Video is fast becoming a strong online sales tool

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jim_rhodesWe’ve all heard the old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, now we’re told that a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.

I have to say I don’t entirely understand how James McQuivey of Forrester Research arrived at that calculation, but it does call attention to an important trend in marketing. Increasingly, companies are moving to product videos as a critical ingredient in their marketing mix. This includes the marine industry.

According to a recent article in eMarketer, 52 percent of companies in North America used video for content marketing in 2011. That’s up from 37 percent in 2009. A survey of 3,800 social media marketers found that 76 percent cited YouTube and video marketing as their top areas for investment in 2012.

The numbers are mind-boggling. According to comScore, 181 million Americans watched nearly 37 billion online content videos in March. Cisco Systems estimates there will be 1.5 billion online video consumers by 2015 and that video will account for 90 percent of Internet traffic by 2013.

The dramatic growth of online video has been enabled, in large measure, by the widespread availability of high-speed Internet lines and Wi-Fi coverage, as well as lower-cost cameras and editing programs and new software tools to allow real-time viewing. Just a few years ago, the narrowband Internet connections were not suitable for downloading or online viewing of video. We remember all too well the frustrations of long waits for video clips to download and the clunky interruptions for buffering. Probably the biggest driver of online video has been the astounding success of YouTube, which reportedly gets 3 billion views a day.

The growth curve will accelerate as more consumers move from laptops and desktop PCs to smart phones and tablets. It has been reported that YouTube gets about 400 million views a day from mobile devices and an estimated 110 million Americans will watch video content on a mobile phone at least once a month in 2016.

Why video?

There is an ample body of evidence that adding video produces results. For instance, a study published by Implix asserts that including a video in an email campaign increases open rates by 5.6 percent and click-through rates by more than 96 percent, compared with print-only emails. The online retailer Stacks & Stacks reports that shoppers viewing product videos were 144 percent more likely to add the product to their shopping cart.

Consumers clearly prefer video over print in online content. Visitors who watch product videos on a website are 85 percent more likely to buy than visitors who do not, according to Internet Retailer, and 52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchasing decisions.

Airgun Depot, an e-commerce retailer, added videos to its site in an effort to improve sales of certain products that weren’t moving. The company reported that two of those slow-moving products became the best sellers in their categories, and fully attributed the change to the video content. The company cited statistics that show video increased page views by 95 percent, unique visitors by 89 percent, time spent on a page by 185 percent and value per viewer by 20 percent.

After adding instructional and how-to videos on its website and Facebook page, Advance Auto Parts discovered that visitors who watch videos stay on the site twice as long and visit twice as many pages.

A study cited by Reelso.com makes the astonishing assertion that the availability of video content can increase conversion rates by as much as 46 percent even if the customer doesn’t actually watch the video. The authors of the study concluded that the option of watching a product video boosts consumer confidence and makes people more comfortable with the brand.

Video content can boost your search engine optimization scores dramatically. Forrester says that with proper optimization, videos increase your likelihood of coming up on the first page of a Google search by 64 percent.

There are other benefits to video marketing. For instance, Dell asserts that video content reduces service call volumes by 5 percent.

Going viral

There have been some real video marketing superstars, whose creations have “gone viral” on the Internet, racking up viewer scores in the millions. One of them is the “Will It Blend?” video campaign produced by Blendtec, a maker of kitchen blenders. The YouTube video clips blend humor, style and substance to demonstrate the power and performance of the company’s blenders.

In each episode, company CEO Tom Dickson, dressed in a white lab coat, takes on the challenge of blending off-the-wall items, stuffing them into a blender and rendering them to shreds. The more than 100 video sequences include cell phones, hockey pucks, marbles, a leaf rake handle and even a set of Justin Bieber action figures. Dickson clearly was having a ball destroying things, and viewers sent hundreds of suggestions for other items to shove down the throat of the blender.

Blendtec’s sales and marketing VP says the “Will It Blend?” YouTube channel views numbered in the multimillions. The most popular video — blending an iPhone — has more than 10 million views. More important, the company’s blender sales rose by nearly 1,000 percent.

Of course, very few videos go viral, and you don’t need to achieve those sorts of astonishing numbers to have a successful video campaign. The most effective videos, especially in a community such as the marine industry, are often straightforward presentations about a product’s features and benefits or how-to instructional segments walking the viewer through operating procedures or troubleshooting problems.

Best practices

Here are 10 tips distilled from the many websites I visited in researching this article.

1. Start with a strategy before moving into tactics. Set goals and measurable results. Integrate with your overall online marketing strategies.

2. Hire a pro to shoot and edit unless you have experience producing videos. The viewing public is discriminating and will quickly recognize shoddy production values.

3. If you decide to do it yourself, invest in the best-quality equipment you can afford. That includes the camera, microphone and editing software. Use a tripod. There’s nothing more annoying than a jumpy handheld camera. And don’t forget about audio quality.

4. Hire an expert to integrate into your online and social media marketing. Video search engine optimization is a specialized and highly technical field. It changes every week.

5. Think about using a third-party evangelist as your on-camera spokesman. “They say” is always more effective than “We say.”

6. Remember that video is an interactive medium and people will add “likes” and comments, negative and positive, to your posting. Never allow a negative comment to go without response. Engage your audience.

7. Keep it short, at two minutes maximum.

8. Include a graphic watermark of your logo and a hotlink URL.

9. Don’t be too cute. Producing comic videos in hopes of going viral is a job for specialists. Find a creative team that knows what it’s doing.

10. Measure key performance indicators. Adjust as needed to maximize results.

I’ll leave you with this thought. This column is about 1,300 words. That means I’ll need to produce another 1,798,700 words to have the impact of a one-minute video.

Jim Rhodes has spent more than 30 years in marine industry public relations and marketing. He is the president of Rhodes Communications (www.rhodescommunications.com) and its Marine NewsWire subsidiary, and is a founding board member of the Marine Marketers of America.

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue.


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Comments

One comment on “Video is fast becoming a strong online sales tool

  1. Doug Curtis

    Great article Jim. Thanks for the Best Practice Tips too. Your statistics confirm what we have proven over the last 6 years. Since you and I produced and launched the “Dometic Marine Turbo Air Conditioner” together on YouTube, we’ve generated over 9,000 views and recently the “How to Install a SmartStart” video reached over 23,000 views.

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