Though animation fell out of favor years ago, it’s time for email marketers to give the technique another look. That’s the conclusion I came to after nearly a year of collecting and analyzing emails with animation from the largest online retailers in order to write the just-released 2007 Animation in Retail Emails Study.
Already, 34% of the major online retailers tracked by RetailEmail.Blogspot have used animation in at least one email in recent months. Based in part on retailers’ increasing use of animation on their Web sites, we predict a doubling of its adoption rate in email marketing over the next 12 months.
Animation’s appeal is easy to understand. It can be deployed for a wide variety of purposes in emails and, if properly used, can entertain, inform and inspire subscribers in ways that static images and text cannot.
After we’d examined well over 100 retail emails with animation, a number of strategies emerged:
1. Animation packs more into limited real estate by demonstrating an assortment of products or features. This strategy is becoming more attractive as more and more email clients adopt preview panes, limiting the viewing area of emails.
2. Animation draws the eye to less visible screen real estate, such as items below the fold.
3. Animation demonstrates critical product features that drive revenue and increase sales.
4. Animation adds visual interest to emails, particularly around holidays.
5. Animation emphasizes certain messages and key copy elements in emails.
Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to misstep with animation. In the study, I critique more than a dozen emails and address numerous pitfalls, but let me leave you with the following tips:
1. Use animated gifs instead of Flash because of email client, support and rendering issues.
2. Animation is a more attractive tool if most of your subscribers have broadband Internet access.
3. Keep image file sizes small (50K or less) in order to minimize hard bounces.
4. Send test creative to email accounts at Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, Gmail, etc. to ensure delivery. Or better yet, use a rendering testing tool.
5. Make sure that the first frame of the animated gif contains useful information in case the subsequent frames are blocked. Avoid fade-ins.
6. Provide a link to the online version of the email, as some subscribers will have problems viewing any images.
7. Make the animation cycle last at least a few times so readers can catch portions they may have missed the first time. And keep the animation at a good pace.
8. Don’t go overboard with animation, as too much can distract the reader.