E-Commerce Video Ads: A Tough Sell for Retailers

There is a wave of interactive video shopping experiments running across the web. Retailers are looking for ways to differentiate their online presence and create a more compelling shopping experience online.  Interactive video ads fit the bill.

But, as marketers, how useful is this technology in achieving business objectives?

Do these tools increase conversions, traffic, or shopping cart activity (not to mention metrics that are further up the funnel, like brand awareness and brand preference)? While it is interesting to play with these tools, the reality is they are still a tough sell to the end user.

In fact, we have already seen several interactive video shopping ad experiments fail. Infusion Video’s now-defunct “View Click Buy” concept created white box highlights around different things in the video – in their example, Tiger Woods’ shoes and pants. If the user hovers over the white box, they see an overlay that showed the item detail and price directly in the video unit. Asterpix’s now-defunct customizable video platform, “Asterpix Pro” allowed video owners to add HTML into the video unit also, turning moving objects and even people into clickable links.

One offering that still exists in the marketplace is Tailgate Technologies. They have created the ability to deliver an entire e-commerce experience directly within an ad unit.

Tailgate Technologies Flash Demo of In-Banner Video Buying

Tailgate Technologies Demo of In-Banner Video Buying

In the demos, this comes across as a huge win for marketers. Imagine the possibilities! Drive sales directly from a banner, anywhere on the web!

And, it would be nice if this were a magic potion to increase conversion. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. To understand why these efforts have failed to catch on with users, we must think like the user. How realistic is it to expect a user to complete an e-commerce transaction directly from an ad unit? Let’s review the factors working against this transaction model:

  1. Unclear user intent, and nonexistent purchase interest. The user is in the middle of reading an article about how the NBA draft picks are shaping up. What is the likelihood that they are ready to buy a movie that they might have never even heard of? I can guarantee it’s less than 0.008% – the average CTR for traditional banners.
  2. Lack of security and trust. Banner ads are sold to anyone and everyone. How can the user tell that this banner isn’t from Scams ‘R Us? You spend time and money ensuring that your site has the required trust icons built in. With this type of interaction, you’re asking the user to enter their credit card information – without proving that you deserve to be trusted to protect that information.
  3. No ability to research: These banners do a great job of giving you a lot of product information. In the Charlie Wilson’s War example, they provide a synopsis of the plot, and product features. But the user can’t research the most important consideration – the retailer! In-banner e-commerce asks the user to convert without ever visiting the URL, without having a chance to review their order before completion, without looking at the return policy, and without even seeing the (linked-to) terms of the transaction. Retailers that use this system must think their customer is either a thrill-seeker, or a rube.

Most e-commerce marketers have bigger fish to fry than getting someone to convert from a banner. Like getting really excellent targeting in the first place, to ensure that they are reaching the right audience.  Or creating compelling video content in the first place. Or making sure your video renders for all of their site visitors.

Interactive video commerce might be the wave of the future, but it will stay in the future for a while at least as far as mass display campaigns are concerned. There are easier (and more effective) ways to improve conversion on your site without trying to convince your customers that “tomorrow is here.” Let others test these whiz-bang concepts, while you focus on delivering real value.

What do you think about interactive video shopping experiences? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.