Creating Videos for Ecommerce

Why Videos for E-commerce?

As Patrick Pitman, the E-business Coach explains, using video to tell your product’s story has become an imperative for e-commerce. A visitor to your website must trust your company and your product before they’ll buy. A survey by Animoto, a video production company, suggests that 73% of U.S. adults are more likely to purchase after viewing a product video. With video, you can show how your product and your brand are real. In addition, video can be used to substitute for costly pre-sales and customer service conversations. Many people are happy to help themselves with product questions if you provide them with truly useful tools. Furthermore, as Patrick points out, “The combination of mobile and videos is just magic.”  Cisco forecasts that video will account for 79% of web traffic by 2018. Even if people don’t always check out using their mobile devices, they learn about products and talk about them using mobile devices. Video is just more compelling in that channel than are other forms of media.
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Types of E-commerce Videos

Patrick has identified four types of videos most relevant to e-commerce companies:
  • Product demonstration videos
  • Product comparison videos
  • Brand building videos
  • On-location videos
In general, these are listed in ascending order of complexity and production value. Given changes in technology and the local availability of people skilled in the use of video production tools, all are within reach of small companies.

Product Demonstration Videos

Product demonstration videos are the most basic. They show the viewer the product and demonstrate its features and functionality in a straightforward way. Very often, such videos are shot with a single, head-on, camera against a simple, white background. In Patrick’s view, there is no reason to wait another moment before creating demonstration videos for your most popular and complex products.

Product Comparison Videos

These videos offer more general information to the viewer. Often, they elaborate on how a set of similar products can be used. Although suitable for incorporating into a product page on your website, these can also be appropriate for more general distribution, such as YouTube.

Brand Building Videos

These videos tell the story of the people and company behind the products. This is where you can talk about your history, values, and commitment to quality, for example. Without the use of video, it can be tough to convey via a website that you are for real. Potential customers want to know.

On-Location Videos

These can demonstrate and compare products as well as help tell the product, brand, and company backstory. Shooting on location can be powerful because you can place your product in its natural environment. That power, however, costs extra. Logistics and production complexity make on location shoots expensive. Nevertheless, careful planning can mitigate those costs and unleash creative possibilities that can portray your company and its products in a polished, compelling manner.

Importance of Sound

Talk to just about anybody who has done work in film, and they’ll tell you about how critical good sound is to video. Although the viewer might forgive poor lighting, they’ll balk immediately at poor sound. The soundtrack usually conveys the basic storyline of your video. Visual elements elaborate upon and enhance the story. Good sound isn’t terribly difficult or expensive to capture. You just need to pay attention and invest in affordable tools.

How to Scope E-commerce Videos

Avoid video “bloat.” Patrick recommends that you start your process by writing a declarative sentence regarding the purpose of each video. The sentence should be concise. Per Patrick, “If it’s a sentence that has a few commas in there, it’s too long.”
If it’s a sentence that has a few commas in there, it’s too long.
By engaging in this discipline, you may feel that you are overly constraining the scope of your video. Experience suggests, though, that you’ll be tempted by “Oh, and…” additions that will extend your video unproductively. Remember that your product demonstration and other videos will usually be presented in the context of your website and other marketing communications. That context relieves your videos of the need to elaborate beyond their narrow purpose.

DIY or Hire Experts?

Under what conditions should you do-it-yourself or outsource your video production? Patrick sees the question as having a straightforward answer: If time is what’s holding you back from creating product videos for your e-commerce website, then outsource. Otherwise, do it yourself. In any case, just get to it. There are, of course, a few other factors to keep in mind:
  • If you aren’t a gear geek, you should think hard before taking on the role of videographer. Do you really want to learn about all those buttons and dials on your video camera plus the associated technical aspects of sound and lighting?
  • There are real benefits to having the videographer be the editor of your videos. “Shoot for the edit,” is a familiar mantra in the film business. That’s because careful choices during production can save a lot of time in post-production. Just like a director of a big budget film, a videographer-editor can be making editing decisions on the fly, which will save time and money.
  • You can outsource selectively. That is, you can rent equipment and hire role players. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.
  • Outsourcing can be more affordable than you might imagine. What’s the best use of your time and energy?

First Time Video

The “studio” setup for your early product demonstration video shoots might consist of a controlled, relatively quiet space; a single camera; basic lighting, a lavalier microphone, and a table. You might want to set aside two hours, during which time you may have the capacity to shoot 5 or 6 videos – if you’ve scoped your videos well and have planned your logistics diligently. In any case, Patrick strongly advises you, “Think about the video production process in a batch.” It takes some time to get your talent ready, get the lighting just right, and set up the camera and sound. It’s a lot more economical to bang out several videos than it is to spread the process out over several days or weeks.
Think about the video production process in a batch.
Be aware, though, that your stamina early on is going to be limited. Most of us don’t have much experience doing anything in front of a camera and lights. It takes some getting used to. That said, you can do it – if you stick with it and don’t burn yourself out at the beginning. It’s a never-ending marathon, not a sprint.

Video Learning Curve

Whether you make your own or oversee the outsourced production of your videos, you are going to learn through experience. Your videos are going to get better, and you will be able to make those better videos faster. Practice – and continuity among the members of your production team – will yield a formula or rules of thumb that will make your process much more efficient over time. One of Patrick’s clients made over 100 product demonstration videos over the 18-month period. Most recently, the client’s team was able to capture the video for 60 such videos in a single, 5-hour session.
That’s a fourfold increase in productivity. Put differently, the cost of shooting a video dropped by 75% in less than two years.
That’s a fourfold increase in productivity. Put differently, the cost of shooting a video dropped by 75% in less than two years. Pre-production and editing costs undoubtedly declined as well, though maybe not as dramatically.

Shooting on Location

Shooting on location is much more complex than shooting in a controlled studio space. Consequently, location shoots require much more planning and management. Nevertheless, as Patrick says, “A white background and a tabletop just don’t do justice to a lot of products.”
A white background and a tabletop just don’t do justice to a lot of products.
On-location shoots provide the opportunity to place your product in its natural habitat – a home, for example. That helps make the product more real and connected to potential customers. Not long ago, the scarcity of high-quality filmmaking equipment and people with the skills to use them meant that multiday, on location video shoots cost tens – even hundreds – of thousands of dollars. For some large companies, that remains true today. However, very good production values can now be achieved at a tenth of the cost. Depending on the maturity of your e-commerce sales, spending a few thousand dollars to shoot your products on location may be a very worthwhile investment, given the resulting uptick in customer engagement and conversion rates. Even if that’s out of reach for your business today, get going on your product demonstration videos. Start learning how to tell the broader stories of your company and brand.