EXPERT ADVICE

Pushing the Online Video Pedal to the Metal

Online video has come a long way in a short period of time. In the last year alone, the use of video on websites has moved from an interesting anomaly to a critical feature that boosts search engine result standings, increases stickiness and improves conversion rates.

The number of companies making the most of the video opportunity, however, remains modest. Many enterprises are test- running their capability for video production without reaping the rewards, since they have yet to extend the medium to their entire product catalogs or apply search engine optimization strategies to their video libraries. This is about to change, however, as brands progress beyond the initial video learning curve.

In the near term, the market for online video will scale rapidly and significantly. Brand marketers now understand the value of video. They have created homepage videos, how-to videos and select product videos. They made significant advances in their video strategies, but it’s clear that they have just gotten started.

Today, technology exists to enable a website to move beyond the average 5 percent video coverage it has provided for its online catalog. Thanks to automation, mobility, personalization and numerous other video platform capabilities, more and more websites will mass-enable their product pages with videos and use these capabilities to generate leads and grow their businesses.

There are several factors supporting the likelihood that video offerings are about to expand significantly:

1. Automation has turned video production into a rapid, simple process. Twenty years ago, the market was working hard to deliver automated capabilities to the taxing process of website management. Today, that process is so self-servicing, we hardly think about the modest steps required to update or add content to a site. Images and text are now template-based, database-driven and easy to maneuver.

Video production has undergone a similar evolution. Whereas many website owners once grappled with the limitations of early, manually produced videos, today’s automated solutions offer a cost-effective way to create videos that are produced quickly enough to keep sites always updated.

2. Brand marketers want mobile eyeballs, and video delivers. The use of mobile devices is rising, just as the demand for video is moving upward. The two are about to converge, as businesses work to capture customer attention whenever and wherever possible. Video’s multi-platform possibilities will let enterprises reach visitors on any screen they use, driving the importance of video-enabled catalogs to consumers who, for example, might use their mobile devices to aid comparison shopping as they browse in brick-and-mortar shops.

In terms of the popular iPad and iPhone models, which have struggled to accommodate Flash capabilities, HTML5 will be a game-changer. Nevertheless, businesses should keep in mind that they must adapt their offerings to best suit mobile devices. Screen size and interactivity differ on mobile products, and video offerings should be modified to meet the needs of mobile users.

3. Video can be easily repurposed and rebroadcast for greater reach. Brands are getting smarter about using multiple channels to broadcast their video offerings. Through newsletters, affiliate marketing and social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, e-businesses are finding valuable ways to take advantage of automated solutions that can create variations to the same video in order to boost traffic and increase awareness.

Syndicating existing media assets enables e-businesses to further capitalize on their investments in video, and we will see more of these companies making the most of multichannel broadcasting.

4. Personalization allows e-businesses to pick the most effective videos for individual customers. Video personalization is likely to be one of the most exciting trends in the near term. Many brands have mastered the technologies that enable them to personalize the messages, images and content visitors see on websites and in newsletters, and they’re about to extend that practice to video.

When every user gets a different video, created on-the-fly, reflecting special offers based on his or her past interactions with a website, businesses should see a swift uptick in conversion rates.

5. Video now warrants high-visibility website placement. E-businesses have recognized the power of videos to convert visitors, and that realization will affect the website real estate devoted to videos.

Rather than hiding multimedia assets beneath “watch video” icons, websites will move their video offerings to prominent locations, either by embedding video players in product pages as Overstock and Zappos do, or by positioning videos as the leading assets on homepages.

6. Google wants video, and Google gets what it wants. In fact, all search engines love video, and they’re now structuring their search engine results to reward sites that include it. Consequently, online marketers are investing more in order to promote their videos. That will include user interface changes to make videos more accessible, development work to make videos more exposed to search bots, scaling videos in order to reach long-tail keywords, and automating video production in order to have video available as soon as new products are introduced.

Online video is poised for a rapid rise in the marketing efforts of companies in nearly every industry. Now comfortable with the medium and its potential, brands can build upon the maturing nature of the technology to meet core business goals: increase traffic, conversions and customer loyalty.

Yaniv Axen is chief technology officer and cofounder of SundaySky.

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