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GUEST COMMENT Online shopping vs the high street: is video bridging the ‘touch and feel’ gap of e-commerce?

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by Max Childs

Watching a video gives consumers a real-life look when shopping online; a chance to see an item in action. But can video bridge the ‘touch and feel’ gap of e-commerce and increase shopper confidence before a purchase is made?

When e-commerce was in its infancy, online shoppers often had few visual cues as to what they were buying. They had a product in front of them on a computer screen, but what eventually arrived on their doorstep may not always have looked like that original image. Fast forward some years later, and video arrives. When looking at clothing online, static items are brought to life and the flow and cut of fabrics experienced. Electrical goods can be demonstrated, as though being shown in a store. With the effective use of rich media, the experience of making a purchase online today can be as rewarding as walking into a bricks and mortar store. If rich images are the mannequins in the shop window, videos provide the immersive ‘try before you buy’ experience.

But just how many retailers offer their customers product videos, and are they doing it well?

Video is widely regarded as an important tool to drive conversion. A recent study by Adobe Scene7 of 1,941 brands and retailers found that video was the second most effective feature online for driving a purchase, and when incorporated with other rich media elements into a multi-media viewer, became the overall most effective feature for increasing online sales.

River Island added video to its website with the purpose of bringing shoppers closer to an in-store experience, while German natural clothing company hessnatur increased average sales by 140% across all products after deploying video, with sales jumping as much as 400% for some products. US retailer Summit Sports produced 1,400 videos in 3 days for its online store and saw conversions increase by 30%.

Retailers are also using m-commerce to take advantage of video – fashion brand became the first retailer to deliver rich media videos on mobile devices. The launch of its iPad and iPhone apps featuring detailed product videos resulted in thousands of orders. (In the interests of transparency, all three are Adobe Scene7 clients).

Despite these initial successes, a huge opportunity exists for marketers to more fully embrace the power of video. After looking at the top 50 online retailers’ websites, according to the latest ‘Hot Shops List’ from Hitwise and IMRG, we found that less than 50% – 22 retailers – had implemented video on their websites.

And while video can be found on the product pages of most of these 22 sites, just four have made a feature of it and placed video content on their homepages. Across these sites, the video quality and viewing experience varies. Some get it just right, allowing the consumer to get a timely, good look at the product from multiple angles; others use much less-pleasing, fast-paced snapshots of items in a head-on only position.

What should retailers do to produce great video which has a tangible effect on delivering return on investment? Based on our experience of working with retailers in this space and the results of several research studies that Adobe and other partners have undertaken, we have come up with a ‘nine easy steps’ guide for retailers to make video work for them.

Choose your featured products wisely

Choose popular products to ramp up video views. Complex products also lend themselves well to demos, especially those with features that are difficult to translate into words.

Streamline production

As you would a manufacturing process – schedule an image and video shoot at the same time, using the same set. Develop a storyboard template that can be re-used for all products.

Keep it short

Studies show that users tend to drop off after viewing 10 to 60 seconds of video. Keep video length to 30 seconds or shorter if possible. Up to 5 minutes of video with chapter navigation can be justified for complex products.

Put the spotlight on the product

Since you only have at most 30 seconds to engage with a consumer, make sure to spend that time wisely. Highlight the features that are going to help your audience make a buying decision.

Make your videos visible

Highlight video in your search results. Intelligent tagging of video and image content on websites can boost Google search visibility, improving SEO results and increasing site traffic. On product detail pages, feature video prominently above the fold and make it easy for customers to find them.

Optimise the video player

Add a button or call-to-action text on the video player. Increasing the size of the video player increases view-through rates.

Make your videos count

Submit a video sitemap to the search engines to raise visibility and drive traffic. Syndicate your video to popular sharing sites with links back to your site.

Make video accessible to consumers on the go

Consumers increasingly rely on their mobile devices for everything— including validating their offline purchase decisions.

Choose a video platform designed with retailers in mind

There are plenty of video publishing solutions in the market, many of which are loaded with features that may not have value to retailers. A retail-focused video platform will be easy to use, with features that seek to drive conversions.

So what does the future hold for video? The distribution of content will change, enabling video to be embedded in multiple digital channels, for example on tablets, mobile, social sites, email, and in-store kiosks. We will also see more interactive video, creating ‘stickier’ more engaging experiences where users take control of what’s shown. The opportunities for video to impact retail sales are significant and companies who offer the most accessible and engaging video assets will build stronger and more loyal connections with shoppers.

Max Childs is senior marketing manager for EMEA, Adobe Scene7

The Adobe “Nine Easy Steps Guide to Video” can be downloaded here.

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