Are You Ready For Video In Email?

In a previous post, I wrote about many of the scarier myths that are floating around about video in email and gave a few reasons why now might be the right time to put aside those fears and give it a try.

In the intervening months, whether at conferences, meetings or just industry meet ups, the topic of embedded video invariably seemed to pop up in any conversation about inbox innovations.

So, I’d like to address a few themes that seem to surface consistently and also share some tips that have been shared with me along the way. I’ll even add a few of my own lessons learned.

We’ve Never Done It Before, Is It Worth The Effort?

The bar for a well-crafted customer experience is continually being raised. Users now expect a near frictionless interaction with content. So, bringing video playback even one click closer provides a better brand experience.

And, for email in particular, optimizing those small interactions often makes the difference in overall performance. Being able to deliver the best, easiest, richest experience for your user will be the key to winning the competition for their attention and building brand loyalty.

Will It Really Work?

It’s true that not every email client will support video delivery. So, it’s important to know which email clients support HTML5 and also to know your user base. As email marketers, these should be mission critical details that you think about every day, even when you’re not considering video in email.

If you don’t know what your customer base is using to view your emails in and on, it’s simple enough find out with a pixel tracking software from a vendor like Litmus or Return Path. Typically, it only takes one or two campaigns to provide enough data to formulate a profile.

Once you have that information, it’s just a matter of overlaying your most popular email use cases with the list of HTML5-supported email clients. Then voilà, you will know the percentage of recipients likely to receive the video playback experience. This will help you understand whether video delivery is likely to work for the majority of your client base or not.

How Do I Know If It’s Working?

The easiest, simplest way is a classic A/B split. Though not as accurate as tracking the number of video playbacks, it will give you feedback on whether sending video content helped or hurt your campaign performance. However, without being able to know if the video was delivered, rather than a fallback animation or static graphic, you’ll have to make some assumptions about the results.

A brave few have worked a little harder on the endeavor and are able to receive reporting on actual playback of the video, which will give insight into whether users are responding to the video and not an animated graphic, or a static spoof of the video.

My advice on this reporting detail is to not let perfect get in the way of good. The cost of coding and delivering video in email often doesn’t demand a detailed ROI, but it’s important to understand the levels of testing and reporting if that is a component of your proof of concept.

Are There Best Practices For Video In Email?

Well, it’s a little early to claim there are gold standard best practices, but there are a few recommendations that I can make.

  • Put the word “video” in the subject line. Overall, this increases open rates, and it also sets expectations around content.
  • Auto-play should not be an option. When sending video, let the user initiate the action.
  • Provide clear calls-to-action close to the video. Because click-throughs cannot be embedded in a video, you’ll need to provide users with something to click on, whether it’s a button or just a hyperlink near the video.Video_WFs
  • The chrome surrounding the video player will vary by email client. Some players are elegantly self-contained; others have bars and buttons that extend the dimensions of the video box. Provide enough whitespace around the video to accommodate the variation in player dimensions.
  • Shorter is better. Email is a brief medium, and attention is short; so, videos of 30 seconds or fewer are better than longer format video. In the end, it is about asking the user to take an action; so, don’t attempt to tell the whole story in one video.
  • Aspirational, experience-based videos tend to do better than how-to’s or overly promotional messages. This is particularly true for luxury brands, travel and hospitality brands, and considered purchases like cars. If you’re bringing video to the table, users tend to respond best when it’s about the richness of the experience, not closing the sale.

The inbox is a busy, cluttered space. With the barrier to delivering video in email lowered, why not take a moment and make it a better experience for your audience?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Email Marketing Column | Video


About The Author: is a Creative Director with Responsys — a technology company with a focus on cross-channel digital direct marketing solutions. Over the last seven years she has created campaign for leading brands, which have been recognized industry wide for their high creative standards and campaign performance.

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  • justinfoster

    Great article, Lynn. I would clarify that, at least for us, auto-play is an option. This is because it’s possible to auto-play with the video muted. This negates the jarring impact of auto-play with audio on.

  • Remy Bergsma

    What’s missing in this post (which is very good on best practices btw) is common sense. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Video in email should not be a gimmick or a fashion item, like stuffing emails with social sharing buttons.

    The video should really add something to the email, really be of value to the receiver. If not, then leave it out and make a screenshot with link to the video in case people -do- want to view it. It makes it less pushy.

  • steve

    In the past we’ve always embedded a thumbnail image that links to a youtube video. The ability to stream direct from the email client will be nice!

  • Kaushiki Chatterjee

    Quite a constructive and helpful suggestions to follow.What type of professional as well as attractive look can be given to the landing page of the video in an email?Such that it does not creates a funny appearance yet attracts the viewer to open.

  • Jon @ Vidyard

    Hey Lynn,

    Jon from Vidyard here – great post! Apologies for coming to this discussion late in the game.

    We’ve been experimenting with video in our emails as well – I’ve used a splash screen linking to a static landing page with quite a bit of success, but Vidyard has an HTML5 embed code that should work in most clients that allow HTML5.

    Would love to chat more on this if you have experimented further with video in your email!

    - Jon


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