Writing a brilliant online product description is kind of like writing the pinnacle scene of a romance novel – even the most poetic language can fail to turn your readers on. Welcome to Costco Inventory Control Specialist Scott Tuton’s world. When a prospective customer clicks on a product page at Costco.com, Tuton knows he has only a few precious seconds to persuade the visitor not to travel further to learn more about the item. So those two to 10 sentences of “romantic” product literature can make or break the sale.
That’s why Costco and many other retailers are turning to online video demonstrations to give visitors more of the in-store experience, coming as close as possible to allowing customers to touch and feel the products before they buy them. “Having something that’s more interactive and talks you through it and has some movement, we’ve seen that has a tendency to hold the shopper, keeps them from going elsewhere to find information they might be lacking,” Tuton said. “Things like interactive tours help captivate and keep the member or shopper from going elsewhere and helps to really tell the story on items that are normally touch and feel merchandise.”
Striving to make things easier is SellPoint, a three-year-old company that pools online product demonstrations (called Active Product Tours) from key manufacturers, especially ones in the CE market; hosts them and offers them to online merchants who want to spruce up their sites with collateral that can help close the sale. The service is free for retailers. In many cases SellPoint contacts the retailer. The company then combs the Internet looking for the SKUs for which they already host demos and helps the retailer integrate those videos onto its Web site. That integration includes customizing the video with the store’s logo, as well as offering secondary materials, such as data sheets, manuals and FAQs.
SellPoint gets paid by the manufacturer to host the videos and to find more places on the Internet where they may gain traction. When necessary, the company can help produce the videos as well with its own staff. “The videos can range in complexity based on the product and what the manufacturer is trying to communicate,” said Rick Martin, SellPoint president and CEO. “It can be as simple as a 360 zoom in and zoom out video to a more extensive presentation.” He added that SellPoint turns the online disadvantage of lack of in-store experience into an advantage because, in the virtual world, there is no shelf-space or display limit. “Online you have much more creative freedom to provide shoppers with information,” Martin said.
The videos are SKU-specific so there is no brand-marketing. If the video isn’t designed to help sell the product, then SellPoint won’t host it, even if the manufacturer asks them to. “We work very closely with the retailers to make sure any content is really appropriate to increase sales and be that point of sale piece,” Martin said, which is why the videos have no links or references to other sites. “We’re very specific about our purpose on the product page, which is to increase conversions and reduce returns so we work with [retailers] to we make sure they’re comfortable achieving our mission.”
SellPoint carefully tracks how shoppers interact with the tours so they can be improved and there are several things the company has learned. First, the average shopper spends 2.5 minutes at the product page viewing the tour. And in a recent study with Coremetrics SellPoint discovered increased conversion rates of up to 30 percent from visitors who watched the online demos.
Ritz Camera’s Andre Brysha, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said he can’t track how much the videos have improved conversions, but he feels they increase sales. “I think most people don’t read so I think in general, because it’s a video with sound, it’s easier for them to look at it and get information,” Brysha said. “Consumers are doing their research online and trying to learn about a product and make a decision about a product and this helps them do that.”
But it’s not just the videos that Brysha appreciates about SellPoint, but the fact that everything—the videos and the sales collateral—are collected and hosted by one company and supplied to him, whereas before he had to individually contact each manufacturer and update his content from them. Now, SellPoint lets him know when there is more material available for a SKU that he carries.
“Before we had to struggle to make sure when there was a new presentation we had to get a feed from [the manufacturer],” he said. “Now, whichever mutual manufactures we represent—and we represent most of the ones working with SellPoint—we use their feeds for the content they provide.”