The Use of Video in Retail Emails: Part 1

Google’s acquisition of YouTube for $1.65 billion last year should have been a wake-up call to all marketers that online videos are ready for prime time. Many retailers wisely took note and have been increasing their use of online videos, integrating them into their email marketing campaigns.

At least 18% of major online retailers tracked via RetailEmail.Blogspot have incorporated video into at least one email over the past six months or so. And I suspect that number will grow rapidly, and that frequency of use will increase as well.

Despite the relative newness of online video, retailers are finding a range of uses for the new tool -- from the fairly obvious to the considerably less so.

Commercials.It’s not surprising that retailers are looking to get some extra bang from all the bucks they spend producing TV commercials by releasing them online and incorporating them into their emails. For example, HP included a banner with a link to its Super Bowl ad in a Feb. 5 HPshopping email.



Retailers should also think of online video as the DVD of commercials, giving them the ability to include extended versions of commercials and other materials. Bluefly has done that with its two latest commercials, providing both 30- and 90-second versions of “The Catch,” which the company highlighted in a March 16 email; and 30- and 83-second versions of “We’re Going to Be Late,” which was highlighted in a Sept. 19 email. In both cases, the emails linked to for the videos; also in both cases, the extended versions would not get the approval of the prudish Federal Communications Commission.

TV.For those retailers with TV programs, online video is providing a longer lifespan for their footage. For instance, HSN now has a link in all of its emails to its Weekly Product Review, which allows you to watch nearly any hour of programming that has aired in the past week.

Of course, online video is on its way toward an eventual showdown with traditional TV as well, providing marketers with video distribution on the cheap. has been one of the retailers to take advantage of this new paradigm, launching BuyTV a few years ago and regularly linking to its video content in emails.

Fashion shows.For apparel retailers, particularly high-end ones, fashion shows are finding their way to newsletter subscribers via video links. For instance, Banana Republic, in a Feb. 13 email with the subject line “New Spring work styles + view the Spring fashion show...,” provided a link to its men and women’s spring fashion shows from Fashion Week in New York. Fashion shows certainly bring a lot of excitement and dynamism to clothing that is otherwise seen as a flat image on a Web page.

Trade events.Just as with fashion shows, which few people get to go to, providing video interviews from trade shows can make subscribers feel like they’ve snuck into an exclusive club., in an April 12 email, does this, providing a link to interviews about cupcake products from the 2007 Home & Housewares Show in Chicago. Likewise, provided a video link to product review and demonstrations from LAN 2007, which hosted, in an April 10 email.

Sponsored events. Videos from other sponsored events are also finding an online outlet. For instance, American Eagle Outfitters linked to in a March 15 email. The site has video clips, photos and a blog that covered the company’s spring break parties and concerts in Cancun and Acapulco.

The making of.To help explain the benefits, history and development of products, some retailers are including links to videos that explain all of these things. For example, REI, in a March 23 email, introduces its redesigned backpacks and features a link to a video with one of the designers on the project. In a similar vein, in a Feb. 13 email, Barnes & Noble includes a link to a video interview with Chris Bohjalian, the author of The Double Bind, which the email was promoting. To promote its search for models, Abercrombie & Fitch included in a Nov. 9 email a link to behind-the-scenes footage of its Christmas 2006 catalog shoot, with the subject line “Go behind the scenes with Abercrombie's sexy New Faces.”

Product demonstration.Retailers are also using video to demonstrate product uses. For instance, in a March 30 email, Northern Tool included a banner promoting the Gutster Series 2 Demolition Bar that linked to a video demonstrating its use.

Of course, many of these ideas are relevant to other industries as well. If you’re not using online video currently, hopefully what these retailers are doing will spark some ideas and inspire you to action.

Next week I’ll talk about how retailers are integrating video links into their emails. Stay tuned…

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