Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, is a file type that displays as a series of images linked together to create a short animation. The popularity of Buzzfeed, Tumblr, Imgur and Vine show that these fast moving snippets are fun, viral, and extremely attention-grabbing. And most interestingly of all, they’re popping up all over marketing emails.
But before you start peppering your emails with GIFs from Reddit, here are some basic guidelines that can help you enjoy the full benefit of GIFs to capture subscribers’ attention (and prevent you from seeming like an obnoxious tween):
GIFs are a great image option for email because they’re supported by most email clients, with the exception of the desktop versions of Outlook 2007-2013 and Windows Phone 7. However, even on those clients, the first frame of the GIF will still be displayed, so the email will show a simple image, rather than an animation. Therefore, make sure the first frame of the GIF is compelling to make the experience seamless across all email clients.
If your GIF is too big, it can affect the load time for your email. For the 51% of folks who are opening your emails on a mobile device, a large GIF can also dip into their precious data plan. There are a couple of ways to reduce the file size of a GIF including limiting the number of colors used, reducing the number of frames or cropping the image. The best practice is to keep the entire email under 102K, since Gmail will only display the first 102K of the email.
3. Keep it simple
Adding too many GIFs to your emails may make it look more like the #whatshouldwecallme Tumblr rather than a compelling marketing email. In addition, an abundance of animations can be distracting for email readers. Try to use only one powerful GIF in your email, and if you must use more, be sure to place them strategically so they do not compete against each other. In addition, limit the number of frames and movements in each GIF, as to make them not too visually overwhelming.
Every email should serve a purpose and add value for your subscriber. GIFs in emails should strive to do the same; they should contribute to the ultimate purpose of the email, whether the message is reminding customers about an expiring coupon, announcing new product arrivals or educating subscribers about a new product feature.
Here are some examples of GIFs in email campaigns that deserve a second look and what they did right:
Solestruck shows off a variety of funky boots in this BlackMilk new arrivals email.
Loeffler Randall highlights both the “Shop Now” button and the latest Rider bag styles in this colorful email.
The moving bunny is encouraging me to hop on my Ipsy invite.
MailChimp uses a GIF to illustrate how to use their new template editor.
Frank Underwood is perfectly sinister in this teaser email about the House of Cards premiere.
This post was originally published on the Iterable blog.