How retailers improve customer service and feedback with online video communities

I interviewed Chris Wood, Video Production/Project Manager for Kiddicare, the UK’s largest and favorite online (and offline) retailer of baby supplies. Chris is the visionary behind the company’s innovative video programs.  We discussed how his company may be a model for what the future of video in online retail could look like.

An overview of the Kiddicare video program

Kiddicare is widely known for its cutting edge video program, which is touted by some media analysts as being well ahead of what most companies in the USA are doing with video today. Their video offerings include:

– Thousands of product video overviews, demos, and reviews

– Customer service videos

– Customer video reviews

– Mobile video shopping via iPhone app

– Mobile website featuring video

– HTML5 video

– In-store mobile video integration (QR code).

– User-Generated Video community (coming soon).

Their awards for 2010 include being the UK’s Mother & Baby Awards for Best Online Retailer, Best Nursery Retailer, and Best Nursery Product; and the IMRC E-Commerce Awards for Excellence.

The Kiddicare interview

VCC: How did Kiddicare’s video initiative come about?

Chris: It started out with me being the only person in the team (for producing videos). When I started with the company in 2006, they took me on based on the videos I produced for a charity site, when I had to work with the staff that was on the shop floor demonstrating to customers.

I came on board and within a week, we had a corner of one of the boardrooms set up with our own microphones and soundproofing. As I was going through different members of staff to find out who would be good, we moved on to our 3rd in-house studio, and progressing to our current studio which is occasionally used for (and hired by) suppliers, as well as other media companies for broadcast work. I trialed most of the shop floor team to find our current presenter.  We recently moved on to our 3rdin-house studio, and progressing to our current studio, which is occasionally, used for (and hired by) suppliers, as well as other media companies for broadcast work.

Tell us about your video programs at Kiddicare

At Kiddicare.com, we place videos on the site for customers to use and interact with: so customers learn what the products are, followed by in-depth how-to videos. (i.e. a video of how to use the product). Also, we’re able to deliver these across multiple platforms online, in stores, or on mobile devices or on our mobile websites.

Basically, customers who use the Web and our mobile sites can access the video to help with their purchasing decision.

What audience group have you found your videos to be the most appealing to?

From an audience point of view, the biggest is new dads. They may not really be that interested in reading instructions, but it seems that watching them is a different thing altogether.

How are your videos typically produced?

We have an internal setup. I initially start the filming and editing that goes online, which is what I’ve been doing for about 4 years now. We produce videos in house and distribute them through our different delivery networks, online or mobile, and that’s serviced via the Liveclicker system. We really concentrate on the main videos in our studio environment, and we constantly are building our studio so we can keep production up to the maximum.  We keep increasing the number of videos that we produce without impacting the quality of the videos.

So what’s the amount of videos you’ve put out?

Online we have nearly 2,300 videos – on YouTube, affiliates, and various different sites we syndicate to. On Kiddciare.com we’ve got nearly a 1/4 of the current catalog products featuring a video. On average, we produce about 20 new videos per week.

What is your strategy for figuring out who to use as your talent?

I got each member to speak to the camera and do a couple videos. From there on out, we figured out who would be the best person in-house.  We trained them to deliver these videos.

Lynda Holmes is currently delivering the majority of our videos. Lynda stood out head and shoulders above the rest. That’s because she has a relaxed, happy tone. She’s about sharing her personal experiences and her life as well. Customers really relate to her because she is a grandparent, and she does use the products. She’s not just another corporate face.

How do you decide what videos to produce?

We’ve got a large range of our own branded products that we like to make sure are covered with videos. We also have different metrics in-house that say things like: How long are we going to have the product, when are we going to get it back in stock, is it worth spending the time creating a video?

Also, we look at the sales of that product.  For example, if it’s selling really well, then we would say, OK, it would be nice to have a video, but we have to look first at what a customer would see in our store compared to what they see online.  If you had a customer in a store, they can pick up the product and play with it, and test it out. With a video online, we can show a customer what that product does and how it works, and why they would want to purchase it.

What have been the benefits of the video program?

The initial idea behind doing videos was to give customers an in-advance demonstration before they would get to the retail store. We only have 1 retail location, and a lot of our online customers don’t actually come into our physical store. Since our video implementation, we’ve seen a 20% increase in sales. But I think the best result we’ve achieved is a reduction in returns. Some of the baby products in the market right now are quite complicated. If we can produce videos for these, we get a really good response from customers. In fact, some of the community feedback we have tells us that the videos have actually saved them a lot of time. Customers were frustrated with reading the instructions and couldn’t ‘get’ how the products worked; but they could now watch the video, and instead of sending the product back to us, they learned how to use it.

From an SEO point of video, we’re getting well over a million views a month from video; which is not only in the UK, but also worldwide. It’s really getting our name out there internationally. It’s really been quite successful.

What feedback have you gotten from the Kiddicare video program from customers?

From customers, we get a lot of feedback on how the videos have really helped them with learning how to properly use the products.  The fact that we aren’t just doing the overview as a sales pitch, that we’re actually engaging with them and telling them how to use it – that’s what they like.

All of our analytics are provided through the Liveclicker platform, which lets use see the overview of the features. Fair enough that they watch it, but it’s the actual how-to-use-it main video that our customers watch time and time again – in order to get their head around this complicated, and quite expensive product that they just bought, or that they’re intending to buy. A lot of the feedback from customers is invaluable to them. That’s especially true now, as we’re seeing a huge increase in video consumption on the mobile phone as well. Our mobile website is where we’ve seen our customers watching the same video time-and-time again, and it’s encouraging that they’re using it hopefully to save themselves some hassle. Feedback-wise, it’s been very positive.

What have been some of the challenges or obstacles you’ve had with the video programs, and how are you overcoming them, or attempting to?

Our main challenge that we faced was keeping up with the ever increasing cap of really being able to produce the # of videos that we really need to produce to keep everything up to date. We’re increasing our range constantly, and it’s very difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on. We really have to fine-tune the flow of the studio. So as the product comes in and it goes up, it’s produced and put up there as quickly as we can, but without losing the quality. We very much have to keep in mind that, while we could produce the videos quicker, we would lose the quality. If a good video can increase our sales 20%, then we want to make sure that the customers are watching that. If we produce quickly so that the customer instead receives a bad video, well they’re not then going to interact on our other products. So not only is a bad video a waste of time, but it can also stop them from interacting with other videos on different products; and potentially, drop sales with that particular customer. They look at a product, and see the video, and they may equate a bad video with a bad quality product; they may not look at another video, and then we may therefore lose the sale. So we have to keep in mind that we have to keep quality high, but also, at the same time, keep production at a decent rate.

You could only be as good as your weakest video, potentially?

Yes, I’d totally agree with that.

So it sounds like you’re not a fan of automated video production, which is what some other retail brands have been doing.

We’ve looked at these automated systems, where they say that in less than 24 hours they can have a video on every product. But basically, I think it’s just images moving around and a little bit of music (and maybe a computer voice). I think, what’s the point of that? You’re not telling me anything new. And if you’re not telling the customer anything new, you’re wasting their time.

Do you also do videos that are responses to customer questions or requests?

Yes, we certainly do. What we’re trying to do is increase the number of videos that customers make themselves, and send them into us. We have a system in place where customers can record their videos as feedback of the products. Although we have over 5,000 text-based comments (responses and reviews), we don’t currently have any customers that have recorded video comments. That’s something we really are going to push in the New Year. We’re definitely looking at what other websites have done to see what we can learn from then, and push it out. We’re also going to be developing how video is delivered within the community.

In our community section, we also produce quick help videos as well. We’ve had customers that are having problems using the products in certain situations. So within 24 hours, not only will they get an e-mail response, but they may also get a short video clip (that specifically answers their question and shows them how to use their product in that particular situation). So they can quickly and easily see how that works. We’re doing a lot of that sort of thing. We have got videos within our “Help” section as well.

You have a very good Help section that shows how many videos you have for each help section, along with the total # of videos for each help section (category).

On every product page, people can choose to review that product by attaching a video, so they can create their own video review. We haven’t gotten any customer examples yet, since this is a new system, though. But it will be something we’ll be pushing for the New Year and we’re working with our customer community on a well. We also post help videos within the community streams, and our FAQs section also have video and text responses. We’re hoping that by incorporating basically what you see there, the platform for creating your own video within the community, that we’re using video for interacting with one another. The community hasn’t been going on for very long yet; it’s only been up there for 3-4 months.

What technology do you use with your video program?

We work with Liveclicker.  I think they’re a brilliant company. They’re not the cheapest when it comes to video hosting and distribution; but it was made clear to us from the outset that they would be the best for a customer-client partnership, so we could move forward together. They’ve been extremely helpful and quite happy to work with us to develop what we’re doing.

For example, the playlists that are on our site; Liveclicker developed those for us where you could select different videos as you go around. The integration for the buying system was something that they already did, and we also feature that on Facebook and other sites. There’s an affiliate in the UK that we’re working with that is going to be purely video-driven. They’re not going to have any other content other than being just a video and community site, put together.

One of the really good points is that we’re always working together to find the next thing that we can do, and the next step. We’re not sort of sitting back and looking at what we can do currently; we’re looking at where can we go further. As a company, they’re very much like ourselves, forward-thinking; and we’re working really well.

One other example of our partnership is the QR code that they added. It’s a nice feature that they put into their system. Within a very short period of time, we started using that across our shop. So customers can use their mobiles, and select the QR code, and watch the video on their mobile on the shop floor, rather than having to wait for a staff during busy times, because sometimes the floor can be really crammed with people, and staff can’t keep up with demands. Liveclicker has amended their analytics so we can clearly see the results that it’s actually working. As a partnership, it works really well

What do you see as the future for online video for retail?

That’s a big question. There are so many new challenges, so many new ways of delivering content. To a certain extent, we’re sort of taking it back in time and looking into where we were 4-5 years ago with the Web. With mobile devices, there’s distribution and delivery; it’s not very straightforward; and now we’ve got interactive TV where we’re looking at what we can do with that. Community, social, and engagement are very much going to be a big part of the commerce future, I believe. At Kiddicare, we’ve got some very interesting projects on the go for next year. Definitely keep an eye on our community and our video sites, because we hope to be doing some exciting things.

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