November 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

And ... Action!

Online video tells a more compelling story than pictures can, and boosts conversion rates.

Lead Photo

Sometimes a picture can't tell a thousand words.

Take, for instance, an airgun. A picture shows what an airgun looks like, but not what it does. This is a problem retailer Airgun Depot has tackled with a technology that conveys much more than a thousand words—online video.

Airgun Depot has 20 videos online and uses the video services of technology provider Buystream.tv to shoot, host and stream the videos. They have proven their worth, the merchant says. Today the retailer routinely experiences a 10% to 12% lift in conversion for shoppers who watch videos.

What's more, the retailer can embed the videos anywhere, including on social media pages or blogs. And the video has a clickable Buy button that appears in the presentation so the shopper can be transported to a checkout page on the retailer's e-commerce site. Airgun Depot, for example, includes video in e-mail marketing campaigns.

"On average, a video e-mail campaign we do, we're generating $10,000 to $12,000, compared with $7,000 or $8,000 with a regular campaign," says Scott Thomas, owner of Airgun Depot. "People just like to watch video." It costs $300 to $500 to shoot a video, and $200 a month for hosting and streaming, he says.

A popular medium

Every minute, 24 hours worth of video is uploaded to YouTube, the company reports. People watch 2 billion videos a day on the mega-popular site. The desire by consumers to watch video doesn't get clearer than that. The trick is, how does a merchant make video work in retail?

35% of the e-retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide include online video on their e-commerce sites. What many have learned is that video involves creating compelling content, understanding the technology required to deploy and maintain video, and refining a process to optimize video content to boost natural search engine results.

When it comes to creating compelling content, Moosejaw Mountaineering sticks to the spirit of its crazy Moosejaw Madness brand. In one video, a masseuse discusses the benefits of a jacket while she works on a client; a model stands silently nearby wearing the jacket. In other videos, the spokespeople are a dog groomer, an auto mechanic and a butcher.

"Hopefully they are funny enough that people want to share and view them elsewhere, through YouTube and other channels," says Eoin Comerford, vice president of marketing. "Once we have videos live on our site, we build out our channel on YouTube and use that as a traffic driver back to the e-commerce site."

Moosejaw has 500 videos on product pages, videos that were produced by the product manufacturers. The retailer says these videos are driving conversion rates up, but declines to disclose exact figures.

But the retailer is more focused on the 75 videos it produced with video technology company Invodo, which came to Moosejaw headquarters and shot the videos of 75 top-selling products at a cost of $500 to $1,000 each. It's these just-launched videos, featuring Moosejaw's off-kilter humor, that Moosejaw is playing up and believes will lead to even greater conversion than the straitlaced manufacturer videos.

"The goal of the video effort is to boost conversion by engaging consumers and giving them more information," Comerford says. "And the custom videos do a little branding as they are consistent with our Moosejaw Madness."

Comerford is convinced that video is a key to successful e-retailing because of the attention span, or lack thereof, of many people today.

"People want to be informed and entertained, and it's a lot easier to do that in a video format where they just click a button and are told about a product and important features, versus reading a set of bullets that uses terminology they may or may not understand," he says.

Going to the show

Fashion retailer Moxsie Inc. is taking a different approach to creating video. Rather than just shoot videos of its products in its offices, the e-retailer took a camcorder to fashion trade shows and conducted interviews with the many designers behind the products Moxsie sells. It says this is much more compelling than a typical product video, and is more educational and entertaining.

"Video is the perfect avenue for us to apply not just richer experiences with our products but give a very unique designer story, too," says Moxsie CEO Jon Fahrner.

Moxsie planned to launch the videos last month, using video technology provider SundaySky Ltd. It's created videos for 30% of its 1,500 products. SundaySky creates a multi-layered presentation by weaving the video interviews with images of the products fading in and out and adding descriptive text here and there.

SundaySky uses a proprietary fill-in-the-blanks video template system, creating a video for any product the retailer selects. Moxsie uploads its custom video content to SundaySky's video system and indicates which designer is featured. The system plugs that video into a designer-branded template and uses the product data feed to insert into the template one of the designer's products and the information and imagery that goes along with it. The system then combines all the elements into one video. This process is used to make multiple product videos by designer. Moxsie declines to reveal the cost of the videos.

"It's a great way for small companies to scale that whole video process, which previously has involved producing individual new videos, which is pretty unscalable," Fahrner says.

Behind the scenes

Moxsie and Moosejaw, like many retailers presenting video, use a vendor to produce, host and stream their videos. The key piece of technology behind the scenes is the video player. In many quarters online an Internet user will push Play on a video and then be informed she must download a certain player to watch the video. But today's video technology providers are bypassing that video stumbling block by using proprietary players that don't require downloading.

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