One of the greatest things about my job is that I get to meet and speak with some really smart people and learn about technology. Video is not new by any means in email, but Liveclicker is doing some awesome stuff around video commerce. I had the chance to sit down with Justin Foster, the Co-Founder of Liveclicker and ask him a few very direct questions about video commerce and his vision for the future.
(AK) Isn’t video in email dead? Why are people doing video in email these days?
(JF) Video in email was dead. Now, thanks to new disruptions in the industry, video in email has a second shot at life. The two mega-trends driving video in email are the rise of HTML5 video coupled with mass adoption of mobile mail clients, especially on iOS devices. When paired with growing access to broadband and new tools enabling video in email, the time is better than ever for senders to consider a video-in email strategy.
Tell me about Video Email Express? What makes you different?
Liveclicker’s Video Email Express product enables senders of email to reliably deliver video in email at up to 70% of their database while simultaneously preventing those recipients who are still unable to see video in their mail client from receiving a broken experience.
Video Email Express combines two novel and innovative technologies to make video-in-email a reality. The first of these technologies, Smart Video Versioning, creates 16 video and image assets from each video uploaded into the Video Email Express service. The second technology, Real-Time Video Mapping, detects the mail recipient’s mail client, mobile device, and/or web browser in real-time, as an email is opened by the recipient, and then maps that particular browser/client pair to one of the 16 assets stored in the user’s Video Email Express account. When combined, these technologies ensure that each mail client displays only an asset that’s proven to work.
How easy it for people to use Video Email Express?
It takes an hour or less to create a new Video Email Express account, upload a video, configure a couple of options, and begin deploying video in email. A huge advantage of using Video Email Express is that no ESP switching is required. There’s no integration needed with the sender’s existing ESP, either. It’s a 100% copy-and-paste affair, where an embed code generated by Video Email Express is copied and pasted by the user into the email campaign HTML. We partner with many of the top ESPs formally, but we have yet to encounter an ESP that was unable to use a Video Email Express embed code.
What about some of these inboxes that block video content, what is the solution for them?
The only reliable way to deal with mail clients that don’t support video is to detect those mail clients and serve something they are capable of displaying. That’s where Smart Video Versioning and Real-Time Video Mapping come into play. Video Email Express is not a panacea to video in email; no solution is able to magically start rendering video within mail clients that don’t support video. Instead, by serving a compatible asset to those non-supporting mail clients (usually a static image or a silent animated .GIF/.PNG video), senders are able to reach the broadest possible audience with video in the email without alienating those recipients. A list of supported mail clients can be found here.
When should brands really use video in email?
Video in email is still a relatively new technique for most email senders. Those brands that realize that it’s now possible to safely and reliably deliver video in email, by using tools like Video Email Express, are able to stand out from the crowd and deliver messages that are highly differentiated and compelling.
Another reason to use video in email is that it’s vastly simpler for recipients on popular mobile platforms like iOS to see video in email as opposed to consuming video on a web site. Reaching this high-value, sophisticated audience with video in email is critical for brands and advertisers seeking to make a lasting connection with recipients. Think about it: if you’re still linking out from an email to a video on a landing page, then your iPhone and iPad recipients will have to tap on your image in the email, wait for a click redirect, spawn a new browser or browser page, wait for that page and the video player in it to load, and then tap again to get the video to start loading. It’s a hassle. On the other hand, with video in email, just a single tap is required and the video can begin playing right away.
What sorts of expectations or results should brands be aware of when using Video Email Express?
We have many case studies of brands that experience better post-click metrics on video in email campaigns: Costco Wholesale experienced a 42% higher average order value in a video-in-email vs. a video-on-landing-page-only 50/50 split; Express experienced 33% higher conversion rate and 55% higher revenue per email delivered on a 50/50 split; Eastwood experienced 35% higher orders, also a 50/50 split. BSkyB was able to deliver over 1.25 million incremental video impressions for the Game of Thrones TV mini-series launch in the UK by leveraging video in email.
Still, I think it’s early days here as far as results go. We see plenty of campaigns that perform no differently than control. Also, it’s very important when sending video in email to measure results post-click, as opposed to measuring open rate or clickthrough rates. That’s because your ESP isn’t able to track when someone hits the “play” button on your video, leading to an undercounting of clicks on video-in-email segments. Plus, video in email will do nothing to increase opens; that’s still driven primarily by the subject line. Metrics like time on site, engagement on-site, revenue, conversion rate, average order value, downloads initiated, etc. are far more helpful.
Last, I’d advise any sender who wishes to use video-in-email follow these 5 Quick Tips:
- Test across multiple sends. Some videos work well, others don’t. Try to determine whether video in email works for your brand by using a variety of videos, and sending to different audiences.
- Look at the big picture. If one of your goals is to simply get people to watch a video, or stand out from the crowd, then video in email could be an important component of a broader video distribution strategy.
- Keep the messaging relevant. Video in email is still very much in its infancy. Unfortunately, some marketers think that simply because video in email is new, that it’s OK to abandon email marketing fundamentals. I’d argue that with video, it’s more important than ever before to keep messaging relevant; that’s because when you ask someone to watch a video, what you’re really doing is asking someone to give you their time, a commodity that is in short supply these days. With images, people can quickly glance and click away. With video, people are forced to watch. So keep it relevant and deliver video to people who actually want to see it.
- Send before or after working hours, or on the weekend. This is a simple tip designed to maximize the percentage of email recipients that receive your messages on a tablet or smartphone. Since the mobile ecosystem plays such an important role in video in email support, try to send messages when people are more likely to be using these devices as opposed to standard desktop browser webmail clients, or standalone desktop mail apps.
- Feature video in the subject line. This tip actually applies to all video email sends, regardless of whether video is embedded in the message or linked out. Our clients consistently see increased open rates between 5% to 20% higher simply by prepending a subject line with the word “Video” when run in 50/50 splits.
Social video commerce: What does it look like 2 years from now?
Social video commerce is an entirely different ballgame, of which video in email can play a part. In general, we see people sharing more video, creating more video, and building deeper social connections using video. Video is a core driver of social; we don’t see anything that would cause us to think that trend will change anytime soon.
Tell me about video email express: Can anyone use it?
Anyone can use it, but Video Email Express is targeted toward sophisticated email marketers who understand the limitations of video in email (where it will work and where it won’t). Also, it’s primarily toward B2C email marketers, with a feature-set designed to facilitate ease of use, but also flexibility while providing useful analytics. Users can create an account for free, upload videos for free, and we also provide free trial video views. Presently, pricing on Video Email Express begins at $500 once the trial views are used. This pricing is designed to ensure we are able to meet the needs of clients that are serious about video in email by providing them with adequate training, support, hand-holding, and best practices guidance.
What are some of the drawbacks to using video in email?
There are a few drawbacks; first, the analytics available on video consumption in email aren’t as robust as one could obtain when video is published to the web. For example, it’s not presently possible to measure play-through engagement on a per-user level when video is served in email, especially in very large deployments. Second, video in email requires an education process. While tools like Video Email Express can make including video in email very easy, new senders still have to learn about where video in email works, and where it doesn’t. Last, video in email requires small, but not nonexistent, changes to the deployment process. We generally advise regular video in email senders to budget an additional 2 hours in the deployment process for the initial campaigns. Subsequent campaigns involve less time.
Anything you can tell me about what is going on in the labs of Liveclicker? A sneak peek perhaps.
Liveclicker is always innovating and figuring out new ways video can bring value to commerce. We believe video in email is an important slice of video commerce, but it’s only a small piece in a vast puzzle. I think you’ll see us working to provide comprehensive solutions for video commerce where they’re needed, and targeted apps like Video Email Express where they make sense.
How do you think video is going to change email going forward?
With over 180 million people in the US watching video online each month (not even counting video ads), it’s clear that video is here to stay. As more email marketers seek to stand out in the inbox and build relationships, we think video is going to play an increasingly prominent role. I don’t think we’ll see any kind of wholesale transition to video for messaging, but with faster Internet speeds combined with the persuasive power of video, I think it’s safe to say that video is going to be a mainstay in most online marketers’ toolboxes.