Your Ultimate Guide on How To Embed a Video in an Email

How to embed video in email

Video email marketing is an effective strategy while a video is a powerful tool that can help raise engagement, generate leads, and build stronger relationships with customers. With a simple embed and a good subject line, it can raise email open rates and click-through rates, and reduce unsubscribe rates, without doing much extra work. 

This article will talk about how to embed video in email, going from the simplest method of the static image with a Play button on it to the more “advanced” ones using actual embed video with fallbacks.

Why use videos in your email campaigns

An open rate, click-through rate and unsubscribe rate are among the most important KPIs in email marketing, and the addition of video to your email affects them all.

Embedding video in the email: 

  1. It boosts open rates. Businesses that used video in conjunction with other email marketing ideas saw the increase for themselves: for example, SuperOffice found that their open rates increased by 6% when they added the word “video” to their emails’ subject line. 
  2. It increases click-through rates. B2B software company Igloo Software has seen this increase after they added videos to their email content. Thanks to this, their engagement grew, and their click-through rates increased by 189%.
  3. It lowers unsubscribe rates. Adding a relevant video may help engage subscribers more compared to not having one, and thus lower the unsubscribe rates. 

Can you embed a video in an email

Currently, there is no one-fits-all solution to insert a video in the email that would reliably work for all email clients. 

A small number of email clients support playing video in the inbox and would show the video to your subscribers properly. But the majority of email clients, including the most popular Gmail, can not play it in the inbox. So you’ll need alternative solutions that only “look like” a video in the email.

How different email clients handle videos
How different email clients handle video. Source: Email On Acid

In the end, you can choose to go the simple route and use one of the workarounds. Or, if you have the resources and want to prioritize quality and higher results, you’ll need to use a more advanced solution. It involves sending an actual video and setting up a series of fallbacks for those email clients that can not support playing it.

How to embed video in email step-by-step

If you still want to send actual videos to your email list, there are 2 requirements you need to meet:

  1. The service you use to send emails has to support videos in email.
  2. The email client on your recipient’s side — like Gmail, Outlook, Apple, etc. — has to be able to support and play your video.

Email platforms that support video in email

To send a video, you need to add an HTML snippet to the email. You’d need a platform that lets you edit the HTML code of your email. 

Most email services — such as Gmail, Outlook, or Apple Mail — can not do that. But some marketing platforms can.

If you work with an established business, chances are, you are already using one of these. If not, start with making an account on one — many of them have free plans.

Create a video and optimize the file size

The size and where the video is hosted play a major role in determining if it will play in your emails. The size of the video is best kept under 1 MB — larger sizes might take longer to load and affect your viewers’ user experience. 

Also, hosting the video on YouTube or Vimeo will not work — you’ll need to host it on servers you control. 

Once the hosting is cleared, it comes down to three steps:

  1. Create your video. 
  2. Optimize its size. 
  3. Upload it to the hosting. 

Create and upload the thumbnail for the video

A thumbnail is a still image that is visible before the video starts playing. A good thumbnail does two things:

  • Helps people understand what the video is about.
  • Engages the viewers — makes people click on itself.

You can get a thumbnail by choosing from existing images on photo stocks like Unsplash and Pexels. It’s also easy to create one yourself: in Canva, Snappa, with Paint 3D (on Windows) or Photos app (on Mac).

Use a video editor like 123APPS or Veed (both work online, no need to install a program) to add a thumbnail to the video. 

Set up your HTML video tag

You can use the <video> tag of HTML5 to send the video in an email. You will also need to set up a fallback image for Gmail and other email clients that don’t support the tag.

The important attributes to include in the tag are:

  • The src attribute: should be added to the URL of the video.
  • The width and height: they decide how wide and tall the video will look.
  • The poster attribute: specifies the thumbnail that will be used.
  • Video controls. Not all email clients support this attribute, but in those that do, it will show controls like Play; Pause; Seeking; Volume; Fullscreen toggle; Captions/Subtitles (when available); Track (when available).

Other ways to add video in an email (without embedding)

There are other ways to “embed” video into an email aside from HTML5 — or rather to make it look like an embed. 

Use a Play button link on top of a static image

The simplest way is to use a static image and add a Play button to it, then make it so that a link to the video opens in a new window once the image is clicked.

The upsides of this method are:

  • You can make an image size very small so it would load fast for most of your subscribers, even if they have a slow internet connection.
  • You can host the video itself anywhere — the link behind the image can lead to YouTube, your website, etc.

The downsides are:

  • Since it’s a static picture, it’s not likely to catch your subscriber’s eye and won’t earn you many brownie points. 
  • If the viewer has the images in their inbox turned off by default, they will not see the image and will not know there is a video waiting for them.

Mention the video one more time somewhere in the text of your email and give a link to it, in addition to the image with a Play button. This way, even people with turned-off images will see it.

Video in an email: an email by Payoneer with a “video” made by an image with a Play button.
Payoneer uses the word video in the subject line to attract attention and a simple, clean image with a Play button as a stand-in for an actual thing

Selzy builder can automatically add a screenshot from the video together with a Play button to save you time. All you need to do is select the Content tab and drag the Video content block into the email layout.

Add a screenshot of the video to the imail in Selzy builder

You can change the size of the video, center it in the email, and change the appearance, color, and size of the Play button.

Change the size of the video and its position in the email in Selzy builder
Change the size of the video and its position in the email

Change the appearance, color, and size of the Play button in Selzy builder
Change the appearance, color, and size of the Play button

Use an animated GIF image

These are steps to take if you choose to use a GIF:

  1. Create a GIF image with an animated GIF maker like imgflip.com or giphy.com.
  2. Add your GIF image to the email and add a CTA linking to the full video. The video can be hosted anywhere — YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Dailymotion, or others.
Video in an email: an example of a GIF with a Play button by Heather Jo Flores
Heather Jo Flores, a person behind EcoDesign Hive, used a GIF with a Play button that brings the viewer over to the actual video if clicked

The upsides of the GIF method are:

  • It moves, so it looks much more like an actual video.
  • GIF is still an image in essence, so it can be made very compact and light, making it load fast.
  • You can host the video itself anywhere you want.

The disadvantage of using a GIF is the same as with a static image: if the viewer has the images in their inbox turned off by default, they will not see it.

Create a faux video with CSS animation

Faux video is mobile responsive, it works with retina images, and because it imitates video-like movement with an interaction, it lets your subscribers feel as if they’re playing the video in their inbox. Faux video can be played in: 

  • Samsung Mail
  • Gmail
  • Gmail App
  • Outlook for Mac
  • Apple Mail
  • IOS Mails for iPhone and iPad

There is more than one faux video technique. For example, by combining image sprites (a strip of static images) with background images and CSS keyframes, it’s possible to show one static image frame after another quickly, which will create a “video” effect too. Another option is to build it on animated GIFs – that’s how faux videos are done at Litmus.

Example of a faux video in an email
Source: Litmus via CodePen

Tips to make the most out of adding video to email

Craft a perfect thumbnail

 Here are some email marketing tips and best practices when it comes to thumbnails: 

  • Use a still image instead of a GIF.
  • Create your own custom thumbnail to suit the content of the video.
  • Enhance it by adding a short, snappy headline and/or tagline text onto it. Alternatively, put instructions on how to play video instead.
  • Add a Play arrow over it to make it obvious that it’s a video.

Consider keeping the thumbnail’s colors, background, and layout elements consistent with your other videos. Consistency is one of the answers if you are wondering how to create a good-looking email

You could use a stock photo, a snapshot of a video frame, or take a new photo to use as a base. Online graphic design apps like Canva, Snappa, Crello, and others can help you easily create great thumbnail images for free, no editing skills needed. They also offer hundreds and thousands of templates to choose from, as well as stock photo and vector image databases.

Consistent headline styles and coloring across videos
Check out how Julie Khuu, a certified interior designer, keeps her video thumbnails’ background, headline styles and coloring consistent across videos. Source: YouTube

Consider your email subject line

The subject line along with preview text in email is what people see when they receive your message. It is prime real estate — a good subject line can raise an email’s open rate, while a bad one may do the opposite or even land the email in spam.

Over-sensationalizing, strange formatting and all-caps in the emails from ClickFunnels
Emails by Russel Brunson, founder and ex-CEO of ClickFunnels, certainly grab attention when using techniques like over-sensationalizing, strange formatting and all-caps. They do land in the spam folder sometimes

Do not insert long videos

Long video means bulky, heavy file, and a heavy file means the email will take longer to load. 

The problems here are: 

  1. Your subscribers are forced to wait for a while (especially on mobile) which dampens their user experience. 
  2. For some subscribers, it can take a toll on their internet plans, and as a result, they either can not load it at all or give up midway. 

This only applies to faux videos and embedded ones.

Include a clear CTA

Video CTA (call-to-action) prompts people to do an action you want them to take after they’ve watched the video. A call-to-action depends on the goal of the video and can be anything from signing up for a free trial or webinar, to buying a product, subscribing to a paid course, or buying a book. 

Here are a few tips and best practices for creating a good CTA:

  • Add one CTA per video.
  • Be specific and concise.
  • Use clear action words. 
  • Make it short.
  • Repeat your CTA below the video.
  • Make sure your call-to-action works well both on desktop and mobile. 

A few examples of a call-to-action to get inspired:

  • Watch the film
  • [Video] Learn how to do XYZ
  • Watch this video and…

Repeat the CTA in the text of your email once more, after the image/GIF/faux or embed video. Include the link to the page where that action should happen. E.g., if your call-to-action is Sign up for free, link your CTA in the email directly to the sign-up form.

A video in the email and a CTA by CoShedule
CoSchedule repeats the CTA under the GIF image that serves as a placeholder for a video

Best examples of email campaigns using videos

Tracksmith

A bright and obvious Play button with a CTA made as plain text. Tracksmith focuses completely on getting the subscribers to go see the video — everything else is removed from an email.

Tracksmith’s video in email
Source: Really Good Emails

MacPaw

MacPaw blends an image with a Play button into the color scheme of the email.

MacPaw’s image with a Play button in the email
Source: Really Good Emails

Filmsupply

A leader in cinematic footage licensing Filmsupply uses a beautiful visual with multiple scenes in its email.

Video in email by Filmsupply
Source: Really Good Emails

Builder Designs

Builder Designs uses a Play button on an image that perfectly matches its overall email design.

A video in the email by Builder Designs
Source: Really Good Emails

Musicbed

Musicbed’s email has a minimalistic layout with only four sections — the header with a full-scale image of the featured person, the video block, the hashtag, and a blockquote to get a stronger interest. It makes it clear there is a film waiting for its viewers.

Musicbed’s video in the email
Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

Adding videos to your emails can have multiple benefits, from a boost in engagement and click-through rates, to a rise in conversion rates. 

Video can help get your message through and do so in a powerful and persuasive way. Despite the technology not being perfect yet, there are multiple ways to make it work:

  1. Embedding video in the email with HTML5 for email clients that support playing it in the inbox.
  2. A faux video technique that creates an impression of a video and can be used by itself or as a fallback for the first method. 
  3. A GIF image that should work in any email clients as long as the user allows images to display in their settings. 
  4. A static image with a Play button that is visible in any inbox as long as the user allows images to be displayed.

The first one is the most advanced, but the majority of email clients on the subscribers’ side do not support playing a video on the inbox — which means you need to set up a fallback (in the form of a faux video, GIF or static image) to account for it.

In practice, embedded videos are technically complicated to realize. The alternative is methods like GIFs and static images with a Play button — they are easy to make and work well enough.

Have you tried video in your email campaigns? How was it?

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