A discussion with Liveclicker's Justin Foster on the growth of embedding video in email and what that means for marketers.
What is old is new again. I understand that Rod Stewart finally has a new "rock and roll" album. Before Stewart did those awful standard albums, he was once awesome and spit out a pile of gold records before his attempts at covers. I'm not judging, hopefully you like the guy. Back in 1971 Rod Stewart and Ron Wood wrote the song "Every Picture Tells A Story." For marketers, that notion of a picture to tell a story versus words resonated.
Currently with the growth of embedding video in email (EVE), there appears to be a great opportunity to extend that story with video. To further explore the outlook of video in email, I sat down with ClickZ columnist and Liveclicker co-founder Justin Foster to discuss his experiences with embedded video in email.
David Daniels: Tell me about how clients are working with your company to embed video into their email marketing messages.
Justin Foster: VideoEmail provides a simple yet powerful solution marketers use to embed videos that can play back right in the inbox. The basic idea is to bring messages to life, create a more dynamic inbox experience, and drive up the number of people who watch videos. The product is delivered to clients as a safe and straightforward block of HTML that is copied and pasted into the email message prior to sending. A key advantage is that clients retain their existing relationship with their trusted email service provider or marketing services agency - no switching or technical integration is required beyond a simple copy/paste. Additionally, senders can literally be up and running in an hour. It is really quite easy, which is a huge accomplishment (we think) given all the complexities previously involved with embedding video in email.
To help us better understand why senders are embedding video in email, last month we polled our 600 clients and asked them. The number one most cited reason was to "enhance the inbox experience." It even out-polled reasons like "generating more revenue" or "improving other business metrics." Those reasons were also heavily cited, but I was shocked at the importance of the inbox experience factor given the accountability surrounding the email channel in general.
Today we tend to work mainly with mid-to-large B2C senders, primarily in travel, luxury retail, automotive, entertainment, and other "experience-focused" consumer brand verticals. We do work with some B2B brands, but it is a much smaller slice for us today.
While senders are embedding many different kinds of videos into email, we see a strong trend among the early adopters to focus on just a few types. Videos produced for major product launches, aspirational or brand-building videos, and experience-centric destination footage are all popular. TV networks and film studios are using the technology to show video trailers of upcoming films or television shows. Automotive companies are cost-effectively extending the reach of their TV campaigns by opening the inbox as a new "channel" for delivery of experience-focused content. Travel sites are showcasing highly produced, aspirational destination footage. The use of this type of video makes perfect sense given the considered purchase decisions consumers make when buying such products.
DD: What are some of the restrictions for embedding video in email marketing, and what rendering challenges still exist?
JF: By far the biggest restriction is that not all mail clients support video. Unfortunately, the list of non-supporting clients includes popular mail clients like Outlook 2007 and 2010, plus many Android phones. However, marketers need to look beyond the non-supporting clients because today some B2C brands are able to reach over 75 percent of all recipients with embedded video. The average video reach across our client base is just over 60 percent. And, there are ways to safely "fall back" to display images for the mail clients that don't yet support video, largely mitigating the risks.
DD: How do you advise marketers to deal with those challenges?
JF: The only way to really deal with the issue on non-universal support is to deliver a compatible experience within mail clients that don't yet support video. If the VideoEmail system detects that a recipient is using a mail client that doesn't support video, it will serve a regular image or .GIF animation instead. By utilizing this "waterfall" approach to embedded video in email, marketers can avoid the experience issues that have plagued video in email in the past.
DD: What results are your clients finding with the performance of their email campaigns when they utilized video in the message?
JF: I always caution marketers to take case studies with a grain of salt, because as with anything else, "your results may differ." However, there are brands like fashion retailer Express that observed a 55 percent uptick in revenue per email delivered when A/B split testing embedded video. Cosmetics retailer Bare Escentuals noted a 50 percent increase in click-through rates. Sole Society saw a 26 percent bump in sales. Costco saw a 40 percent jump in average order values. One consistent improvement we see is in the number of plays initiated on the embedded video. Fairly consistently across our client base, we see anywhere between 20 percent to 40 percent more recipients playing videos when they're embedded in email as opposed to linked to via an image in the email. The reason is really intuitive if you stop to think about it. Embedded video in email reduces the number of clicks required to play back video from two to one on all mobile devices. Video can be auto-played in some mail clients as well, with the video muted. Any kind of technology that reduces the friction between video and a viewer is bound to drive results like this.
DD: Your company has a new release coming up; can you tell me a little about what we can expect to see in this new release?
JF: We initially launched a solution into the market in mid-2010, however, at the time video support in email was quite limited - and so were our capabilities. The new release builds on all the mistakes we made and lessons we learned over the last two and a half years. It's called VideoEmail and it features two breakthrough technologies: Smart Video Versioning and Real-Time Video Mapping. Smart Video Versioning automatically creates device-specific and mail client-specific versions of a marketer's video file, ensuring broad coverage across the email ecosystem. The system also generates all of the backup assets including images and .GIF animations for those mail clients that don't yet support video - totally on-the-fly. Real-Time Video Mapping is where the magic happens, though. This technology detects the recipient's mail client right as he opens the message. Then, in real time, it renders the right video file or fallback asset directly in the inbox. Finally, we are able to offer exciting analytics that have never before been seen. We are super excited about this release because we believe it has the capability to transform the inbox.
DD: Thank you for your time Justin.
Certainly there is a new opportunity to optimize email utilizing video. Try it.
Until next time, best,
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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For more than 20 years, David has been an industry proponent. Direct Magazine said David is "one of the most influential experts in email marketing, if not the most influential." Co-author of "Email Marketing An Hour A Day," David has held senior level positions at Forrester and JupiterResearch, Apple, Anthropologie, MacWarehouse, Proteam, and retailers that dotted the early days of CompuServe. David advises many industry organizations including the OTA, DMA, eec, and has been a contributor to the Weekend Today Show on NBC. Learn more about connected marketing and download free research with registration here. Follow David on Twitter @emaildaniels and learn more at www.relevancygroup.com.
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