I recently spoke with Lonny Paul, VP Marketing & Strategic Initiatives of Systemax Technology Group North America, about his company’s video program. A Fortune 1000 company, Systemax is a leading retailer of personal computers, computer supplies and consumer electronics under such well-known brands as TigerDirect, CompUSA and Circuit City.
In this interview, Lonny talks about his perceived approach to video and some initiatives which have been launched for Systemax’s Tech Products Group. He also shares some details about what he presented at his keynote at the 2012 Video Commerce Summit this past August.
INTERVIEW WITH SYSTEMAX
Amanda Dhalla: Please tell our readers a little about Systemax and your major brands.
Lonny Paul: Systemax Technology Group North America encompasses TigerDirect.com, CompUSA, Circuit City, TigerDirect.ca, Global Computer, InfotelUSA and Systemax PC Brands. We are an omni-channel marketer utilizing e-commerce, business-to-business, direct response and retail channels to conduct business.
Amanda Dhalla: I heard that you were the first to launch a retailer YouTube channel. When did you start getting into video and why? Which brand did you start with?
Lonny Paul: 2007 – and at the time TigerDirect was our only brand. I’ll never forget the conversation:
(ME): “We need to launch an initiative on YouTube.”
(EXEC): “How do you spell that?”
The first video we posted was literally filmed on a webcam in my apartment and edited with Windows Movie Maker. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it got over 10,000 views.
Amanda Dhalla: How important is e-commerce video and marketing efforts of your major consumer brands?
Lonny Paul: Video is not a primary component of our marketing strategy, however with the extensively technical aspect of electronics – we feel it is necessary to show people more than what they can see online through photos, specs and descriptions. While many people are out ‘showrooming’, our customers get to have a quasi-physical interaction with the product through our in-house video productions.
We have also realized with over 100,000 products on our site, it’s impossible for us to produce a video for every product in-house, so we turned to an automated solution that now populates over 90,000 skus on our website today with a compelling overview of the product.
Amanda Dhalla: Alongside your more traditional how-to and product videos, I hear that you’re getting into live video at TigerDirect and CompUSA. Can you tell me about that?
Lonny Paul: We were at the forefront of live video – our streaming events started in 2008 with the launch of an event during Black Friday. A live, 24-hour stream featuring deals at half their regular price with 100% of the proceeds going to charity. After that broadcast, we were hooked! We did live Deal of the Day broadcasts, even special ‘clearance events’ where the deals were ONLY announced on the broadcast.
We even did a 14-day bus tour – streaming during travel as well as 6 hours each night from a retail location. People would drive up to 6 hours in some cases just to meet our video talent and be part of the event.
Amanda Dhalla: I hear that you’re using video to enhance the in-store experience too. Can you say a little more about that?
Lonny Paul: In our retail operations, we have been able to extend video to our customers as well. We have an advanced ‘connected store’ format we call ‘Retail 2.0’ which provides customers with product specifications, customer reviews, photo galleries and videos on hundreds of products within each store. Live broadcasts from retail store events have also proven successful to extend the event to people who can’t make it due to household commitments, and into markets outside of our retail footprint.
Amanda Dhalla: How do you measure success – what are the key metrics you track?
Lonny Paul: Video for us was an early entry into the social media space. We have the 2nd largest number of subscribers on YouTube after Nike within the retail space. As well, we are the 2nd largest producer of video after the Home Shopping Network. Over 100,000 videos are viewed on a daily basis on our website. That shows our shoppers are voting for our videos and is a success metric in itself. One of our best measures of success – one of our video hosts was in a Japanese retail store and someone came up and said: “Oh – you are Albert!” In addition, one of our video hostesses is now the morning talk show host on a local New Mexico station. We’ve had some great talent along with our success.
Amanda Dhalla: What positive measurable impacts has video had on your business?
Lonny Paul: We have been able to measure the variance in conversion of a ‘video viewer’ vs. a ‘non-video viewer’ on our item detail page as well as increased referrals from YouTube and other syndicated sources. The branding impact is also great from YouTube and syndication. Our videos are used on hundreds of websites around the world which are focused on technology and the latest gadgets – and direct lots of new visitors over to our websites. The other interesting fact is the long tail effect. A product video is made for the product’s US release, but over the next 2 years you see traffic coming from various other regions of the world as the product makes it way to secondary and smaller markets. I get emails on products up to 3 years old sometimes!
Amanda Dhalla: Beyond the automated videos you mentioned earlier, do you make other videos yourselves, or do you use an outside video production company?
Lonny Paul: In addition to the outside firm we use for our automated videos, we have an efficient internal production team that handles all of our TV and radio commercial production. For live video production, we couldn’t do without our TriCaster.
Amanda Dhalla: How do you see e-commerce merchants using video in the future?
Lonny Paul: Video is becoming another ‘must have’ feature of e-ommerce. TV shopping will evolve to a live-stream web based platform in the next few years.
Amanda Dhalla: What other types of video are you experimenting with or considering?
Lonny Paul: There are lots of new and interesting video technologies on the rise. We most recently have been experimenting with re-targeted video ads, which are rendered in real time, as well as looking at some incredible solutions for B2B and post-transaction. All of these are dependent on an efficient, data-driven, automated video solution which does real-time rendering, pulling data from a number of sources in real-time to deliver personalized, timely and relevant emails with opportunities for upsells and other initiatives.
Amanda Dhalla: What was your session at the 2012 Video Commerce Summit about?
Lonny Paul: My session was called Video Commerce Evolves from Talking Heads to Multi-Channel Implementations and I talked about how video has evolved into a critical element of e-commerce and brand vision. I shared how TigerDirect is complementing our more traditional how-to and product videos with in-store video initiatives, live video and mass personalization of automated video content.
Amanda Dhalla: Thanks, Lonny.
To watch the session recordings of the 2012 Video Commerce Summit, sign up here: http://www.liveclicker.com/web/resources/video-commerce-summit/.