March 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Helping hands

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SpinLife pays a monthly fee for the hosting service based on the number of video views. Walsh says the videos have cut down on obvious customer questions such as “Does this scooter back up?” And she says it helps trim copy on product pages. “It keeps us from feeling the need to address every possible question a customer could ask in the product description,” she adds.

The videos seem to be helping sales. In the vehicle lifts category, SpinLife added video to all products for one manufacturer and not for other lift makers. Sales of the brand backed by videos increased 35.8% year over year versus 15.2% for the other brands. “We are using this information to show the other brands how essential videos are for our products to try to influence them to create more videos for us to use,” Walsh says.

The explosion of online video has led to rapid advances of the technology, which retailers are putting to use.

For instance, retailers Marks & Spencer and Thomas Pink have enhanced their online videos with Buy buttons that appear next to video clips; clicking on the Buy button takes the viewer to the product page for the item displayed in the video.

The click-through rate is as high as 30% for some Marks & Spencer videos, driving sales increases on some products by as much as 90%, says the U.K.-based retailer.

The retailers use video technology from Brightcove and work with Adjust Your Set, which creates videos for retailers. Once the video is created and uploaded to Brightcove, which hosts the content, Brightcove provides small snippet of code that a retailer adds to its site to present the video.

Because a shopper’s Internet connection speed can range from broadband to dial-up, Brightcove provides retailers with six types of video code. The Brightcove technology detects a visitor’s connection speed and presents the content in the most appropriate format.

Brightcove also provides retailers with analytics data about videos as part of its offering. Retailers can, for example, see points in videos when consumers most often stop watching. That way a retailer can adjust a piece to put the most captivating scenes first.

E-retailers also can integrate Brightcove with their content management and inventory systems, for example, setting up the program to automatically remove the Buy buttons when a product is out of stock. That integration also allows a retailer adding a new product page to automatically add to the page a video tagged as relevant to that product. Such integration is available in Brightcove’s more expensive packages.

Squeeze more out

And there are other technologies that can help retailers squeeze more out of online videos. A feature from 360Media Inc. called ViewZoom enables e-retailers to stream YouTube videos to a custom player on their web sites. The player appears on a retail site as a small thumbnail that expands and plays in a separate window when consumers click on a button, saving a retailer precious page real estate.

360Media says the technology also can help boost retailers’ rankings on Google and YouTube because each time a visitor mouses over the video, it counts as a view on YouTube. This, the vendor says, increases viewing numbers more than if the video were only on YouTube, driving up rankings.

And the player allows for comments, which also can boost a video’s ranking with YouTube and Google, 360Media says. Purse retailer uses the feature on its e-commerce site.

Such features illustrate how far online video has come in a short time. Many e-retailers are taking advantage of these advances, employing new technology that transforms web videos from mere decorations into powerful sales-boosting tools.

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