Hiring a Video Production Specialist for E-Commerce: What Merchants Want

Jimmy Healey, Senior Manager of Social Media and Ecommerce for Onlineshoes.com, shares what his company looks for when hiring a video production specialist. Read on to learn why he sees the traditional videographer role of years past morphing into one where a blended online skillset is now required – especially in search and social.

Onlineshoes.com currently has a job opening for a video production specialist, so I thought the timing would be excellent to delve more into the qualifications retail companies are looking for in hiring. I also explored an important question with Jimmy: Are student’s education and training up to date with the demands of the new media market?

Jimmy, How does your company differentiate between a videographer and a video production specialist?

We see the role of a videographer as someone who captures and edits video and audio.  They know how to handle a camera, how to frame a shot and control light and audio. We need that [skillset], and more.

We’re looking for someone with decent videographer chops (more DeMille than Scorsese), but also someone who knows and understands the online space – they’re active on YouTube and Facebook, can differentiate between SEO and REO Speedwagon, and are highly adept at weighing the cost vs. benefit of video production.

How has the role of a video production specialist (VPS) – i.e., their responsibilities and qualifications – evolved from where it may have been a few years ago with your company?

We began producing and leveraging video just over three years ago (for Onlineshoes.com). Over this time the role of VPS has evolved from solely producing and editing video, to understanding and creating ways to improve the reach and impact of the videos they produce.

Early on in 2008 we were just happy to have video on the product page. Now, we analyze customer behavior with video to understand the impact each video has. We analyze things like, how did that video impact conversion?  What % of viewers watched the entire video?  How often is the video being shared?  It’s a constant process of learn-and-adapt, and it’s critical that the VPS be an integral participant toward that understanding.

How does being a VPS in the online retail industry differ from other industries? Are the responsibilities any different?

Every offline video industry is coming online (news, entertainment, instructional, etc.) and these industries don’t differ much from the retail industry.  We all (or, at least we all should) leverage the same or similar video syndication channels/methods, maximize video reach via SEO, and ultimately want the same things – a growing viewership, greater brand recognition, social reach, and increased revenues.

The basic responsibilities of a video producer don’t change too much from industry to industry, regardless of how they’re monetizing video.  We’re looking for a strong video production foundation and, more importantly, an interest and understanding of video’s impact and reach online.

Are there any special responsibilities you think a video production specialist has with a company like yours – which is largely about selling shoes online – versus most other retail companies?

It may be harder to sell shoes online than, say, a book, but the basic principles and responsibilities of a VPS are the same from one online retail industry to another. Video is your virtual salesperson and brand ambassador.  No matter what online retail industry you’re in, you’re going to want to make engaging, informative videos that convert consumers into customers and customers into brand advocates.  As a VPS, you’ll listen to your performance signals and you’ll constantly adapt, but responsibilities will stay the same.

What are some unique (or uncommon) responsibilities that a VPS has with your own company versus other retail sites doing video commerce (at least in your industry) that you know of?

There are a number of big players in the online shoe industry, and because we all offer the same or similar product selection and pricing, we need to work hard to stand out.  To differentiate ourselves, we strive to make videos that highlight our product knowledge and category expertise. Onlineshoes.com has been in business online for fifteen years and offline for over four decades.  We’ve accumulated a wealth of shoe knowledge and it’s the responsibility of the VPS to communicate that knowledge via video.

How much of the work of a VPS is involved with shooting actual video, versus post-production, versus distribution?

Producing video is much like painting a house – it’s all about a good preparation.  We spend the bulk of our time in pre-production. There’s great value in creating a production plan; it reduces production and editing time, and ensures that the end result is in line with expectations.  If I had to break it down, I’d say we spend 60% of our time in pre-production, 15% in production, 20% in editing and 5% in distribution (mostly automated).

What are the types of people you find apply for this type of job? What do you find a lot of them may appear to be lacking in qualifications?

A good portion of our applicants possess news production backgrounds and formal education in film and communications, but lack online experience.  We’d love to get someone with strong video production skills, but more importantly, we want someone who knows how to leverage video in the online space. Producing video is a constant game of cost vs. benefit analysis, and a good VPS will help to keep production costs down by increasing the value and exposure of the finished product.

Do you think colleges, art institutes, or other video training institutions are teaching their students the right things that will prepare them for a job like this? If not, what do you think they are missing?

Online video is still in its infancy, as most online retailers are just now getting their feet wet with video.  It’ll take some time before the demand for these roles is great enough that schools and training institutions realize the need for developing related coursework and classes.

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

Experience is king. Online video production is a new and growing field, and the easiest way to break into it is to create your own videos and learn how to maximize their engagement and reach.

I’ve seen a lot of impressive video reels embedded on personalized portfolio websites, and while it looks great, it’s nowhere near as impressive as providing a link to your YouTube channel. I want to see what you’ve been able to create on your own, how frequently you post, how you personalized your channel, how many subscribers you have and to see the number of views you’re driving.  Show me that you’ve successfully developed and continue to promote your own YouTube channel, and your application will likely rise to the top.

What other information would you like to share that you think would be helpful for our audience?

If you’re not producing video yet, ask yourself, why not?  You don’t need a studio, production staff, or expensive camera equipment to get started.  Look inward and identify potential talent amongst your teammates; you’d be surprised how many video ‘hobbyists’ are out there.

See what it takes to produce one video and then try to measure its impact.  If you see value, produce 4-6 more videos and measure impact.  Still seeing value?  By now you’ve got enough information to develop a business case to budget the production of more videos.

At Onlineshoes.com, we started with a camcorder from home and an empty conference room.  Within six months we’d developed a sound business case that enabled us to hire on a part-time video production specialist and buy mid-level equipment.  Today we have two full time video production specialists and an impressive video studio in our corporate office.  We’ll produce over a thousand videos this year and drive millions of dollars in incremental revenue because of it.

Baby steps are next to free, come with little risk and have the potential to offer great reward.  If you’re not producing your own video yet (with your own social media presence), you should be.