Top 10 Takeaways From Video Email Webinar

The eec hosted a webinar this month highlighting the role of video in email.  Luke Glasner of Red Pill Email moderated and Justin Foster of LiveClicker and Rory Carlyle of Carlyle, Inc. contributed to the panel discussion.  The audience was engaged throughout as we learned about video email best practices, case studies, and technical requirements to achieve strong deliverability with video in email.  Download the webinar recording.

Top 10 takeaways from video email webinar:

1.  Video is a growing trend that email marketers need to pay attention to.  Video viewing time increased 26% year-over-year in the USA from August 2010 to August 2011.  180 million people, or 86% of the US Internet audience, viewed online video in August of 2011, according to comScore.  Marketers are taking notice, with video ad spend projected to increase 22% from 2011 to 2012 (eMarketer).  An August 2011 report by Forrester Research showed online video was perceived as the channel most poised to increase in effectiveness over the next three years by interactive marketers, behind only mobile marketing and created social media.

2.  Using video for video’s sake is not a good enough reason to use video with email.  Marketers need to decide whether the application of video creates additional value for subscribers before deciding to employ this tactic.  Simply using video because it is "cool" is not a good enough reason; marketers need to first consider whether the storytelling power of video can be used to more effectively entertain, engage, or excite subscribers, build trust, stir the imagination, or persuade the subscriber to take an action vs. other techniques.

3.  Video is proven to be an effective tactic to boost email campaign performance, but only when best practices are applied.  Simply using the word "video" in the subject line of email has been demonstrated to help achieve increases in open rates of up to 20% vs. an identical message body without the word "video" in the subject line.  Video in email examples illustrated a 200% increase in CTR in a controlled A/B split in one example, 67% higher CTR v. average campaigns in another.  Still, if best practices are not used, video can annoy subscribers, distance marketers from subscribers, and even drive up negative metrics like unsubscribe rates.

4.  Video does not alter the fundamental rules of smart email email marketing.
Relevance still rules.  Marketers need to think about who to engage with video; use of past clickthrough data, web analytics data, or customer demographic data are all possible sources of valuable targeting information.  Knowing which subscribers have watched video in the past can be especially helpful when developing segments for video email.

5.  Video production does not need to be difficult or expensive; marketers can make it so.  There are several techniques that can be used to minimize the amount of time required to generate videos for campaigns, such as: 1) use existing content developed in-house or by partners (just make sure you have permission) 2) If your brand is tolerant, carefully assess the production values you really need to accomplish the goal of the campaign.  It is possible to create HD video content in-house, with a full camera setup and set, for $4,000 – $5,000.  Hiring a professional or an agency is also an option, but many marketers make the mistake of thinking that video has to be expensive, when in reality video is only expensive when the marketer’s production requirements make it so.

6.  Choosing which technique to use for leveraging video "in" email is a creative and cost decision.  Period.  There are benefits and drawbacks of each method of including video in email.  Concerns over deliverability, campaign send speed, or mail client support should not dictate the decision of "in" or "with" because technologies exist in the market to detect what email client a subscriber is using, and then automatically serve a compatible version of the video asset, animated .GIF video, or still image directly in the email based on what the mail client supports.  If a marketer has a creative aversion to using any of these creative treatments, it is easy to exclude the use of that treatment without having to cut the list.  Further, deliverability concerns can be alleviated simply by employing best practices in coding email messages.

7.  If using video in email, internal education is key.  Not all mail clients support full video in email, including Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010.  If you use one of these programs at your place of work, consider setting internal expectations so that stakeholders know what to expect.  While video in email support is not yet consistent across mail clients, as of June 2011 an "average" B2C marketer could expect to deliver "full" video in email to approximately 37% of the list, animated .GIF video to 50% of the list, and static image to 13% of the list.  Your results will vary based on your list’s composition.

8.  Email marketers need to treat video as more than a "one off" experiment.  Since we belong to a metrics-focused industry, many email marketers choose to "one off" test video in email to see if it "works."  This is a terrible mistake because it does not allow the marketer to understand what about the video is driving results.  There are many different types of video content; some videos will work better than others.  Therefore, it is important when testing video to at minimum test over a series of campaigns (I recommend at least 3).  Only by looking at video in the context of several campaigns will marketers begin to discover what works and doesn’t work for the brand.

9.  Know the lead times involved.
  Most email marketers have not used video with email before.  If it’s your first time, consider planning the video a full two months prior to the campaign launch.  Since video requires different techniques and tools to create and encode, try to give yourself a buffer and a Plan B far in advance.  If you already have access to video content, plan on adding an additional three to four hours per campaign for any testing or troubleshooting.

10.  Follow best practices.  Among them: 1) set the subscriber’s expectation for video by calling the video out in the subject line (this is especially important for animated .GIF videos, which auto-play)  2) Use a "play" button in the video "player" to signal the subscriber can play the video.  3) Highlight in the email what "happens" when the video is clicked.  Because watching a video requires the subscriber to invest his scarce time, it is important to communicate the value you are promising up-front to prevent disappointment 4) Serve a "right click to play" message as the first frame of the video for Hotmail users (because player controls aren’t supported yet in Hotmail) 5) Keep animated .GIF videos to 30 seconds or less.  Since animated .GIF videos don’t support sound, they are most effective as "teaser" content.

BONUS TAKEAWAY:  Be clear with your campaign goals up front and do not over-hype or over-promise results.  Video email is still new and best practices are still emerging.  In my experience, the marketers that have gone on to be most successful with video email are those who took the time to learn about video in email, took the time to educate their managers and peers, and treated vide
o email as an "experiment."  If you promise the moon, you’d at least better be able to jump off the ground.