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Why your online videos are failing

Why your online videos are failing Jerry Spelic

Sometimes statistics take on a life of their own. One in particular is always being tossed around by online marketing and merchandising experts who seem to take it as gospel: "With proper optimization, video increases the chance of a front-page Google result by 53 times" (Forrester, 2010).

Enough already: It's time to put this seemingly sacred marketing cow out to pasture.

While it might be mathematically accurate, the "53 times" statistic gives the false impression that video is a magic bullet that will catapult your search rankings to the top page. What's more untrue is the impression that online shoppers can be placated by online video when in reality, online shoppers want (and deserve) more.

Think about it. Video is passive, shopping is active. Should active shoppers be satisfied with passive content? The answer is simple -- no. They want more than just video to help them shop and make decisions.

Let us put this in context with an analogy.

If shopping was a passive experience, there would be nothing on the shelves to pick up and examine. There would be nothing to try on. No dressing rooms. No sample testers. No clerks. No departments. There would only be a single window to take your order. You'd walk up to it and speak into a microphone: "I want a blue shirt, collared, size extra-large." Then, a video would play of a man wearing a blue collared shirt. Maybe he'd turn around to show you the back. Wow… that's engaging, right? To complete the transaction, you'd click a button to buy the shirt you've only seen in a flat, lifeless video, and then receive your extra-large blue collared shirt.

Sound ridiculous? Absolutely. It's also ridiculous to expect passive video to take care of an active shopper's needs: "One of the inhibitors to shopping online is you can't touch the products, so the more detail consumers can see, the more likely they are to make purchases online"  (Internet Retailer, 2005).

We should not expect online and mobile shoppers to settle for flat, lifeless, passive product content like video because they won't. They demand rich interactive product content such as 360-degree image rotations, detailed features and benefits, image galleries, close-up image zoom, instructions, and video (when used in conjunction with other rich media). Shoppers don't just want this, they demand it.

Many online merchandisers and marketers seem to forget that shoppers know what they want to learn. Do shoppers want specifications and features, instructions or how-to's, or comparison charts? Do they want to see the product from every angle? Video alone is not giving them what they want and need.

Research supports the previous notion. A study by Visible Measures finds that 20 percent of online-video viewers click away from a video in the first 10 seconds or less. By the 30-second mark, up to 33 percent of viewers have moved on, and at one minute, 44 percent have left (regardless of the video's length), and almost 60 percent are gone by the two-minute mark. According to the study, "If your online video campaign has 10 million viewers, 2 million of them saw less than 10 seconds of it." Yikes. That's sobering, but not really a surprise.

Back to the Forrester study that claims that video increases "the chance of a first-page search engine result by 53 times." This is a literal, yet optimistic interpretation of Forrester's findings when one considers that Forrester's sample sets the odds of a video appearing on Google's first page of results at about 11,000-to-1. This is certainly better than a text page's approximately 500,000-to-1 chance of appearing, but it's still worth noting that, using their metrics, the odds are 10,999-in-11,000 that a given video will not appear on Google's first page. Thus, video is not the magic bullet that people think it is.

In contrast, statistics from a major electronics retailer show that using interactive merchandising content, such as product demos that include 360-degree image rotations, detailed features and benefits, image galleries, close-up image zoom, and combined instructions and video, is far more effective at engaging shoppers and increasing conversions and sales. The average engagement time for their interactive product demos was two minutes and 50 seconds, with a 200 percent sales conversion boost for the retailer and more than 50 percent sales conversion boosts for participating consumer brands.

Taking rich interactive product content to the next level are guided selling applications that the major electronics retailer uses, such as product selectors, which are tools that help shoppers find the right product by asking them a series of questions. As shoppers answer the questions, the product selection is narrowed and only products that fit the shoppers' needs are shown. Their average engagement time was over four minutes. What's more, they increased sales conversions 75 percent because 62 percent of viewers clicked forward to product detail pages, and 13 percent clicked a "Buy Now" link (Easy2, 2011).

Shoppers spent that much time with interactive content because they wanted to, not because they had to (to get to the end of a video, or find the info they needed, for example). Shopper-appropriate interactive content also helps answer their questions and removes any obstacles standing in the way of a purchase, as evidenced by the large increase in conversion rates.

Videos are great tools, but they are not the "one-size-fits-all" solution that they seem. When produced as short, focused vignettes, they can be a fantastic help to shoppers, especially when paired with other interactive features.

And now, because everyone loves lists (they're what made Moses and David Letterman famous, after all), here are five tips to give online shoppers the experience they demand.

  • In a store, shoppers interact with products in their purchase decision. Online and mobile shoppers also want to interact with products. Consumers spend more time with interactive elements (360-degree views, image galleries, etc.) than passive ones (video). They demand it because it mirrors in-store experience.

  • Videos should be done in bite-sized chunks with a razor-sharp focus on what the shopper is looking to learn. Give them vignettes, not full-length features. They want the power to choose what they want and need to learn. They demand to learn only what they need to know.

  • Interactive product selectors can help active shoppers find the right products. They demand help choosing the right product when they don't know what they need.

  • Interactive content acts as a substitute for in-store help and replicates the in-store experience. They demand help, whether online or in-store.

  • Be their imagination! Most people have limited imaginations, so show them products in-use, installed, and in real-life settings. They demand that you do the imagining for them.

The key takeaway is that active shoppers demand an interactive experience to help them shop and make decisions, something that passive video alone cannot provide. When combined with other interactive content, video is a terrific tool, but it is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

Jerry Spelic is director of marketing for Easy2 Technologies.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Women's hand entering data" image via Shutterstock.

Jerry has well over 20-years’ experience in the marketing arts. A post-college career in broadcasting gave him a solid foundation in marketing and branding, and taught him how to quickly and effectively communicate a message to diverse...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Nick Stamoulis

2012, February 24

Video might not be a magic solution, but it's certainly beneficial to a marketing campaign. People like to receive information in different ways, which is why a marketing strategy should be diverse. Incorporating video into a strategy can attract the attention of a different audience that would prefer to learn visually.