What are the benefits and drawbacks of using video in e-mails?

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Answer: Including video in e-mail can yield several key benefits, such as a higher response rates, longer interaction times, lower distribution costs and more engaging presentations. The ultimate advantage is to determine if there are more “actions”—registrations, sales, log-ins, etc.—than nonvideo e-mail within a given list.

While the advantages are great, viewing multimedia e-mail can be complicated. Some e-mail clients support multimedia while others do not. Plus, even if the e-mail software supports it, variations in settings may prevent multimedia from playing. For example, browser-based e-mail services should support multimedia because the e-mail client is the browser; however, most services remove the multimedia before the e-mail is delivered with no recipient notice that the e-mail has been altered.

Similar to the transition from text e-mail to HTML e-mail in the 1990s, there are delivery issues that will prevent some users from seeing the video while enhancing the presentation for those that can. Creating a series of “step-down” methods increases the number of people who can see the best presentation:

  1. Always have an image behind the video presentation indicating there is supposed to be video.
  2. Use granular tracking to build a solid understanding of who can and who cannot receive video in their e-mail. Most people will not know their own capabilities, so user surveys are not much help.
  3. Surround the video with links to view the content in a browser and use full text links instead of "Click here" or image links.

Finally, with many people viewing e-mail with images off, the delivery gap between users with HTML but without multimedia is shrinking. To the extent that the gap still exists, these step-down strategies are good advice for all HTML campaigns.

Scott Madlener is exec VP-interactive strategy for Performance Communications Group (, a developer of rich media sales and marketing solutions.

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