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There are already plenty of strong arguments for the use of video on e-commerce sites, but here are some more from one retailer who has been using 360 product images and videos. 

Gerrard Dennis of The Simply Group, which operates seven online stores, has been looking into the effectiveness of images and video on his websites, and has some interesting insight into how video and product photography has improved his sites' conversion rates...  

Some stats from other online retailers which have used video: 

  • Using video demos of items on product pages increased sales for Zappos by between 6% and 30%. 
  • On Ice.com, the conversion rate for shoppers viewing video on product pages increased by 400%, while return rates dropped from 12% to 9%. 
  • Shoeline.com improved the conversion rate by 44% for product pages containing videos.

Alternative product images

Having found that some products sell only in certain colours, Gerrard found that there was a direct correlation between showing the product in that colour on the page, and the sales of that colour. 

By simply adding that colour option to the choice of images on the product page increased sales threefold, so it's well worth the effort of taking another product photo and showing a picture of products in every available colour. 

360 views

Alternative shots of products are essential, but having gathered feedback from customer services, Gerrard found that there is always an angle customers want to see products from that hasn't been displayed.

This led to the introduction of 360 degree rotating images on product pages, in addition to the range of static images. 

360 product image

The addition of these product views led to a 20% rise in conversion rates for these product pages, and also led to a drop in returns rates. 

There is a caveat though; these 360 images cannot be produced quickly at the right quality, and the cost of equipment and staff also needs to be considered. In the case of Simply Group, 360 product images can take ten minutes per item to produce, and with more than 7,500 SKUs on the site doing this for very page isn't possible.

Also, 360 views tend to work better for smaller products, and don't suit all product types. In the case of bags and backpacks, it cannot show the whole product, while clothing can be difficult to display in this way. 

Product videos

At the same time, Gerrard was looking at the possibility of using product videos for the simplypiste site. The simplybeach site already had catwalk-style videos for swimwear, but this wouldn't necessarily work for technical ski clothing. 

The answer was to use videos shot with specialist advisors showing the different features of the products, more akin to the kind of advice you might find in stores. 

This product page for a backpack is one example of this in use, but Simply now has these product videos on hundreds of pages on the various sites. 

Product info video

The beauty of it is that the video is embedded into the page, so customers can quickly view it without leaving the page, and having seen the video, there is a clear call to action next to the screen. 

The results of adding videos was even more impressive than for 360 views, a 25% increase in conversion rates, and far fewer returns. 

According to Gerrard Dennis, thanks to the work on images and video, Simply Group's returns rates are now closer to that of a normal high street retailer than of other e-commerce sites. 

The key here is that, along with all the other information on the products pages, these videos answer all the questions which customers may have about products, bringing it closer to the in-store experience. 

In fact, Gerrard argues that this can be better than the in store experience, since 'you get the most knowledgable member of staff each time, not just the Saturday guy.' 

Investment / costs of producing video

The results are impressive, but adding videos to product pages requires investment in staff and technology. 

In the case of Simply Group, the company decided that product photography and video would be a key USP, and set up a studio and employed staff to produce photos and videos, all in-house. 

We took a big, bold investment with no guarantees for a company of our size. Today, would I make a different decision? Absolutely not. Is it paying for itself? Yes, but to actually get a respectable number of products shot per week, spun, and videoed takes a huge financial commitment.

Conclusion

Given the results achieved by using 360 views and product video, it's hard to argue against their use on e-commerce sites, though some very big names (Tesco, John Lewis) don't use video, yet. 

There are considerations in terms of the investment required, though this has clearly paid off in this case. It doesn't necessarily have to be done in-house as is the case with Simply Group, there are plenty of agencies for this. 

It should be noted though, that video will only be truly effective when used on a product page and website which is already well designed.

Simply's product pages display clear information on delivery and returns, product reviews are included, there is a live chat option, while calls to action are clear. In short, the pages do everything possible to answer customer concerns about the product and delivery. 

If any other retailers have experienced similar uplift from using video and product imagery, or even if this hasn't worked so well for you, let us know in the comments below... 

Graham Charlton

Published 10 November, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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Kerry

The more product images, the better, especially with musical instruments which have very fine detail. Dolphin Music have a lot of great features in terms of image/video/interaction - a favourite is they allow registered users to add their own videos which I think is a great feature. 

over 5 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Excellent post Graham, thought I would share a couple of things I've learned regarding product images & videos

  1. Scale: For some items, it's very difficult to understand scale. Very important in my business, but can easily apply to Apparel (specifically acessories), FMCG and Consumer Electronics. We're experimenting with different ways of showing scale, but hands always help. For some reason, it appears to be easier to judge womens hand sizes than mens!
  2. Usage scenarios: Even if you've got 360 rotating images, you should consider usage scenarios in the product photography. What does a radio look like with it's antenna fully extended? Where's the battery cover and how is it removed? For a backpack, show all the pockets, straps and fixings. How much can fit inside the backpack? Thinking about how a product is used when it's photographed really helps the customer understand it.
  3. Video Previews: If a visitors doesn't think that a product video will answer their questions, they're unlikely to want to watch it. Showing a few still shots from a video next to the video itself reassures the visitors that their time won't be wasted watching it. (In my business, it also reassures the visitor that the video is safe for work!)
  4. Video Snippets: As said, visitors are time poor, so before rolling into a full product demonstration video, include the edited highlights at the start of the clip, just a couple of seconds telling the viewer what they're going to see. Again it reassures the visitor and allows them to get the facts straight away.

Matt

over 5 years ago

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Demetria

As a consumer I am more likely to purchase items and NOT return them when I've seen some sort of demonstration of the product online. This goes beyond a mere image. For example, a product called Bundleboo (babywearing gear) has its own YouTube channel with videos demonstrating how to use the product. I purchased the product simply because I saw the ease and versatility of it by watching the videos. I am sure the owner of Bundleboo doesn't experience very many returns (at least I've only heard and read good reviews on her products). So...video works.

over 5 years ago

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Dimitri Bir, Managing Member at WebRotate 360 LLC

Very interesting post. Thank you, Graham.

~20% increase in conversion rates is a pretty consistent number that we see with other retailers and our clients. Can't agree more on the time vs quality argument. In 10 or even 30 minutes for that matter it's pretty hard to produce a quality 360 product view as most products require form fitting, suspension or rigging, certain lighting, etc. On top of that, high-end 360 product views require plenty of post-production. Clearly though, for ~7k of SKU's spending even that much time in house could be an overkill.

over 5 years ago

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Gabriele Maidecchi

Integrating advanced photo/video features in a product page surely is no easy feat.

It all comes down to the kind of product your showcasing, as the usefulness can vary dramatically. And what varies a lot is also the investment needed for such a thing.

I think this is a step that is worth being taken into consideration, but the final decision shouldn't be taken lightly.

over 5 years ago

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RaynaNyc

Great post with some very useful insights. Perhaps there might be a future post that focuses on content development for ecommerce sites? Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. So many suffer from poor (or limited) content that doesn't aid in the shopping/education process, and doesn't motivate customers to shop nor review.

over 5 years ago

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Jessica

This article is completely true about 360 degrees spin photography. We have been providing this service for a year now and it is definitely challenging when asking clients to ship large objects. To photograph small to medium size consumer electronic, purses, shoes, small retail items are very straight forward but when you start taking clothing articles then it is challenging since it can be with a real model, mannequin or invisible frame. After the photography are done you will need to do a lot of retouch....not that you wont have to retouch the videos but I think if you have the right equipment you can get a really awesome HD quality videos. Lastly, these two approaches are a sale booster so either hire someone to do it or invest in equipments based on budget.

over 5 years ago

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London PR

I completely agree. The more images available the more confident the consumer feels when purchasing.

over 5 years ago

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Jaume Puig

Hi, Yes, this is interesting. As a professor of advertising in Barcelona, I often speak of it with my students. A few days ago I discovered that people Mediabackoffice.net have a video support thinking in the small e-commerce. Congratulations for the article.

over 5 years ago

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mobi.luxe

Excellent and timely post, Graham ... thank you.

As a digital advisor to luxury and prestige brands, I engage in ideological battles on the topic of video. The luxury brands and, more correctly, their digital AORs focus all of their energies and, in turn, budgets on glossy brand-level video, with no emphasis given to product-level video. Given the exorbitant production costs to drive to the level of product granularity with video quality in-line with the highly sensitive brand aesthetic, product-level video is pushed to the side. However, your article presents some compelling stats too impressive to ignore. My argument has always been ... "Why can't you do both? Why can't you take uber- high quality production brand-level video and commerce enable it?"

The recent launch of French Connection UK’s (FCUK) v-commerce offering “YouTique” represents a very powerful opportunity for luxury retailers to mass broadcast style guide thought leadership and further strengthen loyalists’ affinity for brands. What is particularly compelling about this approach (although not currently leveraged by FCUK) is the mobile commerce implication. Experience has shown us the inherent value of video content over long-form text from the perspective of a powerful mobile use case. Through the production of this editorial style guide content that focuses less on particular pieces in an apparel brand’s collection and gives more emphasis on how best to apply the pieces to everyday events, FCUK’s “YouTique” offering provides utility, entertainment, and education as key drivers of increased brand loyalty.

For a heavily lifestyle-driven brand like FCUK, the “YouTique” offering accomplishes exactly that goal of providing utility to its brand fanatics while remaining true to the essence of their brand. To embed this type utility with the framework of a robust mobile rich application is a goal all luxury apparel brands should aspire to deliver for these fanatics to further increase brand loyalty.

for further thoughts on this topic > http://tinyurl.com/24884fc

over 5 years ago

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pi business research

I am a big supporter of visual reperesentation and feel that this goes a long way in creating a deeper impact on the customers. the interaction increases and the customers gain a better perspective of the product before deciding on the final purchase. This is certainly more profitable as far as the companies are concerned.

over 5 years ago

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Nina

btw, Tesco and John Lewis both do use video on their product pages already and for a while as well

over 5 years ago

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Matthew

Your stats are very interesting. Thank you!

over 4 years ago

Mike  Darnell

Mike Darnell, Social Marketing at Treepodia Ecommerce Video Solution

Very interesting stats. It's particularly interesting to hear the wins from Zappos introducing videos onto their site. I'm a big fan of their videos, so it's great to hear they work well.
Aside from the excellent stats in this article, I'd like to just add another one into the mix. Some of our clients who use Treepodia have witness conversions of up to 88% from implementing videos onto product pages. If retailers aren't taking advantage to the increasing power of video, then they are seriously missing out.

Thanks,
Mike

almost 3 years ago

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Chris Dalton, Content Manager at www.yourbrandlive.com

This post exactly describes the kind of solutions my company is aiming to achieve - higher conversion rates by using video for product communication. I especially agree with concept of using your best salesperson in product videos - leading to an in-store experience or something even better. Thanks for providing this research!

over 2 years ago

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