Case Study: Boosting Email CTR With Animation

If you’re still sending the same old hotel and travel emails to your guests you’re falling behind. In fact, not only is email likely your #1 conversion tool, it is also where you can grow your revenue the most. In one test in particular, for, we tested if animation can drive improved email performance. What we found was both expected and exciting.


Fuel has been helping this client with email development and delivery for years and have optimized subject line, personalization, delivery time and other metrics. We have built emails designed to work well across mobile and desktop clients. We had also already setup customer segments to get the best performance for each individual message.

We had not yet tested using animation in email, which until relatively recently has been something that was not recommended. However with the improvements in email clients, web based emails and mobile usage we expanded our creative testing.

The Test

The test was simple, across multiple sends we would send one version of an email to 50% of subscribers with a standard static graphic. The remaining 50% of subscribers would receive the exact same message with an animated version of the main graphic. The below side by side comparison shows an example of one of the messages we sent to the subscriber list.

We also tested the animated graphic with engaged and unengaged list. The engaged list consisted of all users who had clicked on an email over the past several months. The unengaged list was the entire subscriber list, including customers who have not interacted with a message recently.

Typically we would run the test to a sample of the full list and then push the best performing message to the remainder of the subscribers. However in this case, we opted to have a full subscriber sample across multiple sends and creative.

Control Version: Static Graphic

Test Version: Animated Graphic

The Results

Over the course of several days we compiled the results and after all data was in… Drum Roll…

In all cases the email with the animated graphic performed significantly better in terms of click through rate.  The largest improvement was 21% in CTR. The client also saw an increase in revenue from the email however those numbers are being withheld since we were directly testing the click rate. However it is safe to say that revenue increased in tandem with the increase in the click rate.

The Insights

If you’re about to press send on another standard email, stop and step away from the submit button. Your number one revenue generating tool is under performing and only by testing and pushing the creative limits can you know truly how much you can generate from your in-house email list.

To summarize, start testing the following at a minimum:

  • Personalization
  • Creative
  • Rich content such as collapsible content, navigation and rotations
  • Time and day of send
  • Delivery based on list activity

Unengaged List

21% Increase in Click Through Rate

Engaged List

13% Increase in Click Through Rate


Now that it is clear that animation has a defined place in your email testing, the question arises of who will actually be able to see the animation.  As of now, most all email clients allow for animated gif images by default.  Only a very limited number, mainly Outlook 2007- 2013, do not.  In the case of these email systems, the recipient will still see the image, but only the 1st frame.  Therefore as a rule you should always have the call to action appear in the 1st frame of a graphic and allow the animation to accentuate the message.  While the idea of revealing the call to action is appealing, not all users will see your message.  The table here shows which email clients support animated gifs.

Animation Support By Email Client

Supports Animation:
Outlook 2000-2003
Outlook for Mac
Apple Mail
Blackberry (yes, it does)
Lotus Notes

Blocks Animation: (aka: losers)
Outlook 2007-2013
Windows Phone

How to Create An Animated Gif:

As is often the case, creative is the most difficult part of the email process.  Luckily, animated gif files are very easy to create.  If you have an existing video is a great service that can take any video and convert it to an gif.  Out of the several online gif tools I have used, this service is the best since it allows you to control the height/width of the file, size and compression. Oftentimes you will need to create a custom gif or bring the animated gif into Photoshop to add a call to action or additional graphics.

When creating your animated gif, pay close attention to the file size.  You will be hosting the image outside of your email platform, however customers are going to need to download the file to view, therefore it is recommended you keep the file to just a few seconds and file size under 5mb.

Feeling A Little Overwhelmed?

Relax, at Fuel we have some very smart email marketers who can boil all this down to a few actionable points that can make your email more engaging.  Just ask for help here and we’ll turn you into an email marketing maven.

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Pete DiMaioCase Study: Boosting Email CTR With Animation
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