Online video has certainly been the topic du jour this year, as major media companies respond to consumer demand for anytime, anywhere access to their favorite programs. But Web video's real potential is not in watching "Lost" or "The Office" online or even downloading those shows to your cell phone or iPod. It's about giving consumers what they want in the most engaging medium available.
We are still in the early stages of this shift from static text and graphics to a more dynamic, visually compelling medium, but we are approaching a tipping point. Video is no longer an afterthought or an add-on for Web-savvy businesses -- but the primary content featured on their Web sites.
Online user expectations have changed dramatically in the past decade, and businesses that don't evolve their Web strategies to accommodate this change are about to get a painful wake-up call.
The Preferred Medium
It's well-documented that people prefer a visually dynamic medium when it comes to being entertained or getting information. Radio was once the primary source of news, music and other entertainment for a large part of the population. Then came TV, followed by VCRs, TiVo and iPods. Video is having the same dramatic impact on the Web. The Solutions Research Group predicts that total hours spent with video-based entertainment will average eight hours per day by early 2013 -- the equivalent of an entire night's sleep -- and a majority of those hours will belong to online video.
Most fascinating about the emergence of the video-centric Web is that it is not being driven by news and entertainment providers. The vast majority of businesses riding the video wave are non-media organizations, ranging from small neighborhood retailers and restaurants to powerhouse brands like Nike and Apple. These businesses all share an intense desire to deliver a strong brand impression, create an engaging experience and instill customer loyalty. The Web is now the primary customer touch point and commerce channel for many organizations, and video is the Holy Grail for driving compelling Web experiences that can educate, entertain and keep customers coming back.
The Video-Centric Enterprise
Video's importance transcends the customer experience. It can transform every aspect of an organization, from sales, marketing and communications to investor relations, employee training and education.
Externally, companies can better engage customers, partners and prospects with product demonstrations, presentations and how-to videos. Apple recently rolled out a 30-minute video-part guide, part advertisement-to accompany its new iPhone. Blendtec, the aforementioned household appliance maker, attributes a 700% increase in revenue to its popular "Will it Blend?" webisodes.
Beyond the marketing examples, investors will be able to access corporate data in video form, whether it is an annual meeting, a message from the CEO or a video news release. Video archives will likely play a vital role in meeting federal compliance requirements.
Internally, video will become a primary form of communication. Think of a broadcast greeting embedded in a personal email or executive video memos -- the latter of which is already being done by early video adopters such as British Telecom. Video libraries will usher in a new phase of knowledge sharing and best practices, as employees access huge repositories of education and training videos.
The most sophisticated online video practitioners will become a de facto corporate broadcast network constantly issuing its news and information to customers, employees and partners.
This future is much closer than you probably think.