E-commerce Link: Lights, Camera, (Sales) Action!
Online video is riding a wave of popularity. Industry researcher Forrester Research reports that 34 percent of all Internet users view video online at least monthly, and 53 percent have seen a video online at least once. The content of those videos ranges from movie previews to amateur productions to video-phone captures uploaded to video-sharing Web site YouTube, whose $1.65 billion acquisition by Google grabbed headlines last year—and put a hefty dollar value on the online video phenomenon.
There’s no doubt that online video is cool. But for merchants who need to focus resources on maximizing conversions and loyalty, the hype factor alone isn’t enough to justify investing in online video. Are there dollars beyond the buzz?
Increasingly, the answer is yes. Investment in online video is growing: eMarketer predicts that online video advertising will grow 89 percent this year to 4.2 percent of all online marketing spending. Savvy online merchants are finding ways to capitalize on video to showcase products, engage customers on a deeper level and increase overall brand awareness.
As broadband penetration in the United States tops 50 percent of the population, online video only can increase in popularity. Now is the time to begin implementing the tactics that will boost your e-business. To maximize results, focus on the following three key opportunities.
1. Use sound and motion to show your products in action.
According to Forrester, 5 percent of all online consumers have watched a product demonstration video in the past month, while 3 percent have watched an instructional video. Capitalize on this information-seeking behavior by providing video that displays your product in motion. With video, shoppers can not only see a 360-degree view of your product, but they also can have a better sense of its shape, relative size and function than they would from a series of flat photos.
These videos don’t have to be elaborate; a 20-second clip on Home Depot’s site, www.homedepot.com, is enough to demonstrate the versatility of the Little Giant ladder system and how fast it can fold and extend into different configurations.
Of course, some products lend themselves to more elaborate video presentation. For example, on the Macys department store site, macys.com, videos promoting the Hotel Collection of high-end linens and homeware feature an expert stylist giving design tips and describing product benefits.
2. Play to your customers’ niche interests—and let them participate.
Appeal to your core customer base by providing video content related to their interests that can’t be found anywhere else, thereby establishing your brand as a go-to resource for coverage of related events and entertainment. By doing so, you’ll be helping them surmount one of their top peeves about online video: the difficulty of finding quality, relevant content. According to a Synovate survey, 20.7 percent of viewers expressed discontent with the inconsistent quality of online videos, while 19.3 percent stated it was “tough to find exactly what I am looking for.” By creating and/or collecting quality content catered to your customers’ interests, you’ll establish your brand’s credibility as a consumer resource.
At Bodybuilding.com, the full-length “Fit Show” features pro-athletes. The site also provides live webcasts of bodybuilding events, giving enthusiasts a deep resource of one-of-a-kind content. Shorter videos demonstrating products and fitness techniques round out the offerings, complementing the site’s in-depth article content and establishing the brand—and its e-commerce store—as the definitive Web hub for the sport.
Similarly, baby products e-tailer BabyUniverse.com has created BabyTV.com, an Internet video channel dedicated to parenting from preconception to school-age children. Interviews with child-development specialists, “Kids Behaving Badly” home-video clips and demonstrations of fitness techniques for pregnancy are all posted to the site, giving parents and parents-to-be a single location for deep content.
To draw your customers in further, hand them the video camera. Forrester Research found that 7 percent of all online consumers have uploaded video to a site like YouTube—and that number is set to grow as access to video-making technology increases and becomes easier to use. Tapping customers’ enthusiasm and giving them a platform cements their relationship to your brand.
At AE.com, clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters (AE) caters to its base of 18-to-25-year-old buyers with a microsite focused on spring break. The site features customers’ spring break videos alongside AE.com-produced “video confessionals” about fun-in-the-sun exploits.
Video also can add a new dimension to customer reviews, which 76 percent of all online shoppers consult, according to Forrester Research. Allowing customers to demonstrate products themselves gives your site additional credibility. On Buy.com, customers can upload video clips that point out the merits of equipment from digital cameras to computer mice and contribute to the site’s overall aura of expertise.
3. Use viral video to boost brand awareness.
On sites like YouTube, where it’s easy to pass along links to clips, an effective video campaign can help your brand reach new audiences. Forrester found that 46 percent of video viewers find clips online through links or referrals from friends. Trust in content received via such word-of-mouth methods is high: Forrester found that 83 percent of online consumers have confidence in referrals from friends, compared with 69 percent who trust information direct from a manufacturer site.
Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” ads struck a nerve with viewers; the uploaded versions to YouTube earned millions of views. Capitalizing on the trend, Dove debuted its line of body oils with a YouTube clip inviting women to upload their own ads; the winning entry aired on TV during the Academy Awards and was showcased on the Dove Web site. The contest drew more than 700 entries.
Sometimes, the impetus for creating a video campaign comes in ways you might not expect. When two thespians created a video highlighting the fountain special effects created by mixing Diet Coke and Mentos, the candy company played along, and bought available ad space alongside the video (which has been viewed millions of times), and created its own user-generated video contest.
Whatever your focus in developing a video program, avoid replicating TV ads. Consumers are enthusiastic about online video, but they’re also increasingly deploying technologies to tune out pure advertising. Shoppers are interested in relevant, entertaining content—not the hard sell.
At the same time, it’s unnecessary to launch into a full-scale production environment with custom videos for every product on your site. Use consumer-grade electronics and focus on your top products for the initial rollout. Encourage user-submitted video content as
another way to test the waters.
When deciding where to focus your efforts, consider your target audience. Forrester Research found that younger audiences watch considerably more online video than older Internet users, so if certain products appeal more to older customers, skip video for them. And find out whether your customers have broadband access; if they’re in a region that’s underserved by cable or DSL service, they’re not likely to download videos at a snail’s pace.
But if your brand is indeed a match for online video, now is the time to begin building a focused multimedia program. By showcasing your products in new ways and providing deep content for your core customer base, you’ll not only see action in the videos on your site, but you also can expect to reap sales and loyalty.
Ken Burke is founder and CEO of MarketLive, an e-commerce technology services provider based in Petaluma, Calif. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.