June 18, 2008
Case Study

Embedded Video Lifts Conversion Rate 50%: 5 Steps to Test Deliverability & Subject Line

SUMMARY: Videos embedded in email can grab attention or cause deliverability problems and rendering nightmares. Most marketers believe the latter, but a few say their data speak otherwise.

See how a marketer increased conversions more than 50% by embedding video in emails. Includes deliverability and subject line test data. Plus, what’s the best video length to use.

Conversion rates on email campaigns for a UK entertainment brand hit a plateau late last year. Carolyn Jacquest, Online Marketing Executive, Haven Holidays, and her team didn’t take the news lightly.

“We wanted something new and exciting that would bring the Haven experience to life,” Jacquest says of the amusement park and family resort. “We wanted to show what we had to offer visually.”

They particularly wanted to shake things up before the all-important summer season began. Enter the idea of stimulating conversion rates with videos embedded in the email message body – considered a no-no by some email experts.

Jacquest and her team’s concept was emboldened by data found in MarketingSherpa’s Email Benchmark Guide 2008. It indicates that online consumers react positively to video, with in-stream video ads getting clickthrough rates nearly twice those of static images.

Haven’s email service provider also convinced Jacquest that, with the right preparation, an embedded video can be delivered successfully and catch people’s attention. Here are the five steps they took:

-> Step #1. Improve reputation

The first thing Jacquest and her team did was work to improve their sender reputation. Indeed, the idea of sending videos in emails almost begins and ends with deliverability concerns.

This boiled down to *regularly* observing one best practice – routinely scrubbing their list to get rid of addresses that were bouncing in the months leading up to the test.

-> Step #2. Produce video

The creative process began with Jacquest and her team deciding to produce a 5-minute video that could be edited down to the most appropriate size for an email. Then, they focused on the content, which revolved around the parks’ amenities.

“We focused on entertainment and the varied activities that can be experienced. Things like our indoor and outdoor pools, our live bands, pantomimes for the children, etc.”

-> Step #3. Test video clip size

Working with the promo video, Jacquest and her team tested the length to eliminate two problems:
o File size that email systems wouldn’t bounce
o Download that wouldn’t take forever for recipients to receive

To discover the optimal length, they sent clip sizes to the in-house accounts for their UK-based audience’s 10 most-popular Web mail providers or receivers. “We did weeks of testing before sending the campaign.”

The receivers they tested:
- Outlook 2003
- Outlook 2000
- Outlook Explorer
- Hotmail
- Yahoo!
- AOL Webmail
- Virgin
- NTL World
- Tiscali
- Gmail

From the test results, they learned that clips at 20 seconds were optimal for deliverability. That also gave their audience something to chew on. The 5-minute clip was edited to 20 seconds – or 1 megabyte in file size.

“The length had to do with how much the email could hold. A longer clip would have affected deliverability. Additionally, we wanted to be informative and snappy in the marketing message.”

-> Step #4. Create test design

They picked an Easter holiday email for the test. At the top of the HTML design appeared the copy in blue type: “Fun Filled Easter at Haven!” Just below this was a four-buttoned navigation bar. The copy, “Come and enjoy the Best Easter Holiday ever,” appeared in a white font.

A 320x180-pixel video box appeared when the video automatically started rolling inside the preview pane when the message was opened.

They knew that the video was going to go unseen for some users no matter what they did in testing. For instance, Gmail users who didn’t have HTML images turned on simply did not see the video automatically roll in the message.

Jacquest accounted for those types of situations by including a link to a microsite where a 60-second version of the clip could be seen. The email copy for the link read: “If you can’t see our video … Click here.”

-> Step #5. A/B test subject lines

Jacquest and her team also tested the word “video” in the subject line – even if the copy got a bit long. “I normally try to keep subject lines’ characters under 45,” she says.

Here are the two subject lines they tested:
#1. “Picture yourself at Haven this Easter, watch our video now” (58 characters with spaces)
#2. “Come and enjoy the Best Easter Holiday ever!” (45 characters with spaces)
Plain and simple – embedding a video in emails worked. The Easter campaign become a smash hit with a 3.38% conversion rate – 50.2% higher than previous non-video campaigns. “Our average conversion rates were ranging between 2% to 2.5%,” Jacquest says. “So, the 3.38% was great, exceeded our expectations and was an ROI winner.”

Although Jacquest and her team weren’t able to track how many of those ticket buyers viewed the email in the body vs. on the microsite, they were thrilled to see conversions rise significantly.

Another point of great importance was the fact that the 20-second clip got through to inboxes with a deliverability rate of 96%. It showed that, if done correctly with attention placed upon sender reputation and thorough testing, video can work in the body of the message. Clickthroughs also were a healthy 27%.

Jacquest’s hunch on subject lines was dead-on as well. Including the word “video” had a big impact – a 14.6% boost for opens. “I think people are interested in video, and it’s not something you see very often in an email. It’s become more common at websites, but to have it open within your email message can have a strong impact on the recipient.”

In the subject line test, the word video didn’t trip email filters. Both subject lines produced the same deliverability rate: 96%.

Another key lesson learned from their test: Even if the video doesn’t roll in the email body, it appears to create enough intrigue to induce clickthroughs to the clip.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Haven Holiday’s email campaign:

Red Eye International - Haven Holiday’s ESP and video technology provider:

Haven Holidays:

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