Ilma from MailerLite

Ilma10 min readTips and resourcesJuly 23, 2019

The 2019 guide to using GIFs in emails

The 2019 guide to using GIFs in emails

Expressing your emotions with words? No one has time for that! Nowadays, we send an emoji, a meme or a GIF to express what’s really going on in our heads.

GIFs have also taken over email, and rightfully so. While animation in email feels current, it also allows you to convey your story with more interactive and visually engaging content that attracts and keeps the readers’ attention.

As with images, it’s important to be strategic about the use of animated GIFs in your email campaigns. Things like placement, frequency, technical aspects and copyright regulations should be considered before integrating GIFs in your newsletters.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to correctly integrate GIFs in emails and the different ways to use them to enhance your email content.

GIFs in emails Stranger Things example
Image credit: Netflix “Stranger Things”, Duffer Brothers

The abbreviation GIF is short for Graphics Interchange Format. It’s a series of images that are shown at a very fast speed, making it appear in motion.

Since GIFs are a bit more difficult to display than static images, there are some limitations to them. 

Here’s what you need to pay attention to:

GIFs and the ideal file size

The file size of your GIF matters a lot. If you’re GIF is unnecessarily big, it can take up a lot of data — making your GIF slow to load and eating away your subscriber’s data when they view your email on the go using their mobile data.

To make your GIF as small as possible, do this:

  • Crop it to show only what you need
  • Fit the dimensions to your newsletter
  • Reduce the number of frames to the least amount possible (e.g. skip every 3rd frame)
  • Change the number of color bits (e.g. from 8 to 4 bits), the more colors the bigger the GIF
  • Advanced: Only animate the part you want to move within the image
  • Save it at the minimum needed quality level
  • Aim for a maximum of 500 KB

If you don’t have the tools to do this, you can search for an online GIF compressor to lower the file size.

Remember, we’re not on a laser light show

Our eyes already need to endure enough visual stimulations during the day. Therefore, make sure your GIF isn’t moving too rapidly and use smooth transitions. Quickly changing frames can cause photosensitive epilepsy and harm your reader’s sight.

GIFs and correct display

As for displaying GIFs, most major webmail, mobile and desktop email clients support the GIF format. Clients like Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL, Apple can all display your GIFs without any problems, making it safe for you to implement then. 

You just need to be careful when you have a lot of subscribers that use Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013. Outlook doesn’t support GIF and will only show the first frame (a static image). Therefore, always back up your GIF with an explanatory headline and text, so readers will understand your message even when things aren’t moving. 

If possible, make the first static frame able to convey your message without any motion.

what email clients support gifs in emails

GIFs and copyright

I know, the Carlton dance from Fresh Prince sparks immediate joy with readers growing up in the 90s era, but sadly this counts as using someone else’s original content. Which isn’t quite legal. 

GIFs can be used in email when it’s fair use. As this law is complicated and each case is different, your best bet to stay out of trouble is to get a written release, link to or embed content that you didn’t upload yourself or create your own GIF.

This article about animated GIFs and copyright law explains the regulations in more detail.

GIFs and the all-time dreaded spam box

Should you be worried about your emails landing in the spam box when you use GIFs?

Though spam filters are always changing and could potentially flag GIFs during their “scoring,” they’ve become so popular that the chances of them being a spam factor are very small. As long as your GIF is not too big (keep it around 500 KB maximum), you have nothing to worry about.

Especially not when you’re using MailerLite to send your GIF email campaigns. Did you know that we were awarded EmailToolTester’s award for ‘Best deliverability’ in July 2019?

The Japanese knew this long before everyone else: flashing lights is how you grab someone’s attention. Okay, maybe don’t treat your email as a night out in Shibuya town, but a well-placed and sparingly used GIF can definitely increase the engagement and click-through rate in your emails.

Apart from GIFs being a fun email element, they’re also there to make your message much clearer. They’re functional and can tell your story in just one image.

Did you know?

It’s super easy to implement GIFs in your emails when you’re a MailerLite customer. While creating your newsletter, you can open the file manager and directly search on Giphy for the right GIF — without ever leaving the MailerLite editor.

Let’s take a look at 7 reasons why your customers love seeing animated GIFs in their inboxes.

1. Movement attracts attention

Numerous studies show that we are attracted by movement — it attracts human attention much faster than still images. That’s why it’s a good idea to grab your customer's attention instantly once they open the newsletter. If they’ll like the GIF, they’ll be more prone to read the entire newsletter.

Bonobo's email gif example

2. They’re short enough to watch until the end

With Snapchat and TikTok being more popular than ever, it’s clear that this generation can only digest seconds-long content. Which is why GIFs are better watched than videos. 

GIFs are usually short (people expect them to be). That’s why your newsletter subscribers are more keen to watch GIFs to the end than any average video. Watching a short animation is easier and your readers are more likely to remember the message.

Liberty gif in newsletter example

3. GIFs are beyond popular

Though email marketing is still trying to get rid of its slightly stiff appearance, the rise of GIFs and emojis has given newsletters more of a personal, hip character. 

GIFs can adapt your emails to the tone of voice of the majority of the conversations happening online (casual and friend-to-friend like). In recent years, short animations have established themselves as one of the most trendy communication forms on the internet. 

GIFs are used in conversations, as reactions on social media and even in work environments (anyone else spending way too much time looking for the right Giphy on Slack? Yep, same).

4. GIFs help you stand out from the competition

Not everyone in the email marketing world got the memo yet. Even today we still see a lot of newsletters that don’t use GIFs in their email layout. Use this to your advantage and be an early (or: earlier) adaptor. This way, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.

Gift gif in newsletter mailerlite example

5. GIFs show, not just tell

Apart from GIFs being entertaining, they’re also practical and informative.

Counting down until a specific time? An animated GIF countdown timer can showcase in once glance how much time there is left until the deadline. 

GIFs are also really handy when you have lots of products to show. Instead of creating a gallery of pictures, you can show everything at once. 

Using animations also works well when you have to explain a complex product. With movement, you can tell a lot more in a smaller amount of time.

MailerLite countdown gif example

6. They make for great video teasers

Videos in newsletters. As much as we’d like to play them directly within the email, technically speaking this isn’t possible just yet. Not all email clients support video formats.

Our MailerLite customers can, therefore, use GIF snippets until in-email video playing becomes available. 

When inserting a video block in the newsletter, they have the option to automatically create a GIF that shows a short teaser of the video. When the reader clicks on the video, they’ll be redirected to the full video.

Video teaser gif newsletter modekungen example

7. GIFs are the new CTAs

Your call to action (CTA) is arguably the most important thing in your email. Each newsletter should be made with a goal in mind, whether it’s redirecting the visitor to your shop or make them register. You want readers to be drawn to your CTA button, which is why you have to make it stand out in your email template.

To take this to the next level, you can create an animated CTA. Add some subtle detail (like the glittery button below) to make the button pop. This can have a positive influence on your click-through rate.

Cta gif in newsletter example
Looking for more inspiration?

Check out our animated email template gallery for lots more sparkly examples.

If you’re looking to get crafty and make your own GIF, the internet offers a lot of different free tools. 

With most of these GIF makers, all you need to do is upload your images or video and the software will automatically create a GIF from this material. You can also use your phone to create your own GIF (just double-check the quality on desktop).

Here’s a list of GIF web-based online tools:

  • Picasion
  • Gickr
  • GifPal
  • MakeAGif

And for GIF apps for mobile phones, you can look into:

  • GIF X (iOS)
  • Giphy Cam (iOS, Android)
  • GIF Maker (iOS)
  • ImgPlay (iOS)
  • GIF Maker - GIF Editor (iOS, Android)

GIFs are officially a thing (and not just for the cool kids). Add some life to your emails by implementing a well-placed GIF. Your customers will love to see things moving in their inbox.

Though GIFs are most known to be funny and engaging, they can also be used to tell a story. Complex theories or instructions can be much more easily explained with moving images, and longer messages can be conveyed in seconds when using imagery.

For your next newsletter, try adding a GIF that fits your brand and email marketing content, and see how your customers react. Our bet is that they’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2013 but has been updated with fresh examples and new tips that all the kids are using.

Ilma Nausedaite

I’m Ilma, COO at MailerLite. I love seeing our customers succeed. When they win, we win (like being named one of the top 5 fastest growing SaaS companies). Email is my passion, although I took a rather unusual path. Before MailerLite, I worked in finance and art, which turned out to be the perfect mix for marketing.