Video In Email, Take Three

If you ask the email marketing industry’s founding fathers about video in email, they’ll hark back to a time in the late ‘90s when sending email with embedded video was no problem. There may not have been too many marketers producing video at the time, but if they did, and wanted to deliver it via email, they had nothing to worry about.

By the early 2000s, everything had changed. The rapid rise of email-borne security threats like spam, phishing, and malicious code got ISPs nervous about allowing images to be displayed in email -- let alone more complex content like video. And so, for almost a decade, email was resigned to static images, even as video on the Web was exploding with the advent of popular services like Hulu.com and YouTube.

Fast-forward to 2009, when a startup called Goodmail Systems attempted to resurrect video in email with the launch of “CertifiedVideo.”  The product enabled full motion picture in the inbox, but ISPs were slow to adopt the technology. And without widespread ISP implementation, there wasn’t much incentive for marketers to get on board, either. It was a classic chicken and egg situation, and neither side knew who was supposed to be the chicken (or the egg?).

Over the last year, we have seen video in email make a comeback in a major way, with brands like Sony, Foot Locker  (all clients) and many others producing elegant examples. What’s making today’s video-emails possible? The answer is HTML5, and the massive popularity of the email clients that support it.

HTML5 is a programming language that makes it possible to publish secure multimedia content on the Web without relying on plug-ins like Flash and QuickTime. Because it’s a wide open standard, its uptake has occurred rapidly throughout the Internet ecosystem -- including within some of the most popular email clients -- and it’s a safe bet to say that HTML5, and video-in-email, are here to stay.

Producing digital video has become easier and less expensive, and marketers continue to adopt it enmasse. This great infographic published by Invodo highlights the estimate that one-third of online ad spending in 2013 will be focused on video, and that 76% of marketers plan to add videos to their websites. What’s more, shoppers who view video are 174% more likely to make purchases than those who do not, and are half as likely to return a product. The question shouldn’t be, why use video in email -- but why not?

Best practices for using video in email

If you have digital video content, weaving it into your email campaigns is at least worth testing, and more often than not should be strategically incorporated throughout your lifecycle email campaigns. Here are a few best practices to get you started:

  • Know your list. Understand the makeup of your list to find out how many of your recipients will be able to view video in their inboxes. This chart shows which email clients and platforms offer which level of support for video in email. Most B-to-C marketers will find that the majority of their recipients will be able to view video directly within their inboxes. Unfortunately, for the time being, B-to-B marketers with Outlook-heavy lists won’t be able to take as much advantage of the tactic.
  • Display optimal video formats. New technologies make it possible to auto-detect recipient email client video-support capabilities and show the optimal video format based on those capabilities: for example, full video, animated gifs which closely resemble video, or static images with play buttons that take recipients to video landing pages.
  • Test and optimize. Maximize your investment in video-in-email campaigns by testing and targeting in real time. Video in email content can be time-targeted, geo-targeted, and even weather-targeted for maximum impact

Video in email finally works, is powerful, and is here to stay. With the right content and technology, video can tell your story in a way that images alone cannot, and be a game-changer that drives deeper engagement, higher click-through rates, and ultimately more sales.

Tags: email, video
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6 comments about "Video In Email, Take Three".
  1. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive , March 21, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
    Jordan, Nice post. I know that the email industry is ready to send video in email, but do we think that subscribers are ready to see it? Have they not been programmed to see an image and click on know knowing full well that they are going to be taken to a site to view it. Video in email is uber cool, but it is or should it be a part of long term strategy for organizations who are still struggling with this whole relevancy thing everyone keeps talking about? Andrew
  2. Dan Greenberg from Impossible Software, GmbH , March 21, 2013 at 9:39 p.m.
    In the email world, everything in the email can be customized... text, pictures, etc.... to strive for the greatest effect for targeted segments. Why shouldn't video content also be personalized? Because rendering thousands or millions of individualized videos is impossible. And that's how we got our name. Want those HTML5 video emails to have unique video content every time? We already make it possible.
  3. Lisa Miniter from Consultant , March 21, 2013 at 10:23 p.m.
    There's also the SundaySky video platform..they work with AT&T, HomeDepot, type brands, and apparently are quite efficient and reliable, via automated "turnkey" platform of video producing solutoins that scale with email databases, likley mobile too....they don't yet sell ad space/sponsors within these videos...likely NEXT!
  4. Jordan Cohen from Movable Ink , March 22, 2013 at 2:40 p.m.
    @andrew - Thanks for leaving a comment. Per the questions you've raised: 1) "haven't consumers have been programmed to click on an image of a video and go to a website?"-->my answer is, does that mean they cannot be trained to do something even simpler, i.e., just watch the video in the email itself? Just because TV viewers originally had to get off the couch and turn a dial to change the channel didn't mean they weren't ready (and wanting) to use a remote control, right? In general, I'd say eliminating additional clicks is pro-consumer, and better for the marketer too. Re: q 2) "Video in email is uber cool, but it is or should it be a part of long term strategy for organizations who are still struggling with this whole relevancy thing everyone keeps talking about? " - I'd say that using video-in-email and striving to be relevant are not mutually exclusive. You don't have to sacrifice one for the other. Smart marketers are finding ways to make it work. And I'm seeing SMBs use video in clever ways as well, not just the F500 types that my company works with.
  5. Denise Aday from Denise Aday , March 26, 2013 at 4:48 p.m.
    Unfortunately you lost me by exclusion in the first line: "...email marketing industry’s founding fathers...."
  6. Justin Foster from Liveclicker , March 26, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
    Nice article, Jordan! I would echo Jordan's comment re: training of consumers, but tip my hat to Andrew as well re: questioning whether video in email needs to be a part of a long-term strategy - it's a wholly valid question. To me, video in email is not an end-all-be-all kind of solution, but it does offer some key advantages compared to linking out. For example, travel brands and automotive manufacturers (and dealers) can provide a differentiated and compelling experience in the message - important for experience-based products. For media firms and marketers, video in email increments the number of people that actually view the video since it reduces the number of clicks/taps required to play. Case in point: if you're not embedding video in email and you're using a mobile device, you have to tap once on the image in the email, wait for the redirect, load the browser, and then tap again to play. With video in email, only a single tap is required. Retailers using video in email "hook" the shopper earlier and have more opportunity to sell the value of their product(s). Video in email still faces some considerable hurdles, such as lack of support in Outlook 2010/2007. However, these risks can be largely mitigated with the assistance of technology like what MovableInk provides or our own company's VideoEmail.com solution (formerly known as Video Email Express). SundaySky offers an excellent solution for personalizing video. The last time I checked, it did not work in email, but on landing pages only. That may have changed, though. I haven't checked in for about a year. Dan, I'll check out your service. Sounds interesting.