Video in Email: Options and Ideas

March 9th, 2010 | By Adam Holden-Bache | No Comments

Video now has the ability to play a significant role in your email marketing, and more marketers are taking note. According to a study by Implix, 64% of marketers plan to use video email marketing in 2010, which is up from 12% last year.  And there’s good reason why: statistics show that video engages recipients and can lead to click-through rates two to three times higher than those without video.

How to approach video in your email can be a big decision. You have three options:
1. Embed the video in the email message
2. Display a video thumbnail image that links to the video on a web page
3. Fake it using an animated GIF

Option 1: Embedding Video in Your Email
Embedding video will work only for a select audience, so knowing your recipients’ email clients or ISPs/domains will be necessary to pull this off successfully. Be aware that the object embed code may have negative consequences if you deliver it to certain email clients or ISPs. It may get stripped out, or it may increase your chances of getting blocked or moved to the spam folder.  The other problem here is that users who can’t see HTML versions (mobile and text recipients) are pretty much out of luck as there’s no way for them to access the content.

Where embedded video can work:
1. Apple Mail, MobileMe, iPhone and iPad support Flash embedded video. And note that the iPhone and iPad support video in email as well. (iPhone shows an image that links to video played in iPhone’s Quicktime player. iPad has also said that its email will be video-enabled. Read more about the iPad and Email).

2. You can embed YouTube video in emails going to Gmail recipients. All you have to do is include the YouTube URL. Gmail recipients will be able to see the preview and play it (it’ll appear below the message in a special bar). Non Gmail recipients will just see the link.

3. You can use Goodmail CertifiedVideo, which can help you send embedded video to AOL users.

So knowing your audience is key. If you have a majority of recipients on a certain client, then you may be able to pull this off. You can also segment by domain (i.e., send a different email to Gmail users than you do to others) to deliver an optimized experience. If you want to find out which email clients your recipients use, check out Fingerprint.

Option 2: Thumbnail Image Link to Web Video
Linking to the video is the most popular approach and will be easiest to develop and execute.  But the biggest benefit is that it will guarantee a similar experience for all recipients. As an added bonus, it’ll drive traffic to your web site or YouTube channel, which can lead to additional opportunities. And because you’re linking out, it also works well for mobile and text version recipients.

Option 3: Animated GIF “Video”
For a video-like experience, you can turn to animated GIFs. When produced correctly, they play a series of images that appear to be similar to video. While the lack of audio option may be a dealbreaker in some cases, animated GIFs can work effectively for product displays or quick demonstrations.

The drawbacks of animated GIF’s are:
1. They don’t work in the one of the more popular email clients, Outlook 07, where only the first frame of the GIF displays.
2. It’s a potential bandwidth hog, which could affect your server and recipient playback.
3. It may take a while to load, so the recipient may see a static frame or jerky animation until the GIF has downloaded completely.

Video Ideas for Your Campaigns
Need some ideas on how to use video in your email campaigns?  The most popular uses are:

    • Educational/ training courses or “how-to” videos
    • Product/service demonstrations
    • Product views/video of products in action
    • Customer testimonials
    • Highlights from events
    • News and announcements

Video in HTML 5
Another thing to consider is that HTML5 could eventually change the game here entirely.  In HTML 5 you can use the <video> tag and a linkable fall-back image, so users see either video in their email or an image that links to the video.  This process for embedded video already works in Apple Mail and Entourage 2008, and the fall-back image displays and links in several other popular clients including Outlook, Lotus Notes, Thunderbird and Hotmail. In the future this could become the best option for video in email delivery, so keep it in mind as you review your options. Read more about HTML5 and Video in Email.

Our Results with Video Thumbnail Images in Emails
At Email Transmit, we’ve been adding thumbnail videos to quite a few campaigns for our clients. See examples for NBC Universal’s newsletter and for The Wharton School’s Campaign for Wharton and Annual Report campaigns.  And while we can’t disclose exact results, we can say that the video links are receiving the most clicks of any content in the email. Due to these positive results, we plan on doing even more with video in email in the future.

Do you plan on using video in email this year?  Are you already using it?  Let us know how it’s working for you and if it’s helping you achieve your marketing objectives.

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