What Mass Merchants Look for in a Video Producer

I interviewed a major retail company’s director of digital and video content to learn what mass merchants are looking for today when hiring a video production specialist. Read on to find out how hiring the right set of video production skills help a $1-plus billion, multi-channel merchant maintain its leadership position in the video commerce industry.

What’s a “mass merchant?”

A mass merchant is a company (typically in retail) that carries a large inventory consisting of thousands of products for sale – think tens of thousands and more. Mass merchants tend to look at video as something that needs to be done at scale – meaning lots of video done fast with cost-per-video to a minimum. Examples of mass merchants involved with this type digital video content program would include Amazon.com, Costco, Buy.com, QVC, and, The Home Depot.

Interview with our “mystery mass merchant” insider

I was all set to publicize our interview guest who directs the digital video content for a major retail company, HOWEVER…  we received word that their corporate communications team didn’t want to have our guest or their company be cited as a source. Still, we still can show a freedom of the press and behave responsibility with the information shared by our sources, so we have the full interview for you to read below.

How do you differentiate between a video content producer and a videographer?

A videographer has a more specific skill set, particularly around camera operation. A video content producer (VCP) is more of a generalist, with the ability to think through the video production process end-to-end.

Along with videography skills, a VCP may need to aid with the full production process. They can aid with planning, setup and breakdown of a shoot location. They should also be able to aid with the post-production, including editorial advice.

A VCP today also needs to also be skilled in the transcoding (re-encoding) of video for deployment across various platforms and possess an understanding of how video plays across different media. They need to have the organizational skills to build, organize and manage/maintain a library of video assets.

How have the video production specialist’s responsibilities and qualifications evolved from where they may have been a few years ago?

Years ago, our company would not have had a video content producer dedicated to the Web. Such a role would only have lived within our TV production team to help coordinate B-roll shoots or produce live show support materials. Now, we have a small team dedicated to video for our digital channels – web, social, and mobile.

As we expand our mobile footprint, we’re constantly working to understand how video fits within the mobile strategy. And, further, what steps we need to take to dual-create video to live across those devices, – considering format, size and bit-rate standards to ensure optimization and the highest-possible quality. We also must consider which tools (and technology) can be leveraged to make video more interactive, more shareable, and more “shoppable.”

How do you think a video production specialist in the (online) retail industry may have different responsibilities from other industries?

The type of video we create is, by and large, making some attempt to sell something. That is, near the bottom of the funnel, video’s purpose is to nudge the consumer past the final step of consideration and into a purchase.

At a higher level of the click path, video may initiate the consideration process, pushing the user further down the funnel – for instance, to the product page. Therefore, conversion (beyond simple engagement) is a primary success measure. Analytics must be planned, tracked and shared outward in order to prove or disprove ROI. It’s not just about creating a pretty video; it’s about creating content that pays.

What would you say are some of the special responsibilities that a video content producer has with your own company?

For us, it’s about understanding industry standards around video usage. We’re talking about things like: Average view time, most popular content types, and social implications.

What are the types of people you find apply for the job of Video Content Producer?

We have good luck training talent internally. Most of our job applicants come from a film background. Once they understand that we’re a retailer (not MTV in an indie film production shop) and what that means to the content, they’ve been able to adjust appropriately.

What advice would you have for someone who is looking to become a video production specialist? How should they prepare for the job? What schooling/training/experience do you recommend they get under their belt?

  • Understand the video production process from concept to deployment and how to effectively weave marketing and merchandising objectives with the desire to create high quality, highly polished video.
  • Be organized.
  • Be responsive.
  • Be accommodating.
  • Understand how to work with stakeholders at multiple levels of an organization and to navigate that terrain effectively. Executives will have one view, while a senior-level producer or director will have another. The personality or talent (if they’re invested in the outcome of the video) will have another. They must understand how to collect all viewpoints and work toward a finished product that will serve and satisfy all parties.

Is there any other information you would like to share with our audience?

Online video is not going anywhere, and don’t have to make indie horror films on the side to get your “filmmaking fix.” You can make a solid living working in video today; it’s an industry that is strong and growing.