Three Ways to Optimize Video Performance

With all the buzz surrounding ecommerce video, you might think web merchants were maximizing their video revenue opportunities. But they are not.

Make no mistake, while more merchants than ever are experimenting with online video merchandising, retailers large and small would like to get more bang for their video bucks. Fortunately, there’s a growing practice area within video commerce you can take advantage of today. It’s called optimization, and it can be categorized into three discrete areas: Content, Presentation, and Interaction.


To begin optimizing your video program, first consider the video content. Varying the order of elements presented within a video (for example, highlighting product features before price), adding or removing music, swapping hosts, changing voiceovers, adjusting lighting, or switching the set are all content elements that can be tested and optimized. With the proper production techniques, video analytics, and optimization tools, it’s now easier to optimize your video content than ever before.

Meet Justin Foster, an ecommerce video expert and PeC’s new contributor on video-related issues.

Even though the sheer number of elements that can be changed in a video might seem daunting, it doesn’t need to be complex. YouTube and Google Analytics offer basic reports that can help small merchants quickly measure the impact of making a change to a product video. Start by choosing a base method for creating your product videos to ensure your optimization efforts are able to transform good videos into great videos, rather than simply making bad videos tolerable. I often recommend online retailers consult the Fogg Behavior Model, a framework for understanding persuasion created by the director of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, BJ Fogg, Ph.D. You can learn more about this model by reading the whitepaper, “Creating E-Commerce Videos that Sell.”


Presentation optimization encompasses the many ways video can be displayed on an ecommerce site. For example, choosing whether to embed a full video player or just a video thumbnail on a product page is a question of presentation optimization.

Recently, two vendors released studies highlighting techniques to improve the performance of video on product pages by optimizing presentation. Video commerce solutions provider Liveclicker, the company I work for, analyzed product page data across 13 million product-detail page views and 25 ecommerce sites. Invodo, an ecommerce video production and player provider, released a study covering 7,314 product pages across 53 ecommerce sites. In both studies, similarities were found that could help ecommerce merchants:

  • Both studies found that adding a text call-to-action or another visual call-out, prompting the user to watch the video, increased the number of shoppers that clicked to watch.
  • Both studies also showed that increasing the size of the video player on a product page increased the number of clicks to watch.
  • Liveclicker tested non-video call-outs on the product page (link or icon that did not appear as a video player) that were featured as minor page elements (predominantly below the product hero image) and learned these call-outs generated significantly lower click-through viewers than embedded video players or thumbnail icons representing players. Invodo tested the performance of video on a product pages when placed above and below the page fold. The study revealed that videos were viewed nearly twice as frequently when placed above the fold.

These studies suggest that if shoppers have a hard time discerning that your site offers video, they’re less likely to watch your content. It might seem like an obvious finding, but many retailers don’t heed the advice. Poorly placed videos make it harder for your video program to generate revenue.

Technology now exists for merchants to simplify the testing of ecommerce video presentations. For example, many video platforms can split-test, and then automatically adjust, the presentation of video elements such as thumbnails, player size and callouts within the video itself. Leading analytics programs, such as Google Analytics, Omniture’s Sitecatalyst, and Coremetrics, can also collect data on how different video presentations perform. Merchants can then use this data to deploy high-conversion presentations to their sites.

There’s no reason, in short, for ecommerce merchants to not know which video presentations (such as thumbnails, player size and callouts) produce the best sales. For example, ecommerce site eBags, a Liveclicker client, was able to drive an average of 70 percent more video views compared to a control group simply by varying the first frame displayed in its product videos.


The last and potentially most exciting area of video optimization surrounds the use of interaction elements in-video or in-player. For example, retailers like Kiddicare use links in their videos in conjunction with video search-engine-optimization initiatives to drive traffic to product detail pages. Retailers using interactive optimization tools can vary the presentation of links or other interactive elements in-video to measure what changes drive the highest response. Small merchants can also run videos on YouTube as part of the Promoted Videos program and test the link call-outs, much like comparing ad copy performance using Google AdWords. In the future, interactive optimization will likely become more central to improving overall video performance, especially as merchants work to keep content fresh by featuring the latest prices, promotions, and product ratings in-player.

Summing Up

Video optimization is an exciting and growing area of video commerce, and you don’t need to be an expert to begin optimizing your program. Start with optimizing your content, making sure to start with a solid foundation or framework to ensure your optimization platform is positioned well. Don’t hide videos on your product pages, or shoppers won’t watch them. And consider optimizing link overlays and other interactive features in your video player through automated testing to drive higher click-through and conversion rates.

Even if you’re only able to optimize a small part of your video program, developing a mindset of optimization will ensure your program is always improving and doesn’t become stale. Plus, the lessons learned around optimization could give you a leg up over less sophisticated competitors.

Justin Foster
Justin Foster
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