07222017

Making Your Emails a Visual Delight with Rich Media

Photo credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

In this article, the importance and the difference in ROI brought by including an image, GIF or video within an email, is explained in conjunction with the pros and cons of including each. Moreover, the pitfalls faced in terms of email client compatibility and SPAM laws are also discussed.

The modern world is heavily reliant on visuals. From street signs to billboards to album covers to even your favorite social media platform to emails, it’s visuals that entice and engage. While emojis, Vine loops, illustrations, doodles, sketches, selfies and many more “terms” has people chasing the metaphorical carrot of being viral; the world of emails (both B2B and B2C) is fast emerging to embrace new trends like Rich Media to quickly grab attention as and when the subscriber opens the email.

Fact: 37 percent of marketers say visual marketing is the most important form of content for their business, second only to blogging (38 percent).

What is Rich Media? How does it make email engaging?

By definition, Rich Media is a digital advertising term for content that includes advanced features like video, audio, or other elements that encourage viewers to interact and engage with it. The sheer advantage of rich media in email is that instead of the subscriber going through a blurb filled with text, they can get the same message in a shorter duration from a GIF or a Video.This is indirectly helpful in improving the email metrics of click-through rates since the subscriber engages with the information at a faster rate, and in turn, the chance of them converting quicker is improved. In the world of email marketing, with every email being a purely hit-or-pay for it situation, it is very important for your email to be engaging and what better than make it enticing with a visual element.

How Brands are harnessing the Power of Rich Media in Emails

Static Image in Emails

Most widely used nowadays, a single picture in conjunction with a paragraph of text actually conveys 1000 words in itself. Psychologically, people tend to ‘process’ information much faster from an image than going through a sea of words.

So, most of the minimalistic emails have a single image with the message displayed, sandwiched between the email header and footer. But this is not at all recommended as SPAM filters tend to tag emails with less than 80:20 text to image ratio and low sender reputation. Also, email clients have images disabled by default, so there is a chance that the message is not conveyed at the first go.

Moreover, it is important to have alt-text to each image in your email so that even in case the images are disabled by the email client, the subscriber shall see the message.

Pros:

– Visually aesthetic compared to plain text.
– Faster information processing.
– Helps increasing click-through rates.
– Supported in all email clients.
– Widely useful for e-Commerce and brand emails that showcase several products.

Cons:

– Necessary to maintain 80:20 text to image ratio to avoid SPAM traps.
– Email clients disable images by default and so alt-text is required.
– Attaching the image inline can increase the overall size of the email, so better to host the images and fetch them when email is opened.

Embedded Video in Emails

The other extreme of the visual spectrum i.e. videos is also one of the most loved visual channels in the modern world. Youtube reports growth of 100 percent every year and 64 percent of users have agreed to buy a product online after watching a video. In 2009, along with introducing interactivity in emails, embedded videos in emails also had gained tractions, but due to lack of proper bandwidth and device support, the support declined. Fortunately, with iOS10 supporting embedded video out-of-box, videos playing right within your email client is once again back in trend. 

Currently, embedded video is only supported in Android and iOS native email clients, Thunderbird and some webmails. However, what’s more, interesting is that in non-supporting clients, the fallback is a static image or animated GIF, so the overall user experience is not at all ruined.

You must be wondering how a video in your email campaign won’t increase your email size. First, you host the video on the remote hosting platform and then we fetch the video from there by using the following code.

<video width="320" height="176" controls poster="Url Link for Jpg for non-supporting email client fallback">  <source src="Url where the video is hosted" type="video/mp4">

This way the file size remains small and the buffered video is played.

OGG, MP4, and WebM are the three main video format file types supported by HTML5, but MP4 has the greatest device compatibility.

Pros:

– Greatly useful for explainer videos and product demos.
– The remotely hosted video is buffered and this keeps the email file size small.
– Non-supporting email clients see an animated GIFs that doesn’t ruin the user experience.

Cons:

– Currently supported only in Apple devices, Android native client, and Thunderbird.
– Video length needs to be sufficient enough to keep the subscriber interested.
– Video in email is not every marketer’s cup of tea. Use only if you have relevant content for sharing.

Animated GIFs and Cinemagraphs in Emails

A picture conveys 1000 words, a video conveys even more. However, a GIF is the middle path that makes you fall in love!

Combining the advantages of both static image and a video, animated GIF brings life into emails without running into email client rendering issues. Only Outlook and Lotus notes are troublesome while rendering any GIFs but thankfully they display the first frame as static. So as long as the message is not relying heavily on the GIF, the user experience won’t be largely affected. Moreover, GIFs are supported in Apple devices, Android phones, Webmails such as Gmail and Yahoo. So including an animated GIF is not a big gamble if the number of Outlook and Lotus Notes users is very low on your list.

Going a step further, Cinemagraphs are a new species of animated GIFs that bring a cinematic effect into it. By keeping the entire image static with just one element animating, cinemagraphs are a sure shot way to capture subscriber’s attention.

Pros:

– Comparatively easy to create on having the correct resources.
– The best way to showcase more information in less email space.
– Rendered beautifully across most used email clients.

Cons:

– A GIF with a large number of frames shall be of heavy file size. Embedding such a GIF shall increase your email file size.

Wrapping Up:

No matter which of the above stated visual medium your brand may be using for emails, it is any day better than plain-text email. But as a best practice, whenever you send an email also have a fallback plain text email for those subscribers who may not receive your HTML email. Have you ever came across an email with a cinemagraph or embedded video in it? Share your views and experience with it.

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