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Best practices for using video in email marketing

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 07 May, 2014
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Examples and techniques for integrating video with your email marketing

It doesn’t take a scientist or even a marketing expert to know that most people check their emails every day. Your friends, your coworkers, your mom, your grandmother, her grandmother. Email is used by virtually everyone regardless of age or any other demographic you can think of.

Email marketing is critical to your brand’s success and is still the best way to engage your audience and keep customers coming back. According to eMarketer, one of the top benefits of email marketing is that it yields a wealth of data about who a company’s best customers are.

Marketers can target those people and offer incentives or discounts to encourage them to share with their friends and advocate on behalf of the brand. Add video to your email marketing campaigns and you have an inexpensive, visually appealing and adaptable marketing medium for your business or service.

The popularity of online video cannot be denied, and certainly not ignored. Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube alone. Video captures attention and inspires engagement. Boring text-only emails, well ... not so much. But adding video to an email to get your message across: now there’s something that works!

Engage and Retain

It’s difficult to admit, but attention spans these days are getting shorter and competition for attention has gotten fiercer than ever. Over time, the emails you send regularly to your contact list can get ignored or lost in the shuffle.

However, according to Convince & Convert, 33% of email recipients open emails based on subject line alone. Cisco reports that adding the word 'Video; to a marketing email typically increases open rates by 7% - 13%.

Adding videos to your email campaigns helps combat the increasing tendency of recipients to ignore, spam or trash typical text-only emails they are bombarded with every day. So it makes sense to add videos to your emails to captivate and retain attention through visual engagement that speaks to your target audience.

Of course, you must think carefully about the best technique for embedding video in email,  as explained in this post by Tim Watson. As Tim explains, static images or simple animated Gifs encouraging emails to be played in a web browser or on YouTube are still the most practical option. In this post I look at ideas for types of engaging video to showcase in email to encourage clickthrough.

Video emails allow you to showcase personality and create a unique brand presence. They give your business or service the personal touch that text alone cannot communicate. And they keep customers coming back!


Return on Impression

Video emails are a highly effective way to impress, inform, engage, and even entertain your potential new and existing customers. As painful a reminder as it may be, think about your next dental appointment. Your dentist will send you a cookie-cutter snail-mail postcard to remind you of your next appointment. As responsible as you may be about caring for your teeth, you already dread the thought of having them drilled and you get enough paper junk in your mailbox already. That postcard from your dentist with the smiling clip art image or stock photo will likely get thrown in the trash. The end result:  you are likely to forget or ignore your next appointment.

On the other hand, if your dentist sends you a targeted video email, and tells you on camera not to forget your appointment and then offers you a 20% discount or free whitening on your next visit, you now have a patient who just received a personalized reminder with a special offer and is likely to return.

Personalize and Capitalize

When targeted correctly, video emails are one of the most effective ways to inform and engage people who are interested in learning about your business, and are likely to become a customer or to remain a loyal one.

According to eMarketer, approximately half of marketers who use video in email campaigns see increased click-through rates, increased time spent reading the email, and increased sharing and forwarding.

In a recent eMarketer poll, websites were the most popular destination for video content, used by nearly 84% of respondents, while around 60% of those polled sent videos via email.

Video emails can be used for just about any type of business communication: holiday greetings, news updates, product demos and more. Throw in deals or special exclusive offers every time and you have customers for life! Realtors, for example, typically list a property and show pictures, but with a video email, they can not only give potential buyers a personalized tour of the property in a video, but also frame it in a branded template with their contact information for immediate action.

Add social media sharing and forwarding functionality to the branded video email and your product or service gets exposure to a whole new audience beyond just your contact list!


Even major league sports have used email marketing to increase engagement. According to a report by Marketing Sherpa, NFL.com leveraged the data they already had on their contacts to create emails as relevant and targeted as possible using improved segmentation.

Each recipient was segmented based on their favourite team and then given the most up-to-date, real-time content available, including videos, schedules and upcoming game information. The 2013 report says NFL.com’s email newsletter is up 121% for opens,  click-through rates are up by 26% and mobile opens are up 9%.

Best Practices for using Video Email

As I mentioned before, you have to select the best technique for embedding video in email. But beyond, this you need to feature the email in the best way in the email and then continue the experience when the video is played. Here are some other techniques I have found effective.

  • Relevance is key – keep your message relevant to target audience
  • Keep videos brief, under 3 minutes if possible. If a video goes over 10 minutes, consider breaking it up into multiple parts
  • Expand video marketing efforts into your social media strategies. Include links to social media sites and share functionality in your message
  • Tailor your greeting, tone and audience – know when to be formal or informal; whether to regionalize your message; when to employ humor, etc.
  • Customers join mailing lists to receive discounts, deals and special offers.  Offer exclusive deals to subscribers and include calls to action relevant to your video.
  • Be creative! Don't forget that the goal is to engage customers and make them remember you when making purchasing decisions. Make an impact, that's the biggest strength of video.
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