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Apr 16, 2008 | 3 minute read

Email Marketing Trend: Animated Gifs

written by Linda Bustos

Animated EmailOne of my favorite blogs,, faithfully follows hundreds of email marketing campaigns to compile useful trend data and showcase the best (and worst) of email design and subject lines.

One of the most interesting tags to surf is the animation category. Here you'll find a bunch of examples of how retailers are incorporating animated gifs into email messages. I'd like to share some of my favorites from this category:

1. Showing Items in Context

We learned from the recent webinar "Jon Stewart or Oprah: What's Your Website's Personality?" that certain personality types or buying modalities respond better to seeing items "in context" or how they will be used practically. This means clothing on humans or furniture in a room. On a product page, multiple product views give customers an idea of how products look from different angles.

Rotating Product Views within email

This animation actually shows how the swimsuit can be altered with the pull of a drawstring - far more effective than static images. And since not many other emails do animation, customers are more likely to look at it simply because they've never seen email content moving before. The longer they stare the more memorable the item is.

Not only that, but a recent split test by Bluefly found that animated emails had a 5% higher click through and 12% increase in dollars spent according to this Internet Retailer article.

2. Creating Emotion

I love how this set of images from Williams-Sonoma looks like a family slide show that captures happy and adorable memories of Halloween. It almost tells a story, while showing the product in context. (Although that perfect pumpkin face is a little hard to believe).

Williams-Sonoma Animated Gif

3. Highlighting a Key Benefit

As I learned from Alan Rimm-Kaufman's videoblog on customer centric marketing, it's important for retailers to effectively communicate why you should purchase from the retailer, not just romance the product. This eye-catching free shipping animation reinforces one of the key criteria for online shoppers.

Piperlime Gif

RetailEmail's Chad White comments:

Animation used sparingly like this does a great job of drawing the eye to low-value screen real estate, like the upper right-hand corner. The only misstep here is that if the animation is blocked, readers don’t see any of that animation because the first frame is blank. They should have started with a full frame just in case the email was being viewed in Outlook 2007, which only shows the first frame of animated gifs.

4. Showing Color Range and Product Versatility

It's nice to see a variety of colors and ways you can wear this sandal.

Changing Color in Email

5. Showing Too Many Offers - Bad Idea

This is my favorite bad use of animation. Linens N Things tries to pack many product offers into the email, and they don't all fit in one screen. The animation, though the transition is slow enough, leaves readers at the mercy of the timing of the transition. Readers are not in control of the content, they are controlled by it. In the time it takes to scan the product category headings, the images flip. I don't feel it adds value to force a customer to concentrate this hard. Plus, you can't click through to individual items as far as I can tell making the ad less relevant to the landing page.

Linens N Things Animation

Of course, this is just one blogger's opinion.

Have a browse through Chad White's collection of animation examples for more, and let us know in the comments what you think of the whole design technique - what works and what doesn't. If you've done your own testing, please comment!