How to Use Visual Communication in Emails [With Examples]

How to say more with less using awesome visuals!

Zight | May 08, 2017 | 5 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 22, 2023

How to Use Visual Communication in Emails [With Examples]

If you’re like most of us, you share GIFs, memes and videos all the time.

With 8 billion facebook videos watched daily, 9,000 photos shared per second on Snapchat, and 110 years worth of live video viewed on Periscope every day— visuals are the high velocity language of social media.

But when it comes to email, we’re not so fluent. Due to a long legacy of stale business etiquette and text-heavy messages, we hold back from using GIFS, videos and even screenshots, to communicate visually (read: more effectively) in our internal and external emails.

Well, say goodbye to the days of messaging. We’re about to show you how to say more with less using awesome visuals that’ll rock the socks off your email readers.

Craft a Smile-worthy Subject Line

Let’s start at the beginning.

According to a report by Experian, 56% of brands who used emojis in their email subject lines had a higher unique open rate.

Glance at your inbox and you’ll spot it right away. The subject lines with emoticons definitely standout in a sea of black and white text.

Take a look at how UPROXX uses emojis to express our deep disappointment in this subject line:

(Sigh. Daytime television will never be the same.)

TripAdvisor uses emojis to liven up their newsletter:

And we love the way Timely uses an emoticon to add a personal touch to their onboarding sequence and give new life to the played out “check in” email.

Almost all email marketing platforms make it a breeze to add emojis to your subject line. But remember, emojis appear differently on every device and email provider so you’ll want to test your subject lines first to make sure your emojis always look ????.

Pro Tip: Add the word “video” to your emojified subject line and you could see a 19% increase in open rates and up to a 65% increase in clickthrough rates. It’s basically the triple word score of subject lines.

Rock Your (Email) Body With Videos and GIFs

In 2016, 43% of consumers said they wanted to see more video content. Leading brands and businesses are answering that call.

Forget tired “how to’s,” check out this amazing roundup from featuring fresh, high-octane use cases for onboarding videos that connect with readers.

It was tough to choose a favorite to feature here, so we’re going with a classic: Dropbox. It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 2009 Dropbox was just a twinkle in everyone’s eye and nobody really understood their product. Instead of giving in to “over-explanation” they decided to only feature a video and a download button on their homepage. The result? 5 million customers, and a whopping $24M in revenue. It’s safe to say their 2-minute explainer video is the stuff of marketing legends.

But wait, what if your email client doesn’t support videos?

Never fear, GIFs are here!

Like videos, GIFs let you make your point quickly and help your reader understand your product without forcing them to read and re-read lines of text instructions.

We adore the way our pals at Mailchimp use GIFs in their emails to customers.

The key is to keep it simple but effective. Provide an easy step-by-step visual that answers your customers’ questions before they even have to ask.

And of course, there are a ton of great examples for how you can use GIFs to fire up your marketing campaigns.

Check out one of our faves from Converse showing off the brand’s latest collection in living color. You’d need an iron will to resist clicking that gorgeous piece of shoe art!


Make Work Fun Again with Visual Communication in Internal Emails

Using visuals in your external emails definitely helps you win with customers, but don’t forget, visual communication is also a great way to get your internal teams fired up. Plus, it can help you save serious cash on training and admin.

In fact, according to a report by Melcrum, 93% of internal communications pros see video as absolutely vital to engaging and retaining employees.

Ever been bored by a training manual? Wistia’s Customer Champion, Olivier, has the cure. Watch him rock this internal tutorial on the company’s technical architecture. This video goes out to new starters to help them easily understand how Wistia works, without falling asleep at their desks.

If you don’t have an internal production team to rival Wistia’s (and after all, who does?), don’t worry, your low-quality video statistically has more chance of going viral than an overproduced “professional” looking one.

Here are some quick and dirty ideas for using lo-fi videos in internal emails:

Simple tutorial showing how you solve a common workflow problemDemo a new or proposed featureWeekly team updates announcing new hires, policies and initiativesInformal interview with a team member from another departmentQuick hello from the CEO

If putting a video together still feels like too much work, GIFs can definitely accomplish the same goal, faster.

And of course, we’re walking the talk on that one.


Boost Click through Rates with an Eye-Catching CTA

You don’t want to create the world’s most visually appealing email only to wimp out on the call to action, right?

And in email, that CTA usually boils down to just one button.

It better be clear, easy and irresistible.

We love how Timely uses a simple screenshot to illustrate the super easy next step they want their reader to take, and walk them right up to their CTA.

Pro Tip: Notice how the button stands out on its own even when paired up with another visual? An eye-catching button is a must for every email with a CTR goal. If you’re ever in doubt, take a cue from Mailchimp and give it the squint test. If you can still see your button through blurry vision, your nearsighted readers can too.

With Zight (formerly CloudApp) you can use screen recording, compatible with Mac and Windows, along with image snippets to get your point across.

The future of visual communication is the wild, open west and your audience (both internal and external) is ready and waiting to devour your visual content. Don’t be afraid to have fun, be consistent and take risks!

Which of these visual tools will you use in your next email? Got any great email tips of your own to share? Let us know down below!

Ready to chat with us about how to save time, money and help your team communicate better?