How can private label retailers produce high quality video for reasonable cost?

One challenge I’ve noticed repeatedly over the last year in the video commerce industry is just how much harder it is for private label retailers to grow their video programs relative to mass merchants.  Mass merchants are often able to lean more heavily on their suppliers to produce video content, which means obtaining that content is often simply a matter of creating solid processes around video content curation and ensuring the business terms for acquiring content make sense.  Private label retailers don’t have such a luxury.  For companies like LL Bean, Gap, Crate and Barrel, J Crew and others, video commerce is a ‘go it alone’ game.

Unfortunately, ‘go it alone’ isn’t always easy, especially for a retailer that’s still only dabbling with video (common).  Even those private label retailers with broad video programs already in place repeatedly run into some of the challenges inherent in private label video production:

1. Justifying the spend on custom video production.  It’s especially a problem for those companies with a high inventory turn (e.g. apparel).

2. Creating high quality content, without breaking the bank.  Here again, those companies with high inventory turn struggle more than others.

3. Creating video content that connects commerce with entertainment.  Private label retailers that are also ‘lifestyle’ brands struggle in this area more than typical direct response merchants, as they often tend to steer away from direct response merchandising and instead use video as a tool to support the brand.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome some of these obstacles, if one’s willing to think a little creatively, demonstrate a willingness to lose ‘some’ flexibility in the creative process, and focus on automation as a goal.

1.  Use production automation technology.  I’m a big fan of TalkMarket. This company developed a technological solution that enables retailers to produce video content in the style of a QVC or HSN for a fraction of the cost.  In essence, they provide software and a mobile video production workstation that largely automates the planning, content idea development, footage review & intake, rough cut content creation, and uploading of e-commerce video.  For the actual filming, their software guides even the most amateur of videographers through the filming process step-by-step.  The tool ‘stitches’ together the videos with a soundtrack, and features product shots based on tried and true filming techniques used by the shop-from-home TV networks.  TalkMarket’s founders are from QVC, and the company is funded in part by Amazon.com.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s the closest solution I’ve seen to enabling beginners to create ‘prosumer’ high quality content that looks polished without being overproduced.  Check out some examples on their site:

2. Solutions like SundaySky and Animoto also represent possible solutions.  SundaySky in particular has built a solution that can work with e-commerce sites by downloading your existing product images, descriptions, prices, and other meta-data, then sequences these assets to a music soundtrack, with options to provide voiceovers.  In essence, the solution completely automates (or nearly completely automates) the process of video production using existing resources, without requiring an additional investment in video production.  I’ve met with the folks at SundaySky and, while I’ve seen some very cool examples and also think the technology is highly promising, I’m still in the skeptic camp when it comes to viability for private label retail video for a couple of reasons.  First, I just don’t believe that most private label retailers would accept this type of solution as it’s just too ‘mechanical’ and lacks the quality of true video.  Second, I’m not really convinced it’s video.  Are animations video?  Maybe I’m just splitting hairs.  And, if conversion rates improve, maybe it doesn’t matter.  I do think this kind of solution could be great if used by mass merchants, especially those in the consumer electronics, toys, or hard goods spaces.  What do you think?

3.  Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.  Ice.com is able to crank out a massive volume of video clips because the clips are short, simple, and a high degree of automation is possible within the production process:

4.  If you’re already committed to self-produce video content and have put forward a lot of effort and investment, for goodness’ sake don’t make it difficult for your customers to buy through your videos.  I railed on Cabela’s for this in a post on CommerceVideos.com the other week, and it’s a mistake I see over and over by private label retailers that choose to shoot video from more of an entertainment angle.  Karmaloop is an example I’ve pointed out before, but other private label retailers that have committed to video in a big way also struggle in this area.   Ralph Lauren would be a good example with its RL TV initiative.

5.  Automate, automate, automate.  Customization and design flexibility are the enemy of cost containment and scalability.  It’s just a reality of the medium, so wherever possible try to shoot video using standard sets, repeatable formats, experienced talent and videographers, multiple shoots in a row, etc.

Until next time… Happy Selling!

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