Video in Email: Stand Out in the Inbox
In our previous post, we discussed background image support in email clients. It is only logical to ask: how about adding video?
For a long time, video and email didn’t really mix. However, things have been changing, and the driving force behind it is the ever-increasing demand for video content coupled with solid results in video as a marketing tool. Here are a few interesting facts:
- By 2019, video traffic is projected to account for 80% of all consumer Internet traffic.
- 59% of executives agree that if the same topic is covered in both text and video, they are more likely to choose the latter format.
- 51% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the highest ROI.
In other words, video is here to stay, to say the least. Unsurprisingly, marketers have a renewed interest in experimenting with video in email, too. Let’s take a look at the available options and popular workarounds.
Embedding Video in Emails
In comparison with background images, video content support is still in the early stages. In general, yes, you can embed videos in newsletters – but whether they will be played is another matter altogether. It all depends on whether or not a user’s email client, for example, Gmail or Outlook, can support the more recent video format, HTML5.
If HTML5 is supported, the video will play within the email itself. Otherwise, subscribers will see a so-called fallback image, which is a regular image that looks like a video. When clicked on, it will direct subscribers to another website where the video can be played.
The current landscape of video support in emails looks like this:
It is obvious that HTML5 video support is an exception rather than a norm. Does that mean you should forget the whole idea? Not at all. If video works well for your audience, you may reap great results by including it in your emails. You may need to broaden your definition of video, though.
Adding Video to Emails (Sort of)
Instead of inserting a video into an email directly, you can try a few alternative solutions that are a lot more compatible with different email clients.
#1 Creating an Image Disguised as Video
First, you can you can create an image that looks like a video file, down to a play button (easy to do with elementary design skills). When the image is clicked, it takes subscribers to YouTube to watch the actual video. In the example below, we’ve created the “video” for our own email solution, JungleMail.
True, this approach does not have the WOW factor of the video playing straight in the email. But the good news is that you will not have to worry about compatibility issues mentioned above. Oh, and you can also set the actual video to autoplay so that it starts rolling instantly whenever the page is opened.
A similar method is to add a link with a video thumbnail, clicking on which will direct the user to the video page. In JungleMail for Office 365, the thumbnail can be specified manually or auto-generated.
#2 Animated GIFs
Another way to (kind-of) add videos to email is using GIFs. Again, this is not the type of video you typically think of, but, for many marketers, GIFs belong to video marketing.
An animated GIF is a picture that has a few slightly different frames playing in the loop to add a sense of movement to it. Usually, the movement takes no longer than a couple of seconds and then repeats. Here’s a great example by Brit+Co:
A couple of things to have in mind before using GIFs in the email:
- Not every email client supports animated GIFs. Although the overall support is wide, there are a few exceptions, most notably Outlook 2007-2013 that will only show the first frame. To prevent surprises, ensure that key information – say, a pitch or a call-to-action – is included in the first frame of the GIF.
- Used occasionally, GIFs can surprise and delight subscribers. However, if you overdose on them, the same people may get tired of them, and your engagement rates will drop.
If you want to use GIFs but don’t know how to create one, there are plenty of online tools around. There are GIF.com and Giphy, just to name a few, and you don’t need any design skills to start.
Another cool way to add some action in your email is to create a cinemagraph. It may look a lot like a GIF but the difference is that in a cinemagraph, only a specific part of the image moves, while everything else is static. Here are some stunning examples from Cinemagraphs.com:
Just as with GIFs, there are online tools as well as mobile apps to create cinemagraphs. Still, for best results, you should use a software like Adobe Photoshop, and shoot a 10-second video. This will give you more than enough material to create your first cinemagraph.
- Use videos of any kind sparingly or the novelty will wear off.
- Watch the file size. If the file is too large, subscribers have to wait for the video to load – and most of them won’t.
- Pay attention to the first frame. There are a few email clients that don’t support GIFs or cinemagraphs, but they will show the first frame as a fallback image so make sure it’s a good one.
- Videos are certainly not right for every audience. Create A/B tests for video length, placement, embedded video vs. fallback image etc. You’ll also want to preview the email in different devices before you send it.