs can add significant benefits to your email marketing campaign.
On the other hand, if there is no difference to the message you are trying to convey in your email, whether you include or exclude the GIF, using it might not be the best idea. Just like pretty much any step in your marketing effort, GIFs in emails must be well-thought-out.
Weighing all the pros and cons will help you make the right decision.
The Pros of Using GIFs in Emails:
Less words. A GIF is capable of showing the strengths or notable features of your product without too many words. For example, Sambag's email communicates the features of the dress in a stylish, simple, and clear way.
A new level of interaction with customers. Unlike static images, GIFs create another level of interaction with the user. A moving picture can be much more efficient at telling your brand's story. According to Alex Chung, the CEO and Co-founder of Giphy, one GIF is able to convey 60,000 words. Just look at this prominent example from Sprout Social. The GIF offers a step-by-step look at what the Sprout Publishing Calendar does. Just imagine retelling the same story with words.
Personalize like never before. A GIF is a great way to personalize your email and make it fun. People will be naturally drawn to brands that can personalize every step of the customer journey from an email to the product itself. Check out the example of Venmo. It shows how you can personalize the card design by choosing your favorite color. It is a small step, but as a famous quote from Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh goes "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together".
Alternative to videos. GIFs serve as a viable alternative to videos, which aren't supported by most email clients. They are faster to load and do not eat into your recipient's Internet data.
Attract attention. A GIF is much better at grabbing your audience's attention than a static image. It will get them into reading further into the email or taking an action you want them to take. For instance, Xfinity uses the GIF to encourage its recipients to scroll further.
Another example of a playful GIF that catches the eye is ShoeMint. Let's be honest, you can't help looking at these colorful socks.
Revenue increase. Last, but not least, a wisely used GIF can end up increasing your business's revenue. Remember the case of Dell? A GIF in an email campaign can improve the overall customer experience and create a better brand image, thus bringing in more money.
The Cons of Using GIFs in Emails:
- Your user's email client might not support GIFs. This creates a solid challenge: you want to tell a great story but your client has no chance of seeing it.
Solution: make sure the email client does support GIFs. Otherwise simply don't use them.
- Some people might view GIFs as low-quality and unprofessional content.
Solution: survey your audience before trying out GIFs in your marketing campaign. Maybe you will find out that you are better off without GIFs and it is not the language your audience speaks.
- The GIF may take a long time to load. The users will not wait an extra couple of seconds for your great GIF to finally get displayed. Luckily, there is an easy fix.
Solution: Make sure the GIF is sized between 0.5 MB and 1 MB maximum. You can learn more about how to optimize your GIF for an email here.
- GIFs might not serve the purpose of the email and end up being unnecessary baggage. GIFs must have value in them, whether they are educational or entertaining. They need to complement the text of your email.
Solution: Analyze the message of your mail and how the GIF is helping to convey it. If you can send this email without this GIF, then get rid of it.
While thinking about how to strategically incorporate a GIF into an email so that both the text and the animated image work to convey the message of your sales campaign, consider the following tips:
1 - Show your product in action using a GIF. Just like the Dell and Sambag examples we used before. Here is another great example from Bed Bath & Beyond for you to draw some inspiration.
2 - Explain how a new feature works. We've already shown you the example from the Sprout Social, here is another one from Dropbox.
3 - Draw attention to soon-to-be-released content. It is a great way to increase the click-through rate. For example, Linus is using this GIF to tease the users about their new electric bike. The GIF's informativeness is not very high, but it does make you want to learn more about the product.
4 - Marry your GIF with an email's call-to-action (CTA). This is also one of the easiest ways to add to your GIF's purpose. Here is a catchy and colorful example of an animated CTA from Kate Spade.
5 - Send custom animated GIFs instead of stock animated GIFs. First, such tailor-made animated images are on-brand, they convey your idea in a unique way. Second, you won't have to make overused GIFs part of your email marketing.
6 - Don't abuse animation. Make only a part of your GIF animated, keep things exciting yet simple. Here is a subtle example of such an animated image from Grammarly.
7 - Think of how your GIF will work on mobile. This small detail is often overlooked, but it is critically important since you don't want your email marketing campaign to go down the drain. So make sure all the animated GIFs you are using can be displayed equally well on both desktop computers and mobile.
While we strongly recommend creating your own signature animated file, there are free online services where you can find lots of animated images. They might come in handy when you are limited in time and resources and cannot create your own animations or when you are just looking for inspiration.
GIPHY. This website brings together many animations from the web. It allows you to easily copy the GIF's link and then further use it in your email campaign. You can also take advantage of this online resource to create animated images of your own. For more information and guidelines check out GIPHY's support page.
Animated but Not Created
This article shouldn't be taken as legal advice. If you want to know all the possible pitfalls of using animated images that you didn't create or that have celebrities in them, it is necessary to consult a lawyer. The answer to the question "It is legal to use someone else's GIF?" is a bit complicated. That is why fair use exists.
Fair use is defined by the U.S. Copyright Office as the following:
“Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.”
It means that you are allowed to use other people's materials as long as they are used ethically.
Section 107 of the Copyright Act helps you decide whether a certain case is fair use or not. It introduces 4 factors and singles out certain types of uses that can be counted as fair use, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
Here are these 4 factors:
- Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- Nature of the copyrighted work
- Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Your opinion and the opinion of the content creator on whether the use is fair might be different since the decision is subjective. So, it is always a good idea to contact the GIF creator or the website where you found the GIF. And no matter what, always give them credit.
GYPHY and Gfycat are web-based tools that are available for everyone and very simple to use. But if you want to take a step to more advanced GIF creation, try Adobe's Cloud App.
Adobe has a set of tools, including Photoshop and After Effects, that let you create text-only GIFs, video GIFs, and stop-motion GIFs. Luckily, you can visit the Adobe Creative Cloud Youtube channel and learn how to make your own unique GIF using Photoshop.
Cloud App makes GIF creation as easy as ABC. They even have a GIF on their home page that explains how you can make a GIF with their tool.
Both Adobe tools and Cloud App offer a free trial so that you could see if the solution is right for you.
Now you know how the right GIF can showcase your product strengths and benefits, increase the email click-through rate, boost your long-term email engagement, and generally improve your email marketing performance and email metrics. But be mindful: a GIF only does the trick if you use it properly and wisely.
Emails are a large and critical part of any business marketing strategy. According to Salesforce, 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation. So, polishing your email campaign and keeping up with the latest trends is definitely a great investment of time for your business.
Send higher converting email campaigns.
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