Creating an Impactful Email Experience with Rich Media

Kevin George

May 23, 20177 min read
Creating an Impactful Email Experience with Rich Media

Do you ever open an email and get turned off by the heavy wall of content? It is boring, isn’t it? Well, your subscribers would also be experiencing the same if you send out plain text emails. Such emails fail to engage them, thereby leading to more unsubscribes and higher churn rate.

How do you revamp your email marketing strategy to retain your subscribers and win them over to open and click through your emails? The answer is RICH MEDIA! Rich media is defined as a wide range of digital media, with dynamic motion, which makes use of enhanced sensory features such as audio, animation, and video.

According to Social Media Examiner, 37% of marketers find visual marketing to be the most important form of content for their business, after blogging.

We shall be focusing exclusively on visual media like static images, GIFs, cinemagraphs, and videos as of now. So let's get started with an insightful journey on how these elements can pave new avenues for your email marketing campaigns.

Static Images in Email

Have you, at any point, thought about why we always start teaching kids through pictures and why the most successful speakers are the ones who use numerous visual aids while delivering their speech? Well, the logic is same in both the scenarios. Simply put, pictures are processed a lot faster by our brain than “words”.

Static Images In Email

Including attractive images can help you build your brand value and enhance click-through rates. However, email clients generally block the images as a default setting. It is, therefore, a possibility that users may not download the images, which means that all your efforts in creating that email campaign have gone futile.

To make sure that your hard work does not end up in the trash bin or get marked as spam, alt text and title text is a must while using images. Make sure you maintain the text to image ratio at 80:20 so that there are no deliverability issues.

How to embed images in emails?

You can embed images in emails mainly in 3 ways:

1. CID Embedded Images

Attach the image to your email and add the standard HTML image reference tag <img src= “cid=cidname”>, where CID is the Content-ID in the code. It will embed the image in the email when the email gets opened.

The Downside

It increases the length of your email and shows varying results across different email clients.

2. Inline Embedding using Base64 Encoding

You can have a version of your embedded image as a base64 string to inline images into your HTML. Web coding tool like ImagetoBase64Converter can be used for the same. This encoded image can then be embedded in the standard HTML image tag. SVG images are not supported in many ESPs and email clients. Converting those images into base64 code before embedding is the only option in such cases.

The Downside

Despite being a simple and fast option, it is blocked in Outlook. Moreover, it makes the email heavy to load. It will not perform well if you are sending out more than one image.

3. Linking Images Directly

To make sure that the email size doesn’t get too large, you can use linked images in your email. Load the images from an external server by using <img src> tag. Provide alt title tag for the images without fail so that your subscribers know what the image is about, even if the images are blocked in the email.

The best part of using this method is that it allows you to modify the images even after sending out the email. It makes your emails lighter and the time taken to send the message decreases considerably.

The Downside

The images have to be downloaded from the external servers as a result of which they can be blocked in many email services.

Examples of Ways You Can Use Static Images in Email:

  1. Travel industry can add attractive images of various destinations.
  2. Retail and e-commerce industry can use the images of their products to engage their subscribers better.
  3. If you are sending out personalized greetings on birthdays, anniversaries and festive occasions, it is a great idea to include images.


For an email promoting DIY blog, you can have illustrations in your emails to give your subscribers a clear idea about what you offer.

GIFs in Email

GIFs are my personal favorite. They give the liberty to display sizeable content in limited space. These animations can make your subscribers look forward to receiving your emails and help you increase open rates as well as click through rates. If you have enough resources, it is a breeze to create GIFs.

Gif In Email

Oh, and did I tell you that major email clients and browsers render GIFs quite well? There are numerous retail industry brands these days that have been consistently using GIFs in their emails to display their products.

The only problem with GIFs is that it can increase the file size of your email, slowing down the loading time. Compress the GIF so that the quality is maintained and at the same time, it does not butt into the subscriber’s data plans. Email clients like Outlook, do not support GIFs; the first frame of the GIF will be displayed, so make sure this frame contains all the important information.

How to add GIFs in email?

  • Upload the GIF to the server that has all your images and copy the URL.
  • Use the “img src” HTML code to insert the source code of HTML as below:

<img src=“/wp-content/uploads/yourfile.gif”>

  • Test the email to check whether the GIF works well.

Examples of Ways You Can Use GIFs in Email:

  • GIFs are a great idea to display the varieties available in a single product.
  • Retail and ecommerce industry can use GIFs to popularize different products.
  • GIFs can be used as “explainer videos” if you wish to demonstrate the use of a product or service in IT industry.
  • Fashion industry can generate more click-through rates and conversions through attractive GIFs giving all the product details.

Cinemagraph in Email

Cinemagraph is the new rage on social media and it is all set to transform the marketing emails. Unlike GIFs, cinemagraphs give the illusion of a video through seamless looping. Imagine you run a restaurant. Wouldn’t it be great to design an email with barbecue skewers in action?

Cinemagraph In Email

Depending on the industry you cater to, there is a huge scope to play around with cinemagraphs in emails and grab the attention of your subscribers. Just set your imagination free and come up with a great idea to grab the opportunity that lies within “cinemagraphs in emails”.

It is easier to create cinemagraphs than videos. Here are some tools that can help you with making cinemagraphs:

  1. Flixel
  2. Pictoreo
  3. Cinemagr.Am
  4. Kinotropic
  5. Echograph

The small file size format makes the consumption of information effortless. Cinemagraphs are not supported by the newer versions of Outlook and so it becomes mandatory to provide a fallback image. You should make sure that the first frame of your cinemagraph makes sense and conveys all the necessary information for email clients that don’t support them.

How to add cinemagraph in email?

You can add cinemagraph in email just like you add GIFs.

Examples of Ways You Can Use Cinemagraph in Email:

  • Telecommunications industry can include a cinemagraph to promote a show or specific product model. Netflix is the best example for this. Their show “House of Cards” was a hit owing to the wonderful cinemagraph they used in their email.


  • Restaurants and breweries can add cinemagraphs to show their mouthwatering dishes.
  • The fashion industry can show their sparkling diamond accessories with the help of cinemagraphs.
  • Luxury brands can represent the premium utility of their products through cinemagraphs.

Embedded Video in Email

Whether it is event invitations or emails announcing the product launch, embedded videos in emails can work extremely well in fulfilling the purpose of your campaign. They provide a wonderful user experience and help you establish your brand identity.

Embedded Video In Email

The sad part is that only Apple Mail, Thunderbird and Web Browsers render embedded videos. Moreover, the file size of the email increases considerably by adding videos.

You can set a fallback image (with suitable alt text) that is in sync with the overall email design. Alternatively, you can also give a cinemagraph as a fallback.

How to Embed Video in Email?

You can use the code below for video in email.

<video width="320" height="176" controls poster=""><br/><source src="" type="video/mp4"><br/><!-- fallback 1 --><br/><a href="" ><br/><img height="176" src=" " width="320" /><br/></a><br/></video><br/><br/><br/>

Video File Formats

OGG, MP4 and WebM are the three main video format file types supported by HTML5. It is important to know that Apple supports MP4 format only in their browsers and email clients.

Make sure that the server configuration that you are using can output the right MIME type for the email client to detect the proper video file format while it retrieves the video. In case you are using the Apache Web server, your .htaccess file should include this entry.

Add Type video/mp4 .mp4 m4v

Examples of Ways You Can Use Video in Email:

  • Event invitations and meeting reminders for conferences/tradeshows work the best by including videos in the email.
  • Real estate industry can use videos to showcase various amenities they offer to the residents.
  • Non-profit organizations can include a video that supports their cause.
  • New product launches in telecommunications industry can be best revealed through video.

Do you wish to try out something new in your emails? How about images, GIFs, cinemagraphs, and videos? Check out EmailMonks infographic – “ Rich Media in Email Marketing” to understand the advantages, limitations, and workarounds to overcome the rendering challenges in emails with rich media. There is also a free eBook along with it in case you want to dive deep into making the right choice of using Rich Media for your next email campaign.

Author Photo
Kevin is the Head of Marketing at EmailMonks, one of the fastest growing Email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers. Check out Kevin's email tutorials and articles at his Email Marketing Blog.