Improve email stats and conversions with HTML5 video

Video content can improve conversions and not only where you would simply expect it to be. Web site home pages, marketing campaign landing pages, product pages in ecommerce stores, … you name it. But how about video in email?

Video helps conversions

There is plenty of evidence from research and many examples that show that video can indeed increase conversions. Have a look at these areticles for instance:

How about email?

Until recently, the consensus was that including video content in an email message was not a best practice. It just didn’t work well enough to be worth the effort, and could actually lead to a lousy user experience for the recipient. The recommendation was to simply put an image with a play icon into the email to indicate to the reader that the content was actually a video.

But… things move fast in this industry. So we decided to do some in-depth research and see where we are at with video in email.

  • Practically speaking, what’s the best way to add video to an email?
  • Which email clients can play a video right in the inbox?
  • And what happens exactly when they don’t?
  • In the end… can your marketing department use video in an email today or not?

HTML5 is the way to go for video in email

The first result of our research was to define the HTML code to use in an email message. It’s now clear that HTML5 provides a feasible solution to adding email to an email. Specifically, it offers a way to present code to email clients (and Web browsers… since the message could be viewed with a browser) that allows them to pick the format they like best. The video – in other words – is presented in a few different flavors in other to resolve compatibility issues.

And for those stubburn email clients that want to have nothing to do with playing a video, the code provides a nice fall back: an image, linked to another resource (e.g. a YouTube page, or the Web version of the email itself).

There are several resources on the Internet that can help you encode the
video in the different formats that you will need (e.g. Online Convert), and create the HTML5 code to insert in your email. In our tests, we used the Video for Everybody Code
Generator
.

Email clients’ support for video

We then created a simple email that uses the HTML5 video code mentioned above and tested it with lots of email clients to see exactly when the video played right in the inbox, when it did not, and what happened when it did not.

Here is a screen shot of the message we used, which you can download here.

We kept track of all the results of the test, and created a matrix that show
video support in many different email clients.

Considering which email clients are capable of playing the video right in the
inbox (e.g. iCloud Mail, Outlook.com, Apple Email Client on iPhone, iPad, etc.)
and the percentage of recipients using those tools/devices, we concluded that –
for many senders – a good 30% of recipients will be able to play the video right
in their inbox.


You can find the full, updated matrix here.

The verdict: green light for video in email

In the end, our verdict is that – when done right – video can be successfully used in email.
It will play right in the inbox for probably 30% of your recipients, and it will
nicely fall-back to a clickable image when it does not.

It could certainly help increase the return on your email campaigns.

We hope you find the research useful and we look forward to your feedback in the comments!

Massimo Arrigoni

Massimo Arrigoni

Massimo Arrigoni is a software entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in ecommerce and digital marketing. He's currently helping Italy-based MailUp expand internationally from their new San Francisco office. MailUp is a complete email delivery solution for businesses: the #1 ESP in Italy and growing fast around the world.
Before joining MailUp, Massimo was a co-founder, co-owner and former CEO of Early Impact, a California-based e-commerce software. Massimo is also a board member at the Mind The Bridge foundation, a San Francisco-based startup accellerator with a focus on Southern European startups.