The Use of Video In Retail Emails: Part 2

In last week's column I talked about all the uses retailers have found for videos in their emails -- everything from commercials and product demonstrations to trade show and fashion show coverage. This week I'm going to talk about how retailers integrate video links into their email messages.

But before I do that, I wanted to let everyone know that the Email Experience Council is hosting a special Email Insider Summit Whitepaper Room. The really exciting part is that we are soliciting for case studies, whitepapers and best practices from anyone (yes, anyone) that support or extend the conversation about any of the current sessions at the Email Insider Summit. Please email your whitepapers to us at by May 1, and we'll make them available via our Whitepaper Room, giving all attendees one place to access supporting materials. I hope to see everyone at the Summit.



Okay, back to video. What I found is that there's a wide spectrum of sophistication in the way retailers integrate video links into their emails.

At one end of the spectrum, some retailers are still thinking of video as the message of an email. Neiman Marcus provides a good example of this thinking. An Oct. 3 email promoting the debut of the company's Christmas Book included an image of large video player that said, "Click to watch the magic unfold." There were no other images or links that supported the image of the video player.

Neiman Marcus made some small improvements in a Feb. 14 email, which also featured a picture of a video player. However, the central image, which was touting the "next big things for spring," was also supported by six smaller pictures illustrating some of the trends Neiman Marcus was promoting. That said, those six images didn't link to any products or product assortments and weren't supported by any text or text links.

Using video in this way hurts your email campaign because it requires an additional step for subscribers to receive the message. Not only do they have to open the email, but they have to click on the video link. And then they have to watch at least some, if not all, of the video. It can be a lot to ask. For some subscribers, it will definitely be too much to ask.

The solution is to make sure that online videos support your email message, rather than having them be the message. Gap, Polo and Old Navy are among those companies already doing this. A March 13 Gap email about khaki clothes includes a link to TV and print ads "for more ways to wear khaki." Next to the link there's a small image from one of the company's TV ads that's flanked by curtains, like it's a movie screen. I think using a video player console is a stronger call to action, but this still gets the message across.

In a Feb. 10 email with the subject line "Straight from the Runway in New York," Polo shows off its fall 2007 collection. The email includes images of three models on the catwalk at Polo's show during Fashion Week in New York and has links to its "exclusive" fashion show video. But Polo also gives consumers the option of viewing its look book instead.

And a March 5 Old Navy email with the subject line "As Seen on TV, Fresh Spring Dresses Are Here!" includes an "As Seen on TV" link beneath four models wearing baby doll dresses. That link is not huge, but the subject line puts the wording in the reader's head so that she's more likely to notice it. But more important, this email message would have been totally effective without the video link. That link just further supports the message of the email.

So I'm not accused of picking on Neiman Marcus, I want to point out a Feb. 5 email where the company used video in a strong supporting role. The email features as its main image a model wearing a dress by Diane von Furstenberg, but beside it is a video console image of the designer with the message, "Can't get enough of Diane von Furstenberg? Watch the designer discuss her new collection." Clicking on the video console launches the interview, but clicking on the model takes you to a landing page that features the ladybug dress the model is wearing and includes links to the rest of the designer's collection.

Video is a powerful addition to email marketers' arsenal, but it doesn't revolutionize the email medium. It doesn't change the fundamental need for strong text and images.

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