Cognitive psychology has many times proven that images are able to strengthen communication in lots of different ways: they capture attention, can convey a large amount of information in a relatively short amount of time, and provoke emotions. Images are the backbone of all content. As we all know, an email has only 3 seconds to capture the reader’s attention so it’s crucial to find something that catches the eye, and what does a better job in it than a simple image?
Whether it’s a blog article, email newsletter, or a digital ad, finding and using the right picture is essential to grab the reader's attention effectively. Once you’ve got his attention, he’s more likely to read your content, click your links or reply to the email.
First of all, it’s stock images - if they’re royalty-free and following all the copyright rules, it’s a great way to animate your email free of charge and with no efforts. Just be cautious of not getting a stolen image at some free photo website.
You can also insert images of real people in your emails: it creates a stronger connection and is more likely to entice viewers to read your content. You can go behind the scenes and capture photos of real moments, or you can ask your customers to send you photographs of themselves using your products and services, or hire a photographer for a photoshoot.
Finally, another option is to use animated GIFs - an extremely efficient way to breathe life into your mailing campaign.
Why are animated GIFs a real alternative to any other kind of static photos/images?
First of all, GIFs are an excellent way to bring some life and movement into your marketing email thus providing your customer with an urge to purchase. Opting for a GIF rather than for a static image makes reading your email/newsletter more dynamic and alive - you get a real opportunity to guide your reader’s attention towards exactly the message or the reaction that you need. Why do we now use GIFs even in our personal life to reply to friends on almost any platform? Because it conveys proper emotions better than any static image thus provoking a proper reaction and the sense of unity with our interlocutor. And how is it related to business? Because a customer's proper reaction to what we advertise is halfway to a purchase accomplished!
To put it in a more structured way, GIFs are helpful because they:
can boost engagement and ROI (even a very simple GIF can help spark interest and encourage readers to click through)
are an easy way to explain complicated concepts (creating a custom GIF when sending an announcement can help your subscribers get the point without any additional efforts)
GIFs are an excellent replacement for videos (most email clients don’t support embedded video which are, in addition, often heavy, whilst a properly optimized GIF can solve this problem)
provide the sense of urge, dynamics and “living in the moment”
make your brand humane - they give it personality and increase your credibility in a crowd full of unknown companies.
Like any outstanding feature to introduce, GIFs can be quite tricky. Keeping the following points in mind can help you ensure that your GIFs reach the right subscribers at the right time during your mailing campaigns:
File weight is one of the main factors determining how quickly the email will arrive and how easy it will be to open it and download all the images so your GIF size impacts directly the click-to-open rate. Make sure your GIF doesn’t exceed 200-250 KB and 600 pixels. You can reduce the colors to help make the file size smaller. There exist special online tools helping you optimize your GIFs for the email inbox.
Another point that comes from the first one is considering email accessibility - your GIFs shouldn’t be too flashy and fast to suit people with visual impairments.
Think of a backup - to minimize the risks of your GIF not being downloaded at all, anticipate a static image that could be displayed instead of the GIF if for some reason it doesn’t function.
Think about the purpose of the GIF. There should be a story behind every GIF in every email so don’t include GIFs into your email just for the sake of making it funnier. Don’t overdo it either - use GIFs smartly, strategically and selectively.
Design matters - your GIF should only make your overall email aesthetic complete, not destroy it. In this sense, making your own custom GIFs is more recommended than using already existing ones - you can ensure harmony between the animation and your overall brand style.
Are there many different types of GIFs to be used in your email campaigns? The answer is YES!
First of all, the easiest way is to use an existing GIF. Giphy is the biggest GIF library where you can find an animation that will make a perfect match to your product and brand style. You only need to type some keyword to get access to funny (or sad) animations appropriate for any situation.
Another option is to create your own GIF by means of an online tool. There is a wide choice of such tools like Makeagif, Gickr, Ezgif, Picasion, Bloggif and many others. All of them are rather intuitive, simple to use and don’t require any particular designer’s knowledge.
You can also create your GIFs from scratch with the help of softwares like Adobe Animate. As mentioned before, creating your own GIFs keeps your brand style consistent and saves you from copyright issues.
Alternatively, you can turn your videos into GIFs. As mentioned before, real videos are voluminous and complicated to be inserted into an email so that’s where GIFs come to your rescue - they help keep that spirit of dynamism and liveliness provided by videos without making your email too heavy or long to read/watch. Here are some tools you could use to convert your videos into GIFs:
The last but not the least option is destined for business owners who often make promotional campaigns for existing or newly launched products and need to mark the end of the sales - it’s a countdown timer which creates better than anything else the sense of urgency. A countdown timer is a perfect way to make your email readers feel the Fear Of Missing Out.
What is a countdown timer? It’s also an animated GIF that counts down to a specific time. It’s basically a ticking clock you can insert everywhere in your email or newsletter to create a sense of urgency and force email readers to seal the deal even if they were not thinking of it before. Sometimes FOMO is that small thing that you need to get your sales boosted!
GIF countdowns can be used for:
a product launch
a limited edition product promotion
a giveaway that is about to end
an upcoming event
a massive sale/special offer/promo that will expire soon
a personalized birthday promo email
Apart from the sense of urgency, in what other ways can countdown timers help you in your sales strategy?
GIF countdowns are themselves a visual reminder - the image of a clock ticking will stay in customers’ minds even after they close your email. Email countdowns impersonate Time - a powerful leverage and something we are all constantly running out. And if it’s not about time, then what’s another thing in life as precious and often urging us to reconsider many things in life? (for example, decide you absolutely need to purchase this product or visit this event).
Finally and in a more practical way, countdown times help significantly boost click rates and conversions. Many companies fall back upon countdown GIFs right before Black Friday or Christmas sales thus increasing their conversion rates by 400%. The visual reminder of the time running out is the best at creating pressure urging people to buy.
If we step away from sales, countdown timers can be also used as part of the client retention policy - you can send them as teasers in order to grow anticipation for a surprise product, an important update or an event that’s coming up soon. That makes your audience putting the date in their calendar and starting to get ready for a big reveal.
As we’ve just seen, animated GIFs are an excellent way to breathe life into your marketing emails and newsletter. So what are the pros and cons of using them in your campaigns?
They provide a sense of dynamism and a call to action for email readers/potential buyers.
They make your emails more original and different from other typical newsletters.
They make your brand more humane and trustworthy.
They are in step with the time - animated GIFs are now used in all social networks as an efficient means of communication and conveying your reactions.
They educate - an animated GIF showing how to do something is way more efficient than a written instruction
They can sometimes be tricky to create on your own.
They are not supported by all email clients (for example, Outlook 2007-2013).
File size: the more frames, colors and complex action you show, the larger the file becomes.
Of course, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, especially if you decide to opt for a GIF countdown timer in your email in order to create a sense of urgency and encourage the email reader to make a purchase or just click to learn more about what you propose. Sometimes countdown timers in your emails can even boost your sales up to 20% of the total revenues amount just in one single day! How is it possible? Check out our next article to get to know our personal story!