Video Email Wizardry

Video can vastly improve the conversion or click rate of any message, whether that be a Facebook post, website page or email message. There would be a real advantage, then, if you could embed video in email campaigns.

But email barely supports rich content, let alone video. Unlike browsers and HTML5, email format standardization is lacking, and there are many more email clients that can consume email messages. The rich content that _is_ supported in email is a bastardized subset of HTML and embedded CSS that even web developers don’t want to touch. People sending rich email content instead rely on Email Service Providers such as Mailchimp, Sendgrid and others to compose their email campaigns.

And yet people occasionally are still foolish enough to try to embed video in email. The standard approach is to generate a crude and large animated GIF file and embed this in the HTML. The problems you run into are poor image and animation quality, large download size, excess delay to play, a lack of good GIF generation tools, limitations on creativity, and the fact that not all email clients can even play a GIF file. Results end up looking crappy at best.

Is it possible to do better that the lowest common denominator GIF format? Some email clients support high quality video such as mp4. Others support WebP, a much better format than GIF for animated images. If you could optimize the video for the client you could achieve those far better conversion rates that video has to offer.

A good Video in Email solution takes some serious technical wizardry, and a few compromises. has created this magic. They’ve spent the past few years polishing a solution that is optimized for any email client or network situation.

Playable takes a source video and recompiles it in a number of different formats, ranging from high definition mp4 files that can be played by the 20% of email messages that are opened on iOS devices, to animated WebP and PNG files for another 30% of devices, or animated GIF for most remaining devices, or even a static image if you are one of the unlucky 5% that is stuck with an Outlook email client.

Sample Data from Campaign with over 100,000 opens

In all cases Playable has multiple versions of each animation format and will deliver the highest quality version that the device supports. What’s more, Playable’s tools are optimized for size and quality. Even the lowly GIF is generated using a three-pass process that optimizes color palettes, resolution and frame rates for the best possible end-user experience. In no cases (except for Outlook of course) is Playable’s output quality as bad as the GIFs that most people try to embed in email.

Playable further optimizes their solution by hosting video assets using the best content delivery networks in existence around the world. They then perform various network magic tricks to prefetch content so an email recipient never sees a blank video and never has to wait long for a video to play.

Which brings us back to some basics:

  • You compose every messsage of every email campaign with the intent of optimizing conversion and click rates.
  • If you could find a way to double conversion rates would you do it? Of course you would!
  • Playable has seen conversion rates go up by as much as 10x by embedding video in email.