Why retailers should like video more than I do

Jul 02, 2014

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.

At the Internet Retail Conference and Expo (IRCE), I gave a presentation on how retailers are using video to create richer experiences. I took on the topic as something of a personal challenge since I generally prefer reading a transcript to video so I can skim over the details faster.

But I learned a couple of things at IRCE, both from my own research and from sitting in on the rest of the presenters at the video day (pre-conference) at IRCE. I also recognized that video works. It converts more shoppers, and it converts them with larger basket sizes … when you do it right.

Here’s what I learned:

Video is not for amateurs: While a sound stage a la MGM or Warner Brothers isn’t always necessary, some real tools of the trade are. Sound and image quality significantly change depending on the equipment used. Lighting also plays an important role. But a professional speaker/actor is almost a must. While a company may seek to "let its hair down" when it comes to presenting a face to the customer, that only works if the person in question missed their calling as an actor.

[Image: Barbie Dreamhouse]

Video can make something super-dull become wildly engaging: Product videos have to show off the product but they don’t have to be boring. I like Zappos’ shoe demos because they show me what a shoe looks like on a real person’s feet. But the videos get formulaic and predictable after four or five. Compare that to Volvo, which dug up Jean Claude Van Damme to show off its dynamic steering. The 1:17 video has been viewed over 73 million times on YouTube. An epic split, indeed.

[Image: Volvo Trucks]

Video can be serious but really should be entertaining: For retail, video has a job to do (help sell stuff, or at least help customers figure out answers to questions that take some pressure off the call center) and most consumers are expecting that job to be entertainment. And honestly, it’s the entertaining videos that stick with us and that get shared. To me, Old Spice’s interactive campaign is the pinnacle of achievement in using online video — and I was shocked, just absolutely shocked how many people in the room during video day at IRCE had not heard of this. To really understand what can happen when a brand relaxes, has fun, and thinks about how to use the internet in conjunction with video, check out a case study like this.

[Image: Old Spice]

Mature doesn’t have to mean boring. And now, more than ever, a retail needs to be thinking about how to be more than relevant. We need to be entertaining.

What makes a compelling online video experience for retailer and brands? What are the primary attributes that lead consumers to share videos?

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8 Comments on "Why retailers should like video more than I do"

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Max Goldberg
7 years 10 months ago

To be compelling a video should be educational and/or fun. Nikki cites two excellent examples in Volvo and in Proctor & Gamble’s Old Spice. If they entertain, consumers will share. If they are boring, consumers quickly move on. Video is a great way to communicate, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be left to professionals; just look at the number of entrees that Doritos receives each year for its Super Bowl campaign. Keep it brief and keep it fun.

Adrian Weidmann
7 years 10 months ago

The two most compelling attributes that retailers and brands alike need to incorporate into a video are storytelling and emotion. If you can tell an emotional story that resonates with your audience you succeed. Whether its six seconds or six minutes, your video needs to tell a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. The chances of your audience sharing the experience increase dramatically when you can reach your audience on an emotional level.

Ralph Jacobson
7 years 10 months ago

As more and more video is created, the key aspect that makes them compelling becomes more and more difficult to exhibit. That aspect is the uniqueness of the video. Many compelling videos exhibit an element of the unexpected. I think those are the ones that go viral. Real life, amateur videos gain millions of views every day with no professional lighting, staging, etc. Make it unique/unexpected/surprising. That may actually be all you need.

Steve Montgomery
7 years 10 months ago

The Old Spice commercial is great example of how humor can be used to create a compelling video. It is comprised of a series of surprises that are linked together from the initial switch of the commercials to the basket being made at the end.

The Volvo commercial accomplishes the same thing by using compelling visuals. The important thing is that both were done very well. For example, the trucks in the Volvo commercial were going backwards adding greatly to the dramatic effect. Doing the same thing going forward would have been good, doing it backwards is what makes it great.

People share something that has a “hook.” It could be humor, visual effects or even something done very badly (which I would not advise a brand to do).

Ed Dunn
7 years 10 months ago

I think there is a difference between mass reach and closing the sale when it comes to employing a video strategy for retailers. Consumer packaged goods videos are designed for mass brand awareness. For retailers, I would think HSN would serve as a good model of using video to describe the product, how it works and close the sale for the individual viewing the video (online or in-store on digital signage) while making the purchase decision.

Bill Davis
7 years 10 months ago

Video should be getting used more widely, as when it’s done well it’s both informative and entertaining. And brief; less than or equal to 60 seconds works well in my view, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Most retailers have been slow to embrace the Internet, let alone video, so am assuming this too will come to pass eventually.

Joan Treistman
7 years 10 months ago

There are guidelines for making engaging videos, and this article articulates them well. But that doesn’t necessarily make the videos effective. There are product videos that go viral. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they generate sales for the brand. Retailers and brands that create videos have a goal in mind. That goal relates to a sales target. C’mon, can’t we connect the dots between “video experiences” and TV/online advertising?

I think the most important question is, “what are the primary attributes that lead consumers to buy the brand in the video?”

Lee Kent
7 years 10 months ago

There are so many answers to this question. Emotion, unique, it could happen to you, the unexpected are all good answers. Pick one or two, make a video, and cross your fingers for viral. But does viral sell? I really don’t know the answer to that. Maybe someone else does.

I just have to go back to that Volvo video though. I had an aha moment in that one which borders on making that video interactive, two-way. When Jean Claude dropped into that split and those two trucks stayed in sync, WOW, I “got it”! If I’m in the market for “dynamic steering,” Volvo has it in spades.

Now THAT’s video and my 2 cents! Let the customer HEAR you.


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