GIF animations can help marketers highlight key messages, enhance creative and entertain readers — so, why aren’t they used more frequently in email marketing messages? The image format is widely supported and easy to produce. There are no longer technology issues and bandwidth is less of a concern. Maybe some eMarketers don’t consider GIFs a viable option because the format has been around for so long? If so, they are missing out on a significant marketing opportunity.

There are no longer technology issues and bandwidth is less of a concern. I suspect that the format has been around for so long and didn’t work on many many email clients in the past that it’s still seen as an element to avoid. But things have changed and if they’re not being used, you could be missing out on a significant marketing opportunity.

Benefits of using animation in your email messages:

  • Adds appeal – Makes your messages more visually interesting and adds entertainment value
  • Delivers more content in less space – Packs a large message into a small area
  • Emphasizes – Accentuates your offer or promotion
  • Draws attention – Draws your reader’s eye to important parts of your message

Did you know that most email clients do not support Flash or video? Animated GIFs are however widely supported. Here is a list of email software that will display your enhancement properly:

Animated GIF support in email

Desktop email clients: AOL Yes Apple Mail Yes Lotus Notes Yes Outlook 2000 Yes Outlook 2003 Yes Outlook 2007 No Outlook 2010 No Outlook 2013 No Thunderbird Yes Web-based email clients: AOL Mail Yes Gmail Yes Yes Yahoo Mail Yes Mobile email clients: iPhone, iPad (iOS) Yes Android (Default) Yes Android (Gmail) Yes Blackberry Yes Windows Phone 7 No

Keep these tips in mind when using animated GIFs:

  1. Make sure the first frame of the GIF displays a complete message, in case the rest of the animation does not play in the recipient’s software. If a GIF does not animate, it will remain static on the first frame. So, put your call to action, offer or vital information in frame one, then animate from there.
  2. Keep file sizes small to minimize risks with spam filters and allow the animation to load quickly.
  3. Allow the animation to cycle several times so readers can see the entire animation, but have it remain static after several loops or about 30 seconds.
  4. Consider how your email will display without the animated GIF in case the recipient blocks images in emails.
  5. The most important thing to remember when considering animation is meaningful motion. Meaningful motion is animation with a purpose. It’s NOT a random flashing arrow shaped call to action button or falling autumn leaves. Meaningful motion is, for example, a subtle ticking clock on a sale day email or a cinemagraph in a beauty tutorial email.
  6. Be careful not to overdo it though. The best use of animation or meaningful motion is when the animation enhances the understanding of the concept or the message.

When used properly, animation can help your email generate additional interest which can lead to better campaign results. Try running an A/B test with and without animations to see how your recipients respond. Don’t be surprised if you see the animated message perform better.

Even though animated GIFs have been around for a while, they’re still a viable option. Consider trying them out in your next campaign.