A lot of people have been asking us: can you embed videos in email? Unfortunately, it’s a yes-or-no question without a yes-or-no answer.
Technically the answer is yes . . . but more accurately: sort of. You can use an HTML 5 code to add a video to your email, but just because you can embed it doesn’t mean your subscribers can watch it.
More than half of all email users are on an email client that supports videos coded in HTML 5. But most email clients (including some big ones like Gmail) don’t support them. So on your email list, you’ve got to figure that about half of your readers would be able to play the video, and about half of them wouldn’t.
Does that mean you shouldn’t use videos in emails? Or that your emails will look broken to half your subscribers?
Use “fallback images” to accommodate all email clients
Since most email clients don’t support video, you need a solution for people on your list who won’t be able to play the video. If you just send it to your whole list, some email clients may default to an image of your video (which will be confusing when people try to click “play”), or they may show nothing at all. Or they might break in other ways.
You don’t want people to associate your brand with broken emails and a confusing experience. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution most popular email clients support: you can include a “fallback image” in the code. This is an image that will display instead of the video if a client doesn’t support it, and you can use it to link to your video on YouTube, Wistia, Vimeo, or another platform.
Add a video thumbnail
At the very least, you should use a video thumbnail with a play button. This lets you select an attention-grabbing image that represents your video well and makes it clear that people are supposed to click the button.
For years, this has been one of the main ways people share videos in an email–before email clients started supporting video. While it’s not as engaging as playing the video within the email itself (people have to click and leave their inbox), it’s normal, so there’s no confusion. And it’s much better than an unclickable image or broken email.
There’s another option, too.
Make it a GIF
Alternatively, a GIF or cinemagraph can give your readers a better idea of what the video contains. For short videos, a GIF could essentially act as a stand-in for the video itself so that they can keep reading your email without missing out. But even for longer videos, it’ll show people more of what to expect when they click through to watch your video.
Unfortunately, making sure you have a fallback image isn’t all there is to it.
Customize your code to fit each email client
Even among the email clients that support video, some of them handle it differently. Outlook for Mac doesn’t play videos when people click the play button, but it does let you right click and select “play” from a dropdown menu. And it doesn’t tell you that. So some of your subscribers who use Outlook on Mac will assume you made a mistake, not that their email client is wonky.
Pro tip: To work around this problem, you can either use your fallback image or give readers instructions on how to play videos through Outlook for Mac.
On top of that, several of the clients that don’t support video require unique coding to make sure they recognize the fallback image.
To ensure everyone can either play your video or see the fallback image, you have to do quite a bit of coding. Here’s a great guide for actually coding emails with video.
Alternatively, you might want to avoid the hassle and do it the old fashioned way.
Just use the fallback image
Not everyone can watch videos in their email client. But they can see your fallback image and follow the link to watch your video somewhere else. If you want to share a video with your subscribers, but you don’t want to deal with the technical challenges of coding an email that satisfies every client, just plop the thumbnail image in your email and link to the video.
Everyone understands how that works. Everyone can see it. And there’s zero risk of making your brand look bad.
It’s possible, but it takes work
You certainly can embed videos in an email. But it’s not as easy as uploading them to your website or a video-hosting platform. If you want to do it right, it’ll take some effort.