If there’s a lesson to be learned from YouTube, it’s that it can be a great place to display products, or if you’re lucky, have your customers do it for you. Videos turn brands into lifestyles, turns sneakers into statements.
Look at Tilly’s, the California-based apparel retailer with 180 or so stores and an active Web site aimed at youthful customers. Go to Tillys.com, and you’ll be enticed to visit Tillys.TV, a separate site that is a collection of visually arresting videos from brands Tilly’s carries, and beside each video, product displays with a call to action.
These aren’t how-to videos; they’re slickly produced, MTV-like videos of young, beautiful people wearing California-casual fashion. But watching, you’re one click away from ordering.
The Tillys.tv page is the handiwork of TVPage.com, a San Diego-based business enterprise solution that provides the dashboard and technology allowing Tilly’s to invite brands and customers to submit videos. TVPage counts the views, the completion rate, the conversion-to-sales rate and other data so Tilly’s and the manufacturers know what videos are moving, and what products too.
If a good e-commerce site lets you quickly buy what you want and log off, the TVPage concept is exactly the opposite. “You want to entertain them. You want them to stay,” says Allon Caidar, the TVPage chief executive. “You want them to love your brand. It’s just like what a media company does. It’s all about the content. So a retailer has to think a little bit like a media company. They need the engagement.”
He wants sites to “stop being just a check-out cart. Be your own media destination and then you’re a fun place to hang out on, like Facebook, just like Twitter, like YouTube.”
Ideally, TVPage clients have the fast in-and-out dot com Web site and direct other customers to the dot TV adjacent site.
The idea, Caidar says is, to create an entertaining environment for browsers. “Those are the best buyers. It’s proven,” he says. “Those who want to get more information, and hang around the ‘store’ longer are eventually going to buy more often so we see the conversion rate higher. Retention and conversion are linked together. Retention supports conversion. Those are the two holy grails of the retail world.” He claims TVPage-enabled sites have double the conversion rate that a retailer’s traditional e-commerce site does.
In the year or so that TVPage.com has been taking its concept around, it’s enticed 100 or so clients, and takes video content from 500 to 600 different brands, Caidar says. Some of the applications--for Hoover vacuum cleaners, for example--aren’t very different from what you’ve seen before. Others are.
Probably TVPage’s best examples are Tilly’s, where the videos are sexy and cinematic, and Skis.com, whose Skis.TV is a pastiche of videos from a variety of sources showing skiers flying down mountains, or attractive people frollicking in colorful ski jackets. Next to those videos, many of them supplied by ski manufacturers and apparel makers, is a stationary image directing the shopper to buy. Skis.com controls what videos are there, where they’re placed and how long they stay up.
It's not familiar online retailing. It’s not quick, and it’s not meant to be. It’s for the shopper who wants to look around. How many people really want to do that is a good question. There are a lot of great mousetraps out there. Maybe mice aren't that interested.
But those two sites offer the closest version of what Caidar says is possible--a kind of specialized YouTube curated by a retailer, packed with videos from brands and even user generated content. TVPage’s technology can facilitate the transfer of video, even user generated content, from any source, from YouTube to Vimeo and more, to a client’s e-commerce site.
The apparent fact is that many manufacturers and retailers are, in Caidar’s words, using YouTube as a repository for their video content “simply because they don’t have a solution to present their goods effectively.”
He presents a vivid example: A not-small manufacturer of skin cream.
“Look at this,” he says, pulling up its site on his office computer. “They don’t have any video on their site. But they have great video content. It’s all on YouTube.”
When he watches the video, he’s ready to buy, but he glances at the YouTube side panel: “Oh...a competitor. I look at that. Boom! A second ago I was about to buy a skin care product for my wife, and now I’m gone. Or now, while I’m still on YouTube, I’m going to watch a video on BMW because that’s what I was watching yesterday and you know, it’s on my YouTube list. Or whatever. A competitor. The thing is, I was in that store a second ago, literally. If they can’t keep me in that store they’re in big trouble, because these days everybody has ADD on the Web. But think if they had their own TV channel...
“You’ve got millions of brands out there that send their users to their YouTube channel to watch all of their content,” Caidar says. “For retailers that’s exceptionally bad because you’re kicking them out of your store.”