I recently had the opportunity to interview Linda Bustos, Director of Research for enterprise e-commerce solutions provider, Elastic Path. Linda is the author of the number #1 subscribed e-commerce blog, Get Elastic, and provides conversion optimization consulting to some of the web’s largest technology companies. In the interview, Linda shares best practices and tips for using videos on retail websites, in email, and on mobile devices.
Interview with Linda Bustos:
Justin Foster: Please tell our readers a bit about yourself, Linda.
Linda Bustos: I’m the Director of the E-commerce Research at Elastic Path Software. So a part of my job is writing for the Get Elastic E-commerce Blog three times a week on conversion, optimization, marketing, and anything to do with selling more products on an e-commerce site. Aside from that, I also do some consulting for our clients on the same topics. Prior to Elastic Path I was an SEO with a web design firm, where I had my first experience with online marketing for ecommerce sites.
Justin Foster: Briefly, can you share with us, what Elastic Path Software does?
Linda Bustos: Well, we are an e-commerce platform, and we’re focused more on digital commerce, technology and virtual goods. Really, the big difference between retail and that industry is there’s different ownership, and different payment models, so our customers have different needs for our e-commerce platform, so we’re kind of niche.
Justin Foster: Got it, thanks for sharing that with us. Now I know Linda that you’ve blogged before on some of the benefits of using video in the context of e-commerce. Can you share with our readers what you think the most important applications of videos are in an e-commerce context, and where you think video makes sense in e-commerce?
Linda Bustos: Well, I think that video is the closest thing that we have to experiencing a product in your hands. This is the big challenge about buying online things you have not seen in person, and relying on teeny tiny images on the screen. Plain and simple that is the big value of video, but also we know through customer research and that customers primarily want content. Although they like to read on the web, they want to see images from every angle. Video allows you to see the product in use, and you can get a person actually demonstrating or reviewing the product, and giving you additional information that you can absorb better. Some people absorb by listening rather than reading. It’s also interactive. We have become a YouTube culture, so it just makes so much sense to bring the type of content that people want to consume to your e-store.
Justin Foster: Now, when you think about video, are e-commerce merchants mainly using video to sell products, or do they use it more for branding or for entertainment? What is the right mix? Or does it really just depend on the brand?
Linda Bustos: Yeah, I think it depends on the brand. There are different functions of video, like you can use video to sell, you can use video to inform, you can use video to engage, and you can use video to build your brand and create a passionate community. That’s more of the entertainment side of the videos that might appear like a blog instead of on a product page, or on your YouTube channel, on your Facebook page, or that kind of thing. So, I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way if you’re selling. I think that making something more informative about the product and very persuasive is going to actually get you to the conversion, but it depends on what your goals are.
Justin Foster: You mentioned your focus on conversion optimization. As we look at the different types of video content on the product page, what type of content makes the most sense would you say?
Linda Bustos: Well, product related content of course, but you can have multiple videos on a product page. You can have one that demonstrates, you can also have a little section like Amazon has, where people can upload their own videos. Just like you can have multiple sections of content on your product page, you can have multiple videos. Now, keep in mind that that can add to the page load, and it can add to the visual overload of your product page. You don’t want to just throw it up there for the sake of, “hey, let’s have some more content, let’s have lots of videos up there.” It should be tested. Know your audience and know your products, and also keep the videos very hyper focused. Even in length, you don’t want to have a super long video on there just because you want to explain absolutely everything that could be right on the product page. Understand what parts of the video are going to be most effective to sell your products. This might come out through your testing, or user testing or doing other types of research. It’s not necessarily whatever your gut feels is right, or what your team feels the first time, there’s a lot of room for experimenting.
Justin Foster: What has been your experience in particular on the issue of video length best practices? Is there one length of video that tends to work the best? Or does it again, really depend on the brand?
Linda Bustos: Well, you’ll be able to see using your video analytics where people drop off during the video, so you’ll be able to know. There are some products which are such highly considered purchases that people will watch an entire hour long webinar on the product. There are some things that people only have an attention span for one to two minutes for video. There is a lot of research about that. If you can’t keep your video content down to a minute or two, then just break it up into chunks. If there’s a software demo that goes on for ten minutes, we’ll break it down feature by feature, and give the user control to learn about the features that they find most interesting to them.
Justin Foster: That’s very helpful, thank you. What are some of the retailers that you think today are doing an especially good job with video? And what about their implementations do you like?
Linda Bustos: Well there’s a lot of different ways that retailers are using video, so for example Tiger Direct is selling electronics and they really understand the fears and uncertainties and doubts that their customers have. I was looking for a camcorder. I don’t know what all of the technical jargon means about the features, I just wanted something that’s going to allow me to take good video, and something that’s easy for me to use. I found that on their product page they had a channel with a personality who’s definitely trained in broadcasting. It makes you feel excited about the product and builds trust. So you trust this reviewer, he comes across as an expert, and he demonstrates everything on that product in a way that that all the features and benefits are explained. That works really, really great with electronics.
If it’s a fashion site, look at As Seen On Screen over in the UK, they have multiple pictures, and also a runway and a catwalk. You just see a model come down and turn around, there’s no narrative, there’s no close-ups or anything, and you just see the product in use. Other good examples are videos that are tell a story about the brand. For example, eBags, they have a lot of different types of video content and it sometimes comes from the manufacturer, and sometimes it’s produced in-house, but that doesn’t really matter. Some are brand experiences where you want to know a little bit more about the designer and that appears on the category page. The actual product specific videos will appear on the product page. So there are a lot of different ways that you can do it. One other example is Dylan’s Candy Bar which sells all types of candy. For their nostalgic retro candy bundle, instead of actually showing the candy or people eating the candy, they’ve got old cartoons on there. It builds this atmosphere where you start getting nostalgic, and once you’re in that state of mind, you’re like, “yeah, I have to have this candy.” So, there’s a lot of ways you can get creative with video.
Justin Foster: Do you think it is okay to blend a little bit of entertainment in with the product oriented videos, if it’s congruent with the brand?
Linda Bustos: Yes…I mean you should test it as well, but yes definitely there’s room for that.
Justin Foster: That makes sense. Now Linda I want to switch gears a little bit. There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about video SEO and you indicated you have a background in SEO and web design, and I know that you’ve blogged about video SEO in the past. I’m curious if you think that video SEO represents an untapped opportunity for a lot of retailers? Or do you think it is more of red herring?
Linda Bustos: No, I think video SEO is extremely important and even more so this year, next year, and the year after, because YouTube itself is a search engine, right? And we’re getting tablets and people love to watch video on their iPads, and even on their phones. People are searching in mobile engines now too, so it’s very, very important that your videos are being indexed, and that their meta data is being indexed, and the keywords that are actually in your video transcript are getting picked out. The most important thing that you need to have is a video site map inside Google webmaster tools or your other search engines, because that will show you where there is problems or errors with your file format or anything else. It is also important to make sure all of your videos are hosted on their own URLs, so that they can show up in the video search. You will know when you go into Google and it has links with image verticals, video verticals, and social links. The traditional SEO works tactics of building back links, creating good title tags, and syndication are important as well.
Justin Foster: You mentioned a lot of great tactical recommendations; let me see if I can list them out here: Publish video site maps, include video transcriptions, make sure that videos have their own URL, and include links back to videos. Did I miss anything?
Linda Bustos: One more thing would be to utilize the video site map for troubleshooting. If you have some formats that are not working or if your tags aren’t working, the sitemap will show you where you can fix those problems quickly and easily.
Justin Foster: Great. Now moving on from SEO, I would like to touch on the topic of video in email. This July, Hotmail became the first major webmail client to begin supporting HTML5 video directly within the body of an email message. Do you see this trend of video in email accelerating particularly when it comes to retail and e-commerce? Or do you see it as something that just happens to be the latest bell or whistle, but doesn’t actually create value for retailers?
Linda Bustos: Well I think it poses a challenge for retailers, because now you’re going to have to segment your list by the clients that support video. So in this sense we have to create a campaign that works with compatible clients. I think it’s too early to know whether this is a proven tactic, so testing is really important. The videos would need to have some kind of clickable call to action either inside the video or around the video. What makes email works from our e-commerce perspective is its ability to generate interest; you don’t convert right from the email message. It’s there to generate interest and desire for your products and to point people back to your site and your site has to pick up that job. I absolutely think that there is a place for this in online retail, and that it can create a lot of excitement and interest in visiting your site again. It’s easier to show someone that video content right there in the email than to try and sell them in the email to actually come to your site to watch the video. I think there is room to test it and generate new ideas for using it, but I think it is too early to say what the best practices are.
Justin Foster: When it comes to using video either in or with email, do you feel that more email marketers are focused on driving click-through rate in e-commerce or more focused on driving conversion rate? And what is the metric that email marketers in your opinion should be focused on when it comes to determining the success of the campaign?
Linda Bustos: Usually with any type of metric, marketers want to drill down as far as we can into revenue. You can have a great conversion rate, and still have poor revenue. With any type of email, you have got to be focused on all the metrics, because all of them matter. If you have a low click-through rate, then you have to fix that because that will ultimately affect your revenue. Adding video in the subject line, just like you do in a blog post or in a Twitter post, might even increase your open rate. That’s something to play around with, and then measure open rate, clicks, and ultimately conversion. I think that if you’re just trying out video that it would be a success if you have a higher open rate than your regular emails. It doesn’t necessarily have to convert more. You would come away with the knowledge that putting video in the email subject line gets more clicks. Then you could start to learn how to optimize the creative layout, and call to action.
Justin Foster: That’s something that we see as well. Marketers that use video in the subject line of the email consistently drive higher open rates, and see anywhere between 5 – 20% increase in a/b split testing. It can of course depend on the particular segment and retailer list. One last question for you Linda on the topic of mobile video: do you see real opportunities in the e-commerce space to leverage video on mobile devices for shoppers that are maybe in store, or looking to make a purchase away from their computer?
Linda Bustos: Yes, I think so. Going back to that example of Tiger Direct, I could be inside the electronics store talking to a sales rep, and still not get that demonstration that I had on that video. You can’t just open up boxed product, plug it in, and start using it to see if you like it. If the retailer had little kiosks, or had customers sales reps walking around with iPads showing video demos. It would also be cool to have kiosks where you would be able to wave your mobile device in front of a larger screen and activate some kind of interactive video or multimedia. There is so much potential for mobile video both in store and on the go. There are more and more mobile devices supporting HTML5 video with larger, more shopping friendly screens. Many people are already using their smartphones to do quick searches while shopping, and that is where your video SEO comes back into play. The technology is going to catch up and I can see that rather than reading through tons and tons of customer reviews, people will be using mobile devices to see the product in action.
Justin Foster: Absolutely. Linda we’re close to out of time here. Do you have any closing thoughts that you’d like to share with our listeners here before we break?
Linda Bustos: If you are using video right now, congratulations, because you are now ahead of the pack. Never stop testing, never stop pushing the boundaries of your creativity and make the most that you can out of it.