November 13, 2007
Case Study

How to Add Video to Email on a Shoestring Budget & Double Conversions: 6 Steps + 6 Lessons Learned

SUMMARY: While online video advertising is gaining a ton of traction, it’s still unusual to see a video in email from an ecommerce site that isn’t an entertainment or automotive brand.

See how a floral eretailer tested video in an email on a shoestring budget and saw clickthroughs jump 25.8%. Plus, they doubled their normal conversion rate and learned a handful of lessons along the way.
Floral eretailer Brighter Blooms Nursery saw their clickthrough and conversion rates lagging just a few weeks after launching an ecommerce initiative.

“We felt like our emails were starting to get stale,” says Justin French, Campaign Manager. “While we liked what we were doing with product photos, they really weren’t helping us stand out among the competition. We wondered if consumers needed to see what the plants really looked like.”

French and his team wondered if adding video to their email could improve results. With a tiny budget, however, they couldn’t afford to hire either a creative or production agency.

First, French scoured the marketing landscape for best email video practices before conducting the test. He and his team found plenty of good ideas, including keeping the video as short as possible and not embedding it in the actual email message.

But they also took some chances -- specifically with the subject line. Here are the steps they took:

-> Step #1. Locate the right video footage

Because their budget wouldn’t allow them to shoot a new video from scratch, French used an affordable online stock footage firm (see hotlink below). The product in the test email featured tulips, so he found a 7-second clip that he thought would stir viewers’ imaginations.

“We wanted to do something less than 15 seconds because we didn’t want to tax the patience of our audience. And, we wanted to see if something as simple as a beautiful flower waving in the wind would get their attention.”

-> Step #2: Create photo link in message

Next, they set up a prominent still photograph of tulips as a link (the image was 172 by 230 pixels) at the top of the email message. Copy in a large font in the image asked readers to “Click to Play” and the words "Your web browser will open to play the video."

-> Step #3: Roll video clip automatically

Viewers who clicked on the link were taken to a landing page where the video clip started playing automatically. On the right side were three short paragraphs of copy that ended with the offer: “Order now and we will rush them to you at no additional charge.”

-> Step #4: Link to other products

Underneath the video link, people could click on a separate image of tulips to see dozens of product examples or select from three other categories:
o Lilies
o Daffodils
o Rare Varieties

-> Step #5. Write a short subject line

French and his team attempt to keep their subject lines short -- 35 characters or less. Previous tests also had shown a performance spike with personalized subject lines.

For this email, they used: “[name], Here’s my New Tulip Video,” which totaled just over 30 characters (letters and spaces) depending on how many letters were in the recipient’s name. French had one concern, though.

“I have to admit, we wondered if the word ‘video’ would deter people because they thought it was going to be a big file, even though it wasn’t big at all. Or, I worried that they’d think there was going to be an attachment or a virus.”

->Step #6. Create sense of urgency in the headline

Product seasonality was a critical issue, so they tried a windowed headline in the email that said: “Bulb Notice -- Only 16 Days Left ...” The headline reflected the urgency, with the weather getting colder, of planting tulips soon. The email went to their entire customer base of 55,000 on their normal campaign day (a Tuesday).

“Bulb planting season for 80% of the country is done before the second week in November, so that’s why we set that date. It was for the benefit of the customer, as nobody wants to be planting tulips in the snow.”
Well, the video blossomed ... and then some. French’s tulip email saw conversions reach 2.8% -- more than double their average rate of 1.35%.

“The conversions rate was an amazing stat to see, as we didn’t expect it to jump so high on our first test,” he says. “I think the conversions tell us they were not only clicking on the link, but watching the video, too. I think the headline helped conversions as well.”

In addition, 25.2% of the people who opened the email clicked to watch the video -- more than a five-percentage point jump, or a 25.8% comparative lift overall -- from their normal 20.02% average.

French’s fear of using the word “video” in the subject line was warranted. The subject line performed below average: 14% opened the message as compared to their 16.5% average.

Despite the latter result, French says video is definitely something he will continue to use in their email. With $14 in sales for every marketing dollar spent, the video email also showed an extremely healthy ROI for a first-time test. “We want to use video more on our Web site now, too, because of what we’ve seen.”

Here are the top six lessons French and his team learned from the email test:

Lesson #1. Don’t include the word “video” in a subject line because it may be a red flag. “Nobody wants a virus, and people are much more vigilant about what they open in their email.”

Lesson #2. A short, concise video works best. After planning to test longer spots, they now are leaning toward clips that are 15 seconds or less.

Lesson #3. Showing a video lessens the copywriting burden. Instead, work on the quality of the video, converting the format if need be. French converted the stock MP4 file to Flash to make it compatible with their Web-editing program.

Lesson #4. Use a video player with a multiple-file capability, such as YouTube Player. This gives viewers the potential to click on other files as well to expand their product knowledge in addition to viewing your special offer.

Lesson #5: Integrate the switch from email to browser viewing to avoid an office faux pas. French and his team made it mandatory for people to open a Web browser to view the video. They didn’t want it to run automatically in the email to safeguard at-work readers opening Brighter Bloom’s message.

Lesson #6: Use a photo hotlink to avoid spam filters.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Brighter Bloom Nursery's Video Email Test:

1 Shopping Cart - Brighter Blooms’ ecommerce services and email delivery provider:

iStock International Inc. - stock video footage site:

Brighter Blooms:

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