Automated Video Production for Ecommerce: A Beginner’s Guide

For many retailers today, e-commerce is about having videos for an ever-growing number of their products, which can be produced and delivered quickly, at a low cost-margin as possible. If you fall in this category, then having an automated video production technology may be the solution for you. Here you’ll learn about the benefits for some e-retailers with automated video production, when it makes sense (and when it doesn’t), what vendors are doing it for retailers, and low-cost/zero-cost video production methods you can do yourself.  

What is automated video production?

Automated video production is to manual video production, what static websites are to dynamic websites. Automated video production is powered by a technology platform that can work with images, scripts, audio, and already-produced video footage to have a streamlined system for producing and delivering large amounts of video for online consumption, with minimal human intervention (either fully automated of self-automated).

Below is our comparison chart of video production methods:

Automated video production can included both dynamically generated video (informational), and self-generated (personalized) video. SundaySky also has it’s own automated video production chart which shows the relative progression of the dynamically-driven websites with automated video solutions today, along with an explanation of the work process with automated video production.

Why do automated video for e-commerce?

For starters, automated video production is best suited for mass merchants or large brands, that need to do a large number of product videos on their website and elsewhere online.

These are some priority items with deciding on doing automated video production:

  • You need scalability and flexibility. (E.g., Your product videos may need to be updated at some time.)
  • You need a fast turnaround
  • You don’t require a lot of creative control

Here are some extra options and benefits with doing automated video production:

  • You’re considering a dynamic SEO solution for your product video (and product video page) content
  • You have manufacturers and vendors who are able to supply you, and even pay you, to feature their already-produced videos on your website (and don’t mind the video being repurposed in any way to match your own website and brand display.)
  • You want vendor that can also handle hosting and streaming.

When it doesn’t make sense to do automated video production for e-commerce

Think information over creativity. Even though automated video production vendors will tout that they can provide some degree of customization and manual (human) editing, their technology platforms are really meant for producing large quantities of standard videos that showcase a very similar presentation of product information. They are not really meant for personalized videos, or any other type of creative-heavy strategy.

“Generally there’s a trade-off between the amount of time and flexibility you’re going to have, with any amount of cost per use of video.” Says Justin Foster, Liveclicker’s VP Market Development, and 2010 Video Commerce Summit host. “Say if you’re a lifestyle brand, or you’re a high-end brand, then you need to have a lot of creative control over your video production. It may not make sense to use more automated techniques with your video content.”

Automated video production vendors for e-retailers

According to Justin, there are many ways today of acquiring and manufacturing video content, and there are many technology solutions providers that are working with retailers on this – be it a fully automated video platform or semi-automated. There are also a variety of tools today that do automated video production, and can be developed both in-house and with a 3rd party vendor.

Here are a just a few technology vendors providing automated video production solutions:

Challenges today with automated video production for e-retailers

  • How to scale video – i.e., how to find a solution that can handle an ever-increasing number of products, where inventory constantly changes? According to Justin, there is a huge challenge for a lot of e-commerce sites on to effectively “scale” video; especially for large merchants that may have thousands to hundreds of thousands of different products. “That challenge is what’s been holding back e-commerce sites for a long-time from adopting video rapidly.” He says.
  • How do decide on the level of automated production? Existing options for e-retailers today are: 1) automated video platform 2) semi-automated (some automated and some manual control, and 3) producing video content manually and on your own (without any automation technology). A good part of deciding what technology platform is best for you can come down to what level of mass delivery you need to accomplish vs. degree of creative control.
  • How to minimize costs, when budgets even for big companies can be very tight in this economy, and may require small steps? Technology solutions for automated video are intended to reap large benefits with cutting down massively on production time, but you can expect a considerable setup fee if it’s with a 3rd party vendor, and considerable setup time even if you try to develop it in-house.
  • How to delegate – what automated production duties will be handled in-house, and what may you need to outsource?
  • How to repurpose – If you’re getting video from manufacturers and other vendors, then do you use the vendor’s video as-is, or repurpose it, or create new pieces altogether (and how many, and for what products)?
  • How to serve it – Do you host the videos yourself, or go with a hosting company?

Zero-cost/low-cost video production methods

If you need some kind of automated video strategy but don’t have a production budget for it, consider these alternatives:

  • Vendor payments – In some cases, product manufacturers are willing to pay retailers to put their videos on their site.
  • User/Customer-generated video – by having a setup where you feature videos submitted by customers (either self-hosted or on a 3rd party site, like even the free route on a YouTube channel), your customer interactions get turned into a new communication tool and marketing product. However, “zero cost” with video production is not the same thing as “zero sum cost.” “If you’re going to have UGV work well in the context of encounters, you do have to provide some type of incentive – whether it’s some sort of sweepstakes, or potentially a discount,” says Justin.

Personalized “automated video production”:  ExpoTV’s customer video reviews

ExpoTV is a company that has about a 250,000 member-generated video reviews of consumer products, across a large variety of products and product categories (available by both search and directory listings), which merchants can license to feature on their own websites.

According to the ExpoTV website, “Expo members voice their honest, authentic opinions about products they buy and share consumer experiences in video with the rest of the world.”

Customers like watching an authentic video review of your products by other consumers like them, and watch their reviews in a video before they buy. This process can be automated or semi-automated for merchants to have a system for immediately gathering, reviewing, and publishing 3rd party reviews under a license arrangement with ExpoTV. “ExpoTV can be a great source of content, and they cover a variety of different product categoriesm” says Justin.

Interviews with e-commerce leaders in automated video production

In the following days here on our blog, we’ll be featuring interviews with three major retailers from the Video Commerce Summit, all of whom spoke on the panel, ” Lessons Learned and Best Practices in Automating Video Production”:

  • Jason Arend, PFI Western’s VP of Media and Global Marketing, E-Commerce, and Creative Services
  • Jason Lohr-Johnson,’s Video Art Director
  • Deborah Lewis,’s Director of Creative and Rich Media

You’ll learn about video production techniques and production processes of all three of these companies, and learn about how they all did automated video production in a different way from each other. You’ll also hear how they chose their technology providers, and some special tips from each of them on how you can be successful with automated video production.

Stay tuned and you’ll hear them each share the following topics:

  • Getting Started with automated video production: How each vendor was given assignments and expectations, and deciding on a setup for what to do in-house and with an automated video technology vendor or tools.
  • Challenges/Pitfalls: How they overcame their own challenges with automated video production, or are trying to.
  • Performance Data: Learn about what videos they found perform better than others, and how they leveraged that data for revising their own automated video production.
  • Success and Disappointments – What worked, and what didn’t
  • Tips – Automated video tips, regardless of scale; reducing production time, streamlining process; keeping growth and quality high, and costs low, How to balance quantity with quality; SEO benefits versus showcasing expertise.