Adding GIFs to Your In-App Messaging Campaigns

Aug 29, 2022

Have you been looking for new and innovative ways to enhance your in-app messaging campaigns? Something fun, engaging, and memorable?

We have some great news: MessageGears now supports animated images (GIFs) for in-app messages. Since the format is so popular, it made sense to include the option of adding a GIF to a message right from within the MessageGears dashboard. We then automatically download the content to your users’ devices—it’s that simple.

Apply GIFs as your message background, a layer of content, or a button to help drive calls to action, and personalize your GIFs with user properties to create unique experiences for each user.

GIFs are a valuable tool for marketers—they capture users’ attention, add variation to your messaging efforts, express your brand’s voice and personality, and convey a message more clearly.

What is a GIF?

At the simplest level, a GIF is a digital image format similar to JPEGs and PNG files. While you can use GIFs for still pictures, their popularity stems from their ability to support animations. These animated GIFs hold multiple images that automatically appear one after another, typically on an endless loop.

GIFs offer emotional weight and context in a world of non-verbal communication and are universal in today’s digital language.

GIFs: A Brief History

In 1987, a team of CompuServe developers needed a way to compress images with minimal data loss. The solution was GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format)—a simple, flexible file format for lower-resolution pictures.

As web design evolved during the early 2000s, the emergence of Flash animation, JavaScript, and other more sophisticated tools for transmitting video and images online outstripped the GIF’s usefulness.

By 2004, all of the patents on licensing for the GIF had expired, and the format entered the public domain. A smartphone-boosted demand for a more lightweight substitute for Flash animation brought the GIF back in a significant way.

The first ever GIF

With the growing accessibility of editing software like Photoshop and the rise of video creators, followed by the rapid adoption of social media and smartphones, the GIF emerged as a phenomenon.

Today, GIFs play a huge role in modern internet culture. Their durability and flexibility throughout the internet’s evolution have allowed them to become the internet’s primary purveyor of memes and looping animations.

Using GIFs in Your Messaging Campaigns

GIFs are incredibly versatile. They work because they’re simple—no audio, just video, and some with text over the graphic. They are creative without investing hours of design time, and entire libraries of GIFs by talented creators exist at your fingertips.

But before you start adding GIFs to every single in-app messaging campaign, let’s look at the types of campaigns where they work best.

Injecting Emotion and Conveying a Particular Tone

A GIF in the right place can tell a story, drive a point across, and convey a particular emotion that all help build long-term connections with your audience. The key to getting them right is ensuring they are relevant to your brand voice and relatable to your audience.

In marketing, GIFs are perfect for communicating humor, excitement, joy, and urgency, which sometimes text or images fail to transfer. With the limited space of a mobile screen, users can sometimes misinterpret text, so a GIF helps with any misunderstandings about tone or meaning.

Content: Boom! You [user achievement] this month. Good job!

Call to action: View All Transactions

Trigger: After month end when the user is next in the app.

GIF: This US Office classic

Whether you want a GIF that’s sentimental to appreciate your customers, empathetic to show support for a cause, or funny to add personality to your brand, you’ll find one that accurately expresses the emotion you want to channel.

Delivering Feature Tutorials

Add a GIF to your feature tutorial campaign to quickly show users how to get the most from your app. A short how-to visualization of a feature can remove the need for lengthy steps or text-heavy explainers.

Since GIFs loop automatically, users can review the steps without taking action and dismiss the message when they are satisfied they understand. And because animation is more engaging than static images or text, you’ll likely see higher feature adoption rates.

Below, Dropbox uses a GIF to show users how to create Google Docs from the platform’s dashboard. As the feature is easy to use, the short animation is enough for users to grasp how to use it. For lengthier or more complicated processes, create a multi-screen campaign with a GIF to illustrate one step on each screen.

Content: A description of the feature you are announcing to the user.

Call to action: Ok, got it.

Trigger: When a user is doing something in the app where the feature would help them achieve a goal or enhance their experience in that moment.

GIF: A step-by-step walkthrough of how to use the feature.

Product Tours and Onboarding

Use GIFs as part of your onboarding process to display clear and informative animations of how your product works. Adding simple or fun animations can make a monotonous onboarding experience more engaging and encourage users to stick around for the entire tour.

Content: A tooltip pointing to a feature on the user’s screen with a brief description of its functionality.

Call to action: ‘Next’ and always include a dismiss option.

Trigger: As part of the user’s first app session or when they are on a screen with features they haven’t used yet.

Enhance Your Graphics

Animated images don’t have to be complex. Add as few as one or two simple animated elements to an otherwise static image or illustration to completely change the impact of your campaign.

Content: Your favorite [product name] is back on the menu. Order ahead now and earn double points ☕️

Call to action: Order For Pickup.

Trigger: When a user is in the proximity of your store.

GIF: The product mentioned in your copy.

Bring a product to life, emphasize the action you want users to take, or take inspiration from Cinemagraphs and subtly move one element of an image in a continuous loop.

An example of a Cinemagraph

A little movement is sometimes all you need to garner attention, intrigue users, and add a new level of life to your messaging.

Create a Carousel

Use a GIF as a simple hack to create a carousel of products without requiring the users to take action. Remind users about items they have in their cart or wish list, promote your top sale items, announce new products, and more.

Content: Kate, you have some items sitting in your cart. Order before midnight tonight and get free shipping.

Call to action: Go to Checkout

Trigger: When a user has items in their shopping cart for more than seven days and is browsing your product catalog.

Getting Started

GIFs add real impact to your messaging campaigns, particularly in an era where we’re less receptive to advertising. But remember—any visuals you use in your marketing should supplement and expand on text, not replace or dominate it. Make sure your GIFs and other visuals are relevant to your message. Think light and creative.

For more on incorporating animated GIFs into your in-app messaging campaigns using MessageGears, see In-app messages.

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About the Author
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Sarah Kelly

Sarah is a passionate marketing professional devoted to crafting thought-provoking content that fuels business growth and success. With over a decade of experience in the ever-evolving marketing world, she brings a strategic and data-driven mindset to her role as SEO.