June 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

Online videos can be a hit—or a miss—with customers, experts say

The age of YouTube and the convergence of entertainment and shopping are making online videos a good merchandising and branding tool, but retailers should roll them out carefully to effectively win over customers, experts said at IRCE 2008 this week.

The age of YouTube and the convergence of entertainment and shopping are making online videos a good merchandising and branding tool, but retailers should roll them out carefully to effectively win over customers, experts said at IRCE 2008 this week.

“As retailers are looking to engage customers, video can help,” Laura Evans, executive studio director for marketing agency Resource Interactive said during the IRCE session, “The Best of Retail Videos-What Makes a Winning Video on a Retail Web Site.”

But Evans and co-presenter David Card, vice president and research director at JupiterResearch, cautioned that retailers also need to take the right steps to ensure that videos are providing a valuable experience to shoppers. “Be cautious in what to expect with video, there’s not a screaming demand for it,” Card said. “Don’t necessarily expect to generate a lot of sales from video.”

Research Jupiter conducted in April, for example, showed that a minority of consumers say online videos are useful in online shopping. The most popular videos were those showing multiple product images-cited as useful by 51% of men, 49% of women, and 62% of consumers in the 18-24 age group.

Nonetheless, Evans and Card gave several examples of retailers who have deployed online videos they described as hits with shoppers. Among these are Gap, which presents a video of shirt designers that run next to images of shirts shown on models; Martin & OSG, which presents videos of models that show how garments fit as the models move; QVC.com, which shows product-demonstration videos with adjacent buy buttons; and Ralph Lauren, which displays videos of how to tie a bow-tie.

Among the misses in videos, they said, were one by an apparel brand that took long to load; another by an apparel retailer that didn’t clearly show the brand of the featured products; and one by a retailer of household appliances that injected humor into a video without providing any product details.

While it’s important to ensure that a video supports a retailer’s branded image, it’s also important to give shoppers the option to turn a video on and off, Evans said. “Let the shopper be in control of the video,” she said.

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