Embed video or link video in email? It’s not the obvious answer

Insert video or link? Video email exampleYou can embed video in email marketing. But just because you can does it mean you should?

For a long time the possibility of playing video directly within an email had such limited support it wasn’t an option worth considering. The classic approach has become to include a still image of the video and a play button, which when clicked takes you to a landing page. The video doesn’t play inside the email.

Smartphones and in particular iOS supports video within the native email client using standard HTML5. This plus the fact that 50% of all marketing emails are read on mobile devices means the question of whether to use embedded video or just link to video from the email is once again relevant to ask.

So should you bother to embed?

Simple animation using GIFs, including showing a few video frames or using a cinemagraph has been successfully used in emails to increase customer engagement. Such as this 109% uplift by Dell using gif animation to show off a product feature.

Since full video is the logical extension of animated GIFs embedding video in email marketing and making it playable is a no-brainer. Right? Customers open up the email and get treated to seeing a video play.

My good friends at Email on Acid have tested use of the HTML5 video autoplay attribute and no email clients support it. Shame. That means that unlike animated GIFs, a video can’t be set to automatically play when an email is opened.

So to get a video to play from within an email needs a click. The killer question is what happens once the customer has watched the video? You need another click since you still have to get the customer to your landing page. That means getting two clicks from the customer.

Putting a strong call to action at the end of an embedded video to help get the second click won’t do it. Analysis of the stats published by Ken Magill shows that only 25% of viewers watch to the end of embed video. So 75% of customer won’t see a call to action at the end.

Email is just a stepping stone to take a customer to a landing page where the journey can continue with deeper engagement, whether that’s a download, getting a quote, exploring products and solutions, filling in a form or making a purchase. None of this can happen in an email. You have to get the click through.

Putting extra clicks in the way of a customer decreases conversion. Amazon created 1-Click because they found this out years ago.

Embedding a video in email means two clicks are needed to the landing page. One to watch the video and one to click through to the landing page.

Using the classic static image with linked video approach and auto-playing the video on the landing page means just one click is needed to the landing page.

Embedded video could make sense if the rest of your email is heavily personalized with dynamic content used to target content precisely. Getting the click through too early to the landing page would mean dumping the customer into generic content rather than keeping them reading in the email where the message has been tailor made.

For the majority the best solution is to stick to a classic static image and linked video with auto-play on the landing page.

To help get the one click through to play follow these tips:

  • Pick an engaging frame from the video to show as the static image. That may not be the first frame.
  • Overlay a play button on the frame image. YouTube have trained everyone to know exactly what the button means and does.
  • Make sure the video content supports the overall message in the email. A video off topic won’t help your marketing objective.
  • In the email copy explain in a couple of lines the value of watching the video, give people a reason to play.
  • Make sure you auto-play the video on the landing page for traffic arriving from email. After all if they clicked through they wanted to watch it. Services such as Wistia make this easy to do.

Video email marketing exampleMore advanced still, use a hybrid approach. In the email use an animated GIF rather than static single video frame image, but still showing a play button. The animation can be of a few selected video frames, as in the example show from French Connection, or a few seconds of the video at reduced frame rate. The motion in the email tempts and teases customers to watch the full video with audio on the landing page.

In summary, to eliminate a click from the customer journey and get customers to your ultimate goal faster, stick to playing video on your landing pages rather than embedding it into an email.