The Video Boom: Video Takes Over the Inbox

by Aug 4, 2009, 11:30 AM
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The rumors are true -- developments in video are exploding into the world of email marketing. It feels like we've been waiting for ages to use video (and deliver it safely into inboxes), and the time is finally here!

Video usage is expanding right now primarily due to three major factors: 1) people are spending more time watching videos online and are thus more receptive to video in email; 2) the expenses involved in creating and hosting video are falling; and 3) video is consistently showing that it increases engagement and relevance.

According to Mike Madaio, Chief Internet Architect at QVC, people who watch video tend to convert better. Assuming that this continues to be the case, we can count on seeing more and more video playing in our inboxes throughout the months (and years?!) to come.

Trends in video usage

With video rapidly becoming more prevalent and with capabilities constantly improving, it's too early to assert "rules" or all-encompassing best practices. For example, while videos have most often occupied the secondary messaging spot, we're seeing more cases of videos as the primary calls-to-action, such as in this Shop NBC video series.
 
In addition, while the ideal length for videos highlighted in emails is generally thought to be 30 to 45 seconds, the main call-to-action in this Apple  email links to a 30-minute video. Short and sweet still rules the email world, but Apple reminds us that the rules can be broken, and we're sure to see all kinds of variations as brands experiment with video.
 
The benefits and limitations of three primary methods of video delivery:

Static image. A static image simply features a still of one of the frames of the video, using strong visual cues (such as the ubiquitous sideways-triangle "play" symbol) to encourage subscribers to click through to Web-hosted video. This is the simplest, least expensive and most common method of including video in email. However, this method lacks eye-catching movement and requires the subscriber to click for video and audio. Smith-Harmon client REI  uses this method in some of its emails, as does Thrillist (this is a hosted screenshot, so the link won't work here, but you get the idea).

Embedded video gif. A video gif uses a compressed, streamed animated gif to deliver video-quality content. Liveclicker, a new video startup, is currently enabling this approach. Many brands, including Overstock.com   and Sears , have been using this technique, and it's an awesome way to allow subscribers to preview longer video and to see motion straight from their inboxes. Audio can't be enabled from within the email using this method, however, as email messages projecting sound might be an unwelcome surprise for many recipients, especially in the workplace.  

Embedded video. Actual embedded email (that's not blocked by ESPs) is the next step. Currently, Goodmail Systems is rolling out its CertifiedVideo service, which enables both audio and video. Using this method, the video and audio will start playing right when subscribers open their emails. This could increase engagement, but it could also increase irritation; there are bound to be some brands that take video and audio too far. High-quality, engaging videos could draw subscribers in and give them a reason to look forward to certain marketing emails, but if subscribers deem a brand's emails "annoying" or worry about the disruption of audio, they may be pushed to unsubscribe or decrease their open rates.  


To dive deeper into methods of video delivery, check out Eli Ashery's great post  from last month. Watch for more on this topic next time. We'll give you the scoop on types of email content that make sense in video and show how top brands are leveraging video in cool ways.

0 comments on "The Video Boom: Video Takes Over the Inbox".

  1. Justin Foster from Liveclicker
    commented on: August 4, 2009 at 1:05 p.m.

    Hi, great article guys! A couple of things I wanted to add. First, just a small point of clarification re: embedded video. The Goodmail AUP actually does not allow video to auto-play in email, so there wouldn't be the issue regarding audio playing right away in the email that's mentioned above. The main limitation of that solution is really lack of ISP coverage - currently it's only possible to show video at AOL. Goodmail does say it will be adding more coverage soon. Second point, on the video .GIFs, I'm really making a concerted effort to call these 'video' .GIFs instead of 'animated' .GIFs and am so glad to see you're calling them video .GIFs as well! It's worth mentioning that while the .GIF technology is the underlying technology for both video .GIFs and animated .GIFs, there's a lot going on with the video .GIFs to make them work in various email clients - stuff that really doesn't apply to traditional animated .GIFs. Different email clients, for example, support different video playback frame rates, and it's possible to employ certain video compression techniques with certain mail clients, but not others. It might sound like arcane trivia for most email marketers, but this is actually incredibly important. Delivering video in email, regardless of the delivery mechanism, can consume a lot of bandwidth. Having the back-end buttoned up ensures the smoothest possible video delivery and the highest quality subscriber experiences. This is also why it's important to auto-detect the subscriber's mail client in order to deliver the best output when implementing video .GIFs.

    Great article!!

  2. Keith Treco from Goodmail Systems
    commented on: August 4, 2009 at 2:20 p.m.

    Excellent article - can't wait to see a best practices follow up as more brands add video to their email repertoire.

    Just some clarification - Goodmail's offering has audio turned "off" by default - so this addresses the "annoyance" issue. Sound can easily be turned "on" once the email is launched.

    One of the benefits of Goodmail's Certified Video offering is that it capitalizes on Goodmail's ISP relationships to assure inbox delivery. Video in email has always been risky due to deliverability issues - Goodmail's solution is the only solution available that can assure inbox delivery. You can even view the video running in the preview pane - pretty cool!

  3. Andrea Mocchi from National Instruments
    commented on: August 4, 2009 at 4:33 p.m.

    Great article!

    Could I leave my impressions? Well, I'd needed to embedd videos into a couple of emails, and I preferred to use a static image. So the email receivers had to click on the pic to see the video on the web. My first concern was about email clients: I don't think that Outlook or Lotus Notes (popular in the "work environment") support video in inbox. So, rather than miss an important call to action, I prefer to drive people on the web, giving only a preview. First of all, because browsers are better "equipped" to playback videos. Then, because I think that email must "drive" people: if I am able to drive people at the very beginning, they will be already in the environment where do their next step (see additional resources, see products, buy..).

    Am I quite right?

  4. Justin Foster from Liveclicker
    commented on: August 4, 2009 at 10:36 p.m.

    Hi Andrea, you are somewhat correct. It is possible to display video in most mail clients, using the video .GIF method. Lotus Notes 6, 7, and 8 will all display video, however there are some encoding techniques that must be taken into consideration to display the video properly in Notes. Outlook 2007 and Apple Mail 3.0 will not display video in email, even using the video .GIF method. For Outlook 2K7, the best practice is to ensure that the first 'frame' of the video looks acceptable in Outlook 2K7. For example, layering on a call-to-action, such as "more" can be used to achieve the same effect as a static image, while still enabling video for the rest of the mail clients (Gmail, Windows Live Mail, Outlook 2K3, 2K, Yahoo Beta/Classic, AOL/.com) etc. The folks over at Fingerprint did a great study last year on the most popular mail clients for B2B and B2C audiences. The results might surprise you: http://fingerprintapp.com/email-client-stats. I would always recommend conducting a snapshot of your own list, using a technology like Fingerprint or others, in order for you to determine approximately what percentage of your audience will be able to accept video. For B2C audiences, we find it's commonly in the 75% - 90% range, and for B2B audiences, somewhat lower (since Outlook 2K7 is such a popular B2B client). Hope this helps!

  5. Ray Rheault from EyeMail Canada
    commented on: August 17, 2009 at 5:18 p.m.

    I think it's important to add here that embedded video in the inbox is absolutely possible. Recently I had the good fortune of becoming the Marketing Director for a company that actually delivers this service. Up until now I didn't think it was possible either, but the technology to shrink a 30 sec High Quality Video or Audio into a 4 - 15K email that contains no attachments, requires no downloads, and opens in almost any email platform (gmail, hotmail, yahoo, outlook, etc) now exists. It's exciting and, as time goes by and this becomes as common as Youtube, it will open up incredible opportunities for Email Campaigners.

  6. john ashleys
    commented on: September 9, 2009 at 5:23 p.m.

    It feels like we've been waiting for ages to use video (and deliver it safely into inboxes), and the time is finally here! Video usage is expanding right now primarily due to three major factors: 1) people are spending more time watching videos online and are thus more receptive to video in email; 2) the expenses involved in creating and hosting video are falling; and 3) video is consistently showing that it increases engagement and relevance.
    [url=http://video.yahoo.com/watch/5928001/15429059]watch movies[/url]

  7. john ashleys
    commented on: September 9, 2009 at 5:25 p.m.

    It feels like we've been waiting for ages to use video (and deliver it safely into inboxes), and the time is finally here! Video usage is expanding right now primarily due to three major factors: 1) people are spending more time watching videos online and are thus more receptive to video in email; 2) the expenses involved in creating and hosting video are falling; and 3) video is consistently showing that it increases engagement and relevance.

    <a href="http://video.yahoo.com/watch/5928001/15429059">watch movies</a>

  8. john ashleys
    commented on: September 9, 2009 at 5:25 p.m.

    It feels like we've been waiting for ages to use video (and deliver it safely into inboxes), and the time is finally here! Video usage is expanding right now primarily due to three major factors: 1) people are spending more time watching videos online and are thus more receptive to video in email; 2) the expenses involved in creating and hosting video are falling; and 3) video is consistently showing that it increases engagement and relevance.
    http://video.yahoo.com/watch/5928001/15429059 watch movies

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