Jan 13, 2009

Trend Watch: Animated GIFs in Email

A few weeks ago, email marketing expert Mark Brownlow discussed an interesting but quietly growing trend in 2008– the increasing use of animated GIFs in email. There are likely a couple reasons that this is true. First, animated GIFs appear to function in almost all major email clients, and second, because they seem to work.  A/B tests by BlueFly, for example, found an animated email pulling in 12% more revenue than the non-animated equivalent.

Brownlow consulted with Tom Buchok, co-founder of Bannerflow and Chad White, Research Director at Smith-Harmon, for information about best practices and some relevant examples.

Q: What benefits can animated GIFs bring to your marketing emails?

Tom notes that because animated GIFs are used much less frequently in marketing emails, a certain amount of novelty remains– and novelty can be an asset when trying to get your audience’s attention. "More importantly, animated GIFs allow for a more creative message. Retailers can use a single space to highlight multiple products, advertisers can use animation to highlight their call-to-action, or click-throughs-to-video can be easily visualized with an animated GIF."

Q: What kind of things are retailers doing with animated GIFs?

Chad mentions that animated GIFs seem to appear more often during the November and December holiday season as retailers are trying to "stand out in the inbox." Chad gives a number of examples, a couple of which I will mention here.

"For instance, starting with a Nov. 7 email, Williams-Sonoma has been using animation in their header to draw attention to shipping deadlines and other information, but also just to get subscribers to give the email a second look."

"…There are definitely opportunities to go-big with animation. One of my favorite examples remains the GIF used by Lands’ End in a March 6 email last year. They not only used animation to show off some of the colors that their Beach Trekker Sandal comes in, but they also demonstrated how the Croc-inspired shoe becomes a slider."

Q: When are animated GIFs a bad idea?

Tom notes that one of the main concerns to consider is the GIF’s file size (in kilobytes). "Animated GIFs can get significantly larger than their static counterparts, especially as the GIF file includes more and more color." Also, if the animation is gratuitous that is going to be detrimental over all– be sure to keep your objectives in mind and make sure the animation serves those.

Q: Any compatibility problems with email clients or webmail interfaces?

Tom: "With Outlook 2007’s shift to HTML rendering in Word, rather than IE, animated GIFs do not display. This is the biggest compatibility issue. In Outlook 2007, the first frame is all that appears; designers may want to produce their file so that the first frame contains all the information needed." And as with HTML emails in general, try to design any animated content in such a way that it will fail gracefully.

For more info and additional resources, see the original article here.