Lately, my 10-year-old daughter is fascinated with "reverse video" on YouTube, videos that run the action backwards. Fireworks in reverse have an eerie beauty, reverse "Let it Go" from the movie "Frozen" is hard to stop watching, and eating Taco Bell food in reverse… Well, some videos are easy to stop watching.

Those reverse videos are all good for a laugh. But what if I told you that your investment in marketing videos and other visual content was going backwards, too?

If you're thinking about video like many marketers do, it just may be.

You're Rolling the Camera... in Which Direction?

The Web has transitioned from a text-dominated ecosystem to a highly visual platform. That especially holds true for commerce. Consumers expect an increasingly seamless visual experience from brands and retailers, so that they can engage and educate themselves about their potential purchases.

Moreover, we are entering the age of visual commerce. Brands that want to succeed in this new era must continue to embrace and integrate more visual elements, such as videos, 3-D images, and interactive optical elements, across all their channels.

The data associated with the growing power of visual content for commerce is difficult to argue with. Put simply, visually driven experiences drive sales.

Video is a great foundation for any successful visual commerce strategy. Consumers who watch video are almost twice as likely to purchase as consumers who don't. Our rapid shift to mobile-first content consumption is fueling those trends as 32% of ecommerce videos are watched on mobile. So, like 76% of marketers, you already have a video program in place and plan to increase budget for video next year.

But many marketers start with: "We need to make some marketing videos." That's why Google results for the phrase "make a marketing video" outnumber results for "meet customer needs" by almost five to one.

So storyboards and scripts get underway before anyone asks the key question, "Where is our customer in his or her buying journey?"

In the course of working with more than 100 major brands and retailers, we've learned that every successful engagement starts with that question.

Are you failing to ask it? Then you'll be working in reverse—starting with the deliverable rather than the customer need. That can yield results about as unappetizing as a backwards Taco Bell video.

To illustrate how stage in the buyer's journey can affect the video or other visual content you create, let's look at three site visitors in different stages of their journey: Awareness Alison, Consideration Cassie, and Buy-or-Fly Bob.

'Make Me Aware, and Make Me Care'

Awareness Alison, who is visiting your homepage, may need to know exactly what your business does. She also needs to know why she should care.

Sports Authority recently featured its Baseball Field Day in a homepage video. It conveyed the company's passion for engaging kids in athletics. Unlike a bland corporate video or a detailed product video, the Baseball Field Day video gave Alison a reason to care.

A consumer who cares is a lot less likely to open more browser tabs and start price-shopping or Amazon-hopping.

'Consider My Consideration Needs'

Consideration Cassie, on a category page, doesn't need to be sold on the brand. What she does need is relevant information to help narrow her range of choices.

Kerastase, a L'Oreal brand, uses video effectively at this stage by letting visitors navigate based on hair type: curly/rebellious, damaged, color-treated, long, etc. By demonstrating an effective hair care regimen for visitors' hair type, Kerastase delivered video content that its visitors found highly relevant.

It also helps that the video is shoppable. Kerastase used its video platform's in-video shopping feature to facilitate cross-sell by letting visitors purchase the products in the regimen by clicking directly through from the video (resulting in an 18% increase to average order value). By understanding where Consideration Cassie is in her journey, Kerastase crafted and merchandised video content to meet her information needs.

'Help Me Buy'

Buy-or-Fly Bob is right where an online merchandiser wants him: on a product detail page. Will Bob click "Add to Cart," or will he join the 97% of visitors who bounce away without converting?

At this stage, consumers want to be sure they're making the right purchase. In most cases, the information need here is for detailed product information.

Sigma Photo, for example, uses videos at this stage to explain the technical specs of each lens, show how they are used, and explain the appropriate use. That information might be too detailed for Awareness Alison or Consideration Cassie, but it's perfect for helping Bob decide to buy, not fly.

* * *

Visual content can be a powerful marketing tool if your customers find it useful. So rather than starting backwards by saying, "We need a video," flip things around.

Make sure you're going in the right direction by asking, "What stage of the customer journey are we addressing with this video or other visual content, and information does the customer need to take the next step?"

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image of Russ Somers

Russ Somers is the chief marketing officer for inMotionNow, which recently merged with Lytho, a leading provider of marketing resource management solutions for marketing and creative teams.

LinkedIn: Russ Somers

Twitter: @rsomers