Animated Gifs for Improved eNewsletter Performance

Published 6/28/16
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Hilton Sandestin Uses Email Animation to Show Summer Travelers “This is THAT Place”

Summertime is upon us. A time to soak up the sun and feel the sand between your toes. The seemingly endless days and warm, playful nights are something we look forward to all year long. As adults, summer also inspires memories of “that place,” the place we loved to go to. From romantic weekend getaways to fun-filled family vacations, summer is a key season for the leisure market in the hospitality industry. 

Miles has been the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa’s full-service agency for five years, and together we’ve won a number of awards including Best Integrated Campaign and Best Hotel and Lodging Email Message at the 2015 Internet Advertising Competition. Never ones to rest on our laurels, we’re always looking for new methods to attract new audiences, while continuing to promote Hilton Sandestin’s overall brand message, “This is That Place.” To that end, we asked ourselves:

How do we bring the nostalgia of our favorite beach vacation to life in an e-newsletter and visually capture the feeling of the resort’s customers? 

First, we focused on our strongest and most beloved memories of summer vacation:
Warm sunshine on our face...
The sand between our toes...
Children playing in gentle surf...
A cool breeze filled with the tropical scents of suntan lotion...
Chilled drinks...

Next, we determined which were the most commonly shared experiences and what images would create the most powerful connection to our target audience. Then, we set out to find a way to bring that imagery to life by featuring an animated gif (also known as a cinemagraph), designed to evoke the feeling of a family-friendly beach vacation. 

We used A/B testing on multiple versions, including a single offer as well as multiple offers, and discovered the single offer performed better across the board. As you can see below, the gif features the profile of woman sitting in a beach chair watching a child playing in the calm ocean waters. A bright blue pail alongside the chair pulls the blue of the sky and the ocean water, drawing your eye to the yellow beach umbrella. It’s subtle, but with the waving of the beach umbrella, you can almost feel the ocean breeze and picture yourself in “that place.”

The new animated email messages for Hilton have seen promising results, including increased click-through rates. In our ongoing efforts to continuously optimize campaigns for the highest ROI, we will be running different tests utilizing the animation, not only to delight our viewers but also to further entice them to click by showcasing special offers and emphasizing calls to action.

Thinking about using a gif in your own eNewsletter campaigns?

Here are three key reasons to give gif animation a try: 

          Adds Visual Appeal: Makes your messages more visually interesting, memorable and increases entertainment value.  
          Creates An Emotional Connection: The element of delight helps to establish an emotional connection between the offer/product and the email reader, which often increases sales. 
          Increases Click-Through Rates: Animated gifs enhance interaction and generate higher click-through rates than static photos. A/B tests by BlueFly found an animated email pulled in 12% more revenue than the non-animated equivalent.
                  72% of Experian’s clients had higher transaction-to-click rates when they used animated gifs or cinemagraphs in emails.
                 Dell saw a 109% lift in revenue when it tested an animated gif campaign, while Helzberg Diamonds paired animated gifs with personalization and saw a 288% lift.  

Remember that a gif should be an element of delight and should not overpower the message. The key takeaway? Always keep gif animation simple and subtle.