HTML5 and Video in Email

Article first published October 2009, updated May 2019

With the landscape becoming more and more competitive, marketers
are looking for ways to improve reader experience. After all, if
your readers enjoy your emails, they’ll be more likely to take
you up on your offer, resulting in high conversion rates (and
increased revenue).

One way you can give your readers a better experience is by
embedding HTML5 video in your emails. The use of video in
is on the rise, and combining it with email marketing
can be a recipe for success.

Updated for 2019: The best use of video in email

If you’ve been on the email marketing circuit in the past few
years, you probably understand how greatly it’s changed. For one,
getting subscribers to sign up for your email list isn’t as easy
as it used to be. And, once you’ve managed to get some to sign
up, keeping them engaged can be difficult.

This is why video has become so popular in email.

However, HTML5 and video email aren’t new to email marketing.
Marketers have tried to marry these two in the past, but with mixed
results (disastrous on some email clients). But, with the
advancements in technology, there’s been a resurgence in the use
of HTML5 and video in email. It’s just important to be careful in
the way you do it, as it could ruin your campaign if it’s not
done the right way.

Keep the following in mind when using video in your emails.

Let readers know there’s a video in the email

Letting your readers know that your email contains a video is a
good way to increase your open rates. Do this by including the word
“video” in the subject line to pique your readers’

Do this by including the word “video” in the subject line to pique your readers’ interests.

Create a series

One great way of keeping readers engaged is by creating a video
series for your email. Just be sure that it’s informative and
entertaining. One way to achieve this is to show your subscribers
what happens behind the scenes in your business.

Create video testimonials

Nothing inspires action more than a testimonial. Ask your best
customers if they can provide you with video testimonials. These
can be easily made without going to a professional studio. Video
email marketing doesn’t get better than real, authentic video

Mini tutorials

Are there questions that your customers are constantly asking?
Try creating tutorials or educational videos around those topics
and including them in your emails. This is an excellent way to
showcase what your product can do and educate your customers on
best practices.

Share your brand story

Everyone loves a good story, and your customers would love to
know yours. Embed a video of your brand story in your emails,
particularly in your welcome email. This is an easy and efficient
way of establishing a connection with your audience.

With so many good uses for video in email, there’s no reason
why you shouldn’t adopt video email marketing for your next
campaign. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to embed video in

Approaches to video in email

This isn’t the first time we’ve had a close look at support
for video in email. In our previous
, we were looking for an approach that would allow
video in email clients that support it and a clickable fallback
image for those that didn’t (that would then play the video in
the browser).

The results were
disappointing. Only Apple Mail supported decent video playback via
Flash, and there was no consistent way to provide fallback content
for those clients that don’t support Flash. This seems to be the
crux of the problem. If video doesn’t work, you better have a
backup plan that works well for everyone else. Because most email
clients strip the <object> tag used to insert video, a
backup plan wasn’t available.

A simple approach using HTML5

Using Kroc
 very cool Video for
 as a starting point, it was clear that the approach
for the browser would be very different than for email clients.

Kroc’s technique provided multiple layers of support (seen
). So, if HTML5 <video> isn’t available, you can
fall back to QuickTime or Flash and almost always guarantee the
video will work. Because we know that Flash and QuickTime are
universally blocked in email, these backup options can be stripped
to keep it simple.

Due to the codec
mentioned earlier, you need to provide your video in
both H.264 (supported by Apple and Google) and Ogg Theora
(supported by Mozilla and Opera). This isn’t the case with email.
The only popular email client that uses Gecko (the Firefox
rendering engine) is Thunderbird, which currently chooses not to
display HTML5 video. So, just like the Flash/Quicktime fallback,
Ogg Theora is also out. If a big number of your recipients were
clicking on the web version of your emails, then
you could consider adding it back in for any subscribers using

The final code

After cutting out all the video options made redundant by email,
here’s the final code that gave the best results.

<video width="640" height="360" poster="" controls="controls">
                <source src="" type="video/mp4" />
                <a href=""><img src="" width="640" height="360" /></a>

As you can see, you provide a fallback image (which is
conveniently loaded as the poster for the movie before playing for
email clients that support video) in the <video> tag along
with the width and height of the video. Within the <video>
tag you call the H.264 encoded video using the <source> tag,
remembering to fully reference the file on your server.

Finally, add the backup content you’d like to be displayed in
any email client that doesn’t support HTML5 inside the
<video> tags. This would normally be a clickable screenshot
of the video that would play the video in the browser when

The results

Working on a Mac, my first stop was Apple Mail. The video
rendered perfectly. It played beautifully on the iPhone email
client too.

I then turned to the popular web-based email clients: Yahoo!,
Gmail, and Hotmail. Unfortunately, it looks like web-based email
clients are choosing to disable HTML5 video from playing. While
this was disappointing, the news isn’t all bad. In place of the
video, I was able to display the provided backup content—in this
case, a clickable fallback image where I could link to the video on
my website. This facility was never available with any of the
previous attempts at true video in email and was a welcomed

As I continued to test, the same results were experienced on
desktop email clients on the PC. The video didn’t play, but the
fallback option appeared in every single client I tested. Here
are the full results:

Desktop email clients Result
Apple Mail Yes  Video plays
Entourage 2008 Yes  Video plays
Lotus Notes 6, 7 and 8.5 No  Fallback content displayed
Outlook 2007 No  Fallback content displayed
Outlook 2003 No  Fallback content displayed
Thunderbird No  Fallback content displayed
Windows Mail No  Fallback content displayed
Web-based email clients Result
AOL Web No  Fallback content displayed
Gmail No  Fallback content displayed
Hotmail No  Fallback content displayed
MobileMe Yes  Video plays
MySpace No  Fallback content displayed
Mobile email clients Result
iPhone Yes  Video plays

See it in action

To give you a feel for how HTML5 video renders in a few of the
popular email clients, here are some screenshots from my

Apple Mail 4

When I opened the email in Apple Mail, the fallback image I
specified in the poster attribute was displayed while the movie
started streaming in. After a few seconds, the video controls
appeared and I could see the progress of the movie loading and
start to watch it.

HTML5 Video in Apple Mail

iPhone 3.1.2

The iPhone doesn’t support video streaming in the browser or
email client and, instead, provides a clear prompt that clicking
the poster image will let you watch the movie. Clicking the image
then loads the movie in the iPhone’s QuickTime player. At the
conclusion of the movie, you’re taken back to the email.

HTML5 Video on the iPhone

Outlook 2007

Like all email clients that don’t support HTML5 video, Outlook
2007 displays the fallback content we specify within
the video tag. This can be any HTML you like and isn’t limited
to a single image. In most cases, this would likely be a screenshot
from the movie and perhaps a play icon overlaid to entice the
recipient to click the image and view the video in their

The result was the same for all email clients that didn’t
support HTML5 video, making this a handy way to provide a
consistent experience for every recipient.

Can you embed video in Campaign Monitor?

As a Campaign Monitor customer, can you embed HTM5 video in
email effectively? Yes, and it’s quite easy.

In our new and easy-to-use drag-and-drop email builder, click on
the video content block and drag it to the place you want to embed
a video in your email. Next, add the URL of your video, as shown in
the example below:

In our new and easy-to-use drag-and-drop email builder, click on the video content block and drag it to the place you want to embed a video in your email.

Source: Campaign

These two simple steps are all it takes to embed an HTML5 video
in your email.

Should you use this technique?

This approach is likely the best option available for including
video in email because you can reliably provide fallback content
that works in every email client. The obvious limitation is that,
right now, it only works for your subscribers using Apple-related

Making a decision on the suitability of this approach really
comes down to your subscriber list. For example, 50% of our own
customer list opens our monthly newsletter using one of the
supported Apple email clients (you can find this out for your own
list using our handy ). If we wanted to include video in an email,
this technique would mean that half our subscribers can watch the
video right in their email client, and the other half will see a
perfectly acceptable fallback image that they can click to watch it
in their browser.

Wrap up

Using HTML5 video in email isn’t difficult at all,
particularly if you’re a Campaign Monitor customer. Keep these
approaches and test results in mind next time you’re considering
adding video to your campaigns.

For further reading on how you can use video in email,
check out our article How
to Use Video in Email Marketing

The post
HTML5 and Video in Email
appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

Source: FS – Email Marketing Blogs!
HTML5 and Video in Email