How to build video into an omni-channel strategy

In January 2014, comScore found that 183.8 million Americans watched 48.7 billion videos online, and video ad views equaled 11.3 billion. Given the potential reach and impact, videos and video marketing are rapidly becoming key components of a retail marketer's omni-channel strategy. Videos can convey a lasting impression about a retailer's products and services, as well as engage consumers, build credibility and drive revenue. But how you execute your video program is the difference between success and failure.

Creating high-quality videos and making them part of an omni-channel commerce initiative isn't always easy. When done right, it is highly effective. To drive success with video, take into account the following considerations:

Video content must be persuasive

The term persuasion carries with it many negative connotations: screaming TV pitchmen, high-pressure used car salespeople, or telemarketers that call right while you're sitting down to eat dinner. In the context of omni-channel video shopping, the term implies none of these. The most persuasive e-commerce videos are often short, informative clips that subtly yet effectively highlight the benefits of your products and services in a way that gently leads the shopper to make the "correct" choice. Consider including customer testimonials, product reviews, product demonstrations, how-to steps, and other content that demonstrate your company's expertise.

You will also need to determine whether you should use your own videos or videos created by vendor partners or shoppers. It's been shown that professionally produced video that is optimized for e-commerce usually delivers a higher lift. If possible, consider having your own videos produced. Regardless of approach, a strong narrative is essential. Effective storytelling can bring video content to life and engage the viewer in a way that other marketing materials can't.

SEO and distribution play a key role

With YouTube ranking as the second largest search engine, today's blended search results require a keen focus on SEO. Coming up on the first page of a Google search can mean the difference between someone finding you -- or someone finding your competitor. Correct submission of video sitemaps, adding the right metadata, descriptions, and content when uploading your videos are necessary components for drawing the most viewers and increasing your visibility when someone is doing a search.

It also helps to think beyond placing videos on your own web site and to also distribute content to sites like YouTube and Facebook. Viewers often turn to YouTube for instructional videos and to search for content. You want to make sure your videos are high on the list of search results.

As a retail marketer, you should also take into account mobile when considering your video distribution strategy. With six billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide as of 2013, the mobile channel is not one to be ignored. A "video everywhere" strategy is attainable and allows you to engage consumers across multiple platforms.

For instance, consider integrating videos into your mobile shopping sites and apps using integrated HTML5 video support, interactive iPad players and automated bandwidth detection and video versioning technology. You can also create unique QR codes with every video you upload, so that when the code is scanned, it plays back a mobile version of the video on a variety of devices, including iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry.

A/B testing determines the best course of action

Leaving video marketing to chance is a risky game, particularly given the time and effort involved. With automated A/B testing, you can best determine the strategies that are generating the most results and how your program may need to be tweaked.

For example, you can determine which video banners, thumbnails, and other calls-to-action are generating the most playback. A/B testing can also reveal whether a certain type of thumbnail is clicked more or less often than others (e.g., one with a person looking straight at the camera vs. one with products that look somewhat vague where a shopper might be interested in clicking to further evaluate). This, in turn, can help with the overall video strategy and, as a result, increase customer engagement and conversions.

Analytics help determine impact

To justify investment in video marketing, it's necessary to take analytics into account. The right video analytics can help you to evaluate your video programs, measure their effect on engagement and site activity, and most importantly, illuminate how revenue and conversion are altered by video. Metrics like dollars per video, revenue per play, and video conversion rate can instantly reveal which videos resonate the most with shoppers and turn browsers into buyers.

For example, with the proper video analytics, you can determine if shorter videos are more engaging and powerful than longer videos with your shoppers -- and what the magic number may be in terms of video length. You can also use analytics to identify numbers of videos watched compared to conversion rates, to see if there is a correlation. Finally, if analytics show that videos aren't being watched, you can either pull them from the site or determine if a different type of video may need to be created to replace those that are underperforming.

Beyond the actual technological analytics, invite customers to provide comments and feedback on videos in order to determine if any of your video content may need to be modified or what additional videos you may need to provide to address common concerns and questions.

Developing a video strategy that bolsters consumers' shopping experiences translates into consumer engagement with your business vs. your competitor's. It doesn't take massive amounts of money to generate the desired results. The considerations above -- including building and curating the appropriate content, testing and revising your initiatives, optimizing content for search, and analyzing your efforts -- will help you to realize maximum value from your videos and video marketing programs and drive both online and offline sales for your business.

Justin Foster is co-founder and vice president of market development at Liveclicker.

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