Hotmail has just become the first major webmail provider to allow video displays in emails via HTML5 as part of their new beta client testing. This could dramatically alter the state of affairs for videos in email sends almost overnight, if this roll-out becomes a standard feature and more widespread.
Prior to Hotmail’s support for HTML5 video, B2C retail email marketers could deliver HTML5 video in email only to iOS devices and some other less prominent mail clients, which made for only a minor email video penetration rate.
HTML5 videos displaying correctly will depend on the web browser used by the subscriber:
• Internet Explorer 9 supports HTML5 videos, however earlier versions of IE do not.
• Firefox 4 and more recent versions of Chrome also support HTML5.
Email marketers who push video feeds into their newsletter templates will need to tread carefully and not build campaigns based or reliant on the assumption that their recipients are using the latest versions of a mainstream browser – weighing the benefits of HTML5 videos against the losses that they might generate.
Marketers should also do an audience survey to see what the browser superiority is within their existing audience, and use off-page video links and include good ALT text in case the videos do not display, or in the likely event that these do not render perfectly well. Even though there has been some debate about the attention value of the low-on-page real estate, above the fold is still always the ideal perch for anything you want your readers to see and take an interest in first.
Email videos will definitely add more intrigue to all our newsletters, simply because most people don’t like to read.
Bear in mind that most email clients do not have the rendering capabilities to handle videos yet, as these are built on text dominant engines. Hotmail, on the other hand, is a browser client, and has created the scripting environment that can handle the basic rendering and audio needs.
Time will tell if their solution withstands the rigors of the Internet, but it will be nonetheless exciting to watch the developments and performance of Hotmail’s video-friendly beta. Of course, you can expect that other major webmail clients will begin to imitate this feature if it does prove to be reliably successful.
Coating your messages with visual honey to harvest click-throughs is one thing, but as to how appealing it will ultimately be for readers to have videos threaded into sections of email newsletter text; just ask yourself - which part of this article's contents did you look at first and how did it influence your decision to read the rest of the entry?
The same principles that apply to on-site content also govern emails.