February 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Auto marketing firm uses video e-mail to drive traffic to dealer’s web sites

Outsell LLC, a marketing firm catering to auto dealers, is sending e-mail with built-in promotional videos to its clients’ customers.

As the video craze sweeps the Internet-about 53% of consumers 18 and older watch online video, according to Forrester Research Inc.-attention is turning to integrating video into e-mail marketing messages.

Outsell LLC, a Minneapolis-based Internet marketing firm catering to multi-channel auto dealers, is using a system from Email Film Technologies Inc. to send videos to its clients’ customers to entice them to visit the clients’ web sites. The e-mail video system compresses the file size of videos embedded in e-mail, in this case an e-newsletter, and makes them compatible with HTML.

The videos feature special incentives and other offers intended to prompt consumers to click on a related link in a message and connect to an auto dealer’s site. Outsell, which has more than 350 auto dealer clients, has been testing the video concept for more than six months with a handful of Toyota, Honda and Nissan dealers.

“E-mail video gets some of the highest click-through rates,” says Mindy Dolan, product specialist, interactive marketing, at Outsell. “Many consumers are becoming more visually driven when it comes to a marketing message; including a video in a marketing e-mail creates a stronger pull into the message.”

Multi-channel retailers

Email Film Technologies also has produced e-mail videos for dating services, credit card issuers, student loan companies, jewelers and a real estate school, says Bill Adagio, vice president of sales and marketing and co-founder of the company.

It also is targeting e-mail service providers and says it has received interest from some multi-channel retailers. “Consumers are getting bored with text-based e-mail marketing messages that contain static images,” Adagio says. “Including video is a way to push people to the final destination, the retailer’s web site.”

Unlike streaming video, which can be slow to download and choppy while playing, Email Film Technologies’ standardized videos use a compressed animated GIF that can be embedded in e-mail and played automatically when a message is opened. By combining the well-established GIF format with newer video processing techniques, a significant amount of content can be squeezed into a file small enough for almost any e-mail client to play.

Each video is stored on a server hosting the e-mail campaign, which makes initial e-mail downloads even quicker. Video quality is high resolution-up to 800 pixels wide by 400 pixels high. Typical run time for an e-mail video is 10-20 seconds, Adagio says, though there are no constraints on length. The cost to produce an e-mail video through Email Film Technologies starts at $1,500, which includes integration into an e-mail campaign, he adds.

Wary consumers

Despite the interest in e-mail video by some marketers, consumers have yet to show much interest in the medium for viewing ads online largely because the current use of video ads on the Internet is mostly as commercial introductions to general interest videos, some experts say. And consumers tend to consider the introductions disruptive to the viewing experience, Forrester Research notes.

The good news for retailers is many of their customers already watch online video, which indicates they have an affinity for the medium. More than 30% of Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and eBay customers watch online video, according to Forrester. In addition, Overstock, Radio Shack and Gap have customers who watch more than 40 online videos per month, and Amazon.com and Borders have customers who watch with even greater frequency, Forrester Research concludes.

Such interest in the medium suggests retailers ought to at least consider initiating or expanding the use of online video in e-mail, Outsell’s Dolan says. “Visually oriented consumers like to be engaged in that manner,” she says. “Video e-mail is a new way to grab these consumers’ attention.”

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