To embed or not to embed; That is the question.

Taryn Morrissey

As an eMarketing Advisor of almost 6 years, I have been asked (a couple two or three-hundred times) what my opinion is on sending video through email. The questions I receive almost everyday range from why to add video and how to embed video to what is the best practice to ensure all of my subscribers are able to view it.

Let’s start with the “why” because it is the easiest question to answer. Utimately you want to improve the user experience. Overall, video with email performs better and people interact with it.  More interaction can mean more brand loyalty, more conversions and better deliverability.

A goal of many of my clients is to create an email where readers fully consume and digest the information presented to them.  Subscribers can learn more from watching a video for one minute than by scanning an email for the same amount of time.  Presenting your information in a visually appealing way is always going to win in the content digestibility department. On the flip side, because videos are consumed so much more easily than text, it’s important that you use them with caution and make sure that they deliver more value than a non-video email.

The “how” to add video is a bit more complex.  I’ll let you be the judge as to which method will work best for your organization.

Option 1: Embed Video

Who supports it: Native iPhone client, native iPad 5 client, and Apple Mail

Use this method if: Don’t use this method if:
The rest of your content is highly targeted The primary goal of your email is to drive clicks to your website
The majority of your subscriber base is using iPhone or Apple products You want the video to “auto-play”
You’re looking for an improved user experience for Apple users You want every subscriber to be able to see the video in the email


There are two critical factor with this option: knowing what devices your subscribers use to read your emails, and what the goal of the specific email you’re sending is.

If your goal is deliver an improved user experience and the majority of your subscribers use supported devices to read your emails, embedding the video within the email would be a great thing to try out. Our friends at Liveclicker have an easy-to-use interface that will help you generate HTML for your video that can be placed right within your email. They’ve even reported that videos that are embedded directly in emails have 35%-45% more views. Videos of conference speakers or promotions for events are just a few examples of types of videos that would work well in emails.

While this method is really cool, it’s important to first consider your overall email marketing goals. It’s great to offer the convenience of video in email, but this method is not the best method if the primary goal of your email is to drive your subscribers to a landing page. Embedding a video means that you’re setting your email up to require two clicks: one to play the video and the second to drive the reader to your website.  Two clicks mean it’s going to be twice as hard to achieve your conversion goals.  Making sure the email is highly targeted will hopefully ensure that the recipient also clicks other links within the email.

Option 2:  Use a static image with a play button and hyperlink to the video

Who supports it:  EVERYONE

Use this method if: Don’t use this method if:
The primary goal of your email is to drive clicks to your website You want the video to play in the email
You want to cover all of your bases in terms of who will be able to view the video
You want to give your subscriber the ability to bookmark the content and re-visit it
You have a powerful video resource library on the web


In sum, this method gives subscribers more incentive to visit your site.  When your video is hosted outside of the email, subscribers can leave a comment, ask a question, or start a discussion.  They can read and watch other content and videos; they can share your content.  This is the method of choice when you’re trying to drive readers to your website to perform more actions.

Option 3. Use an animated gif or group of animated gifs

Who supports it:  Everyone EXCEPT Outlook 2007-2010 and Windows Phone 7

Use this method if: Don’t use this method if:
You want a gif to ‘auto-play’ Your animated gif is so large that it’s going to be slow to load
You’re content with having a ‘freeze-frame’ display for your Outlook readers
You’re looking for an element of surprise in your email
You’re looking for an improved user experience


This is a great way to add an element of surprise to your email and grab attention.  I’ve seen clients add a group of animated gifs to showcase a new product or program right within the email. Liveclicker also gives you the ability to embed animated gifs. If you want to take this a step further, I highly suggest option 4.

Option 4. Use a hybrid of option 2 and 3

Use this method if: Don’t use this method if:
The primary goal of your email is to drive clicks to your website to view a video
You want to cover all of your bases in terms of who will be able to view the video
You’re looking for an edgy way to grab reader’s attention
You want the gif to ‘auto-play’


In sum, option 4 has the best of both worlds.  The motion in the email tempts and teases customers to watch the full video with audio on the landing page.  With this method, you will reap all of the benefits of option 2 and option 3.

Now that you’ve been armed with some of the pros and cons, it’s important to recognize that whichever option you choose, always keep best practices in mind for optimal results.  Feature the video above the fold to drive the most plays.  Limit the length of the video.  Pick an engaging freeze frame.  Use A/B split tests for subject lines.  Make sure the content/text around the video adds supporting value to the messaging. As always, keep the email targeted and relevant!

About the Author
Taryn Morrissey

As an Executive Advisor at Informz, Taryn spends the majority of her time working with clients to maximize and execute their email marketing strategies. In her free time, Taryn enjoys spending time with her family, exercising, event planning and home decorating.