We already know that video is a tried and true branding vehicle. It is one of the reasons marketers are driving the video segment onward and gaining confidence in the Web medium. But what role does video play in the actual purchase funnel? What does it do for the consumer when he or she is in the process of deciding to buy in a category and making brand distinctions, or pulling the trigger on a buy?
"Video helps conversions," says Scott Bassett, president of Tech Media Network. Bassett isn't talking about pre-roll ads in front of editorial. He is talking about informational and reference video that consumer-researchers encounter on their path to buying. Tech Media Network is a collection of tech and science information and review sites that includes the 2010 OMMA Award winner for Web Site Excellence, TopTenReviews.com as well as recently-acquires Space.com and Newsarama (formerly owned by Imaginova).
Bassett can see at his tech review sites, the effect that viewing a video has in the path that user takes towards a link to e-commerce. About 70% of the company revenue comes from non-display marketing deals, including ecommerce/affiliate relationships, lead-gen, and performance based advertising. He can see the keywords users are plugging into search engines that got them to a site like TopTenReviews and already knows from that if they are in-market. "We will put a how-to video into the mix because we know it sells more product," he says. Users are more likely to come out the end of that path ready to click a buy button. The sites do extensive A/B testing on their users to determine the content experiences that lead to a purchase. "Video helps conversions on sites where I have in-market shoppers."
Except when it doesn't. In looking at the numbers across a lot of different users and cases, he says it is already clear the rules are not steadfast. He thinks that video moves people towards conversion when it succeeds in answering a question and clarifies their thinking after having come to the site via a deliberate search. But "we really have to watch the in-market shopper." Sometimes a how-to video inserted in the researcher's path through the content will confuse not clarify. The video makes the product category seem more complicated or convinces the user they don't really know enough about the products or their uses to make a decision. "We sometimes find that pulling video out of the purchase process and putting it into a learning center is better."
As the tools for analyzing the decision-making process become more refined they can reveal counter-intuitive realities. "We had a path where the user was typing in one of 500 different keywords and brought that user to an explanation for the category. The user wanted to dig into actual products, so we thought we would be smart and show a video review or a how-to. But we compared it with the previous process without the video. We watched time on page and conversions, and in an increasing number of cases by the time the user had made the decision the video had only interrupted the experience." Sometimes shoppers are just looking for product and don't want to be educated, but whether or not to go to the video is not always clear. "Sometimes our gut is wrong," says Bassett. "We rely on the data."