For most marketing teams, email marketing remains one of the top tactics for engaging target audiences. It offers a reliable, consistent and inexpensive means to target individuals at mass with (somewhat) personalized messages. In fact, if you take a step back and think about it, modern email marketing is nothing short of amazing. But it’s starting to fall amazingly short.

The big issue with email marketing is that it’s now so easy and cheap to do, it’s become commoditized and, well, everyone’s doing it. Not only does that mean you’re no longer the cool kid on the block, you’re also in stiff competition for eyeballs and attention span. In addition to getting YOUR delightful emails on a regular basis, your audiences are getting blasted by your competitors, and their competitors, and the local hairdresser just down the street. The result? Over 100 emails in their inbox every day and the learned behavior to ignore anything that looks even the slightest bit like spam.

Email marketing is dead!

Not so fast. It will remain a critical and effective tactic for a long long time. But marketers like you need to start thinking more creatively about how you’re going to cut through the clutter and get those people (yes, there are REAL people at the other ends of those digital wormholes) to see your message, open it, engage with it, take the desired action, and ultimately have the type of experience that will make them want to open your next one too!

Using interactive video content in your email marketing continues to be proven as a hugely effective tactic to get this done. Report after report validates that emails with video content as the primary CTA generate higher click-through rates on average, and even using the word “video” in the subject can boost open rates. Why? We all love video, it’s the promise of a short burst of content that could educate, inspire or even entertain in a wonderfully convenient lean-back experience. But if you’ve tried this before, you’re likely saying to yourself…

“But Tyler, most email clients won’t play video inline, so what am I to do? Just offer a link to a video on YouTube and hope they don’t end up watching cat videos afterwards?”

Glad you asked, because I’ve got some pro tips based on industry best practices as well as our own experience in doing some creative stuff. Here’s some simple ideas for how to make the most of video content in your email marketing campaigns to boost results immediately:

1. Links are borrrrrrring. Animated GIFs aren’t.

You need to make it super obvious that you’re offering your audience a video to watch. Just hyperlinking some text like “please watch this video to learn more” isn’t going to cut it. We’re conditioned to look for an actionable thumbnail image as our queue that a wonderful video awaits. So instead, offer them a big juicy thumbnail image inside your email that links directly to the video when selected. And if you add a fake “play button” to the image, it really gets the point across. Take a look at this email that we recently sent out:

Vidyard Space Camp Email

Don’t you just want to click on that play button?!?! But that’s not all. We took it one step further and made that image an animated GIF so it appears to be a short video loop playing back in their inbox:

Space Camp Animated GIF

Though video playback is not supported in most email clients, ‘playing’ an animated GIF is. Not only is it clear that a video awaits them behind door number one, but the subtle actions of the animated GIF will draw people’s eyes to this CTA (and hopefully make them want to click if the GIF is enticing enough!).

2. Send them to YOUR landing page, not someone else’s

When the person selects that thumbnail image, the video isn’t going to play back natively in the email so where are you going to send them? Don’t say YouTube, don’t say YouTube, please don’t say YouTube. Typically the answer should be my own landing page! But when you do this, make sure that the video is immediately available for them to watch. Nothing’s worse than clicking on a thumbnail like that and being taken to a page where that video doesn’t exist or is difficult to find. Here’s an example of the page that someone lands on when selecting that animated GIF above from our recent campaign:

Space Camp Landing Page

The video is the star of the page and gives them that quick burst of information and inspiration they were looking for. As soon as the video ends, the viewer moves down the page to learn more about our offer and to engage further with our brand.

3. To Autoplay or Not To Autoplay, that is the question…

9 times out of 10 I will recommend that you do NOT set your videos to autoplay as soon as a page loads. However, there is a time and place for it, and this is one of those times! If someone selects the animated GIF thumbnail image with a play button on it, they’re ready to watch and are expecting a video to play. So in this instance, don’t be shy to set the video to autoplay. This reduces the number of steps and friction points for the viewer and will increase your overall conversions. In the example above, when the recipient clicks the thumbnail, it loads the page here and the video autoplays. And guess what? The data tells us that over 1,000 unique people have watched the video and over 70% of them watched all the way to the end, making it one of our best performing video assets to-date! Oh, and it was also one of our best performing email campaigns to-date, which brings me to my next point…

4. Measure your results and continue to do what works!

Once you start trying this out, be sure to track your results to see if you’re getting a meaningful lift. In our case, we saw nearly a 2x increase in CTR on the email campaign above compared to our average email campaign. I attribute much of that delta to the big, fat, animated GIF being the star of the email (past campaigns of similar style have also performed very well). But more than just seeing great results on the email campaign, we drove a high volume of people to interact with that video asset that we spent so much time creating, and got most of them to spend several minutes immersed in our brand. Win win win!

For some more pro tips on using video to boost the performance of your email marketing programs, check out this previous post as well. Onward and upward, you modern marketers! Hope you enjoyed this post and maybe I’ll see you at Space Camp!

Tyler Lessard