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Including video in email is a tactic that consistently drives email engagement and increases video play rates. But successfully emailing videos takes planning. You have to consider compatibility issues, file sizes, and more to create a seamless user experience.
This guide will provide a clear and easy process for preparing and sending emails with video and animated GIFs. We’ll cover the key elements of great video emails and present four methods for adding video to your emails.
Get right to our recommendation for the most effective way to email a video or animated GIF. Watch the video below and jump to this section for detailed instructions.
A great video email is accessible and visually engaging in a way that will drive clicks across recipients. These two factors combined ensure that your video is widely watched while still driving traffic to your site.
People are less likely to watch your video if you represent it as a long URL link in an email.
Imagery is the best way to engage email recipients about a video in your message. Video is a visual medium, so it only makes sense to promote it with images. Not to mention, humans are visually oriented, so imagery is more likely to catch attention in a crowded inbox. With “clickability” in mind, consider your format for presenting a video in an email.
Adrenaline Travel newsletter created with MailerLite
In the example above, it appears as though the video is embedded into the email, but it’s really an animated GIF image with a play button over it. More on this below.
Email clients are not one and the same—they all have different standards for displaying emails and their attachments. As a business, you have to ensure that every recipient, no matter what client they use, can have the same video email experience.
Here is a comprehensive resource on how email clients display HTML content differently and which types of video content to avoid.
Knowing these presentation factors—visual preview clickability and support across email clients—you can evaluate which method is the best way for your business to send video emails.
Choosing your method for emailing a video depends on what you prioritize in email. Do you care more about a seamless video-watching experience in the email, or are you more interested in driving clicks to your site? How much time can you spend on adding videos to email? Can you code HTML?
A video email example from Wistia
Here is a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of four video email methods to help you evaluate and decide which is best for your business.
Video email must-have checklist:
Our recommended way to email a video is through linking an image or animated GIF. It offers email recipients an engaging visual preview of the video while still enabling them to click, watch your video, and continue exploring your site.
This method works by including an image—either a thumbnail image or an animated GIF— of your video in an email that links to a landing page. For a more seamless experience, be sure the video described in your email is at or near the top of the landing page.
Here’s how you can share a video through email with this method:
A GIF is particularly interesting to recipients because it captures the motion of video and can highlight the best part of your video. But, if you choose to use a GIF in your email, support is somewhat limited—Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013 won’t show the GIF animation, though other clients will.
Besides this support limitation with GIFs, this method of emailing a video gives you the best of both worlds: a way for the video preview to link to a landing page and be visually engaging.
Video email must-have checklist:
An engaging visual preview ✅
Support across email clients ❌
Another way to email a video is to embed it in the message so recipients can play it right from the email. You can embed a video in an email by coding it into the message through HTML5.
To embed a video in an email, you or a developer at your company will need to adjust the HTML5 code of your email using these instructions.
When a video is properly embedded in an email, it’s an ideal user experience—the recipient can watch the video right from their email without needing to go anywhere.
There are, however, a few downsides to this method. Support is limited for embedded HTML5 videos across email clients.
Not to mention, emails with embedded videos are often marked as spam by email clients, which makes the message unreadable for recipients.
It’s also more difficult to drive email clicks with this method because an HTML5 video in an email cannot be linked to another page. It’s more likely that the recipient will watch the video from the email you sent, without exploring your brand further.
If you’re not as interested in clicks, you may choose to embed your video for the seamless user experience of watching in just one click. But keep in mind that many of your recipients will not be able to view the embedded video given the lack of support across clients.
Instead of including a video preview or the video itself in the email, you can opt to send the video as an attached file in your email.
The process for attaching a video to an email is easy—simply click the “attach” icon in your message (typically, the icon is a paper clip), and select the video file that you want to attach.
The simplicity of this attachment method makes it attractive, but it falls short in offering an engaging visual preview, being supported, or driving clicks.
A single attachment doesn’t easily capture the attention of email recipients—they could easily miss the video unless they scroll to the bottom of the message and see the attachment. If you’re using this method, be try to include visuals of the video in the body of the email as well to engage recipients.
Email marketing platforms do not support attachments, so emails with mp4 attachments must be sent from individual accounts. The attachment method is also limited by the recipient’s email client size restrictions for attachments. The typical limit for a video file across email clients is 20 to 25MB.
One work-around is to send a larger video file as an email attachment through your client’s Drive. Gmail, for example, offers the Google Drive suite; Outlook has OneDrive.
While emailing a video as a drive-file attachment will allow you to send larger videos, this tactic will work only for recipients who use that drive service—so the method is still limited in support across clients.
Along with these downsides, attaching a video file doesn’t encourage recipients to continue exploring your brand after they’ve read your message. Rather than linking to another page, the attachment is only meant to be opened, so it doesn’t encourage recipients to visit your company site.
With these limitations, the attachment method may work for communication with a small number of people who have the correct drive system for opening up your video file. But attaching a video to an email is not recommended for reaching out to a large number of customers, considering the file-size restrictions across clients.
If you include a YouTube URL in the body of a Gmail message, the video will appear as a playable attachment for Gmail recipients. The URL will work for everyone, but only Gmail users will have the full experience.
Like an embedded video, the YouTube method creates a great user experience because the recipient can play the clip right from the email. This is a useful way to get your video played right away, in the email itself.
On the flip side, this method has two major drawbacks: It doesn’t encourage traffic to your site, and it’s only supported by one email client. Recipients who click on the attachment will be directed to the YouTube video page, so they may explore your brand more by poking around your company’s YouTube channel. But it’s unlikely that the video page will bring traffic to your site unless the video itself has a CTA button to your site.
Most importantly, this method isn’t recommended for a large base of recipients because it is supported only by Gmail. Recipients using other clients will see only the plain URL and most likely won’t be motivated to watch the video. This method, however, would work if you’re sending a video to a targeted group of people with Gmail accounts.
Adding video to your emails is a reliable way to increase engagement from recipients. Marketing research shows that including videos in emails consistently leads to greater open, click-through, and conversion rates.
These results, however, happen only if your videos are emailed with the viewer in mind. From your video display to support across email clients, you have to weigh quite a few factors to send a video that drives engagement. Using this guide, you can find a method for emailing videos that is accessible and engaging and encourages viewers to connect with your content.
Create your own videos for email