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The 2022 guide to inserting animated GIFs in emails

· 20 min read · Email marketing · Dec 29, 2021
Our COO, Ilma.

Expressing your emotions with words? No one has time for that! Nowadays, we send an emoji, a meme or a GIF to share what we’re thinking.

GIFs in email are taking over, and rightfully so! They’re interactive and visually engaging, letting you convey your story in a way that keeps your subscribers’ attention.

Of course, 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 inserting GIFs in your newsletters.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to correctly embed GIFs in emails and the different ways to use them to enhance your email content.

A GIF (Graphical Interchange Format) is a series of images that are shown at a very fast speed, making it appear in motion. 

For example, check out this email GIF from Warby Parker below.

Email GIF from Warby Parker

GIF files have actually been around since 1987. Back then, people had difficulty sharing images without taking up too much space. Then, a developer named Steve Wilhite came along and created a compression algorithm that could send animated image files with timed delays. This resulted in the GIF that we know and love today. 

Since then GIFs have been through it all, from a patent that almost wiped them out to a sudden boom with the launch of GIPHY in 2013. They became the ultimate way to quantify emotions and add context, and now, they’re everywhere! 

You can see these eye-catching image formats in blog articles, webpages, email signatures, forums… you name it. They’re an iconic part of Internet culture and our overall user experience.

And they all GIF’ed happily ever after. 

The end. 

(Except it isn’t the end, because now we’re going to show you how you can get the best out of GIFs in your email newsletters!)

The Japanese knew this long before everyone else: flashing lights are 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 animated GIF in emails can definitely increase the engagement and click-through rate.

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

Let’s take a look at 12 reasons why your customers love seeing animated GIFs in their inboxes. 

1. Movement attracts attention

Numerous studies show that our attention is captured much faster by movement compared to still images. Including a GIF at the beginning of your email can hook your reader from the get-go, making them much more likely to read the entire newsletter—just like this email from Bonobos which instantly creates curiosity about what the new product is.

Bonobo's email animated gif example new letters

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

With Snapchat, Instagram Reels and TikTok being more popular than ever, it’s clear that the shorter the content is, the better. Which is why GIFs are better watched than videos. 

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

This speedy GIF from Liberty Bottleworks gets straight to the point, highlighting how customers can save 30% on their products.

Liberty gif in newsletter example school tools

3. GIFs are beyond popular

Email marketing used to have a somewhat stiff appearance, but now, the rise of GIFs and emojis has given newsletters more of a personal, fun character. 

GIFs can alter the tone of your emails to sound more like our daily online conversations, making your brand much more relatable and personal. In fact, these short animations are now one of the most trendy forms of online communication.

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). And they’re pretty fun to look at—who can resist this spinning shoe GIF from Depop?

Depop email GIF showing a spinning shoe collection

4. GIFs in email 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 one step ahead of the competition. 

MeUndies often uses creative GIFs in their emails to stand out from the crowd—in this instance, getting us super excited about their new prints!

MeUndies email GIF with a spinning wheel

5. GIFs show, not just tell

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

Counting down until a specific time? An animated GIF countdown timer can showcase at a 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. This GIF from Poo-Pourri showcases their toilet spray bottles, instantly catching the eye and showing how they look.

Pou-Pourri email GIF with dancing bottles

6. GIFs make for great video teasers

Videos in newsletters. As much as we’d like to play them directly within the email, not all email clients support video formats.

Our MailerLite customers can, therefore, make the most of sending GIF snippets as a preview.

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, just like in this email GIF from MODEKUNGEN.

Video teaser animated email gif newsletter modekungen example

7. GIFs in email marketing 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 making 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.

Vrai Oro animated email GIF example sparkly call to action button

8. GIFs are perfect for tutorials

If you want a quick visual aid to illustrate your email tutorial, GIFs are the way forward! Moving images can speak louder than words when you’re explaining a process.

Videos and static text can take a long time to prepare, so adding GIFs in email is a fun, quick way to help people follow your tutorial. They are also a universal language, so they can help people to understand the emotion and context that you want to convey.

This email GIF shows how people can connect MailerCheck with Zapier, for example.

Email GIF showing how to integrate MailerCheck with Zapier

9. Share your company culture using GIFs

Show your subscribers who you and your team are by embedding GIFs into your email marketing campaign. 

GIFs work, because they add flair and personality to your email design. They can add to your brand voice, and help your target audience to better understand you and your values. 

At MailerLite, we’re proud of our company culture, and GIFs are a fun, creative way to share what we’re all about.

MailerLite email GIF example video teaser

10. With GIFs, you can tell a story fast

The best email marketers use GIFs to tell a story. If you’re releasing a new product or feature, GIFs in email are the perfect way to share the information quickly. 

You could share a sneak peek, a demo or a quick-step sequence showing how you came up with the idea. GIFs rank highly in your list of marketing tools, so think outside the box and use them to tell your story. 

ClassPass does just this using animated GIFs in their email newsletter to tell their customers’ fitness stories during lockdown! This offers a quick snapshot of the services they’re offering and can be an incentive for people to join. 

Classpass animated GIF in email example

11. GIFs can set the mood

You can use GIFs to add a touch of personality to your newsletter. They can be a great way to set the tone and show some of your character. 

Just remember not to overdo it—one tasteful GIF that reflects your business is much more effective than an overloaded newsletter that looks like Times Square! 

This email GIF from Adelaide Fringe has it nailed; it complements the overall newsletter design and adds a quirky edge to their look.

Adelaide Fringe email GIF poster

12. GIFs can be the ultimate sign-off

What better mic drop way to end an email than with a GIF in your email signature? You could do a rolling set of headshots, just like this one from our team of content writers. 

Or you could animate your logo or contact details—whatever you want to draw the most attention to!

Email signoff with GIF headshots animation
Looking for more inspiration?

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

There are two approaches here. You can either create your own GIFs, or you can just add them using MailerLite’s file manager. 

1. Tools to create your own email GIF

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

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 online GIF tools:

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

  • ImgPlay (iOS)

  • GIF Maker - GIF Editor (iOS, Android)

  • Make Video to GIFs (iOS)

  • GIF Maker by Momento (iOS)

  • Video to GIF Maker (iOS)

  • GIPHY: GIF & Sticker Keyboard & Maker (Android)

  • GIF Maker, GIF Editor, Video Maker, Video to GIF (Android)

  • GifGuru (Android)

2. Add ready-made GIFs with MailerLite

With MailerLite you can easily add GIFs to your email via MailerLite’s file manager. As we will explain in the next section, it lets you search for GIFs directly on GIPHY, without having to leave the MailerLite editor. Pretty cool, right?

If you’re wondering how to actually embed a GIF in your email newsletter, don’t worry. Our file manager supports GIFs, and it’s easy peasy to use! Here’s the step-by-step guide to doing it with MailerLite:

How to add GIFs to your email newsletter
  1. Create and download the GIF you would like to use (if you’re not sure how to create one, we’ll share more info on that later)! Or if you don’t have a GIF, read ahead to step 4.

  2. Open a new email draft in MailerLite and insert a new image block.

  3. Click the Browse button in the right-hand menu. You can either access your GIFs from the file manager or import them from your computer.

  4. If you don’t have a GIF yet, you can also search directly on GIPHY from the file manager, without leaving the MailerLite editor.

  5. Select your GIF and it will appear in the image block.

  6. Ta-da! Your newsletter is GIF-ready!

Now, we need to do some quick housekeeping pointers! Since GIFs are a bit more difficult to display than static images, there are some limitations to them.

Here are some of your practical questions answered:

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

You just need to be careful when you have a lot of subscribers that use certain versions of Outlook: 2007, 2010 and 2013. Microsoft Outlook doesn’t support animated GIFs in email and will only show the first frame (a static image). Therefore, always backup your GIF with an explanatory headline, caption and ALT text, so readers will understand your message even if it appears as a static image. 

If possible, make the first static frame able to convey your message without any motion. And if you’re wondering exactly which email clients support GIFs, here’s a handy list!

what email clients support gifs in emails

The file size of your GIF matters a lot. If your GIF is unnecessarily big, it can take up a lot of data—making your GIF slow to load and eating away your subscribers' mobile data when they view your email.

To make your newsletter 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 stimulation during the day. Therefore, make sure your GIF isn’t moving too rapidly and use smooth transitions. Quickly changing frames can trigger photosensitive epilepsy and harm your reader’s sight.

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.

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’ve been awarded EmailToolTester’s award for ‘Best deliverability’ 3 times in a row?

Want to be extra-sure that your email will make it to the inbox?

Our friends at MailerCheck have a tool called Inbox Placement, which tests your emails before sending to see if they land in the inbox or the spam folder. This lets you tweak your campaigns accordingly before hitting ‘send’ so that you can be confident they’ll hit the mark. 

When deciding whether to send a GIF in email, keep your target audience in mind. It’s important to create email marketing content that they care about. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will they understand the message I am trying to convey?

  • Are they in a demographic that uses GIFs regularly?

  • Will this GIF enhance or detract from the email message?

When it comes to GIFs, less is more. Don’t overuse them. Otherwise, your audience will be overwhelmed by a crowd of flashing lights! One or two well-chosen GIFs is always better than an explosion of animated images.

If you still aren’t sure whether to insert GIFs in your email marketing campaign, you should try A/B testing. This is where you can test two versions of the same email on a small sample of your subscribers before you send it out to everyone. This way, you can try one email with a GIF, and one without, and see which one gets the best results. 

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 inboxes.

Although 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 last published in November 2020, but it has now been updated with fresh examples and new tips that all the kids are using.

Jonas Fischer
Jonas Fischer
I'm Jonas, Content Manager at MailerLite. I’m not the 4th Jonas Brother, but I do write content (which is similar to being a teen heartthrob). After writing for a bunch of companies over the years, I discovered my professional passion—helping add some humanity to B2B marketing. Email is the perfect place to start!