How to Use Rich Media & Add Visual Appeal to Emails

Email marketing is the leading channel for customer conversion and retention, so find out how to use rich media to improve the CTR and conversions for your online business.

How to Use Rich Media & Add Visual Appeal to Emails

Even before the art of the written word people learned to communicate with each other through drawings on cave walls. It’s little wonder, we are still more attracted to visual content than plain text.

For emails, it started the other way round.
While this mode of communication did begin as a plain text messaging tool, the introduction of HTML coding in 1989, changed the way the world looked at emails. With background colors, text formatting, images, GIFs, and videos making their way to emails via HTML coding, email is now one of the most engaging and essential marketing tools for businesses.

The attention span of humans is getting lower and lower and people simply have too much information to consume. Every minute, rich media, which includes static images, GIFs, cinemagraphs, and videos, is going places in the world of email marketing.

Today, 32% of marketers believe that visual images are the most important content form for their business.

Thus, integrating visual marketing into your email campaign is becoming essential, especially since it is the preferred marketing channel for customer acquisition and customer retention (80% and 81%, respectively). Moreover, with ISPs and email clients supporting rich media in email, there seems to be no looking back.

Did you know rich media ads outperform standard and animated display ads with increased conversions, click-through and view through rates? ~ MannixMarketing

The term rich media is predominantly used when referencing paid ads online, but really it can be used to enhance various forms of communication including emails.

We’re going to look at rich media and how you can use it to make your email campaigns more awesome:

Using The Static Image

Images play a vital role in grabbing the attention of your subscribers.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, isn’t it a better idea to put forth your message through an image rather than a wall of text? Relevant images can help to not only communicate information and emotion but also drive engagement and click-through rates. Furthermore, it is essential to go for high-quality images considering the colossal number of emails opened in devices which have high density displays.


The travel industry can make the most of images in email to promote their holidays, just like Airbnb does in each of their emails, using relevant and high-quality images that make you long for a holiday!

Static Images Airbnb



How to include an image in your email?

Linked images seem to be the safest bet as this ensures fast loading of your emails. With the help of <img src> tag, you can make the images load from an external server. Add a suitable Alt title tag to go with the image. You can change the linked image even after the email has been sent; how cool is that!

Another way to add an image to your email is through inline embedding. In order to inline an image into the HTML, you can use tools like ImagetoBase64 to get a base64 string from the image to be embedded. After the image has been encoded, embed it in the standard HTML image tag.

Bear in mind that…

  • Most email clients block images from unknown senders until the subscriber enables auto-download. In this case, the subscriber will see empty boxes in place of your awesome images. ALT text is, therefore, a must to describe your images in words.
  • There are ISPs that filter out emails with too many images. Make sure you maintain the 80:20 text-to-image ratio.

Using a GIF

A GIF is a set of images that change in a pre-set duration and give the impression of animation. In emails, a GIF can help to enhance engagement, reinforce your message and fit larger amounts of content in lesser space without making the space look cluttered. Icing on the cake? GIFs are easy to create using a free gif maker tool and enjoy solid support from email clients.


In this email from Bonobos, they have promoted their printed range of shirts through an amazing GIF. It not only grabs attention but also encourages the subscriber to click-through.

GIF Bonobos

How to add a GIF to your email?

Upload the GIF containing all the frames to the server and copy the URL.

Use the “img src” code and subsequently insert the following source code of HTML:

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


Bear in mind that…

  • Outlook 2019 does not support GIFs. What it will show is just the first frame of your GIF. It is thus essential to put in the most important message in the first frame itself.
  • If you are creating a responsive and custom email template design (which you should), the GIF you have created gets scaled down. You will have to create a separate version for mobile devices.
  • Give special considerations to the principles of email accessibility. Make sure that your emails do not have content flashing at the rate of 2 Hz to 55 Hz, as it is harmful for users with photosensitive epilepsy.

Using a Cinemagraph

Giving a truly cinematic effect to an image, a cinemagraph is something that is gaining great popularity. What makes it desirable is that just one element in the image is animated, leaving the rest of the image static. In emails, this can help to drive attention to a definite aspect of your campaign.

Take a look at this email from Mr Porter. The subtle movement of the flames alone is enough to give a cinematic effect and engage the subscriber.

Cinemagraph Mr Porter

How to add a Cinemagraph to your email?

Follow the same steps to add a cinemagraph to your email as you did in case of a GIF.

Bear in mind that…

Being closely related to GIFs, they face the same challenges as GIFs – no support in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 and Lotus Notes.

Using Video

While a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is probably worth a thousand pictures. Nothing can beat the message conveying power of a video, which is the marketing world’s new darling. While a video is a visual treat, it obviously enhances customer engagement.

Butlin’s, in their email, uses an embedded video to promote their travel packages. Superb is the word!

video email example

How to add a video in your email?

The following code will help you to embed a video in your email:


<video width=”300″ height=”150″ controls poster=””><br/><source src=”″ type=”video/mp4″><br/><!– fallback 1 –><br/><a href=”” ><br/><img height=”150″ src=” _pumpkin.jpg ” width=”300″ /><br/></a><br/></video><br/><br/><br/>

Bear in mind that…

Currently, the support for videos in browsers and email clients is not very encouraging. But that shouldn’t stop you from making the most of this amazing tool. So, what would be your backup? A GIF created to do justice to the video.


Images, GIFs, and Videos can add that sparkle to your emails, promising better engagement and conversion. However, it is important to know the limitations and support you need while you use these tools. To sum it up, rich media has the potential to sky-rocket your email ROI, if used decorously.