June 18, 2008, 12:00 AM

It’s come a long way, baby – video on the web comes into its own

About 59% of Internet users view at least one video per week and its use by women is expected to grow by 55% in the next five years, according to speakers from ShopNBC.com and elsewhere at IRCE 2008.

Web video has come a long way. They used to take too long to download or get interrupted by buffering, but web videos are becoming a key tool in e-commerce thanks to the increasing reach of broadband and digital Internet connections, as well as improved technology.

“Watching video on the Internet is the fastest-growing form of consumer entertainment,” said Dave Witzig, senior director of online marketing and video at TV and web retailer ValueVision Media, which operates ShopNBC. ShopNBC is No. 65 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Because of the growth in web video use, ShopNBC devised a “v-commerce” strategy that links the content from the company’s television shopping channel with its e-commerce site, Witzig told attendees at last week’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago in a session titled “Implementing and Using Videos.” Online video viewing by women is expected to grow by 55% in the next five years, he said.

On ShopNBC.TV, a site launched in May 2007, visitors can watch live video content of products or choose videos by product category, brand, and even by the host who describes the products. As the chosen video plays at the center of the screen, a box on the left allows visitors to purchase the product or learn more about it.

“When video is offered on product detail pages, conversion doubles,” Witzig said. However, there can be too much of a good thing. “It’s a fine line you walk. You can have too much video. We don’t want to distract shoppers, we want them to learn,” he said.

Witzig was joined by Adam Lindquist, director of business development at 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment, who posts product videos throughout the company’s e-commerce site. The lure of video is real, he says: About 59% of Internet users view at least one video per week.

When deciding to pursue video, retailers should weigh factors such as whether an item is complicated enough that video would improve a visitor’s understanding, or if the product’s price point offers a good return on investment, Lindquist said.

2nd Wind also uses video on its web site for general information, such as posting the Minnesota-based retailer’s monthly television commercials, and on the company’s public relations pages.

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