Practical Ecommerce

Video Helps Ecommerce Merchants, Expert Says

Video provides a compelling way for retailers to sell products. But is it for every ecommerce merchant and is it being fully utilized? One man who has a strong opinion on the matter is Justin Foster. He is the founder of The Video Commerce Consortium. It’s a group of ecommerce professionals, online marketers, and technologists dedicated to advancing the use of video in ecommerce. In this “Quick Query”, Foster shares his insights on video for ecommerce.

Practical eCommerce: Does video benefit every retail product?

Justin Foster

Justin Foster

Justin Foster: “Video tends to have more of an impact as products become more complex and, therefore, require more investigation to figure out certain traits of it. Video also tends to be more effective when the price of a product is very high. What that means is that more motivation needs to be applied in order to get the shopper to actually purchase the product. Having said that, video can also do really well on lower-priced products. A merchant can explain their unique selling proposition as compared to some of the other folks that are out there, such as free shipping, alternative payment methods that might be accepted, secure checkouts, these types of things.”

PeC: You’ve put a lot of thought and research into video marketing. You recently wrote a white paper, which discusses the Fogg Behavior Model. Without getting too deep into it, explain what that is and why it matters.

Foster: “The Fogg Behavior Model is basically coming at product video from the standpoint that the primary purpose of the video is to persuade a shopper to buy the product. There are three main elements that a retailer needs to think about when creating persuasive video content. The first is really to understand what is motivating the shopper to buy the product and the Fogg Behavior Model breaks that out into core human motivators: Pleasure, pain, hope, fear, acceptance, and rejection. Most products address these core human motivators in at least one way or another.

“For example, in addition to just touching on the features of the product in a video, touching on points such as why should the shopper buy the product from the retailer as opposed to, say, some other retailer are also going to help improve the performance of the video.

“Finally, we found that after talking about features and benefits and then simplifying the purchase decision by sort of differentiating the retailer, the way that video can be used to effectively spur an action is to include something that the Fogg Behavior Model calls a ‘trigger,’ [which] can be something that’s spoken in the video itself or it could, say, be an interactive link or a hot spot or a thumbnail, for example, of a product that shows up in the video at an opportune moment. So, the ideal way to create a product video is to actually include these triggers throughout the video that tell the shopper exactly what to do. For example, to actually state in the video, ‘To buy this product today, click the “add to cart button.”‘”

PeC: Let’s talk about some of the basics with the video. How long should an ecommerce video be?

Foster: “I hesitate to give a hard, fast number, but I can give you a range. Ecommerce videos tend to vary anywhere between 15 seconds at the very low end to five minutes at the very high end. What is really going to dictate the length of a product video should not be an arbitrary number that someone comes up. Really, what the retailer needs to consider is how much motivating force needs to be applied through the video itself in order to spur the shopper to buy the product. For example, you’ll see complex products or products that have a lot of features tend to be longer product videos. Other product videos, say a pearl or jewelry, sometimes can be much shorter videos.”

PeC: What are the best ways to stream a video on an ecommerce site? Should merchants pay for streaming services or just use something free like YouTube?

Foster: “I really think it depends on the level of complexity of the video program and how far into video the retailer actually is. I would say for someone who’s just starting out with video, YouTube could actually be a great option. You can take video content, push it up on YouTube. YouTube has a player that you can take and you can embed on your product detail page. It provides some basic reporting as well. So, for someone who’s just starting out and someone who doesn’t have a lot of budget basically to put toward video, YouTube can be a great option.

( and others that are going to provide capabilities such as syndication across the marketing channels, more advanced reports, integration with web analytics packages, A/B multivariate testing options and things like this that can help drive up incremental performance of video while also making it easier to manage and use.”

PeC: Our listeners and readers are smaller ecommerce merchants. Anything else that you would like to share with them about video and their business?

Foster: “I believe very passionately that video is the future of retail and that retailers are going to need to increasingly focus on video because it does provide such a compelling way of selling products and selling a story. A lot of the things that have historically held back retailers from investing in video such as high cost of production, not being able to figure out video hosting or streaming or achieving distribution online with video are no longer there. It’s much more cost effective to produce and deploy video than it ever has been before and it’s clear through a growing number of case studies that video, when applied well, consistently does improve performance in terms of the conversion rate and revenue perspective on an ecommerce site, so definitely something that’s good advice people to look into.”

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Ian James Snead November 18, 2009 Reply

    Nice article and we at vzaar certainly echo the points made by Justin.

    2010 really seems set to be the year when, with remerging marketing budgets, that enterprises and small businesses look to video, as a means of driving sales and extending their brand awareness across the web.

    The space is crowded which in the end isn’t actually a great user experience for the end customer as the choice is overwhelming and constantly evolving. We, as online video providers, certainly have a duty to help businesses make an educated decision which is why I applaud the efforts of Kris at VidCompare. We invited Kris to share his thoughts on the choices that face small businesses going down the video path which you can read here

    One clear hurdle that remains is video production. The number of etailers that I speak to who want to "do video" but don’t know where to start or how is scary. How long should my video be? Do I need a production company in? Should I shoot HD? Do I need a professional voiceover? What is a reasonable production budget? are all questions we hear. Products like the Flip Camera have helped overcome some of these barriers to content creation but more positive decisions from the internal marketing departments are needed to really help people test and verify the positive impact video can bring.

  2. Craig Wax November 20, 2009 Reply

    I’ll jump on the bandwagon and say that Invodo certainly agrees as well.

    No matter what the price point or category, product video will help consumers make buying decisions when the features and benefits of the product are clearly communicated. No need for flashy graphics or music, just provide the consumer with a genuine, straightforward assessment of the product. Highlight the key features and why they’re important.

    Vzaar is right to call out that there’s an overwhelming number of video platform providers. But what good is a platform if you don’t have video to run on it as my colleague Russ Somers points out here:

    The gap between video content and video platforms is exactly what’s driving Invodo’s growth – – our goal is to close the video content gap for both manufacturers and retailers and bring video to all consumers for all products.

  3. Qoof November 23, 2009 Reply

    Just for full disclosure it should be noted that Justin Foster is a co-founder of LiveClicker even though he just suggests them nonchalantly in the article. Also the "Video Commerce Consortium" is a marketing leg of LiceClicker and does not allow other vendors to participate in the forum. Just LiveClicker.

  4. Mike November 23, 2009 Reply

    PEC moderators need to be more aggressive. Comments are becoming advertising forums. I hate that. I used to enjoy reading the comments here because they were once full of good ideas and constructive criticism. Recently the comment area has become eBay. Too bad. There’s a place for ads and a place for comments. They shouldn’t be combined.

  5. Mike Darnell November 23, 2009 Reply

    I found the lack of disclosure disturbing as well, however in all honesty Justin’s Video Commerce Consortium blog has published comments I’ve made on his posts.

    the VCC blog has, the very aggressive, Akismet spam filter so you might want to pop Justin an email or tweet after posting to ensure you get published.

    I think in terms of video length it’s highly unlikely anyone will view a 5 minute product presentation. Ask yourself when was the last time you sat through more than 5 minutes of a Youtube video?

    I think video gains primarily by virtue of the simple fact that it’s dynamic – the human eye is hard wired at a very basic level to focus on movement.
    Once you have that initial attention you’ve already got your "foot in the door".

    Although, as a rep for a company dealing in automated video I’m obviously biased, the numbers don’t lie. Even automated video presentations based on photo slide shows and text or narration, have a considerable impact on conversion rates – anything from 35%-300% (depending on the industry and the client).

    Justin’s point regarding the effect video has on complex or pricey items is something we’ve seen with our clients too. Vendors in the jewelry, sports goods, and luxury sections tend to do especially well with video in terms of the improvement in conversion rates.

    All the best,