Over the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of video content and the continued expansion of mediums through which it gets shared. Last week we watched Instagram extend the functionality of their video offering. Facebook announced its video streaming service, and Snapchat continues to grow in popularity. Within the email industry, it’s the same debate we’ve been having for years. The use of video in email remains a fringe topic that is viewed with skepticism. While there are valid reasons email marketers have been slow to adopt video, there are also fundamental misunderstandings that are keeping the industry from advancing.
If you don’t follow Litmus, I’d recommend doing so. I consider them a thought leader in the email design space. However, a recent blog post on the topic of video only served to perpetuate misconceptions and encourage a continuation of the status quo.
First, let me say we agree, in general. Embedded video is not right for everyone all the time. It starts with good video content, but it also has to be delivered in the right context to be effective. Some particularly successful campaigns that incorporate embedded video include welcome emails, retention-based sends, and reactivations. There have been developments on iOS 9 that allow video usage for CTA campaigns, but that’s a topic for another day. Litmus conducted a survey to break down how email marketers feel about video:
We’re also in agreement on the data represented by the graph. Most of the market has yet to try video. Of those that have, 62% plan to incorporate it into their long-term strategy. Liveclicker pegs this number closer to 70%, but the difference is inconsequential. Where our opinions differ is in the interpretation of this data and how video in email affects the user experience.
According to the chart, 85% of the market has yet to try embedded video. Assuming this 85% will adopt at the same rate as the 15% who’ve tried it to date, embedded video will be incorporated into 7 out of 10 mail programs. To me, that speaks to a very bright future for embedded video in email marketing. However, there’s a perceived downside that could halt this progress. This downside is where our primary disagreement lies.
The effect on user experience is often referenced as a reason to keep videos far away from your email program. Bad user experience is a valid concern if you’re of the impression that emails have to “end at send.” By that I mean you can only personalize based on the data you have before deploying a campaign. In theory, you can embed video within this framework. It will require liberal use of fallbacks, and is often more trouble than it’s worth.
The chart below is a (simplified) workflow of the data, content, and segments you need to successfully deploy a video campaign using an “end at send” approach.
There are obvious problems here, but none that can’t be combatted by moment-of-open personalization.
When you personalize at the moment-of-open, the potential applications expand. Now you can detect things like device type, email client, operating system and browser to automate the population of the appropriate video/image format for that user at that time. The result is an experience that is optimized for each subscriber’s unique situation. Sometimes an optimized experience is a static image (Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013), but far more often it will be something more functional and engaging.
When you extend your view of personalization beyond send to the moment-of-open – you can deliver video content efficiently, with automation. Subscribers receive cohesive emails that eliminate the need for “fall backs“ and drive engagement.
Whether video in email is right for your goals can be debated. If you decide you want to embed video in an email, moment-of-open personalization provides the optimal outcome. You no longer have to cater to the lowest common denominator. You can optimize for every subscriber without sacrificing the user experience of any.