January 21, 2013, 3:42 PM

Sharpening e-retail with videos

Sharpmen.com changed its business model based on product videos.

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Sharpmen.com launched as a video-driven flash-sale retailer.

E-retailer and marketing platform Sharpmen.com stands among the vanguard of online merchants that eschew routine merchandising tactics in favor of inviting consumers in with video.

Sharpmen.com, which sells apparel, accessories and gadgets aimed at men, launched as a video-driven flash-sale retailer less than a year ago, then quickly morphed into a hybrid e-retailer and advertising platform when it realized it was getting more video views than direct sales, says CEO Yazid Aksas says.  “We realized that the views the videos were getting were valuable for the brands we were promoting and we started thinking more about the value proposition we were bringing,” he says. “We could have a mix of advertising and commerce. Usually you are one or the other.” 

Sharpmen.com works with a collection of brands and manufacturers to showcase their products in exchange for about a 40% cut in any sale, Aksas says. That cut includes video production costs.

He says the new business model is proving more profitable than the flash-sale model. Consumers who view a video on Sharpmen.com as it operates today convert approximately 3.75% of the time, greater than the 2.99% average of North America’s top online retailers as ranked in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and Second 500 guides. 

The top videos featured on Sharpmen.com’s home page—there are nine that cycle through at any given time—usually run about two to five minutes each and tell the stories behind the brands. These longer, more story-like videos comprise about 25%-30% of the videos on the site. The videos comprising the remainder are generally about a minute long and are more straightforward, with a host talking up product features and benefits. Sharpmen.com shoots seven to 10 videos a week, usually all on one day, using freelance videographers and editors. Aksas says Sharpmen.com spent about $15,000 to buy cameras, lighting equipment and set up the studio space.

The storytelling approach prompted several online media outlets to reach out to Sharpmen.com to ask if they could use the longer, featured videos on their own sites, Aksas says. “Everyone is looking for content,” he says. Sharpmen.com now syndicates some of these videos to about a dozen news and lifestyle sites, including EliteDaily.com, which targets Gen Y-aged consumers and MadeMan.com, a site for guys.

Aksas says sharing the content free of charge with these sites has helped increase brand exposure and draw traffic to Sharpmen.com. The brands featured in the syndicated videos also pay an additional fee, which Aksas says is low, on a cost per thousand basis for Sharpmen.com to syndicate their brand video in these channels.   

For much more about how e-retailers use video to drive commerce, be sure to read the upcoming February issue of Internet Retailer magazine, to which you can subscribe for free.

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