The Ultimate Guide to Embedding Video in Email for 2024

It‘s no secret that video content is a powerful tool for engaging audiences across channels and driving key marketing outcomes. In fact, according to Wyzowl‘s 2022 State of Video Marketing Report:

  • 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool (up from 81% in 2021)
  • 88% of video marketers report that video gives them a positive ROI
  • 73% of consumers say they prefer to watch a short video to learn about a product or service

But while video performs extremely well on websites, landing pages, and social media, it‘s been trickier to leverage in email campaigns. Email clients like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo don‘t support the technical requirements to play embedded videos directly in their native inboxes.

So what‘s an email marketer to do? Fear not! Several highly effective workarounds allow you to give subscribers a compelling video experience with a little bit of creative problem solving.

In this ultimate guide, we‘ll show you exactly how to pseudo-embed videos in your email campaigns for maximum engagement and conversions. We‘ll cover the pros and cons of different approaches, provide step-by-step instructions and examples, and reveal expert tips to help you create binge-worthy video email content.

Why "Fake Embed" Videos in Email?

Before we dive into the tactical how-to, let‘s explore some of the key benefits of incorporating video into your email marketing mix:

1. Boost critical engagement metrics πŸ“ˆ

Video content in emails has been shown to have a significant positive impact on core performance metrics. According to Campaign Monitor:

  • Adding video to email can increase click-through rates up to 300%
  • Using the word "video" in email subject lines boosts open rates by 19%
  • Mentioning video content in an email body yields a 65% increase in click-through rates

2. Simplify complex topics πŸ€”

Video is an ideal format for breaking down complicated subject matter in a quick, easily digestible way. From product demos and walkthroughs to how-tos and webinar recordings, videos help subscribers understand key concepts at a glance.

3. Pack an emotional punch πŸ’–

Unlike static text and images, video has the power to evoke strong emotional responses through music, dialogue, and compelling visuals. Videos forge deeper connections and make your email content far more memorable.

4. Showcase brand personality πŸ’‘

Videos give you the opportunity to bring your unique brand voice, look and feel to life in a way that words alone simply can‘t. Whether you go for humor, inspiration, or education, video allows your brand values to shine through.

5. Track audience engagement πŸ”

By driving email clicks to an external video landing page, you can capture granular data on exactly who is interested in your video content and how they watch it. View counts, play rates, and completion rates give you valuable insights to inform future offers and messaging.

The Challenges of "True" Video Embeds

Despite the clear benefits, several major roadblocks prevent marketers from directly embedding video files into emails:

Problem Description
Inconsistent client support Only a few email clients allow true video embeds, including Apple Mail, Thunderbird, and Samsung Email. Most popular clients like Gmail and Outlook do not.
Large file sizes Video files are much larger than images, which can negatively impact email load times and deliverability rates.
No in-email analytics True embeds don‘t allow you to track advanced engagement metrics like play rate, completion percentage, or drop-off points.
Mobile rendering issues Embedded videos often don‘t render well (or at all) on mobile email apps, and over 40% of emails are opened on mobile devices.

Given these hurdles, email marketers need alternative approaches to giving subscribers an interactive video experience without relying on true technical embedding. Let‘s explore some of the most effective options.

5 Ways to Pseudo-Embed Video in Email

Rather than wrestling with native video embeds, try one of these proven tactics to mimic the effect while sidestepping technical snafus:

1. Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs are image files that display a series of frames to create the illusion of video. Since they don‘t require a click to play and are widely supported by email clients, GIFs are an easy way to surprise and delight subscribers.

To create a GIF for email:

  1. Upload a short video clip (under 15 seconds) to a GIF maker tool like Giphy or Ezgif
  2. Customize the start/end time, dimensions, and effects
  3. Download the GIF file and insert it into your email

Keep in mind that GIFs have a few key limitations:

  • No sound (all motion, no audio)
  • Large file sizes, especially for longer clips
  • Minimal playback controls
  • Potential to distract from main email CTA

GIFs work best for short, punchy, silent teasers rather than long-form content. Check out this fun GIF-powered email from Postmates showcasing their "order tracking" feature:


2. Linked thumbnail images

Probably the most common approach is to take a static screenshot from your video, add a "play button" overlay, and link the thumbnail to the full video hosted on a landing page.

Here‘s how to do it:

  1. Take a high-quality screenshot of a key moment from your video
  2. Add a transparent play button icon on top of the screenshot (you can find free icons on sites like Icon Finder)
  3. Link the thumbnail image to the full video URL
  4. Surround the image with a written video teaser and CTA

Some email service providers like MailChimp have built-in tools to generate linked video thumbnails, or you can create your own using any image editor.

Compared to GIFs, static thumbnails give you more control over the destination URL and allow you to leverage the word "video" in your copy to boost opens and clicks. You can also customize the thumbnail to add branding, titles, captions, and more.

However, the lack of motion means static thumbnails may be less eye-catching than GIFs. It‘s also on you to compel that click with a strong video hook and CTA.

Here‘s an example of an effective video thumbnail from Wistia, with a clear title, description, and play button:


3. Cinemagraphs

Want something more dynamic than a static thumbnail but less chaotic than a full-motion GIF? Enter: cinemagraphs.

Cinemagraphs are still images with small looping motions that create a mesmerizing effect. They‘re extremely eye-catching while still putting the focus on a single moment rather than a full video.

To create an email cinemagraph:

  1. Film a short, steady video clip with a static central subject
  2. Import the clip into a cinemagraph creation tool like Flixel or Loopsie
  3. Mask the area you want to animate while freezing the rest of the frame
  4. Export as a GIF or video file

Since cinemagraphs are smaller and smoother than traditional GIFs, they‘re less likely to distract from your email copy or increase load times. The subtle motion adds intrigue without being overwhelming.

Here‘s a captivating cinemagraph from Nest featuring their smart thermostat:


4. Background videos

Some email clients now support embedding short, looping videos as a background element, with live text and CTAs in the foreground. While not clickable themselves, background videos add a wow factor to any layout.

To set a background video in email:

  1. Choose a short, visually interesting video clip
  2. Use a tool like Canva, Biteable, or Adobe Premiere to trim your clip to under 15 seconds and export in MP4 format
  3. Insert the video file into an HTML email template using the <video> tag with "autoplay" and "loop" attributes:
<video autoplay loop muted playsinline>
  <source src="yourvideo.mp4" type="video/mp4">
  1. Add a fallback background image for email clients that don‘t support embedded video:
<video autoplay loop muted playsinline poster="fallbackimage.jpg">
  <source src="yourvideo.mp4" type="video/mp4">

Keep in mind background videos won‘t work for all subscribers, so avoid putting any crucial information or CTAs within the video itself. Use them as an enhancement, not the main message.

Check out this background video email from travel brand Travelocity promoting a sweepstakes:


5. Interactive videos with AMP

Google‘s AMP for Email framework allows you to embed fully interactive elements inside emails, including clickable videos with custom players.

With AMP videos, subscribers can watch right inside supporting email clients like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and It‘s the closest you can get to a "true" video embed without relying on external links.

To implement an AMP video email:

  1. Ensure your email service provider supports AMP (if not, you may need to use a third-party tool like Dyspatch or hand-code your own)
  2. Upload your video file (supported formats are MP4, WebM, and MPEG)
  3. Specify the video source in <amp-video> tags, along with controls, dimensions, and autoplay settings:
  1. Preview and test your AMP email before sending (tools like AMP Playground and AMP Validator can help)

Note that AMP videos won‘t work for all email clients – be sure to provide fallback content for subscribers using non-AMP-enabled apps.

Here‘s an AMP video email example from Pinterest with shoppable product carousels:


Best Practices for Effective Video Email Content

Now that you know how to technically embed videos in email, let‘s cover some tips for doing it effectively to maximize engagement, conversions, and ROI.

Prioritize the first few seconds

Attention spans are short – over half of viewers will stop watching a video after the first 10 seconds. Your video thumbnail, title, description, and opening frames need to immediately hook the viewer with a compelling promise of value.

Keep it short and sweet

In addition to making the first few seconds count, keep your entire video brief – ideally under 60-90 seconds. Save longer-form content for your website or video hosting platforms, and use email videos as "teasers" to drive clicks.

Optimize video SEO

To give your video email content the best chance of being found and generating organic traffic, follow video SEO best practices:

  • Include target keywords in your video title, description, and tags
  • Add a video transcript or captions for better indexing and accessibility
  • Choose a compelling, click-worthy thumbnail
  • Share your video on multiple channels (website, blog, social, etc.)

Segment and personalize

Not all video content will be relevant to all subscribers. Use email list segmentation to deliver the right video to the right audience based on their interests, behavior, and stage in the customer journey. Personalized video thumbnails and dynamic content can further boost engagement.

A/B test your thumbnails and CTAs

Your thumbnail and surrounding email copy will make or break your video email click-through rates. A/B test different variations of your:

  • Thumbnail image and text
  • Play button color and style
  • Video title and description
  • CTA phrasing and placement

Let the data guide your creative decisions to find a winning formula.

Make your landing page seamless

The transition from email to video landing page should be smooth and frictionless. Ensure the video is the main focus above the fold, loads quickly, and auto-plays if possible. Match the video thumbnail and copy from your email for a consistent experience.

Include captions and transcripts

Not everyone can or will want to play audio, so include captions and/or transcripts alongside your video for better accessibility. Captions also help convey your key points to viewers who may be watching on mute in public settings.

Add a strong CTA

Every email video should have a clear next step for viewers to take after watching. Do you want them to reply, share, buy, or sign up? Make the desired action obvious with a prominent text and/or button CTA during and after the video.

Analyze and iterate

Video marketing is an ongoing process of learning and optimization. Dig into your email and video performance metrics to see what‘s working and what needs tweaking:

  • Email open and click-through rates
  • Video play and completion rates
  • Drop-off points and audience retention graphs
  • Engagement by device, email client, day/time, etc.

By continually testing and iterating, you‘ll zero in on the video email formula that resonates best with your specific audience.

Innovations & What‘s Next for Video in Email

The demand for interactive video experiences in email will only continue to grow. While widespread adoption of "true" video embeds is likely still a ways off, we can expect to see more innovation in this space, including:

  • Mainstream support for AMP videos in more email clients
  • New tools and platforms for easily creating pseudo-video embeds
  • AI-powered video personalization at scale
  • Shoppable and interactive video that subscribers can click within the email
  • Better ways to track and attribute cross-channel video engagement

No matter what the future holds, one thing is clear: Video will remain a critical tool for capturing attention, building affinity, and driving action in the inbox and beyond.

By implementing the tactics, examples, and best practices covered in this guide, you‘ll be well on your way to creating thumb-stopping video email campaigns that subscribers can‘t help but click in 2023 and beyond.

This post was written by Megan Marrs. She is a content marketing consultant who has been creating top-performing video email campaigns since 2016. Connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more.