Eretail sites usually have plenty of product information, maybe a few video demos, and calls to action. Educational content is much rarer.
Rich Lesperance, Director, Web Sales and Operations, Circuit City, has bucked that trend. His team added basic how-to videos to the electronics retailer’s website. The videos help familiarize consumers with the basics of technology.
“We’re not trying to sell them a particular TV. We’re just trying to get them over that learning curve,” Lesperance says.
So far, the videos have been a success. Testing them on laptop product pages lifted conversions and increased accessory sales 12% in some cases. And customer feedback has been great, Lesperance says.
“You’re actually encouraging them to come when they’re not buying. If they only came when they were going to buy a TV, we’d only see them every couple years. And we don’t want that. We want them to come back all the time.”
Discover seven lessons gleaned from Lesperance’s experience with creating and adding how-to educational videos for Circuit City’s website. 7 Tips for Eretail Content Videos
Tip #1: Know what your customers want
Thoroughly research the type of information your customers want. Do not make assumptions. Paying to create 10 videos of useless content is a waste. You need to be certain that customers will find your videos valuable.
“Until you know what your customers need, I don’t think you should invest a dollar,” Lesperance says.
Lesperance and his team discovered that their customers wanted extremely basic how-to tech videos, such as how to hook up a DVD player or how to set up a high-definition television. Places they uncovered good topics:
o Customer forums
Circuit City has a robust customer forum, Lesperance says. They’ve hired moderators to read posts and answer questions. No selling takes place there.
If you have a strong forum, here are three ways it can provide video ideas:
-Frequent customer questions make good how-to video topics
-Create a post asking for video ideas
-Ask the moderators about common problems
o Internal associates
Circuit City has an internal forum that connects about 40,000 sales associates from across the country. Some how-to ideas have come from creating a post here, starting a conversation and watching ideas pour in.
If you don’t have an internal forum, talk to your associates and solicit ideas on the phone and through email. Be sure to solicit ideas from various regions, as customer experiences, needs, and interests may vary geographically.
o Tech support and customer service
These departments are idea gold mines. They’re in direct contact each day with customers who need how-to answers. Reach out to them and ask for ideas.
o Suppliers and manufacturers
If your suppliers sell direct to consumers, they might also have tech support and customer service departments with good ideas.
Tip #2: Select products and topics well
You won’t be able to cover every product and customer problem. That’s too many videos for most multichannel retailers. Focus, focus, focus.
o Target big, easy wins first
Go after products bought by consumers every day that regularly cause confusion. The video will appeal to a wide audience. Each topic may require a distinct approach.
What may work really well for a video game might not work well for TV, a refrigerator, or an air conditioner, Lesperance says.
o Go niche later
Create videos first that answer the simple questions. Then go into technical videos if necessary. Starting out too technical can turn off most of your audience, even though it might appease your hard-core followers. You may find that your audience grows more sophisticated over time and will start to request more complex content.
Tip #3: Production quality isn’t a priority
The Internet is not television. Online videos do not require the highest quality. Your player’s usability and your content’s value are much more important. Simple graphics and shot transitions are all that’s necessary. They can be managed by an amateur using simple editing software.
Circuit City creates all of its how-to videos internally using an HD camera and untrained staff members. Lesperance says it’s easy and “relatively inexpensive.”
“Frankly, we don’t care so much about the polish of the actors,” he says. “We think we do a fine job. It’s about adding value for the customer.”
Tip #4: Do not use the videos to sell
Circuit City’s videos do not mention price or discounts or do any marketing. They open with a simple graphic and dive directly into the topic. Do not submit to the temptation to sell during these videos.
Tip #5: Test, test, test
Lesperance and his team conducted a ton of testing to find the best format, player, presentation, placement and other video attributes. They used an in-house usability lab, multivariate optimizing and results monitoring.
o Consider a usability lab
A usability lab can be costly to set up, but it provides fast, valuable insights that could otherwise take months to uncover. Your site metrics can show that your videos are not being used. A usability lab can uncover why.
Lesperance’s internal lab allows him to quickly answer questions like whether users should click to play, how much motion is distracting and whether the player should be in a separate window.
Videos need to be “just long enough to answer the right questions [customers] have and no longer,” Lesperance says.
o Changing key metrics
Adding content to an eretail site changes the site’s core metrics. You can expect your unique visitors and page views to increase faster than conversions, which can kill conversion rates. This is because people start coming to your site to watch videos, not to buy products. Lesperance says, however, that he has seen overall conversions increase since adding the videos.
Lesperance and his team had to change their metrics dashboard from a single-session conversion calculation to multi-session conversion. That can be complicated. They’re still working on other ways to measure the video’s benefits, he says.
Tip #6: Have a balanced promotion
Lesperance has not launched a major promotion for the videos. It is too early in the process, he says. There is a prominent link to the videos’ microsite on the homepage, but no other promotion. The videos’ topics rotate periodically.
“You need to get a read from your current customer base as to what they want before you generate a ton of hype over it…because you can definitely kill it with hype too early or you can get so many people who aren’t really there to buy, they’re there just to check it out,” he says.
Tip #7: Keep it in-house
Keeping the video’s production in-house keeps your insights and breakthroughs internal. Your team handling the project will gradually become online video optimization experts – an excellent resource to have.
Lesperance plans to keep production and testing in-house until the strategy is refined, he says. He may then hire an agency to scale the project and extend their archive.Rich Lesperance spoke at eTail East 2008 in Washington DC in August. Useful links related to this article:
Creative Sample for Circuit City's Educational Video Campaign:
How to Create an Online Video: Step-by-Step Guide to Make It Easy on You (and Your Budget)
eTail East 2008