Making Your Emails Move: How To Use Video

Email marketers know that it isn’t easy getting the attention of customers in an already crowded inbox. You want to stand out without sacrificing your brand, but at the same time you need to deliver what your customers want, when they want it.

Video has been shown to boost CTR, but it’s not for everyone.  Ask yourself these questions:

-       Is the video relevant to your audience, message, and brand?

-       How long is your video? Keep it short so you don’t lose your audience before they have gotten the key message.

-       Is there a strong call to action in the video?

-       Have you done extensive testing on including video in your email?



-       Did you include the word “video” in subject line? Create clear expectations with your subscribers.

Once you have the answers to those questions and determined that video is a good option, it’s time to decide how you want your video represented in your email. I have broken down the pros and cons of four delivery methods.

1)   Screen shot. Take a screenshot of a frame in your video; add a “play” button to it, and voilà! The universal symbol for a video.

Pros: It’s fairly easy to do, and your customers will know exactly what to do with the image -- click on it and it will open in a new window and start playing.

Cons: There’s nothing moving in your email to really grab the reader’s attention, so you will need to make sure you draw attention to the area with copy and graphics.

2)   Animated .gif. This is an option if your video is short or you can take a few seconds of a longer video and make it into an animated .gif.

Pros: Your customers will see the animation as soon as they open your email, and it will grab their attention. This should encourage them to click through to see the entire video.

Cons: The animated .gif can’t be long.

3)   HTML5. If you know how to code HTML, you can use the <video> tag in your email, which will insert the video and also ensure that if it won’t play directly in the email (due to the browser or device), a static image or animated .gif video will be displayed.

Pros: Your video will play in your email, and your customers can view it all in their email client.

Cons: If you don’t know HTML, then this isn’t an option for you. Also, you have to create a backup image -- either an animated .gif or a screenshot of your video. Don’t forget the extensive testing; you need to make sure it works across all browsers and email clients. Finally, some ESPs will strip the <video> tag from your HTML.

4. Third party.  There are third parties out there that work with most, if not all, ESP software companies. They generate a code for you to use in the body of your email that will play the video when a customer opens it. The code generated is HTML5 code, but these third parties have done all the testing to ensure that the majority of browsers and email clients will show your video, and, more than likely, these companies will also create the backup images needed.

Pros: Your entire video can be included in the email for your customers to see without having to click anywhere.

Cons: Your users don’t have to go to your site to see the video. Isn’t the purpose of email to get more traffic to your website or blog? Also, this will incur an added cost. And, as with using HTML5, the <video> tag may be stripped by your ESP.

Have you seen video included in email in another way? Share with us below.

2 comments about "Making Your Emails Move: How To Use Video ".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, October 11, 2012 at 7:07 a.m.

    You might want to check this. I always understood that "email clients don’t allow you to embed video", which MailChimp's advice confirms:

  2. Monica Sims from iContact, October 17, 2012 at 2:23 p.m.

    @Pete -- you are correct, some email clients don't allow it, but not all. That is why I recommend extensive testing. Video is not something you just decide to do one day and it's executed. It needs to be well thought out, tested and retested, and you need to check with your email service provider to see which of the above ways they will support.

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