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Using Video in Email to Boost Conversion

video in email

Attention is the most precious commodity in marketing.

When it comes to email marketing, your subscriber’s inbox is full of emails that compete for attention against yours.  The cold hard truth is that even though email marketing offers the potential for a significant return on investment, if you can’t get attention for your emails you can’t make sales.

So what can you do to stand out and grab your subscriber’s attention?

Our attention is naturally drawn to things that are different, new, exciting, or unusual in some way.  Video has the power to combine all of these attractors at once. That’s why YouTube, Netflix, and Facebook dwarf traditional newspapers and magazines in terms of audience and that trend is unlikely to reverse.

In some ways, traditional text emails suffer from a similar disadvantage as print media: you have to read static text, which doesn’t automatically attract attention unless the reader remains focused.  This doesn’t doom text messages by itself because the mere experience of receiving an email is able to attract attention if done correctly.  However, email marketers are always looking for ways to get an edge.

video in eamil

What if there was a way to incorporate video in email?

Until relatively recent, it wasn’t possible to incorporate video into email messages.  But with the advent of HTML5 it is now an exciting new option for marketers to be able to put videos directly into their HTML email messages.  Even better, according to surveys only 25% of marketers have adopted video email marketing, so those who do can benefit from an ‘attention advantage’.

It’s said that if a picture is worth a thousand words that a video is worth a million.  Whether that’s true or not, stuffing a thousand or even ten thousand words into your email is unlikely to get attention nearly as effectively as adding a quick and engaging video.

Video email marketing offers many more benefits as a result of being relatively new and thereby attracting more attention.


Let’s look at just a few…

  1. Open rates: It stands to reason that if your message offers something of greater interest, your campaigns can achieve a higher open rate.  In practical terms, what this means is that your subject line should indicate that there is a video in your email.  After all, unless your subscribers are conditioned to expect videos in your messages, you don’t want to be shy about telling them what’s in store for them if they open your email.
  2. Engagement: Once your email gets opened, the next challenge is to keep your subscriber’s attention.  With a text email you have to rely on the words to draw the reader in and hold attention all the way to the call to action.  With video, you can either grab the subscriber’s attention by having the video play inside the message, or you can put a still image that when clicked will redirect to wherever you have the video hosted (YouTube, your website, etc.).  Either way, the visual impact and novelty of a video in your email has the potential to attract and retain a greater amount of attention for a longer duration than a text email.
  3. Click through rate: It’s basic math that if more subscribers open your emails and stay engaged because of the visual interest provided by video within the message, there is a good potential for a higher click through rate as well.  Additionally, it’s easy to see why someone would be more interested in clicking on an image to watch a video, or taking action based on what they saw in a video embedded in an email than just a plain hyperlink.  With a greater number of opens and longer engagement and a greater propensity to get the click, having a video in your emails can dramatically increase your click through rate.
  4. Return on investment: With a higher open rate and click through rate, it lends credibility to recent studies that suggest video emails have up to a 280% higher ROI than traditional text emails.  Whether this will remain true over time as more marketers adopt video in their messages is unclear.  However, with 75% of marketers not using video, early adopters can expect to stand out from the rest of the email in their subscribers’ inboxes.
  5. Retention: One of the challenges in email marketing is retaining subscriber interest over time.  With the addition of video in your emails, you have an opportunity to not only achieve greater engagement from your active subscribers, you can also potentially re-engage subscribers who are at risk of tuning your messages out.  As a result, your subscriber retention can increase simply by adding a new medium to your messages.  The kinds of content you can add with video opens up many possibilities as well.  You could do personal updates and talk directly to your subscribers or start a video series with episodes in each message.  T.V. shows keep viewers hooked with cliffhangers that leave them desperate to watch the next episode.  Let your imagination run and the possibilities are endless.

video in email

Is video email marketing just a fad? That’s unlikely.  YouTube gets over a billion visitors a month and our culture is conditioned to watch video everywhere from our televisions, computers, tablets, phones, and now even watches.

Additionally, it’s a cliché at this point that we are perpetually busy, overwhelmed with media calling for our attention, and yet we still have only 24 hours in the day with no reprieve in sight.  Because of this, marketers who can deliver compelling content in a quick and easy to consume medium have an advantage.

While it’s not always the case, video is perceived to be quick and easy to consume because watching is passive whereas reading requires focus and concentration.  Also, many YouTube videos are less than 5 minutes and even shorter on Facebook newsfeeds.  This may be contributing to the increased consumption of emails with video within them.

Another factor that could contribute to the longevity of video email marketing is that people have always used email to forward things of interest to friends, family and co-workers.  Video in an email is therefore fertile fodder for a viral buzz and because email is already familiar there is no barrier to passing messages around far and wide.

video in email

There are a few things to be aware of when using video in your email marketing…

  • To get the conversion benefits from having a video in your email, you will want to indicate that fact in the subject line.  You could simply add [Video] at the beginning of your subject line.  Or you could use some variation of “Watch this video” in the subject line.
  • You’ll want to test whether using HTML5 to actually play a video within your email is better or whether you want to use a still image of the video to redirect when clicked.  One consideration is that less than 60% of your subscribers will likely be able to watch a video in the email itself, depending on what device they are using to view your message.
  • It’s worth considering whether you want the immediate consumption of the video to be the priority, in which case you’d have the video play in the email.  Or, whether you want to build curiosity about the video and encourage your subscribers to click the still image and be redirected where you want them to go.
  • Video also raises issues that text emails are not burdened with, such as visual and audio quality.  The dark side of attention is that if a video is not interesting or compelling to the viewer it has the potential to be perceived negatively.  Of course, this is true of any medium to some degree, but production value is worth considering when creating video content for your email campaigns.
  • Some discourage putting sales messages or ‘commercials’ in video emails but that should not be taken as gospel.  That said, it is worth testing the kind of video content that converts best for your situation.  As a rule of thumb, if your subscriber feels rewarded for having opened your email and watched your video, then you’re on the right track.
  • The text in the email should focus the reader’s attention on watching the video and in general you will want to avoid having multiple calls to action in a single message.  In other words, if you want your subscriber to watch the video you’ve put in the email, allow that to be the single focus of the email copy.

Will adding video in emails boost conversions?

As with anything in marketing, the only way to know is to test and track your results.  At the very least, it is important to be aware that technology has advanced to the point where video can be added to email campaigns.

After all, you want to stay at least one step ahead of your competition and this could be a powerful strategy to add to your arsenal.

Written by Heather Seitz

For over a decade Heather Seitz used email marketing to build successful companies and had to solve the biggest barrier to consistent profitability: deliverability.  Today she is the Co-Founder and CEO of Email Delivered.

For more information on how to boost email conversion,  click here http://www.emaildelivered.com/video-in-email. Remember to sign up for the FREE Email Delivered Pulse newsletter for articles, tips, and recommended resources for email marketers.

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December 19, 2014


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