Video email has come a long way. In fact, thanks to HTML5, it’s now possible to have a video play directly in email on a variety of devices and apps (though it’s not universal yet). Like peanut butter and jelly, video and email are better together. Video boosts email click-through rates, adds an enticing interactive component to communication, and makes email feel like less of a chore for your audience. In this guide, we’ll show you why and how you should be using video and email together to accomplish your marketing goals.
Despite competition from emerging tech like rich-media SMS and professional chat apps like Slack, email continues to be a popular and effective means of communication. In fact, millennials spend more than six hours a day in their inboxes!
But as the volume of email being sent and received increases, readers will need more motivation to open your messages and scroll through your content. Using a video will help make your email stand out and pique the viewer’s interest.
Video can have a positive effect on email conversions. Some data suggests that including the word “video” in a subject line boosts open rates. Our own study told us that video thumbnails increase click-through rates up to 40%.
And while the word “video” may imply that consuming the content in your email will be less work for the recipient, it can also help make your email more engaging overall. By gathering clicks on your thumbnail, you’re able to direct readers to a landing page where there’s even more context, giving your viewers the opportunity to learn more about your product or dig deeper into your content.
When deciding how to incorporate video in email there are many factors to consider, including your goals for the email, technical limitations, and the overall user experience — just to name a few.
Start off your video email marketing campaign by asking a fundamental question: What’s the goal of your email?
We generally find ourselves discussing these two options:
- Option A: Encourage the reader to visit our site and read, watch, or do something.
- Option B: Encourage the reader to consume content and take action within the email.
In the past, the goal of most of our emails was to get people to leave their inboxes and consume content on our website, for multiple reasons. We wanted recipients to comment and start discussions. We wanted them to share a link with their friends. We wanted them to read another article, watch another Wistia video, and ultimately sign up for more content or our product, all while learning about video marketing. This used to be possible only by getting people to your website.
But now, many email marketing tools offer interactive forms and widgets within the body of the email, so don’t rule out option B if your ultimate goal is conversions.
Given that email is the primary vehicle we use to stay in contact with our audience, it’s proven to be the most effective way to get our videos in front of receptive eyes. Since 2011, we’ve been using this magical combination to cultivate a growing audience.
This is how we combine the superpowers of video and email to build Wistia’s audience:
- We compose an email that includes an attractive link to a video on our website.
- We send that email to a loyal audience base.
- An enthusiastic percentage of that audience shares or forwards our email.
- Through these shares, new viewers discover our content.
- If new users find our content useful, they sign up for our emails, too (fingers crossed).
- Our audience grows!
By harnessing the power of both email and video and using them hand in hand, we’re delighting our readers and made lots of new friends (er, readers). Of course, this tactic is also dependent on consistently delivering timely, helpful, and engaging content, but that’s a lesson for another time.
“If copy is the brains of your email, video is the personality. Users are far more likely to click a play button than they are to read a paragraph of text. That’s because humans are inherently lazy and would much rather be spoon fed an idea than have to read it themselves. So we’ll always include a video in an email where possible.”Ruairí Galavan, Content Marketing Manager, Intercom
With multiple opposing voices and new technology entering the discussion every day, it’s hard to stay on top of options and best practices regarding video and email. By now, many of you have probably seen a video or a GIF embedded directly into an email in your inbox. If you haven’t, that might be because your email client doesn’t play well with video. In these cases, the sender most likely set an image as the default option, or, worst case scenario, the email arrived at your door looking like HTML roadkill.
With the goal of expanding our audience and ultimately encouraging conversions, we have found certain email and video tactics are particularly effective:
- Let people know there’s a video (subject line, email text, play button on a thumbnail).
- For informational or brand emails (welcome messages, thank-you emails) have the video play directly in the email.
- Choose an enticing thumbnail from your video to include in your email (hint: friendly faces attract clicks).
- If you want viewers to take an action on your site, and video analytics are important to you, send people to a landing page after they click.
- Keep the number of calls to action limited.
- We’ve also found that a friendly play button atop an enticing image is a highly effective invitation, especially when the text in the email is direct and concise.
We imagine that most readers' inner dialogues go something like this: "Looks like there’s a new Wistia feature. Hmm. Do I have time? Wait. Is that guy going to do magic tricks?!" Click.
You can generate traffic to your website quickly and efficiently by including an appealing link in your email. Unlike a video playing within an email, a video playing on a company’s website is surrounded by complementary elements. Why settle for giving your audience a taste when you can provide them with total immersion in your brand?
Video embedded directly into email can be an effective method for engaging your audience — as long as most people can view it.
Embedded videos are immediately interesting to look at and make your emails look “alive” and personal. Take, for example, a video voicemail delivered to a customer’s inbox. There’s a friendly face delivering the message, without asking the reader to click around or read paragraphs of text.
An embedded video is also a fantastic branding tool; it shows off your creativity and knack for visual design and sets the stage for building a deeper customer relationship
If you’re thinking about giving email embedding a try, remember that HTML5 video is only supported by some email providers. Many email services and devices now support HTML5 video, but there are a few notable exceptions, including Gmail and Android devices. Take stock of your audience data to see what client most of your customers are using, and analyze whether it may be worth it for you. According to Email on Acid, video compatibility in 2019 looks something like this:
- Apple Mail: Plays video within email
- Outlook for Mac: Plays video within email
- Samsung Galaxy (mail app): Plays video within email
- iOS 10+ (mail app): Plays video within email
- Gmail on desktop, Android, and iOS devices: Shows a fallback image
- Outlook 2016 and earlier: Shows a fallback image
- All Android devices besides the Samsung Galaxy: Shows a fallback image
Note that many email clients show a fallback image when a video is embedded. To create an optimal user experience for everyone, it’s critical that your thumbnail image is able to stand on its own with the rest of the design for the email.
Soapbox is Wistia’s webcam and screen-recording tool, and it’s a game changer for using video and email together. With Soapbox, all you need to create a great video is our Chrome extension, a webcam, and something to say. Hit record, and then edit to share your webcam, your screen, or a split-screen view.
Since it’s so easy to record and edit a custom video in Soapbox, you can use video as a communication tool, keeping the conversation alive with product updates and walk-throughs that the recipient can watch wherever, whenever.
You don’t need to know how to code to share a Soapbox video in your email. All you have to do is copy the thumbnail link right into your email provider (or email marketing tool if you plan to send to several people).
Animated GIFs can be a great, accessible alternative to embedded video, if you’re looking to give your emails some extra spice without fretting over client compatibility.
The one thing to remember is that file size matters. GIFs won’t animate in an email until all of the frames are loaded, so larger file sizes can create a subpar experience. If you’re lucky, an oversized GIF might pause on the first frame. Conversely, it could appear completely blank. Since many (if not most) of your readers will open your emails on a mobile device, it’s best to limit your use of large GIFs. In their 2019 post on optimizing GIFs for email, Campaign Monitor recommends keeping files to around 1MB in size.
One of our favorite styles of GIF is the cinemagraph, which shows subtle movements through layering. In a cinemagraph, a mostly static image is animated by a looping video in one part of the frame. It’s entrancing to watch, leading people to linger over cinemagraphs longer than other images. In fact, cinemagraph-creation tool Flixel reports that cinemagraph advertisements generate 5.6x higher click-through rates than static images.
Airbnb has been known to use cinemagraphs in their emails — check out this adorable, bubble-filled example:
Since less than 10% of the frame is in motion, the GIF almost presents itself as a still shot with a delightful, bubbly surprise.
“We were amazed about the videos on our homepage and wanted to bring one into our emails. With the launch of the new homepage, it was the right time to do it. We did it to surprise and delight our travelers directly in their inboxes. An animated GIF was the easiest way to do it, we selected the sequence and then sliced it to the minimum frame to make it fit in our email.”Lucas Chevillard, Email Marketing Coordinator, Airbnb
Animated GIFs have been around for a while, but, like Krazy Straws, they haven’t lost their appeal. We’ve continuously experimented with sharing GIFs in email over the years — here’s one of our most recent examples:
For this particular email, our goal was to showcase what you could do with Adobe’s latest feature, Content-Aware Fill. And what better way to give viewers a glimpse into what our post will cover than to actually show them what they’ll end up learning how to do?
“Like Wistia, I’m a proponent of relying on GIFs to provide motion in email. While HTML video in email can be immensely powerful, it more often than not lacks in providing a net benefit over GIF-based approaches. Part of the reason is the lack of strong client support, but the stronger argument against the method, I think, is the cost incurred on mobile subscribers; for the biggest mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T, the days of unlimited data are long gone, having been replaced by restrictive, low-cap plans. Any way you slice it, video incurs a file size cost that’s higher than many GIFs. That means, when you send an email to your subscribers that includes HTML video, you can literally cost them money if they’re near or beyond their monthly cap. For simple motion, the use of CSS3 animation is the better option, particularly because of low file size impact and wider support than HTML video. For more complex motion, GIFs are still king in the world of email.”Fabio Carneiro, Lead Email Designer & UX Designer, MailChimp
When sharing GIFs in emails, the image quality isn’t exactly optimal, of course, there’s no sound. There are many factors that influence a reader’s decision to open an email, but we certainly don’t think trying something new like incorporating a GIF will hurt!
If you haven’t already gathered, we are really passionate about the relationship between email and video. That’s why we decided to give you some free templates to get you started. Whether you’re just starting to experiment with the dynamic duo of video and email, or you’re already grooving, we hope these templates will inspire and empower your efforts.
We designed and built each template from scratch, based on our experience to date. They’re set up so you can easily replace components with your content and make changes to fit your needs. They’ve been mobile optimized and put through Litmus’s testing tool to ensure cross-browser compatibility.
The future is looking bright for video and email. After all, two of the biggest trends in email right now are personalization and interactivity, and video fits the bill for both. Whether you choose to include full videos in the body of your email, animated GIFs, or colorful thumbnails, there are a number of techniques when it comes to video that can help make your emails more dynamic. When you incorporate video into your email strategy, you stand a better chance of becoming a source of inspiration and creativity for readers — not an unwanted interruption.
At the end of the day, your audience subscribed to your mailing for a reason; they like what you’re doing and what your company has to say. So, why not give people a reason to get excited about your content by featuring a video in your next email marketing campaign — we bet your audience will be eager to share it!