What is video in email marketing, and why should you care?


Posted by: Harry Webster on 6th April 2020


Video in email is nothing new, but it’s yet to realise its full marketing potential. When it does, it will herald a new era of content-driven interactivity.

So, what does ‘video in email’ mean? And why am I hearing about it now?

Video in email, as I’ll refer to it in this blog, is a video embedded within the body of – rather than attached to – an email. This seems simple and familiar enough. After all, this embedded format is what we’re already used to seeing on the rest of the web.

Video is a proven tool to engage and convert. Click onto the website of many a brand, hotel, or creative agency and you’ll see beautiful, fluid header videos where years before you would have just seen a still image. The technology is there. It’s just a case of repurposing it across new channels and doing it for the right reasons.

And the reasons are many. Some obvious, some less so. The former category is self-evident when it comes to consumers’ unslakeable thirst for content. For decades video has been one of the information dispersal formats of choice. It’s vivid and versatile. It’s sensorially rich; boasting the unique ability to combine sound, music, dialogue, image, text, and motion concurrently. Its impression is quickly formed and long-lasting, making it the perfect tool to amplify a finely-tuned brand voice.

That’s why it’s long been a favoured medium both for learning and entertainment. When did you last ask someone what they’re currently bingeing, only to hear them smugly reply ‘Tolstoy’? Unless you’re an academic or the guy who pushes around the library cart in a gulag, probably not too recently. The likelihood is that it’ll be something on Netflix – on Amazon Prime or Hulu or iPlayer. In fact, the average person watches more than an hour and a half of online video content per day, with around 15% averaging more than three hours, according to video experts Wyzowl.

As a culture, we celebrate and revere the moving picture; its ability to captivate and transport us. We obsess over videos in all forms – we share them, discuss them, rate and critique them. Music videos, viral videos, movies, memes, and commercials. We treat them as events. Fifty years ago could anyone have imagined people queuing up to stare at a billboard and then discussing it around the water cooler at work the next day? Seems unlikely. But in 2019 the John Lewis Christmas ad racked up over 9 million YouTube views within weeks of its release and was a word-of-mouth brand awareness driver across the country.

From music to high-art, from eCommerce to advertising, wherever words and pictures find a foothold, video soon follows. And wherever it goes, it reshapes the landscape forever.

Need we remind you what killed the radio star?

With each new leap in its technology, each new iteration, our visual culture marches steadily forward and doesn’t look back. From silent films to ‘talkies’, to the arrival of technicolour, to cameraphone video and now video embedded in email – the marketer’s dream.

As for the less obvious reasons for using video in email?

A quick look at the data below shows them to be just as compelling. Though video isn’t currently a staple of email marketing, it soon could be, as momentum gathers.

Video has the very real potential to supplant GIFs as the content format of choice in email marketing just as it has on other parts of the web – most notably social platforms. According to Social Media Today Videos are six times more likely to be Retweeted than photos and three times more likely than GIFs.

Embedded video in email has been a technical possibility for a long time, it’s just that the email client support isn’t there yet. It’s not a functionality that’s widely touted. Gmail, for example, which has over a billion active users worldwide – over 27% of the global email client market share as of Q2 2019 – doesn’t support HTML5 video embedding. This is partly, HubSpot says, for spam and security reasons.

Not to mention there’s a certain amount of effort that goes into building these bespoke emails. It’s a painstaking manual process requiring a fairly high level of coding expertise. Plus, there are limitations like video length – presently around 30 seconds.

But the demand is there, and it’s growing.

Apple – which according to Litmus holds over 40% of the email client market share accumulatively across iPhone, iPad and Apple Mail – seems to recognise this. They support video in email across most of their devices. And with good reason. Just take a look at the stats:

Landing page specialists Unbounce tell us that using video on landing pages can increase conversions by 80%.

According to HubSpot, adding videos to your email can increase click rates by 300%.

Marketing Data bigwigs Campaign Monitor have found that adding email to video can boost open rates by 19%, boost click-through rates by 65%, and reduce unsubscribes by 26%. In fact, 64% of consumers are more likely to buy after seeing a video.

If you’re not already leveraging video in email, the commercial and creative drivers for doing so are clear. With the average office worker receiving 121 emails per day, it’s more difficult – and more crucial – than ever to stand out amongst the throng.

There are additional cost implications to using video in email, of course. But these can be considered a sound investment when compared with the alternative – budget that might otherwise have been wasted producing video content that languished, unwatched and unengaged with, on some faraway tumbleweed-strewn landing page, without the most effective digital channel in place to herd convertible viewers eagerly toward it.

We know pretty much everyone is now using video. A massive 81% of people feature their video on their brand website. The same goes for email marketing. But if you’re treating these as two completely separate operations, the likelihood is that you’re employing both sub-optimally.

If you have video content to share and want to see increased engagement and conversions from your email marketing, there are workarounds to avoid customers bouncing because they were reading your email on a client or device that doesn’t support video embedding.

“Video is huge for boosting open rates, CTR’s and conversions. This, we know,” says Conor Wilson, Email Designer and Developer and Jarrang’s resident video in email expert. “Brands spend good money making high-quality videos to show customers what they’re all about, but then some shy away from including that video in their email marketing because it seems a little too technical or because they’re worried it may not display correctly. The irony is that email is their main line of communication with their customers, and because of this reluctance, they can miss out big on ROI.”

“We can already build emails for clients with embedded videos that, if opened on a client or device that doesn’t support the format, will still display a thumbnail or GIF of the video content – that way nobody will open it and be disappointed by seeing nothing. We always have a backup in place to deter bouncing.”

Another useful trick if you’re not yet at the video embedding stage is to create a landing page specifically for your video and embed a thumbnail image in the email which when clicked links directly to it. Using video in this way can also open up new sources of analytics like playrate, average engagement rate, shares, and new email sign-ups. The returns generated are more than just monetary – video’s engagement metrics widen the lens through which you can see how people perceive and engage with your brand.

Yes, there will be pitfalls to navigate, but video creation is fun, challenging and delivers ROI. And with embedding functionality across all major email clients edging ever-nearer, the age of video is coming. When it does, it will be here to stay.

So take a quick peek at your database’s mail client split, if you have a majority using a client that already supports embedded video in email, start looking into using it. If not, get creative and start experimenting with making landing pages. Or consult the experts for help. The figures above show you have everything to gain.

Email marketing has always been a game of adaptability and continual evolution.

You may be a star today – don’t let the advent of video kill you off.

About the author

Harry Webster

Harry is a freelance writer and editor specialising in the tech, media, and publishing sectors. When he's not writing copy, he's probably either working on his novel or reading somebody else's.