Ecommerce Needs to Get More Immersive. Could Video Be the Answer?

Video content can enable e-commerce websites to replicate real-life customer experiences, enticing visitors to spend more time and add items to their shopping carts, all in the video.

By Ben Wagner, CMO, VMLY&R South Africa

It doesn’t seem that long ago that customers were prohibitively fearful of transacting online. The idea of entering your bank details into a website and allowing some digital spectre to take your money was uncomfortable for many South Africans. Of course, the pandemic bulldozed those fears and digital has taken a massive leap forward since. But the obstacle that lingers is the fact that the digital experience is a little… flat.

Physically interacting with a brand is an experience – whether it’s walking into a store and browsing the displays or having a sales consultant talk you through a product offering, it’s immersive and interactive. Websites, on the other hand, tend to feel cold and transactional. The communication only flows one way and navigating them is less a journey of discovery where anything could surprise you at any time than a trip to the reference section of the school library to read up on the anatomy of the locust.

Used strategically, video has the power to change that.

Attract attention

Video can attract a customer’s attention in the same way an eye-catching display might attract the customer in store. At a time when thumbs are becoming arthritic from scrolling past long blocks of text and static images, a video is harder to ignore.

In a commerce site, video reviews can showcase a product in a way that the most vivid and imaginative text descriptions can’t compete with. And no infographic can match a video tutorial for how-to explanations – especially no infographic found in a furniture flat-box. Video brings the product or service to life for the customer, creating a connection.

In a survey published earlier this year, 96% of respondents said they had watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service. And 89% said watching a video had convinced them to buy a product or service. Those big, shiny numbers are attractive prospects for brands. So, it’s unsurprising that 92% of marketers surveyed said video gave them a good ROI.

Provide entertainment

There are probably several reasons why people are watching around 17 hours of online video a week. But one of them is that video is engaging in that switch-your-brain-off kinda way that we all crave after (ahem, during?) a long day at the office. Except, it’s not the whole brain that’s switching off. Stats show people are engaging with the content, clicking on things, and sharing videos with their friends. It’s what Joy Des Fountain and Wouter Lombard of Live Shopping call shoppertainment – a sweet intersection between video consumption, social media and ecommerce.

The problem is a lot of this content is being housed on external channels, most notably social media. A customer may do a deep dive into a brand’s YouTube channel, watching car reviews or make-up tutorials, and they may lose hours of their life to TikTok unboxings, but what happens when they’re inspired to buy? Every time a customer has to “head on over” to the brand’s website, “tap the link in bio”, or “click on the link in the product description”, and be left to their own devices, that’s an opportunity to lose them.

Instead, in the same way that merchandising sweets or socks next to the tills in store encourages customers to drop those items into their baskets, Des Fountain and Lombard have found that adding short form content (up to 60-second videos) to a website leads to five times longer session times, 30% increase in order value, and 10 times more adding to cart.

Facilitate seamless transactions

By using in-video pop-up links, brands can create an even more seamless online shopping experience for the customer that mimics a promotion in store.

In an in-store promotion, the customer will be enticed by an opportunity to sample the goods. When they like what they’re trying, a trained host will present the full-size item, possibly with a discount code attached to seal the deal. They won’t send the customer to go find the item on the shelf at the other end of the store in the hopes that it’s not sold out.

On a commerce site, Live Shopping allows embedded long-form videos to use pop-up links so that people can shop the video in real-time without having to go browse the site to find the item themselves. If the video is live – say, a brand ambassador doing a review of their latest product drop – customers can ask questions in the comments the same way they would interact with a human in store.

By using video content, the flat, transactional commerce website can be transformed into an immersive, interactive experience that makes customers want to linger and add to cart.


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