Brands Use GIFs to Make Their Emails Pop

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by Mike O’Brien

As people’s inboxes become fuller and fuller, brands like Dell, ASOS, and eBay Enterprise are standing out by including animated elements, like GIFs and videos, in their marketing emails.

The average person sends and receives nearly 90 consumer-related emails a day, according to last year’s Email Statistics Report from market research firm The Radicati Group. To stand out in an increasingly cluttered inbox, brands are moving away from text-heavy emails and including more animation in their campaigns.

After launching a GIF-centric email campaign, demonstrating a new laptop with a hinged design that allows it to become a tablet, Dell experienced a 109 percent increase in revenue. Online British retailer ASOS also frequently utilizes GIFs.

“[GIFs] really draw the attention of the consumer, something that can be difficult to achieve with the general volume of marketing emails people receive every day,” says Lauren Wragg, a digital coordinator at Coach who previously worked as a customer relationship management executive for ASOS.

“They’re also a really effective tool for showcasing a range of products without increasing scroll time. So for retailers wanting to provide inspiration on an entire outfit and potentially increase basket size, a GIF is a perfect way to layer up an outfit,” she says.

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Though GIFs are particularly popular with fashion brands, Wragg says they’re more common with lower-priced retailers than luxury brands such as Coach. For example, American Apparel has used email animation to display how its T-shirts don’t change after washes, while Bonobos has employed the tactic to show how easy it is to take off its rip-away chinos.

According to Mark Flaharty, executive vice president of advertising at personalized video ad company SundaySky, marketers are going with more visual emails because of the proliferation of mobile devices. May research from email marketing solution Movable Ink found that two-thirds of emails are initially opened on a mobile device: 47.2 percent on smartphones and 18.5 percent on tablets.

“You can’t sell much of a story with one or two lines of text and nobody wants to look at a microscopic display ad on a mobile phone,” says Flaharty, who has executed video bills for his clients from large telecommunications companies. “So what’s happening more and more is, the way we watch and consume content is becoming personalized because it’s on my device when I want to use it. Outside of live sports, there’s very little appointment viewing anymore.”

Flaharty thinks animation is a perfect way to engage people who don’t want to scroll down in emails. However, John Couch, head of creative and design at eBay Enterprise, believes that a well-done GIF can serve as an infographic that entices users to scroll down.

“Too much animation can drive people away – that’s where design comes in,” Couch says. “A well-designed image gets the point better if animation is used to communicate what you’re trying to get a cross.

“Doing it correctly, animation entices you to go further into the video itself,” he adds. “It’s like a precursor to a longer-term engagement. It’s all about storytelling.”

Using a Hollywood metaphor, Couch says that a GIF is the trailer, while the video is the movie.