You’ve probably wondered what it would take to create killer video content for your business. Maybe you’ve priced it out with an area professional but balked when it was time to pull the trigger.
Or perhaps you’ve spent a few hours scanning CNET for the best handheld camcorder, convinced that with your laptop and a long weekend you could do it yourself, but for whatever reason you’re stuck. You love videos, you love how some of your favorite businesses use them, but you don’t know if they’re actually worth the effort.
I’ve got good news for you—they are.
The Power of Video
Here’s a small but great example of the power of video. Taylor Pearson of TaylorPearson.me began to work on the business end of PortableBarCompany.com at the end of 2012. By May 2014, he grew the monthly sales from $10k to $60k. One of the ways he did this? Video content marketing.
Here’s what he had to say:
“A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand words a frame. I spent all this time re-writing product descriptions. No one reads our ecommerce product descriptions. They watch videos.
Make a video for your bestselling products that features a real human talking about the product, why they like it and who it’s right for. When someone is looking at your product, they’re trying to envision the story of what their life will look like after the buy it. Record a video that tells that story.
Also – get video testimonials. We got them by talking to people at trade shows right after they bought our product or if they had bought it previously. We’ve also gotten testimonials by hiring videographers off of craigslist (students are cheap, out of work and willing to hustle) and having them go to our customers and record video.”
If you still can’t believe that video was such a key component in the growth of PortableBarCompany.com, consider this impressive piece of analytical proof from Taylor:
“We had a custom call tracking number that only appeared on the YouTube annotations of the video and at the end of the video with lead player. That tripled call volume within a month where we went from around 15 to 45 calls per month.”
A tripling of call volume? Perhaps this video thing is worth looking into after all.
Getting Started With Video
Let’s start from scratch assuming you don’t have any product videos on your eCommerce site and you don’t know where to start.
Charlie Rall, Lead Video Producer for View Review Labs, weighs in.
He suggests you concentrate first on representing your brand correctly on the super small screen.
“Zappos cranks out videos that are all on a plain white background. It works for them because they have hundreds of thousands of products to keep consistent and their audience is super broad. Whereas a company like Modcloth, who also sells similar apparel, has a very unique brand and audience so they are a little more creative with their videos,” says Rall. “No matter how you approach it creatively you want to always portray your brand as a product and industry expert.”
Rall also suggest putting your product in the right context. You don’t need to shoot on a green screen in your warehouse.
“Infinity backgrounds and green screens are very difficult to do right. Film your product where it’s actually used. If it’s gardening tools then show them digging up a real garden. If it’s trucker hats for frat guys then shoot them tailgating or out on the lake.”
Infinity backgrounds and green screens are very difficult to do right. Film your product where it’s really used.
The challenge with creating a super high-quality video for your site is to avoid what Rall says could turn into a late night informercial look.
“A great eCommerce product video can be slick panning shots of a bike helmet in a studio or it can be GoPro footage of someone pulling tricks on a BMX bike wearing the helmet. Or both. You’re not just selling an eCommerce product, you’re selling a lifestyle.”
Once you’ve nailed down how to stay true to your brand identity on camera, focus on the cornerstones of producing a good video. Rall says the three cornerstones of a good video are audio, lighting and a really good cast.
“Shoot in a well-lit place, have clear audio by using a microphone on location or recording clear voice over on your computer, and have good on-camera talent. Product knowledge is very hard to fake,” says Rall.
Check. Check. Check.
Once you’ve nailed the basics, you’re ready to make your videos work for your brand.
Video Content Ideas for Your Brand
There are various options for creating video marketing for your business. Think about what type of content customers in your niche would most like to see. It doesn’t make sense to try and do everything. If you sell housekeeping supplies online to consumers, a video on how to fold a fitted sheet will be more appealing than a 60-second eCommerce product videos boasting the features of a new broom.
One of the most common forms of video marketing for eCommerce platforms are product videos. And few people know how to make great product reviews as well as Rob Snell.
When Rob Snell of GunDogSupply.com started to create product videos for his website, his conversion rates doubled. His secret recipe for creating product videos that convert?
Keeping it all about the product.
He hates to break it to you, but customers don’t really care about a cool intro, awesome graphics or a big personality on screen. “You don’t need a 30-second introduction to a 2-minute product video,” says Snell. “Customers want to know if the product will keep the dog from digging up the flowers. We go straight into what the product is and this is what it does.”
As long as the person on camera really knows about the product and how it will benefit the customer, the rest is easy. Snell uses his brother, who can talk off the cuff about every product they sell. Now they can knock out 40 ecommerce product videos in a day. He doesn’t worry about telling a good joke or being flashy. It’s all about making the product sing.
If you don’t have a large inventory of products or a spec-driven product assortment that could use an explanation, you might not need a video devoted to any one item in particular. That’s where branding and lifestyle videos come in.
Patagonia launched a 27-minute video called Worn Wear last year that I couldn’t get out of my head. There is no hard selling. There’s no product features. This is a great example of reaching an audience, creating a lifestyle and selling that hard.
I dare you not to book a mountaineering class or shack up in a surfing town after viewing this. You’ll probably also buy a Patagonia jacket to take on your trip.
Sometimes explaining who you are to a customer can be the most compelling form of marketing there is. Not all compelling lifestyle videos have to be a mini-documentary though. Tortuga Backpacks produced this video that’s under a minute and awakens the inner vagabond in just about everyone.
And travel doesn’t have to be the only exciting realm of lifestyle videos either. Here’s a great example from Solo Stove, makers of a portable wood powered camp stove.
Inspired yet? Now it’s time to pick your platform.
Who’s Gonna Host?
Now that you’re convinced you need to produce a video (or ten) for your eCommerce site, the question is where to host it. Your two options are to host it for free on a third-party site or to host it on your own site at a cost.
There are pros and cons to both.
Third Party Sites
With third party hosting (like using YouTube or Vimeo’s free options), you’ll store your videos with the third party but embed the video player on your own site. It’s free, easy, and you don’t have to worry about paying for or managing bandwidth charges as the videos stream directly from the other parties servers, even though they’re appearing on your site.
You also enjoy the benefits of having your video appear on those 3rd party sites. In the case of YouTube, your video will be seen by people browsing and searching YouTube as well as appearing separately in the search results on Google where YouTube videos rank well.
However, if you go this route,you’re likely to get less direct traffic to your website. People will generally find your videos on YouTube’s page, not on your own. There’s a good chance you’ll build fewer links, too – if someone likes your video on YouTube, they’ll probably link directly to the YouTube version and not your site.
Hosting on a third party site will also compete with your site’s page rankings in the search rankings. Ideally, you’d rather have people click on a link to your site in the SERPs (vs. to watch a video on YouTube, for example) as it’s much easier for them to buy when they’re already on your site.
With a premium, paid service you’re still using a third-party, but with more control of how your video is shown. You can choose to keep it private and have it appear only on your website. You also don’t have to worry about intrusive ads appearing after your video finishes (like on Youtube embeds) causing people to click away from your site.
A few self-hosted options to consider:
WISTIA – The darling of the video world right now, Wistia is one of the best options for video hosting. This is what we at eCommerceFuel use to host most of our videos and really love them. Wistia offers a beautiful player, streamlined video management, email integration and advanced analytics. A bit spendy if you have a lot of videos, but a great option.
VIMEO PRO – Probably the biggest bang-for-the-buck in terms of self-hosting. Doesn’t have many of the the advanced analytics and features of Wistia, but it features a beautiful, simple and clean interface at a nice price point. (Roughly $199 / year)
FLASH PLAYERS – There’s always the option to implement these on your own using a player like FlowPlayer, which is more complicated to do. In that case you’d store the video files with someone like Amazon and stream them yourself. Definitely a bit cheaper, but more complex to setup and not as friendly for newbies.
Okay. So How Do I Pick?
Historically, we’ve suggested hosting your own videos and letting them show up in the rankings. Traditionally, it’s been a better strategy in terms of getting people to your site for conversion, traffic and rankings.
But Google’s decision to recently axe video thumbnails in the search results for just about all sites but YouTube has made the decision more difficult. One of the benefits of self-hosting was getting those large attention grabbing video thumbnails next to your page’s listing in the SERPs. Sadly, those days are gone.
Now, you’re almost certainly not going to receive them and will be competing against YouTube listings – which DO have the thumbnails – for attention and clicks.
While you’d obviously like people to visit your site vs. YouTube to view the content, the fear now is losing out to more prominent YouTube videos. At the end of the day, having someone view your content on YouTube (vs. on your site) is better than not having them view it at all.
If you post the same videos both on your site and YouTube, make sure to optimize them for different keywords.
It’s a difficult decision to make, but it’s hard to ignore YouTube completely in today’s video marketing environment. If you DO decide to post your videos on both your own site and YouTube, try to optimize your YouTube videos for different keywords than for your on-site video pages. This way, you won’t by cannibalizing your website traffic when your YouTube videos outrank your website pages for a given term, and you’ll be able to increase your exposure to more search terms.
If your video marketing approach is more about branding than driving direct sales, absolutely post everything you can to YouTube. In terms of getting exposure for exposure’s sake, YouTube is the best place to have your video content found online.
Don’t Just Set It and Forget It
The work isn’t done once a video has been filmed, edited and uploaded. You want to make sure you market your videos to make them work for you.
Don’t forget about keyword research and titles
This will be especially relevant with YouTube videos. Figure out how the keyword appears most commonly, how its typed into Google and write those variations in the description. For a primer, check out our guide to keyword research here.
Make your titles clickable
Make it compelling and interesting with the hope that it will catch peoples eyes in search results. Remember, you’re not writing a title – you’re crafting a headline to entice people to click it.
Disable (or enable) embedding
If you’re embedding your own videos on your own pages, you can opt for people to embed them too. It allows someone to copy the code and put it on their own page. If you can do that, try and add a link so that if it gets embedded, theres a link in there that will direct people back to your website. Premium hosting services like Wistia have features that make this ease to do.
Push it on social
Use social media and guest posting to get your videos noticed too. Publish it on your social platforms, add any relevant hashtags and tag influencers who will help promote it.
Our Cheat Sheet
Here’s a quick overview of the points we covered.
Keep the three main factors for producing a great video in mind: good lighting, good audio and a great representation of where and how your product is used. Don’t worry about setting up a green screen. Instead, try and shoot in the product’s natural environment.
Pick Your Angle
Choose either a video that showcases specific products from your brand and highlights their features or create a video that sells a lifestyle. Either way, these videos will help build engagement, reach a broader audience and sell your product.
Third-Party or Paid-Hosted
A third-party site, such as YouTube, is free, user-friendly and great for searches. The downside is you have less control and won’t get as much direct traffic to your site.
Paid hosting offers more control and a better user experience, but it will cost you. Your video can serve as a direct source of traffic to your site, but you’ll also be competing directly against Youtube if you opt not to publish your video there.
Don’t Forget to Optimize
Create compelling titles, do your keyword research and share your video on social. And if you’re posting the same videos to YouTube and your own site, make sure to optimize each video / page for different keywords.
If you want people to watch your videos, you’ve got to do the work. For an overview of key takeaways and an exclusive list of helpful links, use our Video Marketing Cheat Sheet.
Hopefully we’ve gotten you excited at the prospect of using eCommerce product videos on your site. Not only will your site see added traffic, you’ll be able to give a potential customer a reason to stop, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Now pass the popcorn.
Resources for this post were taken from our podcast on video marketing with Rob Snell, a discussion on video marketing with Andrew Youderian from our private forum, and with help from Taylor Pearson of TaylorPearson.me and Charlie Rall from VideoReviewLabs.com.