Defining your e-commerce video strategy with Kevin Edwards
I recently had the opportunity to interview Kevin Edwards, Co-Founder of Video Aptitude based in San Francisco and Los Angeles. With video becoming an increasingly important component of product marketing and merchandising, we got together to talk about video strategy and considerations for online retailers just getting into video.
INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN EDWARDS
Amanda Dhalla: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself, Kevin.
Kevin Edwards: I’ve been involved in video production and editing for 15 years. It started out more as a hobby, for my personal enjoyment. I consulted and founded 3 other technology start-ups and then found an opportunity to leverage my video experience and turn it into something valuable.
Amanda Dhalla: How important is goal setting to a retailer putting together a video program?
Kevin Edwards: Extremely. Strategy, coupled with goal setting, is the foundation of a successful video program. Strategy tells you what should be said, how it should be said, where it should be said, etc. Goals tell you how to get a positive outcome. Just throwing videos up on your site can be damaging and lead to negative results.
Amanda Dhalla: What types of video – product, how-to, behind-the-scenes etc. – should retailers consider when starting out to build a video program?
Kevin Edwards: Retailers should consider any type of video that may help them achieve their goals.
I noticed that you wrote a blog post a few weeks back about how luxury brands are using video to engage customers. What was really interesting about that post were the differing approaches taken by two high-end retailers: Barneys New York CO-OP and Louis Vuitton. Louis Vuitton set out to build loyalty and brand reputation by showing fine craftsmanship. On the other hand, Barney’s put together unscripted e-commerce videos where the models are talking, rather than really showing the clothes. I recall one particular model talking about how she grew up in the most obese county in America as she was wearing a $780 dress. This is an interesting approach focused on conversion and I’m curious to see how well it will work for them and whether it will positively impact their sales.
As another example, we recently did a shoot for The Container Store that was very customer-focused. In the videos, customers talk about how they use Container Store products in their own personal ways. One customer speaks about using a shoe rack to store her daughter’s barrettes, hair ties, and brushes. Showing the products in a non-traditional way adds value to them by creating multiple selling points. Products became more valuable and customers became more part of the brand. This type of video fits well with the image of The Container Store.
Amanda Dhalla: How much video should a retailer expect to make and how often?
Kevin Edwards: How much a video content a retailer can expect to make will depend on a variety of items such as their approach, script and how often they’re able to shoot. Straight product videos against a blown out background or green screen will move more quickly than shooting on location.
However, in either case, there are efficiencies that can be built into the process to save time, such as having all the products you want to shoot with you. Knowing exactly what’s going to be said about each product and having talent that can easily flow through the product videos smoothly can also help to speed up video production.
Amanda Dhalla: What methods do you suggest to supplement in-house content?
Kevin Edwards: There are a lot of ways to supplement your in-house content. For example, Tide recently put up a contest to attract user-generated video. Unfortunately, they required users to do too much.
In general, user-generated video content doesn’t allow you control over content, and if you’re trying to curate a video library with a consistent theme, this can be difficult. It’s also more difficult to build a strategy around user-generated content; so you need to think it through. If you’re already producing content and spending hours trying to find the right supplementary content, you may find that the time spent on supplementary content can be used to diversify your current video library in ways that directly support your strategy.
Amanda Dhalla: How do you determine the right delivery method for your audience, scripted or unscripted?
Kevin Edwards: This goes back to strategy building and the angle you want to take with your videos. I prefer a more unscripted approach as it tends to work really well. But if products are technical, some loose scripting is helpful unless you’re working with an expert who can talk with ease about the products. Having certain lines that you need to include in the product video can work well too. For those lines, a teleprompter is helpful to keep you on schedule and ensure your talent is happy.
Amanda Dhalla: Does it matter whether you use a staff member or an outside professional as your on-screen talent?
Kevin Edwards: The focus should be on what best resonates with customers based on your strategy and goals. Someone who works for you can be that expert who can talk about the products. They might also simply be a good fit even if they aren’t that ‘expert.’ You may also need an outside expert or an actor. Again, the focus is to accomplish what was set out in the initial strategy. At Video Aptitude we use a deep pool of experts and actors while remaining very open to working with the staff of our clients to achieve the goals set out in our initial strategy.
Amanda Dhalla: Where should you shoot that will best resonate with customers?
Kevin Edwards: This is something we’re currently testing at Video Aptitude. Will your customers convert more if your fishing lures are shot on a dock vs. a studio? What about MMA gear shot in an octagon vs. a studio? What if Zappos shot running shoes at the park and dress shoes in an office? Would that have a positive impact on conversion? I believe that it depends. I personally like shooting at locations that complement the products because it sets you apart from competitors. It’s not easy to shoot on location, you can’t produce as much, it takes more time and energy to get set up and it’s a greater wear on your staff.
However, sometimes it’s very important. We were working with an antique jeweler with hundreds of products. She had a small showroom, but people would travel from all over the country just to see her jewelry. It was important for us to manage customers’ expectations when they walked into the showroom. We wanted to make sure that what the potential customers saw in the video was exactly what they saw when they flew across the country and walked into the showroom. In this case, on location shooting was very necessary.
Amanda Dhalla: Should you use music? How about text overlays?
Kevin Edwards: I like to use music when I’m trying to build a greater emotional connection in a product video. We recently shot some videos for Webber and the first round of music that came up sounded like lounge music. All I kept seeing in my head was a late 80’s version of Chevy Chase in some cheesy blue leisure suit with a cocktail, pointing and winking at people as he walked by them. We needed music that better relayed the notion that, “it’s almost summer, let’s get outside and grill some meat.” We ended up going with a bass, electric guitar riff by Kevin McCloud that worked very well.
We also shot dozens of grilling quick tips. These tips are 7-12 seconds and do not have music. My personal feeling is that if customers are going to be watching several very short videos in one sitting then music can get very annoying very quickly.
Text overlays are helpful when conveying additional information, reiterating a point or outlining steps in a process. If you feel it’s important that your customers know you offer free shipping on all returns, then overlay text might be a good fit during the video rather than using 5 seconds to explain as much.
Amanda Dhalla: What are the main points you should make in product video?
Kevin Edwards: This is really going to depend on the products you’re shooting but I think a good rule of thumb is to address 3-5 key selling points that, when possible, surpass what a 2d image and product description offer. This is your opportunity to essentially sell your products directly to your customers. Think about what they need to know to get them to convert. For example, if I’m looking at a purse I want to see that there is a place for my keys, wallet, compact, extra hair ties, small makeup bag and my book. Product close ups can’t always address this. I’m going to also want to know what makes this product particularly unique to others. For example, avid runners will have more than one pair of running shoes, so explaining how a particular pair complements other shoes can be extremely helpful.
Amanda Dhalla: What is the right length for a product video?
Kevin Edwards: There is a constant balance between quality content and length. I like to keep most product videos between 30 and 60 seconds, although some may be longer. The best thing that you can do is monitor drop off rates. In production, you can do some add-ons when you’re starting out that can be cut out later, if needed.
Sometimes your customer base needs more information, depending on the product that you sell. In those cases, a video that’s a little longer, say 90 seconds, can work well. But you definitely need to test video length. You could even consider a video series for a complex purchase like a car.
Amanda Dhalla: How important is quality to online video success?
Kevin Edwards: Honestly, when I look at quality I bundle everything together: sound, equipment, lighting, content etc. Ad hoc video definitely has its place and always will. The difference is having a specific video strategy for a specific product vs. rolling out 2,000 skus. With two competing stores, the store with better quality video than its competitor will win out. When quality video is available at zero cost to the consumer, why would they select a brand with inferior video assets?
Over time, we’re going to see the standard go up. Higher quality video is going to become the norm. High quality video is so much better to watch, and better quality ensures the longevity and value of your video assets.