May 16, 2018

Technical Tips for Using Video and Email Together

Robin Panish

Marketing

So, you’re using video and email together—that's great! You already know all the benefits of using video throughout your email campaigns, like how using a video thumbnail can increase your click-through rate and help your sales team close more deals, but have you ever thought about the technical side of things?

Are there any risks to using video in email? As the email marketing manager here at Wistia, I'm here to fill you in on all of the need-to-know, nitty-gritty details of using video in email together the right way.

Be mindful of file size

When creating beautiful emails, there's always a risk that your file size will get too big, resulting in your email being clipped by the email service provider. For instance, Gmail might think your email is too long or potentially spam, so half of your message won't display or will end up loading slowly. And who wants that experience? To avoid this formatting faux paux, be sure to keep your email under 102kb.

And if you're using Wistia? We’ve got your back—our easy, pre-generated code has been trimmed down to be as light as possible so you can fit your video thumbnail into your message, problem-free. Wipe that sweat off your face!

Looking for some other tips on email size and load times? Our trusted friends at Litmus have you covered in this Q&A!

All devices are not created equally

Email coding is hard. That’s my opinion, and also a fact. Most of the styling available on the web isn't supported by email clients, and there are hundreds of clients around the world that have different standards. Not to mention, images can render differently depending on whether it's being viewed on a Mac or a PC. Sounds like a nightmare, right? It's for this exact reason that render testing is absolutely critical to sending out a successful email.

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Regardless of whether you’re using video in your email or not, you need to be testing your emails in a tool like Litmus or Email on Acid, and in real life. Digital renders are amazing, but if you have access to real devices, use them.

“Digital renders are amazing, but if you have access to real devices, use them.”

I always have my phone by my side to test how our responsive code is working (or not working). You may catch a strange issue in real life that you could've missed while clicking through 20 different preview links. The bottom line is, you're better safe than sorry, so test away!

You can't please everyone, let it go

From the graphic designer on their brand new 27-inch iMac in Apple Mail, to the financial advisor checking on a Samsung phone in the Gmail app, email knows no bounds.

That means your message won't always look great for everyone, on every platform, all the time. And that's OK! You'll drive yourself (and your developer) crazy trying to optimize for every email client and scenario. Instead, take a look at your database—determine what clients and devices most of your viewers are reading your emails on, and optimize your emails based on that. Are your target customers millennials with iPhones? You know where to focus your optimization efforts now. Easy peasy.

Email service providers like HubSpot, for example, will usually include a tool on their platform that can help you determine where most of your users view email. However, if you want to go old-school, you can export your contacts and then search by domain names. Keep in mind that this isn't an entirely reliable method, though, as you won’t get any you device info, but it’s a place to start. Are 70% of your customers reading your emails in Gmail and on desktop? Great! Optimize for both, and do the best you can for the remaining 30%.

The UX may be better, but your stats won’t be

Let me put it bluntly—inline video playback is awesome. It brings us one step closer to interactive email design, and allows the consumer to play your video directly in the confines of their email client; no need to click through to your site. The video is right there. Pure magic.

If that all sounds too good to be true, it's because it is. There are definitely some cons to inline playback, the first being driving traffic back to your website. If someone can get all of the information they need in your email, they may not ultimately click through, which is one of the primary goals of a typical email campaign.

And while you could argue that this is a better experience for the customer, using inline videos may cause your site metrics to drop. Second, when you share your video inline, you aren't able to generate any video stats from your content. All that data you know and love from Wistia like play rates, average engagement, heatmaps, etc? Poof! Gone. If you’re a data junkie, you may want to steer clear of this functionality.

Ch-ch-changes—keep your eye out for OS updates

We live in a world of ever-changing technology. When it comes to the speed of your internet or your car’s ability to drive itself, advancements can seem pretty cool on the surface. But when it comes to email, these changes can have massive implications, so keep your eyes and ears out.

For advanced features like video backgrounds, inline playback, and interactivity, you have to be ready to adapt. Operating systems can change monthly, or even daily, and at any given time Apple may decide they no longer want to support CSS animations (which power animated backgrounds). Stay in the know to get ahead of these changes, and always code fallback logic to help your emails look their very best.

“Stay in the know to get ahead of these changes, and always code fallback logic to help your emails look their very best.”

Use your powers wisely

When using video and email together, it's important to consider your overall marketing goals, the technical limitations you may encounter, and the overall user experience. Email can help you get more eyes on your fresh video content, and the promise of video can help entice folks to open your email or even click through to your blog post.

When executed properly using video and email together is a beautiful thing! Just make sure your use is strategic and intentional, and above all else, keep these technical tips in mind before the next time you hit send!

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