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Want to Improve Email Marketing? Add Videos, Emojis, and GIFs


On a recent hike with my dog Marley, I started thinking about ways to improve email marketing. The number of emojis popping up in B2B email subject lines got me thinking. “They must improve open rates,” I thought. “But by how much?”


Then I started wondering about the effect of videos and GIFs (graphics interchange format) on overall email engagement. My curiosity turned into this blog post. And what I found was really interesting.


Video and visual content can improve email marketing


I didn’t go into this research thinking, well of course videos and visual content help improve engagement – and this is an important lesson in never assuming! 


Video is not my go-to, simply because I read pretty fast. I always prefer text over video. I love GIFs, but I sit on the fence when it comes to emojis. I use them in my personal life all the time. Adding them to B2B communications? Eh. Seems too cutesy. 


As my research shows below, videos, emojis, and GIFs can absolutely improve email marketing engagement. 


What I learned about videos in emails


Emails that include videos can increase click-through rates by 200% to 300% (Forrester Research). That’s insane.


Including the word “video” in an email subject line can boost open rates by 19% (HighQ). Smaller number, but still impressive. 


A couple of guidelines to keep in mind


Like most marketing content, videos must be short, or you’ll lose viewers. Try to keep them to two minutes. 


With that said, Nicole Krug and I record much longer vides for our Five Business Rules series on YouTube. According to our statistics, people watch them because they’re packed with relevant information. 


Every email marketing platform out there allows you to embed videos from YouTube or Vimeo. Use this feature. You won’t have to worry about file size or load times.


What I learned about emojis in email subject lines


Not only can emojis boost open rates, they can also improve click-through rates and brand perception.


Subject lines with emojis enjoy an open rate 56% higher than those without (Experian) and a click-through rate 28% higher than those without (Litmus).


Even better, 75% of people think it’s perfectly acceptable for brands to use emojis in their marketing communications (LinkedIn).


Well, I stand corrected when it comes to emojis – they are viewed by lots of people as A-OK. 


A couple of guidelines to keep in mind


When using emojis in your email subject line, remember that context matters more than anything. Emojis must be relevant to the message, like a pair of eyes looking sideways at copy about a sale or promotion. 


And they have to be appropriate based on the topic. A real estate agent wouldn’t want to include a yawning emoji in a subject line about mortgage rates. Is it an exciting topic? No. Is it important? Yes.


Just don’t overdo it! One to three emojis is plenty (though I would err on the “less is more” side).


What I learned about GIFs in emails


Emails with GIFs in them have a 42% higher click-through rate compared to emails without GIFs (NotifyVisitors). 


68% of millennials and Gen Z respondents agreed that brands using GIFs were more likely to understand and connect with their audience (Tenor).


Viewers retained 95% more information from videos compared to plain text, making GIFs a valuable tool for communicating key messages effectively (StoryXpress).


A couple of guidelines to keep in mind


GIFs are a form of video, so treat them as such. Keep them short so viewers stay engaged.


They don’t have to be silly clips from The Office or Ghostbusters. They can be custom-designed to illustrate an idea, showcase product features, or demonstrate a process.


You can also use them to encourage people to take action, like clicking on a button linked to a landing page or hitting click-to-dial.


Time to A/B test!


Just like anything in marketing, you won’t know if emojis, videos, or GIFs will increase your email marketing effectiveness unless you give it a try. 


A/B test email subject lines with and without emojis. If your email includes a video, A/B test a mention of “video” in your subject lines.


You can also A/B test GIFs and videos in your content to see if they improve engagement rates.  Even if your audience skews older, the creativity and playfulness will stand out. 


So what do you think? Will you try integrating videos, emojis, and GIFs in your email marketing? And if you already do, how have they improved your email engagement?

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