September 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Roll ’Em

(Page 2 of 2)

Beyond the price of the equipment, 2nd Wind employees found they had a lot to learn about making videos, and few models to guide them. “In the beginning there was a horrendous learning curve on how to make them,” Lindquist says. “We had to dedicate someone to the job because creating them was unbelievably difficult.”

How big is big?

Employees had to learn the proper way to position cameras for filming product demos and to determine the optimum size for a video. 2nd Wind tries to keep its longest videos to about 90 seconds because a 3-minute video can take more than a minute to download, depending on the viewer’s Internet connection capacity.

Managing large files meant purchasing new servers to handle the load, along with monthly fees incurred to support them. The company is spending about $1,000 a month to support the bandwidth necessary to manage videos for dozens of products and about 10 TV commercials.

Adding servers was the biggest expense, but there were so many other resources required that Lindquist says it’s difficult to estimate the total expense. More investment lies ahead, including for increased bandwidth, he adds.

The video project took a lot of personnel time. In addition to staff from Juice Media, 2nd Wind’s video team includes its webmaster, a graphic designer, its I.T. specialist and Lindquist. The internal team has other responsibilities than the web, he notes, so sometimes progress is slow.

For e-retailers like Handiramp.com, presentation quality dictates online video equipment requirements. Handiramp.com makes simple product demonstrations using the movie mode of a digital camera or with a low-cost digital camcorder. The company cannot afford full multimedia productions.

“We haven’t had major costs, but the more money you put into online video the better it will look,” Disch says. “If you’re Target or Macy’s you’ll want high quality. Handiramp is more interested in conveying how something works and less interested in a polished look.”

As Handiramp moves forward with its site redesign, new videos will be added. One decision the e-retailer faces is whether to create multiple one-minute videos that break down a product demonstration into segments or longer versions that cover an entire demonstration. “We think several one-minute videos are more effective because once we segment the content we can talk about five topics briefly,” Disch says.

That pattern better suits shoppers who want only to see what’s most important to them. Disch believes short clips better match what shoppers want from the site-fast information.

Shoppers drive content

Tuning into what customers want is part of the battle for managing online video content, says Mike Spindler, CEO at Gladson Interactive. Gladson Interactive provides product images and dimensions as well as label detail for e-commerce and physical stores, with a focus on the grocery industry.

For starters, it’s essential that the video provides accurate information. For instance, “Is it this year’s version of the product?”

Next, is the video consistent? The video must be tuned to the e-retailer’s web site information systems, he says. Merchants who develop their own videos will make them compatible with existing technology. “But if they are getting content from 10 sources they could be getting different file formats and load speeds,” Spindler says.

The resolution of video images must be high enough to make them appealing to shoppers. “If you don’t have control over those things you’re going to have a variety of videos from different sources and different quality,” Spindler says. “If the quality or load time varies widely, like that on YouTube, it can be hugely frustrating for shoppers.”

Gladson Interactive customer MyWebGrocer.com operates web sites and provides e-commerce technology for 80 grocery companies around the country and is developing online video for a number of them, says CEO Rich Tarrant. Video file size and format compatibility are key considerations for any e-retailer, he says.

Video should do more than just replace static images-it should be interactive, Tarrant says. For example, a shopper viewing an online video of a cooking demonstration should be able to buy at least some of the ingredients called for in the recipe being prepared.

“Adding video is good,” Tarrant says, “but connecting the dots is better.”

billb@verticalwebmedia.com

A video marketing strategy outline

Thom Disch, head of multi-channel ramp retailer Handiramp.com and Internet Engine LLC, an Internet marketing company, has worked both sides of the online video fence. His e-commerce site uses demonstration videos for ramp products and is being redesigned to add more.

Disch offers the following points for e-retailers to consider when pursuing online video.

- Decide on a budget.

- Determine the type of media you will be using and whether it is compatible with most browsers

- Determine the software you will be using to address compatibility issues.

- Weigh video quality against user download time and let the viewer know the video is downloading by including in the first frame the phrase “video loading.”

- Check bandwidth on your web site. Each viewer that clicks on your video will be taking up some of your allocated bandwidth.

You can add video to your web page in different ways and formats. Videos can be downloaded, depending on the size, or they can be streamed, a process that enables viewing video after a brief delay without downloading a file. Longer and higher-resolution videos are good candidates for streaming. A short video clip can be downloaded rather than streamed and accessed by a link to the clip or embedded in your page. These clips usually are in .avi or .mpg format.

The most popular formats for video are QuickTime, Windows Media, Real Media and Flash. Using Flash software enables you to create a video with relatively small file size and maximum compatibility.

The most important consideration is that your message should be clear. First determine the length of video based on the message, then develop storyboard ideas and prepare a script. Try to break the message into smaller video segments; don’t give shoppers too much information at one time.

Last, use a transparent “watermark” company logo in your video in a corner for branding, and add a link back to your web site.

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