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The Pros and Cons of Video in Email [Video]


“Video in email will finally take off.”

I made that prediction more than 3 years ago, after years of false starts and disappointing hype. At the time, I’d just seen a number of big brands embed videos into emails, including Avon, Bloomingdale’s, Brookstone, and Walgreens. I took that as a sign that video in email had finally turned the corner, and that email marketers would finally be able to take direct advantage of the power of video rather than settling for static images of video consoles linked to videos on landing pages.

And then Apple dropped support for HTML5 video in all of its email clients, sending the video in email movement back to square one.

Today, video in email is still a very fringe design element, mostly because of inconsistent support across email clients. HTML5 video, which we used in the background of our 2014 “Save the Date” email for The Email Design Conference, works in a few clients. Video gifs, which are streaming compressed animated gifs, work in several. Gmail has integration with YouTube. Video in email is the epitome of a patchwork solution.

It’s likely because of this poor support that few marketers have tried video in email, and of those who did, a significant portion has decided not to use it again anytime soon. That’s what we found when we polled marketers recently.


However, as much as marketers are lukewarm on the reality of embedded video in email, they really like the promise and potential of video in email. That so many marketers “plan on trying it soon” is an indication of this—even though we believe only a small fraction of that 44% will likely follow through and actually try video in email this year.

To get more perspective, we asked three of our speakers at The Email Design Conference about their thoughts on video in email. Like our poll respondents, they liked the idea of video in email much more than the reality, which they thought raised design, user experience, and other challenges.

You can watch the full interview here, or read a transcript of it below.

Brian Graves, UI Team Lead, DEG

With embedded video there’s technological challenges there. Things like iOS keep adding into the client and then removing it, so you never really know how it’s going to render well.

And there’s also the design problem of if you’re sticking a video in email, what’s kind of the call to action there? What are you really driving people to do? Are you just trying to show them a commercial, or are you actually trying to do what email is usually for, which is to drive them to your website.

And when you embed a video in an email you almost lose some of that CTA experience where you actually can drive them somewhere else. Because they play the video, the video is done, maybe they leave the inbox. You don’t really have a way to push them out to your website, or wherever you trying to push them, to take further action in the email.

Learn more about Email + Video

Our friends at Wistia explored what works, what doesn’t, and what to measure when combining video and email in this webinar.

Get the recap→

Fabio Carneiro, Lead Email Developer & UX Designer, MailChimp

The video in the email is a tricky topic. I mean, there’s a lot of heated debate here. I’m firmly in the camp that it’s a bad idea all the time. Simply because I’m a developer and a user experience designer, and I am concerned with the burden that the end user has to bear.

There’s no way to make a video small and actually have it be like good and meaningful, I feel. So your option is to send in an email, a large video that the user has zero option as to whether or not it gets downloaded—like, it will get downloaded. And so you’re incurring what could be a pretty significant data cost.

Certainly, the other side of the argument is pretty compelling, right? People have shown that video makes—video makes people perk up. Subscribers like it.

Mark Robbins, Email Developer, Rebelmail

Not long ago you didn’t have video on the web. So people would say, “Is worth having a video on the web? We can just watch the TV. We can stick a Betamax in the player and watch that.” But now you’ve got it on the web. And will that ever take off? And it does.

So I don’t think we should write off video in email. I think there is, again, it’s down to use cases. I think there is a place for it, but when the support comes, then it’s a case of judging it then. At the moment, the support’s not really worth the effort, I don’t think.

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