December 3, 2009, 12:00 AM

When e-retailers add video to their sites, few tune in, says report

Even though 68% of the top 50 Internet retailer web sites feature video, a 378% increase from a year ago, only 16% of online shoppers say they watch videos on retailers’ web sites, according to a Forrester study.

Even though 68% of the top 50 Internet retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide feature video on their web sites, a 378% increase from a year ago, only 16% of online shoppers say they watch videos on retailers’ web sites, according to “Online Retailers’ Adoption of Online Video Content is Ahead of Consumers’ Preferences,” a Forrester study. But, of those who do watch videos, 64% say they find the videos very useful.

One reason for the low adoption rate, the report says, is that product videos are relatively new-most e-retailers have only added product videos within the past 12 to 14 months. As a result, U.S. online buyers are more familiar with other features, such as detailed product descriptions, zoom or enlarged photographs.

“As consumers become more accustomed to seeing online product videos on retailer Web sites, we expect usage to increase,” says the report.

Another boost to shoppers’ video viewing will occur when retailers expand their videos’ distribution, says the report. For instance, retailers may see increased traction if they syndicate videos to video platform providers like YouTube, provide videos to affiliate sites like Commission Junction, or allow shoppers to share them on social networks like Facebook. To date, 22% of the Internet retailers surveyed that have product videos on their web sites allow shoppers to share videos via e-mail and 10% allow them to share videos on social networking sites.

But expanding distribution alone will not boost conversion rates, the report warns. Rather, videos need to have embedded links to products, consumer reviews and other elements that reinforce the sale.

The online survey of 4,687 consumers was conducted in March.

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