January 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Shoeline.com’s videos pay dividends on and off its site

The conversion rate goes up 44% on product pages that have video, says Frank Malsbenden, Shoeline vice president and general manager, who will be speaking next week at the Internet Retailer Web Design ’09 Conference.

The main reason Shoeline.com added product videos to its site last year was to improve conversion rates on product pages. But it’s also found that the videos can bring new traffic to the site when they are posted to online social networking sites YouTube and Facebook, says Frank Malsbenden, vice president and general manager of Vision Retailing Inc., which operates Shoeline.com and three other e-commerce sites.

Videos posted on YouTube and Facebook generate a 2% click-through rate back to Shoeline.com, he says. And the videos have been optimized so they come up high in search results for related terms, introducing Shoeline.com to new customers, says Malsbenden, who will discuss his program next week at an Internet Retailer Web Design `09 Conference session entitled "Behind the Scenes at Mini-movies-Managing Video Online.”

Video has had the intended impact on Shoeline.com product pages, improving the conversion rate by 44% for product pages with videos, Malsbenden says. “If there’s a style they’re interested in, consumers can read about the benefits and features and see images. But unless there’s a video on a model’s foot, they’re not going to know what it looks like in action,” he says. “That’s a key question in the buying process for any consumer when it comes to ready-to-wear footwear.”

Shoeline.com has more than 120 videos on its site, and expects to have 200 available by next week as it completes addition of videos of spring 2009 fashions.

Shoeline.com is one of many retailers who have added video to their e-commerce sites in recent years, says Pedro Santos, chief strategist for e-commerce at Akamai Technologies Inc., whose services aim to boost web site performance. “Five years ago, the average size of a page on a retail site was about 150 kilobytes and had virtually no video,” says Santos, who will speak with Malsbenden. “Today, the average size of a page on a retail site is 350 kilobytes and the average retailer has two or three videos. So there’s been a migration of video to retail sites.”

The addition of video presents new challenges to retailers, Santos says. Videos must be shot and edited, and then retailers must manage the finished videos so they appear on the site at the right time, are swapped out when new videos are added, and are presented to the right customers. For instance, a hardware retailer might want consumers from Minnesota to see a video about snowblowers on the home page but present a different video to someone from Miami, Santos says.

As part of his conference presentation, he will discuss a product called Stream OS that Akamai began offering retailers last year that is designed to manage video and other rich media content.

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