Feb 17, 2011
And today, 6 short years since the YouTube domain was first registered, the daughter of video – online video – is simply blossoming. Some would even say exploding. So I propose that today, video saves the eCommerce stars, giving leading and innovative merchants a renewed basis for differentiation and online growth.
To set the scene, first and foremost, lets look at some generic online video statistics:
- YouTube counted more than 112m unique viewers in the U.S. alone in Jan 2011, and served up nearly 8.5bn streams (Nielsen).
- The total U.S. internet audience engaged in nearly 4.9 billion viewing sessions during the course of the January 2011. (Comscore)
- 171 million U.S. Internet users watched online video content in January for an average of 14.5 hours per viewer (Comscore)
- 83.5 percent of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online video in January 2011, with the average duration of the average online content video being 5.0 minutes, while the average online video ad was 0.4 minutes (Comscore)
- Home and work online video usage rose 45% in January 2011 as compared to January 2010 (Nielsen).
- The number of unique viewers increased by slightly more than 3% (Nielsen).
- In January 2011 Google Sites (stats driven predominantly by YouTube.com) , ranked as the top US online video content property (144.1 million unique viewers), VEVO was no. 2 (51.0 million), Yahoo! Sites no. 3 (48.7 million) and Viacom Digital no. 4 (48.1 million viewers) (Comscore)
- In January 2011, the average time spent per viewer was 283 minutes – 4.7 hours (Comscore)
- However the average Netflix viewer spends far more time engaging – 11 hours and eight minutes (Nielsen)
- Hulu’s viewers spent on average five hours and 35 minutes viewing video (Nielsen)
As Patricio outlines, point 6 is massively important. It means that rising online video viewing is happening on the back of greater consumption, by broadly the same audience.
And lets not ignore some anecdotal evidence which also suggests its an exciting time for online video – lovefilm just got gobbled up by Amazon after all.
So what do these statistics imply for merchants?
Well certainly online video is a huge business, spawning new industries (streaming, video on demand, P2P, vodcasting) and is cutting across other types of media consumption (like TV). But what is also becoming clearer, is that professionally developed online videos are already far ‘stickier’ than many perceive. And with viewers able to engage in online video properly (in many more places, on many more devices) a pretty seismic shift is occurring in the way merchants can merchandise and communicate with their customers.
Why merchants must adopt online video.
- Video is a rich absorbing way to help build up a brand’s ‘backstory’ and can be used to build up brand equity
- Video can help ‘engage’ customers more deeply – brands can develop ‘how to’ guides, provide advice and tips, and develop video galleries with ‘ask & answer’ style formats
- Merchants can leverage increasing thirst for online video, and increase page views on key pages with promotional or relevant video placement
- Merchants can leverage and increase time spent on key category or product pages (as a result of video placement) and seek to up-sell or cross-sell and display (in situ) clear ‘call to action’ overlays in online video (e.g. promoting 10% off if ordered today)
- Merchants can provide deeper / richer merchandising capabilities on product pages, potentially leading to better conversion. For example videos can display 360° views of a product, assembly instructions, customer service videos, or even customer or celebrity endorsements.
- Merchants can look to re-purpose or re-use online video assets across other channels (e.g. Blogs, affiliate websites, email [remember html5's role here] or even within interactive newsletters)
- Merchants can tie QR codes (offline) with online video (e.g. catalogue -> web, instore -> smart phone).
Hogwash? The results are already becoming clearer for merchants who are early adoptors of online video. For merchants who have begun to explore the use of video to develop deeper, more compelling user experiences (particularly for Gen-Y [18 to 34 year olds]) they have found online video helps them reach their revenue growth aspirations. This is already being echoed in research:
- According to Comscore, brands using online video have seen lifts of anywhere from 20%-40% in terms of incremental buying.
Online video Innovation – A quick merchant showcase [click on any image to enlarge]
Marks & Spencer have an advanced M&S TV section on their website, with enough gravitas behind it to merit a key placement on their eCommerce website homepage navigation (see circled in yellow below)
The TV Channel is powered by Adjust Your Set, a full service video production agency with its own ‘video commerce’ platform. M&S’s TV Channel page has a gallery style, with all the ‘Channels’ displayed in a familiar way.
However, when you pick a channel, the eCommerce potential of M&S TV becomes much clearer. As a video is played, the right hand side reveals thumbnails for each respective garment during video playback. The correct colour of each garment is displayed, as is the price. And I noticed that if the product is out of stock it displays it as such at this stage (albeit not all the time). Customers can click the product thumbnail to reach the full product detail page, containing more detailed information such as delivery & returns info or detailed product reviews.
I think the potential of M&S TV is best exemplified on their Wine Channel. Clearly M&S is in the business of selling bottles of wine – but their wine channel explores areas of wine that customers will be interested in; namely wine of the week, wine making, top tips, wedding wines etc. This demonstrates the value-add and wow! factor, that video can bring to customers.
And M&S’s use of video does not end there though. On the product details page, videos are once again used to support product copy. Notably the same videos are used in store (evidence of multi channel marketing in operation).
But their use of video is being driven into other areas, and they have chosen to embellish their (already ludicrously rich) product information pages with user generated video content. Participation levels I would suggest are quite low, but what better way to foster impartial advice? Hopefully Amazon customers won’t be seeing this image too often.
I remember both Lush and Comet asking for similar user reviews in the past, with mixed success. It will be interesting to monitor how user generated video content grows with smart phone growth. I’d also expect to see video reviews surfaced across multiple channels (e.g. Amazon could leverage videos across its mobile channel or its iPad interface as well as in its price comparison App’s in due course. No doubt 4G services will play a big part in the adoption of video across mobile properties.
UK based Kiddicare (now owned by Morrisons) have really been pioneers in the use of video on their eCommerce site. They have over 2,335 videos (at the time of writing) on their Kiddicare.com Television channel, and also large video representation on YouTube, their affiliate sites and various sites they syndicate to. They partner with Liveclicker.
The Television Channel promotes a number of different genres of video, tips & advice, reviews, accessories, buggywalks, product features, help, and promotional. What I really like is the categorisation too. Customers who are interested in a particular brand can easily navigate to the appropriate video, equally a customer who may not know what type of booster seat is needed for 4-11 year olds can easily find what they need.
To facilitate sales, embedded within each video featuring a product is a clickable thumbnail, which links out directly to the eCommerce website and the respective product details page.
Casting further afield, and pulling people into Kiddicare.com, Kiddicare’s Youtube Channel has 750 subscribers (796 Friends) and a total of 11,980,349 total upload views to date.
(Disclaimer, Kiddicare are a Salmon client, and our work with them is viewable here)
ASOS also promote videos on their site, these include ‘latest’, ‘Celebrity’, ‘Cover Shoots’, ‘Designer Interviews’, ‘Fashion Week’, ‘Music’ and ‘Events’.
Interestingly though they are already re-using video in one particular iteration of their digital magazine.
Their product detail pages also include video, which displays professionally shot catwalk style videos but also (nicely) highlights the background music you were listening to; which adds to the experience and depth of the ‘ASOS lifestyle’ customer experience, in my opinion.
Just this month, Net-a-Porter also launched their own TV station. Visitors are able to shop, browse and comment on four channels: ‘Runway‘, ‘Who’s Who‘, ‘Trends 101‘ and ‘Flashbacks‘. Net-a-Porter are using the Brightcove video platform.
In the interests of multi channel, Net-a-Porter have taken the time to ensure their TV station can be viewed online, on mobile devices and on the iPad. Notably, however, the company is already making strides with regards to Interactive TV, and will launch in the US on Google TV-enabled devices. It’s already available to view on the internet
Alison Loehnis, Net-a-Porter’s VP of Sales and Marketing, said after its launch, “We have taken our original concept of a shop-able magazine one step further with the addition of shop-able TV.”
On Net-a-Porter.com, video is used in a different way to M&S, video content ‘connecting’ to products in the eCommerce catalogue via a link like, “Shop the Current Collection” or “Shop the Claudia Schiffer look”.
This approach ‘groups’ products on related landing pages as opposed to driving customers to a single product details page.
As video commerce matures, analytics will show which approach (driving customers to a landing page or a single product detail page) converts highest. Net-a-Porter’s current approach brilliantly irons out ‘back’ button issues (i.e. when a customer is clicking in and out of pages based on video or thumbnail content) which doesn’t transition well on other sites.
Interestingly, however, on Net-a-Porter.com online video is also used on product detail pages, although in this merchants instance the customer currently doesn’t benefit from an embedded player to pause, rewind etc.
Although it has been around for some time, Knicker Picker is an eCommerce site that has had online video as part of its merchandising strategy for some time. I show it simply for one reason: the company has really tried hard to use video to heavily contextualise their product; showing customers what the items are like on ordinary people, outside of a fashion catwalk. I think it’s an interesting case study even today, as it illustrates the flexibility that video provides in terms of developing a brand story.
Video platforms – what’s needed?
There are many video platforms available, each with their own twist and particular orientation. For some of the companies in this space, their origins lie in video production and so there remains a skew towards this aspect of their businesses. However for many other vendors, the emphasis is on technology, streaming, eCommerce, social media and simply using online video to sell. For merchants choosing an online video platform, getting the correct balance between the technology platform and production quality can be hard, and requires serious investment across potentially multiple suppliers and in-house operations. And production and technology platform aside, merchants also need to think hard about how best to integrate into already sophisticated eCommerce customer journey’s.
Video production aside, here’s a quick checklist of what merchants should be looking for from their online video platform.
- Flexibility of branded & unbranded embeddable player
- Built-in accessibility
- Ability to integrate (potentially in real time) video content with eCommerce product catalogue databases and flexibility to link to either a singular product thumbnail and a single product detail page, or to a relevant and broader landing page)
- Clickable and customisable video overlays, again harnessing integration with eCommerce catalogue content – price, description, ratings & reviews, stock availability, call to action and importantly a ‘buy now’ procedure
- A full suite of social media and sharing options
- Automated video publishing – uploading, encoding
- Video SEO
- Video serving optimisation via CDNs (Content Delivery Networks)
- Video Analytics, including A/B testing, dashboards, reports
- Video content management and production workflow
- Video distribution, syndication, synchronisation
- Livestreaming capability (e.g. for customer service video chat)
- Options for advertising and monetization
- Support for HD and HTML5
- Video migration tools (you might change your mind – don’t get tied in)
Which video platforms are attracting merchants?
Each merchant has different needs and aspires to different goals with their use of online video. Here is a short list of companies that merchants should look at in more detail in my opinion. I am sure I have missed some off this list (but this reflects how fast-moving and dynamic the online video space currently is);
What’s the future for online video?
Clearly online video is moving very quickly and adoption rates are surging, reflecting customer thirst.
One of the key future issues is likely to be better distribution and delivery of video content to mobile devices. But additionally, how online video connects with and integrates with Interactive TV is an area worth monitoring.
Whilst user generated video is being throttled by a lack of desire by customers to either ‘live stream’ or be be the ‘star of the show’, this mentality is slowly changing – so support for uploading and livestreaming seems to be increasingly important.
And as online video matures still further, there is no doubt that it will be worth observing trends toward HD and potentially 3D formats too.
Finally what is absolutely clear, for merchants at least, is that standalone online video will fall away as fully integrated video commerce solutions prevail.
Suggested further reading: Comscore : The State of Online Video