Practical Ecommerce

Field Test: Video Usage On eCommerce Sites

In Field Test, Practical eCommerce questions several ecommerce merchants about a given topic. This month’s topic is online video, a powerful but not widely used form of marketing that’s driven by mixed motives in theory and varied results in practice.

Video FAQ’s and product demonstrations can be a conversion-boosters for some merchants, while others may benefit more from social media-driven viral marketing campaigns, a la “Messin’ With Sasquatch”, Will it Blend, or Victoriassecret.com’s fashion show that attracts millions of viewers—many of whom become lingerie and clothing customers.

Video can also be used for “About Us” profiles or customer testimonials, and Flash animations and interactive, animated salespeople can provide a site with interesting and unique navigation.

But merchandising and marketing videos can also be daunting. What sort of equipment is required? Will there be bandwidth or site design challenges? What if the video’s actually distract a customer? And how much will it cost to implement?

With these sorts of concerns and some excitement about the format, we questioned several merchants about online video, asking them to answer with as much honesty and candor as possible. Their answers may represent a snapshot of how video is perceived today.

ALT

Jeff Robe of Blendtec.com which sells top-quality blenders for home and commercial use.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

Robe: We use it in a number of ways. We have a site called willitblend.com, where we show our CEO blending up all sorts of crazy things. We’ve blended about 75 things you don’t put in a blender. It shows the power of our blender. It’s been amazingly popular. We get anywhere from 200,000 to million and a half views when the videos are first released. We currently have about 75. Honestly, anyone that was involved with the project did not expect it to be as successful as it has become. It’s gone way beyond our wildest dreams. The idea was just to try and get people involved with the equipment.

The other way we use video is instructional. We show how to make smoothies, peanut butter, and hot soup. Showing the blender’s capability in video format is very important to help customers understand why our machine is unique.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

Robe: For one thing, you’re always trying to come up with something fresh and relevant for people to watch. It’s been two years since we started this, and sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board. When the iPhone 3G came out, we blended one. We try to come up with fresh content. We already had a video producer on staff with Hollywood experience. He had a wide background and a variety of knowledge we could tap into. We had that resource already in-house, so we had a big advantage.

PeC: Tell us about any positive online video experiences you’ve had.

Robe: I’m always looking at manufacturer’s websites. I was looking at Mazda. It’s a very sophisticated website with a great use of video as well as still imagery, allowing the viewer to basically get a virtual tour of this new car. That happens to be one that I remember that struck me recently.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

Robe: We’re in the process of revamping our site and adding more Flash elements to it. It’s very static right now, so we’re adding more Flash to the main page and the product pages. We’re adding additional videos, as well as 360-degree viewing videos where you can see the blender from every angle. We’re also adding information for consumers and commercial dealers. We want our site to be a tool for them to use in selling our product.

ALT

Kristen Taylor of Juvieshop.com, an children’s apparel and gift shop with about 2,800 visitors weekly.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

Taylor: No. Apparel doesn’t lend itself very well to video product demonstrations. Apparel turns over very quickly. Designers ship new merchandise two to 12 times a year. Even if we were to integrate some sort of modeling or fashion show videos, it wouldn’t be practical for us to produce these fast enough to keep them fresh.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

Taylor: A funny, unique or super cute video always has a chance of hitting it big on YouTube and with bloggers. This can drive lots of traffic, but you have to keep in mind how qualified that traffic is and whether or not it converts before you invest a lot of time and money into video production. I’m reminded of the super-popular “Elf Yourself” video and application. Do you think it actually drove holiday sales? Then again, all of those inbound links are worth an awful lot.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

Taylor: We are considering doing vlog features on the store’s blog. These could be owner updates and reports on the latest trends at market, employees talking about their favorite new products or even customers modeling their picks. We could also integrate manufacturer-provided demo videos of more active gift items.

ALT

Mike Feiman of Pooldawg.com, an online retailer of pool cues, billiards accessories, dart supplies, and poker paraphernalia.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

Feiman: We do not currently use video on our site. However, it is something that we’re exploring. It simply hasn’t been high enough on our priority list to move forward with video projects.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

Feiman: For us, video would be extremely helpful from an instructional standpoint. From a product standpoint, however, the usefulness of video would be limited.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

Feiman: We’re looking to use video primarily for instructional and educational purposes.

ALT

Kara English of Candlesandsuch.com, which sells personalized gifts and party favors to as many as 20,000 weekly visitors.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

English: We do not currently use video on our site because we just haven’t decided to do it yet.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

English: I think video can help an ecommerce store because it presents the opportunity to really connect with the customer. Sometimes it’s better for a customer to see how something works then to have read through all the text.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

English: We would like to use video in the future to give our customers some ideas on different things you can do with our products.

ALT

Claudette Cyr of Gearsource.com, a professional lighting, sound, and entertainment equipment purveyor with more than 10,000 weekly visitors.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

Cyr: We don’t currently, but we are working on a video right now.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

Cyr: We think it would help in a variety of ways to assist users in completing certain tasks. On the negative side, unsolicited video is intrusive and annoying. Our belief is that short two-or three-second Flash clips for very special purposes are OK. Otherwise, all video should be user-initiated, not automatic.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

Cyr: Providing step-by-step instructions on how to use various areas of the site, product demonstrations, and show or concert footage.

ALT

David Norris of Houseofantiquehardware.com, which sells quality reproductions of period house hardware from the 1800s through the 1930s for home renovators or new construction and gets 45,000 weekly visitors.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

Norris: Not at this time, mostly due to the cost of entry and the unpredictable ROI.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

Norris: It really depends on the application. A video could be a great way to show more details or functions of a complex or high-ticket item. The vast majority of the time spent watching online videos fall under the entertainment category. If you can’t make it entertaining, don’t expect much success. Like all things in Web 2.0, start with a small investment.

PeC: Tell us about any positive online video experiences you’ve had.

Norris: I love websites like Crooksandliars.com that expose the lies of politicians caught on tape. The best use of video is in creating accountability and bypassing the corporate-owned media giants.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

Norris: We have considered creating instructional videos on how to install our products or a 360-degree view of items. We could always get lucky and create a popular viral video, too.

ALT

Chris Stump of Onlyhammocks.com, which—not surprisingly—sells hammocks, hammock chairs, stands and accessories and gets as many as 1,400 visitors each week.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

Stump: We have not used video on our site. However, we do plan on using it in the future.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

Stump: Video is a great marketing tool and even better for giving product demos. The use of video could help with conversion rates but even more so for getting people to your site.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

Stump: We would primarily use online videos for product tutorials and as a viral marketing tool to submit to some social media sites.

ALT

Mike Butler of plant and garden product retailer, Bloomindesigns.com, which gets 7,000 to 10,000 visitors each week.

PeC: Do you use video on your ecommerce site? Why or why not?

Butler: No. Most products show best with still pictures. Hosting capacity is also an issue, and some people have phobias about downloading video due to memory concerns.

PeC: Describe how you think video might either help or harm an ecommerce site.

Butler: It is beneficial in describing many products, if the customer’s interest can be held.

PeC: Tell us about any positive online video experiences you’ve had.

Butler: My experience is limited to some training and YouTube.

PeC: Describe how you might use video on your site in the future.

Butler: Demos, education and tours. These how-to videos should probably be no more than 15 long.

Editors Note: Interested in being one of our field testers? Use the Contact Us form or the comments section below to tell us why you’d be great.

Brendan Gibbons
Brendan Gibbons
Bio  |  RSS Feed


Get the Practical Ecommerce RSS feed

Email Newsletter Signup

Sign up to receive EcommerceNotes, our acclaimed email newsletter.
And receive a free copy of our ebook
50 Great Ecommerce Ideas