“How-to” Videos, Done Right


“How-to” videos are a staple of any successful e-commerce video program.  They give brands an opportunity to assert their knowledge and communicate their expertise to consumers and internal employees.  At this year’s 2013 Video Commerce Summit, top e-commerce retailers, Zappos, Advance Auto Parts, and GoPro, explored the “how-to” video benefits and best practices shared below.

Why make “how-to” videos?

Austin Blair, Senior Manager of Creative Services at Zappos, explained the variety of ways online retailers benefit from launching “how-to” videos on their site.

  • Engagement – “How-to” videos provide an avenue of exploration and entertainment that engages viewers.
  • Company culture – They can be used as a medium to display your company’s culture.   Retailers gain the trust of their shoppers with these videos.  Valuable personal connections and relationships are then formed with viewers and potential customers.
  • Inform the customer – Customers make better purchasing decisions once they have all the facts.

Austin also shared the several different ways Zappos utilizes “how-to” videos:

1. Supplementary

In the video below, “How to Tie Your Shoe,”  Zappos is not trying to hard sell a particular product, but instead offering this supplementary information to engage customers and display the topic they are most knowledgeable about; footwear.


2. Entertainment

Entertaining videos such as “How to Scare Your Friends,” display the company’s humor and creativity.  Once again sparking an important personal connection with the viewer.


3. Internal Communication/Recruiting

“How-to” videos like, “How to Answer the Telephone The Zappos Way Tutorial,” train and inform members of the Zappos team without consuming a lot of precious work time.


4. Customer Navigation

Customers constantly ask questions that can easily be answered using “how-to” videos.  Videos like “How to print a Zappos Return Label,” help customers navigate the site with ease.


Tips for “how-to” video success

Val DuVernet, Senior Manager of E-commerce Content & Strategy at Advance Auto Parts, and Chris Naegele, Training Content Coordinator at GoPro, shared the following best practices for launching a successful “how-to” video program.

1. Know the sales lifecycle

lifecycleIt is essential that you acknowledge where your viewers are in the sales lifecycle.  This information will help you create “how-to” videos that resonate best with your visitors.  Advance Auto Parts, for example, allocates “how-to” videos that are short and informational in the pre-sale process of the lifecycle to establish why the viewer needs the product.  Val shared the chart above to further emphasize the “how-to” video sales lifecycle.

                                                                                                                                                    2. A/B thumbnail testing


A/B thumbnail testing can reveal what kind of video content viewers prefer.  For example, Advance Auto Parts’ research found that thumbnails that displayed both hands and auto parts yielded a much higher click-through rate than those videos with one or the other.  This insight helps retailers create content that drives the most traffic to their site.

3. Distribution

socialDistribute your “how-to” videos to as many different channels as possible.  Utilizing social media sources such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pintrest, and Instagram can enhance video exposure, drive traffic to your site, and increase video ROI.  Advance Auto Parts also distributes their videos to their own video gallery powered by Liveclicker to further increase video SEO.

                                                                                                             4. Equation for success

equationGoPro follows this simple equation to create successful “how-to” videos.  Chris explained, “how-to” videos must have these three main components.  First and foremost, “how-to” videos need to create an emotional connection with the customer.  Second, the “how-to” video must focus on the benefits of the product.  It should display how the product affects the customer and why it matters.  Lastly, the “how-to” video should display the features of the product.  Combined, these components will give the viewer a holistic understanding of the product and hopefully compel them to buy.

I hope you use the above benefits and best practices to effectively implement a “how-to” video program on your site.  For more video commerce tips like this, check out all of the 2013 Video Commerce Summit session recordings on-demand.  Also, look out for my next blog post on the latest innovations in video marketing.