[Reply Research] Should You Include Images and GIFs in Your Cold Emails?

[Reply Research] Should You Include Images and GIFs in Your Cold Emails?

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Creating outreach tactics is a real passion of mine. I’m always up for an experiment! Yet, running an A/B test will only show how the tactic works with a small audience segment. 

To see the bigger picture, you need more data. Luckily, our team has access to millions of emails sent daily through our platform (of course, anonymized and in full compliance with our privacy policy). This is how Reply Research – a series of data-backed blog posts exploring different aspects of outreach –  came to life.

In a previous issue, we’ve already explored the potential impact emojis and attachments can have on your cold email performance – which is overall quite positive. But there are more ways to make your messages stand out. 

If you’re looking to go all in with visual prospecting, this is the best place to start. In this post, we will try to figure out how images and GIFs might influence your cold email open and reply rates. The insights we share in this post are based on the data obtained by analyzing over 2 million emails. So, let’s dive in!

reply research visual

Data-backed insights on using visuals in cold outreach

How emojis, images, attachments, and GIFs can impact your cold outreach performance (+ actionable tips to implement right away).

How do images and GIFs influence your cold email open rates?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve hosted and taken part in quite a few webinars. Yet, every time we talk about cold outreach best practices, we get the same questions: “Will images influence my metrics?” or “Do GIFs decrease my open rate?

So now we finally have a clear answer.

Here’s what data has to say about images/GIFs and email open rates.

image gif open rate

As you can see here, emails containing images have an average open rate of 31.59%, while the average result for all the emails we’ve analyzed is 30,91%. With the increase being just around 2%, I can assume that this is a statistical error which we can neglect.

So I’d say you can use images in your cold emails if you wish. It won’t significantly impact your open rates.

Yet, it’s a completely different story with GIFs.

Emails containing GIFs tend to get 16% fewer opens – just 25.99% vs 30.91% average open rate for all emails.

Can images and GIFs in cold email help you get more replies?

Yet, if you think about it, the actual contents of your message, including images and GIFs you include into the email body, aren’t instantly visible in the inbox. So it’s unlikely they have any real influence on whether the recipient will open your email or not.

What they can influence is the prospect’s decision to respond to your email.

So, as the next step in our research, we’ve analyzed the average reply rates for emails containing GIFs and images.

Here’s what we’ve found out.

In both cases, we can see that the average reply rates are lower than the overall average result.

  • The average reply rate of all analyzed emails – our benchmark – is 3%.
  • The emails that contain images generated on average 2.62% replies.
  • With the emails containing GIFs, the average reply rate equaled 2.25%.

As you can see, adding images and GIFs to your cold emails can lower your reply rate by 12.7% and 25% respectively. So I will tentatively say that you should avoid both images and GIFs in your cold emails.

Yet, if your email templates contain images or GIFs and your sequences still perform well, feel free to keep using them!

Also, there might be a great difference between regular and personalized images. Since it’s impossible to identify the type of images used in the analyzed emails, we can’t say the exact numbers. In my experience, personalized images work really well. So don’t hesitate to test a few templates and see for yourself.

Do images and GIFs help you generate more “Interested” replies?

Despite the overall reply rates for emails with images and GIFs being lower than the average, we were still curious – how many of those replies were positive?

First of all, let me remind you the formula to calculate the “interested” reply rate:

“Interested” reply rate = replies with interest / total emails replied * 100%

Here’s what our data says.

image gif interested rate

The emails with images have pretty much the same “Interested” reply rate as all emails we analyzed. On average, out of 100 replies you can expect 14 to be positive when using images (compared to 15 replies if there’s no image)

Yet, it’s a completely different story when it comes to GIFs. The data shows that on average you will get 50% fewer positive responses compared to an average result when you use GIFs. That’s definitely something to keep in mind.

What’s the impact of images and GIFs on your “Not Interested” reply rate?

Now, let’s consider the negative replies that might come from your emails that contain images or GIFs. Similar to the “Interested” replies, you can calculate the share of “Not Interested” responses using the following formula:

“Not Interested” reply rate = replies with no interest / emails replied * 100%.

Note: “Not Interested” replies are the ones that clearly state something like “not interested,” “not for us,” “no need,” etc. While there are more ways to voice your interest or disinterest, it’s impossible to catch all of them. That is why our AI uses the most common intent signals to sort the replies accordingly.

image gif not interested rate

The results are interesting. When using images, you risk getting a couple of extra Noes per every 100 responses. Yet, adding a GIF might slightly lower your negative reply rate (14 replies vs 18 on average).

reply research visual

Data-backed insights on using visuals in cold outreach

How emojis, images, attachments, and GIFs can impact your cold outreach performance (+ actionable tips to implement right away).

Bottom line

All in all, the results are pretty mixed. From my experience, I can say that we’re using images regularly in a number of sequences and see decent results. Yes, there are some reasons why images and GIFs might not work but here’s how to fix it:

  1. The size of the file is too big and that can hurt your email deliverability. If your email goes to the spam folder not many people will open or respond to it. That’s why I recommend keeping the image size as low as possible (<25KB). It’s a bit more complicated with GIFs because they are usually larger and not as easy to compress.
  2. Most email users have images disabled on their side for various reasons, so they simply won’t see it. And there’s not much you can do about it. 
  3. The images you use don’t provide any additional value or they don’t reinforce your email pitch. For example, there might be a great difference between regular and personalized images. Since it’s impossible to identify the type of images used in the analyzed emails, we can’t say with precision the results for each image type. Yet, in my experience, personalized images work really well.

If you’re hesitant about implementing images and GIFs in your cold outreach, try using them at the later stages of the sales engagement process or with inbound prospects. But remember to always A/B test your messages. This is the only way to know for sure if this tactic is for you.

And while you play around with the visuals in cold emails, we will be working on the next research – exploring other aspects of cold email contents.

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