Adventures in Ecommerce Video: 3 Etailers Share Stories from the Trenches

This post is a summary of key takeaways from an Etail 2009 expert panel on online video for ecommerce. Rather than post my notes from the video, I’ve summarized the key takeaways from each of the retailer panelists: Peter Cobbs from eBags, McKay Thomas from BilliardEx (now PoolTables.com) and Jimmy Healey from OnlineShoes.com.

First off, big thanks to Xavier Casanova for capturing the entire Etail 2009 session: Optimizing Video on an e-Commerce Site. Xavier’s VideoRetailer.org and The Video Commerce Consortium are important blogs to follow as video is becoming increasingly important for online retail. Ignore video at your own peril!

Email and RSS subscribers, I encourage you to visit this post on Get Elastic to view all the videos embedded in the post, there are a few.

eBags

Presentation

eBags has over 200 videos throughout the site – some on the home page, some on “brand stores,” product detail pages or under the Video tab. Content includes product detail videos and demonstrations, interviews with designers, contests, non-selling pieces like eBags’ Run for the Cure and even a free second day air upgrade explanation video.

Example designer interview, Cinda B

eBags works with Liveclicker which provides this very nice Flash movie player with link and cross-sell overlay, affiliate tools (embeds affiliate link into the video) and other features like the ability to upload a video to multiple SKU product pages, rather than inefficiently attaching video SKU by SKU.

eBags also shows links to products featured in the video including customer ratings on the page:

Production

At first, eBags outsourced its video production but later discovered there was a videography ninja under their noses in the Photoshop department. He was asked to put together a brand video and his work blew everyone away. He is now the videographer.

Videographer Scott Roon and colleague Jason Carncross sat down with Xavier last year to share some of their tricks of the trade. Catch the 10 minute interview with eBags.

Some pieces are shot from scratch and are eBags exclusives, others are sourced from the brands themselves and others are re-worked from what they can get from the brands.

In terms of video quality, eBags suggests you figure out where on the Academy Award vs Youtube continuum you want to be. eBags’ approach is to get something up – it can be polished over time. They are very happy with that, but some brands like Tumi won’t let them do in-house video – they want particular hairstyles, clothing etc. For more polished video, they reached out to a news anchor who wanted to do video on the side. For $100 she produces, directs, films and voice-overs video working with eBags’ videographer which also builds her own portfolio.

Peter Cobb also suggests sourcing talent from local universities. Reach out to professors to find the best of the best to offer internships or free product in exchange for production work. It also helps interns build their portfolio.

Positive Outcomes

  • 138% higher conversion rates on product detail pages when a customer clicks on the video
  • Significant increase in time on site (measure of engagement)
  • Reduced customer complaints. When eBags received a complaint on a product the customer confused about how to assemble, the designer created video the next day. Now eBags emails that video to each one that receives that product

PoolTables.com

Presentation

PoolTables.com has produced several customer testimonial videos — filmed in the customers’ homes, using the product:

They also show step-by-step installation videos showing their actual in-home professional installation service — a key value proposition.

When you land on the home page, you can see snippets of video in the Flash banner (with sound off) which highlights the existence of the videos and creates interest.

When you check out the testimonial page, each of 10 videos shows video length and has a quote/caption that supports various value propositions:

Production

BilliardEx’s philosophy is no one knows your biz better than you. At the very least you should have a hand in script writing and overseeing the production. BilliardEx hired a production company, filmed several customers in their homes with products, and did studio work also. McKay Thomas himself was on-“set” and feels his passion for the product comes through in a way that fully outsourced production couldn’t capture.

One of the difficulties is finding the right mixture of resolution and streamability. BilliardEx’ high end customer wants to see high quality video but not sacrifice streamability. It takes a while to find a good balance between the two.

Positive Outcomes

After adding the installation videos, customer service calls dropped dramatically. Billiardex immediately saw hours and hours freed up for call team, saved money in human resources.

Not all video proved successful. One concept was a 30 second, sexy, in-your-face video on the home page using trick shots with pool balls in attempt to instantly engage customer. People did enjoy it in lab testing but wasn’t part of brand experience so it didn’t work as well on the site.

OnlineShoes.com

Presentation

OnlineShoes.com has various types of video content — category information, brand, product, seasonal trends, brand focused events, how to videos, how to fit certain sizes (Euro sizes etc) and even how to use the site’s newly designed left hand navigation. They also incorporate user generated video like testimonials, product reviews etc. Their strategy is not to create as many videos as possible, rather to create a few videos and really test them out.

Like eBags, OnlineShoes.com uses Liveclicker which you can see in action at OnlineShoes.tv. They also syndicate their videos through widgets.

Production

Jimmy Healey (speaking in the video) himself stars in and produces many of their videos including Arch and pronation explained:

They don’t need a large budget to accomplish good video and response has been positive. Jimmy being a runner himself, the star of the video and also participating in Twitter and Facebook adds to the cohesiveness of their video/social media strategy — creating celebrity out of internal resources.

Positive Outcomes

OnlineShoes is dedicated to testing different video content. One test for a particular pair of shoes that sells 7 figures annually saw a 19% increase in conversion and 20% increase in revenue with video.

Is Video the Hottest Ecommerce Trend of 2009?

I was asked a while back what I believed to be the ecommerce trend to watch and I definitely believe it’s video. Not only does it enrich the shopping experience and reduce the fears, uncertainties, doubts and dealbreakers customers have about products and transacting online — it also has that social appeal – video content can be found in search engines, Youtube search, syndicated through widgets etc. These retailers demonstrate that you don’t have to have a million dollar budget to get video up on your site, and it can pay off tremendously.

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