Using Animation in Your Email Marketing

It’s been said that creating an HTML-based email in 2009 is like developing a web page in 1999. It’s sadly true; the coding is archaic and, compared to modern 2.0 functionally, the limitations are huge.

So when email marketers want to convey motion and visual direction they use animated GIFs. Prior to Flash, simple GIF animations were the order of the day. Nowadays the use of animated email is increasing. Why? Firstly, animated GIFs are well-supported by the major email clients and webmail interfaces, second, it helps marketers to stand out, and most importantly, they seem to work.

Stronger ROI

This recent A/B test by BlueFly found an animated email pulling in 12% more revenue than the non-animated equivalent. Likewise, this case study on Marketing Sherpa, Lake Champlain Chocolates experienced a sales increase of 49% at Christmas in relation to a campaign using animated GIFs compared with a campaign the previous year.

More Advantages

Firstly, marketers can use a relatively small amount of space to highlight multiple products, special offers, or calls-to-action, as well as increase click-through rates to hosted videos. Smart marketers can also use animation to encourage scrolling in exceptionally long (or horizontal) emails.

The Disadvantages

The most relevant compatibility issue is how animated emails render in Outlook 2007. That is, only the first frame of the animated GIFs is displayed.  So you’ll want to communicate your message in the first frame, just in case. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the size of the animated GIF (in kilobytes) can negatively affect the speed and order of which your images are displayed.

Animated Email Examples

With a solid understanding of your objectives and an experienced email designer you’ll be able to increase click-through and conversion rates using animation.

20 comments

  1. Using Animation in your Email marketing surely makes otherwise dull looking email makes it visually more appealing. After all, human eye and mind wants to see active content, motion, dynamic imagery that appeals more to readers and viewers. No one likes to be in a dull moment even on emails. Email is a Gray mass of copy.

    If animated content is placed in the email layout, it does keep the viewer stay on and read the copy. So the primary objective is served and also the secondary objective, which is the most important for marketers, Selling the concept is well achieved.

    So including animated ideas in Email marketing messages to get visitor hooked on is the best strategy to deliver your sales message effectively. This sure way of exposure to your sales message will then generate awareness about your product or service and turn it desired buying action.

    So, I am for making your Email marketing more interesting with animation.

  2. I have been experimenting with animated e-mails with great results, I was very exited about the idea of animated gifs for mobile phones as well. but right now, not iphone or other mobile browsers support gifs properly. Animating an email is a great idea to promote incoming movies or to showcase lines of products.

    hopefully, this will change in future updates.

    1. Michael – I recently receive an another animated email from Banana Republic which worked as planned on my iphone. Here’s a recent post (http://theemailwars.com/2009/10/21/animated-gifs-you-bet/) about the very same email along with snapshots of it in action on the iphone.

      In fact, I had planned to reference that email in this post but when I went back to it, it seems as if they replaced the animated GIF with a static one (http://www.indiemark.com/creatives/br02.html).

      I wonder if they had an issue or perhaps I just need to clear my cache 🙂

  3. I agree Scott.

    To my mind one of the key benefits of animation within email is the ability to convey a well thought out sales and marketing message by using the animation to provide your message in “bite-size” chunks. With static content there is always the temptation to try and cram too much information into a small space with the end results often being less than impressive.

    As you point out, Outlook 07 is unhelpful by its lack of support for animation but with all other major email clients supporting animation I’m definitely in favor of thoughtfully crafted animation and the benefits that it provides.

  4. I wonder why anyone would create a JPG file, like in the Twilight example? JPG files are not animated. That means that the wrong extension was used in the file name. Some page browsers will look at the headers inside the file to render the image, but email clients will definitely have problems rendering the image. My guess is that it was a human error, or trying to make it look like something that it is not. As an email, that message has terrible expectations as it is basically all images. The idea is good, but the implementation is not. Sorry, my two cents.

    1. That’s a good question RS. When I look at the image property ‘name’ it reads jpeg BUT under image’ type’ it reads “GIF image (animated, 87 frames)”. Your assumptions are probably correct…improper naming (e.g. when I attempt to save the image it gives me “twisa.jpg.gif” as the default. Thanks for your two cents.

      1. The Twilight email was an early video Gif we created. We’d seen another company use the .jpg extension and thought we would see if it has any benefits. It doesn’t, so we stopped using it soon after…our guess is they were trying to mask the fact that it was a Gif.

  5. Hello. Good info. Thank you. Well that makes sense. As many others working as an online marketer, I prefer Outlook as my email client and with the help of Email Sorter Wizard, an Outlook add-on, I sort all my email. I am sure people will get great information from your blog.

  6. Great post! I thought I was a decent html email designer until I read this post. Somehow I missed the boat on email animation, I didn’t realize you could do that. I’m going to give it a try on one of my future campaigns.

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