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Email-ready video thumbnails: 3 steps, 30 seconds

Naomi West is a Product Marketing Manager at Parcel, the industry-leading email coding tool, which was recently acquired by You can also catch her writing about all things email on her personal blog.

Video content can be engaging, fun, and a great way to show off your brand personality. But when you try to embed videos in emails, it usually just doesn’t work. That creates a disappointing experience for your subscribers, and a lot of headaches for you.

Email clients handle video very differently than websites, and that’s where marketers can run into trouble. Two common ways to bring a video (or video-like) experience to the inbox are often thwarted by inconsistencies across email clients:

  • HTML5 video: Technically, you can embed this video format in an email. The problem? Only about 25% of email clients will display it. You can code your email to display a fallback image for everyone else, but that’s a lot of extra effort, especially if few of your subscribers use clients that support video anyway.
  • GIFs: Simulating the effect of video with a GIF can add motion to your email, but, again, email clients can wreak havoc. Certain versions of outlook are the biggest offender: they will only display the first frame (and that might not be the best look). Plus, GIF file sizes can be larger than other image formats, which leads to slow load times.

Don’t despair! There’s an easy way to bring a video vibe to your emails without running afoul of email client quirks: video thumbnails. 

Embed a video thumbnail: 3 easy steps

A thumbnail image with a play button provides the look of a video and entices readers to click through and watch. It’s email-safe, super simple, and so, so quick.

Best of all, you don’t even need to open a graphic design program. Parcel’s email-ready video thumbnail generator automatically creates a thumbnail of your video with an optional play button. It works for videos hosted anywhere online: YouTube, Vimeo, Loom, your own servers, wherever. Here’s how to use it.  

Step 1: Paste a link to your video into the Asset URL field and click the Generate button. You’ll get links to two versions of your thumbnail, one with a play button and one without.

Step 2: Copy the link to the image you want to use. I recommend the version with the play button, since customers will instantly know they’re clicking through to a video.

Step 3: Paste the image link into your email’s HTML code; remember to embed a link to the video itself too. If you’d rather download the image, just paste the link into your browser and grab it from there. 

And there you have it: the look of video with a user experience that works for everyone. As long as you follow best practices for using images in HTML emails (which I’m sure you do!), you can deliver the look of video to your subscribers’ inboxes without a hitch.