Clients occasionally ask us about the pros and cons of using animated GIFs in their email deployments to physicians. We know that HCPs quickly delete emails, or even unsubscribe, when they receive messages that don’t render correctly. So the main concern is whether or not your audience will be able to view GIFs in your emails.
We took a look at our 2016 deployment data to find out. Here’s what we learned:
1. Not All Email Browsers Support GIFs
Android and iOS mobile clients, as well as Webmail clients like Gmail and AOL, support animated GIFs. But not all desktop email clients do. Specifically, HCPs using Outlook 2007-2013 won’t be able to see your GIFs.
In 2016, 5% of all opens for DMD email deployments came from Outlook 2013. Yet the percent of HCPs who can’t view your GIFs is probably much higher. That’s because when an HCP reads an email on a mobile device, it’s recorded as either an iPhone or Android open, regardless of the application the reader uses to view email.
If an HCP checks his work email on his mobile device, that email comes through the Microsoft® Exchange server. Because the Exchange server holds back all images, the HCP won’t be able to view the GIF instantly, but will have to download it instead.
We have no way of knowing how often this occurs since the open is rightly recorded as iPhone or Android, but we know that it does happen. Considering that over half of HCP emails are opened on mobile devices, we can reasonably assume that it happens frequently.
Similarly, Yahoo! blocks animated GIFs until a user takes action to download them. This is true for both desktop and mobile users, further increasing the number of HCPs who can’t view GIFs in emails.
2. File Size Poses Problems
Even if your audience uses a platform that supports GIFs, it may be wise to avoid them. When an animated file gets too large, the animation will load slowly or be choppy. Cropping, removing frames, or animating only a small portion of the image can reduce file size significantly. Still, you risk alienating readers who don’t want to wait for GIFs to load. Worse, images over 100Kb may trigger spam filters and never even make it to your target’s inbox.
3. Click Rate Data Doesn’t Support Using Animation
Finally, actual email campaign results indicate that animated GIFs don’t increase click rates. In a recent test case, they performed slightly worse than static rates in all cases:
- The animated photo header we tested had a 1.56% total click rate and a 1.78% unique click rate, while the static header had a 2.25% total click rate and a 2.12% unique click rate for.
- The animated CTA we tested had a 1.28% total click rate and a 1.30% unique click rate, but the static CTA had a 2.89% total click rate and a 2.37% unique click rate.
In retail, there is sometimes an opportunity to show off the product through a short animation, but in healthcare these opportunities are few and far between. In most cases, animation is simply used as a novelty.
For all of these reasons, we recommend skipping GIFs in pharma emails. There are other, more effective ways to grab your reader’s attention. Optimizing your subject lines, preheaders, and calls-to-action is a great place to start.