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Jun 20, 2007
Case Study

How Online Video & UGC Lifted Conversions 27% for Youth-Oriented Site

SUMMARY: As hot as online video is getting, you almost wonder if video clips and snippets are taking over the world. More than a quarter of all Internet users now regularly watch videos online, but are marketers using video to their advantage (i.e., conversions)?

That’s why you have to see how a youth-oriented brand tested adding video clips with a dash of user-generated content and increased conversions by an average of 27%.
“In recent years, we’ve seen companies come into the market with similar concepts to ours,” says Brent Laderoute, Director Advertising, West 49. “But whether you are a 12- or 17-year-old or a parent of a teen, our goal is to always be the coolest retailer in this niche.”

Well, staying on the cutting edge of cool is easier said than done. Another hurdle was that Laderoute’s Canadian skateboarding retail firm had recently bought their first ecommerce site and he and his team had to find ways of relaying traffic from the brand site to get the new investment off the ground.

While they were encouraged with response to their 2-year-old message boards, Laderoute wanted to see if online videos and downloadable music could inspire stickiness that would lead to sales. Although they had some TV spots posted on YouTube, it was time to take Web 2.0 a step further.

Laderoute had success with television advertising before, so dozens of recent spots were at his disposal for the Web site. Here are the steps he and his team took:

-> Step #1. Promote TV ads online

Because he knew viewers had become more finicky in what they downloaded, his team cherry-picked spots that best represented an existing *music video* side to their TV-advertising brand. As opposed to 60-second spots, they decided to use 30-second formats almost exclusively.

“We made a conscious decision to select the ones we thought would work best on the Web,” he says. “As we do in a lot of decisions dealing with brand aesthetic, we really leaned on our staff that have been involved in skateboarding and bands. They know our audience because they are our audience.”

Additionally, West 49 TV was put into regular rotation inside their newsletter program with an HTML link. Whether in email or on the site, users were encouraged to forward the videos.

-> Step #2. Create a separate video section

Not wanting to have only MTV-ish videos on the site, they created a separate “Videos” section dedicated to skateboarding and snowboarding action. Typically, these videos were taken from an in-house collection from the company’s appearances at events. At the end of the clips, they used copy like: “This video is cooler than all of your friends. The instructions on the back should read ‘Buy. Watch. Repeat.’ ”

-> Step #3. Tap partners for unique content

To make the channel appear less self-promotional, Laderoute also worked with key manufacturing partners -- including DC Shoes, Quicksilver and C1rca -- to get some of his team’s favorite experiential-oriented spots floating around on YouTube and in skateboarding blogs. Such videos were rotated regularly to keep the content fresh.

-> Step #4. Build microsite

Next, they created a separate microsite where viewers could submit YouTube discoveries to be reviewed and selected by Laderoute's staff. They even included links to various YouTube videos that led viewers off the site.

“Doing this might be taboo for some marketers, but we thought that our audience was so keyed into YouTube that, content-wise, it appeared smarter to have them believe that we have the best selection of videos and video links on our site for their needs.”

-> Step #5. Allow musicians to upload content

Finally, in a user-generated-content-inspired feature, they set up a section for young, unsigned bands to upload their songs and have them played for free. Laderoute’s team sifted through the submissions every few weeks to find the most-promising tunes and also watched out for inappropriate content. Staffers also monitored for users posting copyrighted material from big-name artists, such as U2 or Jay-Z.

The bands were required to fill out an artist profile -- complete with pictures, member bios, location and contact information. The form also included a legal permission section to protect West 49 from litigation.

Laderoute also worked with record labels to access their proven music, ensuring that there would be more-relevant content mixed in with the “baby bands’” songs. They targeted acts that fit West 49's brand identity to the point where a tunes-for-extra-exposure swap made easy *dollars and sense* for each party.


Success! Laderoute and his team met their core objectives with the online video and music and then some. Since incorporating these features, site membership has increased 276%.

But they were more ecstatic to see the effect that the increased activity had on sales at During the 2006 holiday season, the brand destination pushed as much as 40% of the retail site’s sales. Since then, they’re tracking an average of 27% of sales back to the brand site.

“The fact that we attached the strong West 49 entity to the retail [site] was certainly part of the equation, but we feel the increased activity at the brand site due to the video and music channels has played a real role in those numbers,” Laderoute says. "Web traffic at both sites is up fairly significantly."

What’s more, he has been able to convince his higher-ups that investing more in the two community/multimedia aspects is a must for their future ROI figures. “Our average visit time has close to quadrupled, so that’s something you can hang your hat on when your sales are increasing at the same time.”

The multimedia downloads understandably skyrocketed during the first 12-18 months with month-after-month increases, but they’re both still growing -- nearly 20% in recent weeks for videos and “at least 10%” for music compared to the same period in 2006. Meanwhile, video downloads continue to grow in popularity, as they are up roughly 20% over last year.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples for West 49’s video series:

The Film Board - West 49’s television agency:

CampaignerPro - ESP that sends the newsletter:

West 49:

BoardZone retail site:

See Also:

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