Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Web Engagement Management (WEMare interlinked. Online video can be one of the most powerful tools (if used wisely), and online retailers have no good reason not to incorporate online video to help engage and persuade customers.

Research Shows Online Video Use is on the Rise

Plus, the research says that visitors who view product videos are more likely to buy than visitors who do not. Recent studies have shown that growing numbers of retailers are adding video capabilities to their sites.

According to Forrester Research, the percentage of the top 50 US online retailers that offer videos on their sites increased to 68% in 2009 from 18% in 2008.

A recent eMarketer survey highlighted the ways retailers were boosting sales through video, with many of them indicating that video did in fact help them increase sales conversion rates and reduce abandoned shopping cart and product return rates. Numerous case studies have also confirmed that visitors who view product videos are more likely to buy than visitors who do not.

Still, many companies consider video to be a costly investment. Online newspapers are only testing its waters, trying to understand how views can be converted into revenue. Yet, the retail industry has found innovative ways to incorporate video into their sites, using tools that seem to both easy and affordable to employ.

Web Engagement's 5 Components

We've done a deeper dive on the elements of Web Engagement Management, but the topic bears a quick revisit for those less familiar with it.

WEM in essence is the strategy and practice of how an organization optimizes its online presence. While web content management still sits in the center, the five pillars of WEM draw on a number of different tools and ideas.

The 5 core WEM concepts are:

  1. Content Optimization
  2. Multi-channel Management
  3. Conversational Engagement
  4. Demand Generation
  5. Sales and Relationship Automation

Because WEM is a composite strategy, it will continue to evolve. And although changes to each area will naturally inspire activity in complementary areas, overall it's really about how an organization chooses to connect with their audience that will serve as the backbone for successful in these pursuits.

Engaging Customers via Online Video

When shopping online, as many of us do, there’s only so much information a photo and a 360-degree perspective can tell us about a pair of pants or shoes, or a rug, or throw pillow. We can research the product more by combing through online reviews and ratings to tell us what is worth purchasing and what isn’t.

But with video, consumers can see the garment in action, how it hangs and moves, what the color really looks like, among other telling features. However, companies with dozens, hundreds or thousands of products don’t have the time or money to devote to capturing each product on video.

Yet, retailers consistently put videos at the top of their to-do lists when it comes to website design and evolution. When Multichannel Merchant, a company that provides targeted, compelling content for online retailers, asked its customers to identify rich media features that they used, 46% of US multichannel retailers picked video, making it the highest-ranked category in the survey. Another 42.3% of respondents said they planned to add video capability in the next year.

For this article, we profiled two companies that work exclusively to produce video for online retailers so as to make it easy, affordable and effective to produce multiple videos for their website.

Using Video Not Only to Engage, but to Persuade

If you’ve ever shopped at Overstock.com you’ve seen Sunday Sky’s work in action. High quality videos showcase pillows and blankets, boast sale prices and details about fabric and styles. Upon closer examination, one has to wonder how exactly they do it. Sale prices don’t last forever – so how can they justify producing video that will soon be obsolete?

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Overstock.com's video in action

Recently, we spoke with Mitch Praver, president of Sunday Sky, to learn more about their strategy and services.

Three years ago, Sunday Sky recognized one of the biggest challenges facing companies: traditional real time videos aren’t scalable. It’s impossible and impractical for companies to create videos for every product. Once produced, videos soon become out-of-date and hard to edit and update. What if, Sunday Sky asked itself, there was an easier, more automated way for videos to be produced?

Surely companies already produce lots of media for their site, all of which could be re-purposed in some way. SundaySky's platform integrates with any database or content management system to extract the dynamic content and incorporate it into the video. As a result, they provide an API to facilitate video requests and acknowledgments to embed the videos in a site's front-end.

By creating a video template that can be populated with information from the data feed, online videos can be updated automatically, without the need for human interaction, making it cost-effective and efficient.

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For it's travel related videos, Sunday incorporates a variety of functionality from photography, real time video and interactive buttons.

Sunday Sky works with their customers to design a template that fits their brand and style guides, while working with each company to examine their current XML data. Some companies will already have lots of information, while some will need to spend the time building their portfolio.

SundaySky helps companies record audio narration so there can be enough information to accompany products. To ensure that audio doesn’t sound automated, Sunday Sky advises companies to record complete phrases, not just individual words. As well, Sunday Sky’s videos provide companies with built-in SEO designed to show up in organic search results.

Just how effective are these videos? Sunday Sky reports that customer engagement is high, as is customer conversion. For videos of standard length (between 1-3 minutes) 60-70% of users watch the whole thing. Interestingly, for videos that are much longer, up to 10 minutes long (useful for realtors and travel agents), 80% of users stay three-quarters of the way through. As well, click-through rates are 3-5 times higher than the industry average, indicating that these videos not only engage, but persuade.

Sunday Sky spent a year developing and honing their video production process, while gauging the appropriate industries to target. Now that they’ve established a system, they’re opening up their services to e-Retailers, local advertisers and travel agencies, with plans to expand upon demand. For now, their pricing is based upon a pay-per-view model, with design and implementation included.

Real-Time Videos Can Increase the Bottom Line

In contrast to SundaySky’s automated videos, Invodo offers a real-time eCommerce video solution. Serving nearly 500 retailers, Invodo creates scalable videos that can be deployed and embedded using a media player designed for retailers.

As companies began to understand the added value that video bring to a website and to their bottom line, Invodo’s director of product marketing Ross Somers knew it was inevitable that videos would be used, but not effectively. As a result, Invodo developed an approach for retailers to produce and upload videos to their websites, while maximizing their return on investment.

Many of the features it offers have been designed specifically to meet and facilitate the needs of customers, like functionality that allows customer to add a product to their shopping cart while watching or the ability to customize the aspect ratio.

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Swimwear Boutique shows Invodo's ability to customize its media player. For apparel, it makes sense to use a vertical aspect ratio – yet most media players lock you into a horizontal one.

After all, recent reports have indicated that using real time videos, like those produced by Invodo, can have a significant effect on revenue. At the Streaming Media West conference at the end of 2009, it was reported that the online shoe and clothing retailer, Zappos, sells anywhere between 6-30% more merchandise, depending on the item, when accompanied by product description videos.

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With eRetailers like Golfsmith and Toys R Us, Invodo's real time video feature experts and product demonstrations.

Yet, real time videos, traditionally are not cheap to produce, but Invodo’s process makes it so companies can strategically choose which of its products to cover (usually those in the top ten percent) and in what matter it should be produced, while keeping it within budget. Invodo can be as involved in the process as needed. From script writing to talent selection, Invodo prides itself on being “big enough” to handle the logistical requirements for projects of all sizes.

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In an effort to showcase the need for eCommerce video, Invodo create a music video for the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2010. Click the image above to watch!
 

Real time videos are able to increase conversion rates and unlike the automated animated slideshows that SundaySky creates, are more likely, in Somer’s opinion to resonate with customers. But is it practical? How much real time video can be re-purposed for alternate and future use? Somers says that average life span of its videos depends on seasonality, with clothing, specifically dresses, having the highest attrition. However, re-purposing video is possible, since Invodo makes a point of shooting with multiple cameras, ensuring that a product’s intro and conclusion are shot separately, so any middle content can be updated and inserted as needed.

Incorporating Video into your Overall Content Strategy

In the end, online retailers and other companies have many convincing reasons to use video on their websites. And with a plethora of methods from which to choose how to produce and implement video, companies must decide how much time, energy and money they have to spend, as well as the residency of their products in the marketplace.

Invodo and SundaySky are only some of the vendors who provide methods for promoting products and customer engagement using online video. Yet, until companies consider video as an integral part of their content strategy, it won’t matter how they choose to integrate it. As long as video is considered merely a supplemental component, its impact will be limited.

Video, like any content, needs to be managed effectively, so as to ensure quality and ROI. Video production of any kind is a long-term investment and it behooves companies to take the time on the front end to thoroughly research and understand the ways that it can enhance the customer and user experience, so that when it comes time to produce and execute its implementation, there are very little surprises.