Video Commerce: converting enthusiasm into action

There is a lot of enthusiasm in the market about the use of online video in a retail environment.  Still, many retailers struggle to transform that enthusiasm into action.  In order for video commerce to grow within your organization, try to remember the following:

1) Online video has implications for multiple functional areas of your e-commerce business.  Carefully weigh the benefits and risks of a ‘go it alone’ strategy.  The most successful video commerce initiatives have broad organizational support.

2) Collect formal case studies and directional evidence of video’s impact across functional areas of your business to help sell your case internally.  Take delight in your role as ‘chief video detective.’  Remember the golden rule of business: “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?)  Present the business case for video commerce to others in terms that will help them achieve their own goals.

3) Think about online video applications using a strategic framework to better organize your own thoughts and help others within the organization think about what’s possible.  A single, agreed-upon framework for video commerce applications will help align various stakeholders in the business and increase the probability you can rally people around a video commerce initiative.

4) Prioritize the rollout or expansion of online video using a simple planning methodology.  Because resources are scarce, you probably want to apply video in the areas that a) generate the highest return to the business, b) are easiest to execute, and c) align most closely with the organization’s objectives.

1.  Build organizational support for video commerce.

If you are a midsize to large retailer, video likely touches multiple functional areas (and perhaps multiple groups) within your organization.  Do not underestimate the power of broad organizational support to help spur adoption of a formal video commerce program.  Below are some functional groups that might have useful input into your video commerce strategy:

Executives: mainly concerned with understanding video’s impact on organizational performance metrics (revenue, profitability), and strategic alignment with broader organizational initiatives.

Usability and Customer Experience: mainly concerned with video’s impact on the shopping experience on-site, brand consistency, impact on site performance metrics, both sales and service issues.

Product Management: mainly concerned with possible impacts of adoption to the existing site roadmap, priority of video versus existing/competing initiatives, upcoming resource availability.

Technology/IT: mainly concerned with resource availability, technical requirements, available expertise, and need for one-time and ongoing technical resources.

Affiliate Management: mainly concerned with video’s impact on affiliate performance and overall affiliate contribution to revenues.

Online advertising/display: mainly concerned with video’s impact on display performance (lift), requirements to deploy to ad networks, and online display’s contribution to customer acquisition and revenues.

Email marketing: mainly concerned with email campaign performance.  Can video increase performance of email campaigns either through embedding video imagery within email messages or on campaign landing pages?

In-store marketing: (for multi-channel retail) mainly concerned with video’s impact on the retail sales floor.  Is it useful in a kiosk strategy or when helping sales associates on the floor close a sale or upsell the customer to high margin service offerings?

Creative production: mainly concerned with creative’s input into the process.  What kinds of creative resources are required?  Is the required production expertise in-house?

E-Commerce management: mainly concerned with requirements to manage and execute the program on an ongoing basis.  What is the impact on existing staff?  Are new hires needed?  Who will own the program internally?  Does it align with broader e-commerce objectives (increase sales, boost profitability, compete more effectively in a given category, etc)?

I just pulled the preceding list off the top of my head.  It’s not an exhaustive list of concerns each functional group is likely to have (or even necessarily representative of how all e-commerce organizations classify business functions), but rather a reflection of the fact that video can touch many functional areas.  By meeting with key stakeholders within each area to gather thoughts about online video and potential impact on e-commerce performance, you will be in a better position to truly assess the overall organizational readiness for video commerce and objections you are likely to encounter as you plan the rollout.

2.  Collect formal case studies and directional evidence of video’s likely impact across functional areas of your e-commerce business.

I read blogs as a good source of new information, check out vendor web sites, and read as many whitepapers as I can find.  In video commerce, knowledge is power.

Your enthusiasm for or interest in video commerce can be inspiring to others, but be careful not to let enthusiasm ‘roll over’ perfectly sound ideas or isolate you within the organization (translation: barnstorming straight into the CEO’s office proclaiming “video is the future” without some organizational support and a reasonable business case is not likely to get you very far).  Instead, first ask your counterparts about their existing knowledge of video and how they think video could impact their functional area of the business. You may want to offer to search for case studies or articles to share with colleagues, but remember your ability to generate a willingness within others to find this information may be more powerful than if you’re doing all the work by yourself.  Just as important, when others begin to think about the possible applications of online video for their functional area from the perspective of internal potential rather than external validation, you become much more likely to gain support and momentum to compensate for online video’s relatively early stage of adoption in the retail industry today.  Translation: there are case studies out there, but your ability to find *exactly* the right one at this point in time (e.g. from a direct competitor) might be somewhat limited.

Last – remember the Golden Rule of Business. People want to know what’s in it for them. Why should they care about online video?  If you talk with someone that’s not already a “convert” to video commerce, then relish in your role as a detective to help uncover information.  Be careful in your presentation of facts or case studies you may find, however.  People don’t like to be “corrected” so even if you do uncover useful information, try and give credit to others for inspiring your work as a way to help generate buy-in.

3. Think about online video applications using a strategic framework to better organize your own thoughts and help others within the organization think about possible video commerce programs.

As a person with a background in email marketing, I am a huge fan of the lifecycle marketing methodology.  Lifecycle marketing is a marketing approach designed to pinpoint customers with relevant messages as they move through the customer lifecycle.   Of course, there are important differences between email messages and video content, and therefore it is not possible to parallel the applications of the content completely for both mediums.  But – the great thing about the customer lifecycle is that it’s relevant regardless of the media used.

Customer Lifecycle:


Below are two grids of the customer lifecycle illustrating possible roles for video within each lifecycle phase.  The grids are designed to illustrate examples only and are not exhaustive.  Your own organization will have its own strategies and programs to slot into the lifecycle phases.

1.  Video placement by customer lifecycle phase:

2.  Video content by customer lifecycle phase.

It’s worth mentioning that today most of the efforts with online video in a commercial context are centered on the acquire phase (display advertising) or the convert phase (converting shoppers on your site through merchandising).  Such applications, while worthy, do not fully exploit video’s potential to acquire, convert, grow, service, and win back customers.

By sitting down with stakeholders in a collaborative fashion to expose online video applications, then mapping them to the customer lifecycle, you stand a better chance of a) striking the best entry point for your video commerce program and b) identifying deficiencies in the current video commerce program or gaps in the strategic thinking around online video.

4. Prioritize the rollout of online video using a simple planning methodology.

According to a survey we ran this summer on the VCC board, the #1 reason people have not already started a video commerce program or invested in expanding an existing video commerce initiative is “not knowing where to start.”

By conducting a formal Program Prioritization Exercise in a collaborative setting with involved stakeholders, it becomes much easier to determine “where to start.”

Before you conduct this exercise, however, make sure you have taken the necessary preliminary steps:

1.  Educate yourself as much as you can about video commerce.  By now, I am guessing most people reading this blog already read the whitepaper, Building an Effective Video Commerce Strategy. Pages 7 – 16 provide tips and tricks on setting the stage for online video and some of the most common video applications for increasing conversion rates and acquiring new customers through off-site channels.  The “Developing an ROI Focused Video Commerce Strategy” section is useful background material to breeze through before you set out on a path of video commerce world dominance.

2.  Make sure you understand the cross-functional nature of video. Interview others in the organization about video’s likely impact on their functional area, then gather their ideas and thoughts about possible ‘winning’ video programs.

3.  Use your own knowledge and the knowledge you’ve gained from your peers to complete a sample lifecycle marketing grid (the one in this blog is just an example – your programs will likely be a lot more specific e.g. “launch a viral video on YouTube” or “acquire 10 videos from our manufacturers and place them on our product pages” etc).

Once these items are out of the way, do the following:

4.  Gather all of the relevant stakeholders in a room for the first part of the Program Prioritization Exercise.  Explain the purpose of the session (to assess video’s likely impact on the business and begin to prioritize thinking around video). Emphasize the meeting as a “brainstorming session” where creative thinking is encouraged.  Show the lifecycle marketing continuum containing all of your ideas and others’ ideas you have already carefully gathered (put it up on a nice big PowerPoint slide, if possible – it’s a great visual aid).  Explain what the continuum is and why it was chosen.  (If you have another approach, use that if you don’t like the lifecycle method).  The point of this part of the exercise is really to make sure that everyone in the room is looking at video from the same perspective so people don’t start going on wild tangents during the meeting.  You might want to share the lifecycle marketing grid with each stakeholder before the meeting as well to make sure it is understood in advance.

5.  Review each program on the grid briefly (no more than 10 – 20 seconds allotted to each one) and then verify that everyone’s ideas are represented so no one feels left out.

6.  Ask if anyone else in the group has any additional ideas to submit.  Take them down in your notes.

7.  Prioritization time.  Ask each person in the room to score each program on the following:

1) The expected return to the business, on a scale of 1 – 5

2) The ease of implementation, on a scale of 1 – 5

3) The strategic value of the program to the company (optional – on a scale of 1 – 5)

You may wish to share a visual aid for this step so people can see the reason they are being asked to score each of the programs (see below).  This exercise tends to work best (and go faster) when you verbally go through each program one at a time, then get a consensus score from the group.

A bit of advice when you’re prioritizing and another reason to use this approach.  IT IS WAY TOO EASY TO MAKE PLANNING FOR VIDEO WAY TOO COMPLICATED.  YOUR purpose of holding this meeting is not to spec programs.  Your purpose is to build consensus, identify which of the programs represent “quick wins” and which represent ideas best left on the shelf.

8.  Adjourn the meeting once all the programs have been rated.

9.  Go back to your desk and plot the programs on the prioritization grid.  Once you’ve plotted them, you will have a much better idea of where to start.

10.  Call another meeting to review the results of the grid (or, if you want to save a meeting, email the results around and ask for feedback).  Again, focus on achieving consensus and verifying the results.

11.  You are well on your way to launching into video commerce.  Once the Prioritization Exercise is complete, you can move onto Executive Approval or creating more formal programs required for approval.

Hopefully this is helpful.  Before I go, I want to extend a special thanks to Melissa Shaw of Shaw Strategic Services. She is the one who taught me about the general lifecycle marketing framework. Thanks Melissa – and to the rest of you… Happy Selling!