Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Know-How: Product Videos Easy to Produce, Inexpensive

Ecommerce videos drive sales. Lars Hundley, president of Clean Air Gardening, is confident of that.

“We typically get up to a 20 percent increase in conversion rate on products that have a video, and also a lower return rate at the same time. It’s hard to put an exact dollar amount on it, but I would say that the videos have made a substantial difference by increasing our traffic, our conversion rate, and our sales.“

Justin Foster, founder of the Video Commerce Consortium, recently spoke at the Shop.Org annual summit and asked approximately 500 attendees, “Who believes online video is an effective way to sell products online or persuade shoppers to buy?” Foster says nearly all attendees raised their hands.

But there’s a gap between the number of ecommerce merchants that believe video is effective and those that actually incorporate it on their own site. For some, it can be intimidating. But it needn’t be that way.

For this “eCommerce Know-How” I asked Hundley and Foster to outline the minimum requirements for producing online product videos.

Why the Minimum?

By focusing on the minimum requirements for producing online videos, we eliminate the intimidation factor. It does not have to be complicated. After all, a high-quality video does not necessarily go hand in hand with high sales.

Foster notes, “There is still no broadly accepted argument in the industry that can clearly correlate the level of production quality of product videos and the results obtained through the use of those videos. One might expect that higher quality videos tend to produce better results, and some retailers do experience this, but other retailers find no difference, or even a reverse result.”

Hundley looks at it this way, “Ninety-nine percent of merchants aren’t doing any video at all, so even a bad looking video with very good information in it will put you above most of your competitors. Our first videos were terrible but they still increased sales because they were helpful.”

Below is a typical Clean Air Gardening video.

It’s important to keep your goal in mind. That goal, presumably, is to drive traffic and sales and to increase conversion rates. Your goal is not to win a video production award.

Kevin Patrick Allen: What is the minimum equipment needed?

Lars Hundley: “You can go as simple as one of those Flip video recorders, or even a plain old digital camera that also shoots video.”

“For the best results, you’ll want to get a camera that has the capability of using an external mic, so that you can use a cheap wireless mic and get much better audio than just using the camera’s built-in microphone.”

“We are currently using a high definition consumer camcorder, the Canon Vixia HF100, along with an Audio-Technica wireless mic. We started out with a plain old Canon still digital camera though, and just used the video mode to shoot the videos.”

Justin Foster: “A consumer grade camcorder is all any retailer really needs to create a product video.”

Allen: What is the minimum software needed?

Hundley: “Windows MovieMaker is free for video editing, and iMovie is included with Macs. Either one of those is perfectly suitable for editing video. We use Final Cut on the Mac right now, but we started out with iMovie, and still use it sometimes for videos.”

Foster:Adobe’s Premiere Elements represents a popular choice. For stitching together multiple shots in succession, Windows Movie Maker can be used by almost anyone with little to no training required. Solutions like The Talk Market mostly automate the editing process for the retailer, reducing the need for complex editing software.”

Allen: How do you stream the video on your site?

Hundley: “The easiest way is to simply upload your video to YouTube, and then embed the YouTube video on your site. It’s free, and you get the added benefit of people being able to find your video when they are just searching around YouTube.”

Foster: “YouTube is an excellent option for merchants just starting out with video because it is free, easy to use at small scale, and allows for some limited customization including some player branding.

Allen: What should you include in the video?”

Hundley: “We started out with very simple videos where I would stand in front of the camera and demonstrate the product and explain all of the selling points. Sort of like what a salesperson in a store would do if you asked him about a product.”

“We still make the video go over the selling points of the product, but now we also use footage where the camera flashes back and forth between the shot of the person talking about the product, and close up footage of the product itself or footage of the product being used.”

Foster: “Retailers that choose to produce videos before taking the time to understand why shoppers buy their products are not investing resources wisely. Without first building an understanding of the elements required to create persuasive video content, investing in video commerce is really no different than rolling the dice at a Vegas casino. Take the time to learn about why your shoppers buy products first. Then create video.”

Allen: How long does the video need to be?

Hundley: “Under two minutes is best. People don’t like to watch long videos online. Anything longer than two minutes starts to get really boring unless the production value is as good as standard television. People don’t care so much about production value for short videos because they are getting information that they want quickly.”

Foster: “Most product videos are between thirty seconds in length and five minutes in length. More complex products, considered purchases and products that tell an unusual story may require longer videos. In general, it is more important to sufficiently motivate the shopper to purchase by addressing the core motivators, and simplify the purchase decision for the shopper by handling the shopper’s likely objections to making the purchase in your video than it is to make all videos the same length.”

Summing Up

It’s quite possible you already have the tools you need to create a compelling video for your ecommerce site. If not, an investment of $250 is enough to get you on your way to creating your first ecommerce video.

Merchants like Hundley are convinced it’s a worthwhile investment. “I think video is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from competitors, and one of our most important online marketing methods.”

Kevin Patrick Allen

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  1. Ian James Snead December 10, 2009 Reply

    Nice article.

    Put another way, if I had $250 how would I spend it? For me that’s an easy answer, I’d buy a suitable and affordable camera that allows me to trial and experiment with video.

    From my experience the Flip represents great value. With HD options and supreme ease of use amongst it’s advantages, it is the perfect plug and play for businesses new to the concept of video. It also eliminates the risk of going down the out-house production route where you will spend a lot of time back and forth deciding on and then editing one piece of film, that may become out dated quite quickly.

    The editing softwares mentioned above are also strong enough that you can create in-house with little to no previous experience a video that you’d be proud of. That includes the ability to edit the video, add text and logos and even music or audio. That means, with perhaps a day’s work you can easily start to create a range of videos for your businesses that you can then quickly stream on your website via any of the video hosting services out there.

    In summary, don’t be intimidated. Grab a camera, be prepared to speak and shoot! You’ll be surprised by what is possible and just how easy it is to add video to your marketing arm.

  2. Nicholas Burman December 15, 2009 Reply

    You forgot the most important thing when it comes to video – LIGHTING!

    If I had $250 to spend I would not buy a better camera. Online videos can be made with any video camera made in the last five years or so, maybe longer. Remember that web video is very small in size compared to broadcast quality video. Even a webcam can do a great job.

    The video shown above would look one hundred times better if the table and products were positioned infront of a well lit window with some white/silver reflectors used to fill in facial shadows. Reflectors can be just white card – you probably have something suitable lying around.

    Lighting video is not like lighting for stills. Experiment, watch TV and pay attention to how the shadows look.
    As far as software goes, Quicktime 7 Pro ($29.99) does everything you will need, and will allow you to edit movies very easily. If you have a Mac, get iMovie.

  3. Mike Darnell December 20, 2009 Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    Splendid interview!
    I couldn’t agree more with the points mentioned by Lars and Justin.

    Everything we’re seeing corroborates the figures quoted by Lars. In fact just last week I published a post giving some of the stats our own clients have been experiencing – http://blog.treepodia.com/2009/12/why-ignoring-video-is-costing-you-money

    Let me put it quite simply:
    Neglecting to add video to your site is like leaving money on the table.

    Furthermore Hundley really hit the nail on the head by stressing that the important thing to remember is that one isn’t trying to win the Oscars with one’s product videos, merely to increase sales. Short, obvious, informative – It might not be too sexy, but it’s definitely effective – and that’s what your product videos should be aiming for – SELLING MORE!

    All the best,
    Mike
    @treepodia

  4. StrikeHawk eCommerce, Inc. December 29, 2009 Reply

    Don’t forgot to include the video_link in your google base product feed. Here is the format:

    video_link
    The URL of an associated YouTube video for the item.
    Format:
    URL. (Must include the http:// portion.) Up to 10 URLs can be included. For tab-delimited, separate each URL with a comma. For XML, include each URL as a separate video_link attribute.
    Example:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVvx13dpTEA