Web Sales Tactics: Virtual Salespeople and Zombie Videos

From rings on QVC to toys on Amazon, retailers are increasingly using video to sell their products on the Web.


They're just giving the people what they want: In September, 32.6 million unique users watched video on a retail Web site, up 20 percent from a year earlier, according to comScore.

Videos offer shoppers a chance to virtually poke and prod the product before they decide to buy it. And, in the case of apparel, to see how a garment looks on.

"It's the classic, 'Does that make my butt look big?'" says David Fry, who’s e-commerce company Fry has built video platforms for clients such as Tassimo, the coffee-maker division of Kraft , and teen retail chain Wet Seal .

Really, it's great for any kind of a product that you want to touch, Fry says. With handbags, for example, video allows you to see what the pockets look like, what the lining looks like, is there a zipper or snap, etc.

And, retailers are taking the cue: 43 percent of retailers surveyed by Shop.org said they planned to add or improve the use of video on their site.

BabyEarth, which sells everything from baby strollers to baby leggings, started using video to demonstrate products on its Web site in May. The eco-friendly baby-tailer estimates that sales on items such as the $800 Bugaboo stroller/car seat (see video) and the $400 Bloom Fresco high chair (see video) have gone up roughly 10 percent since the video was added.

BabyEarth takes it a step further with BabyEarthLIVE, equipping employees at its flagship store in Texas with head cams to be virtual salespeople for online shoppers. So, you can ask the employee questions about a product, ask for a demonstration of a specific product feature — all in real time.

"A lot of our shoppers are first-time parents," explains BabyEarth spokeswoman Joie Tamkin. "Knowing how a product folds and opens really gives the customer that in-store experience and connects them to us."

"If a customer asks, 'How long is that stroller — will it fit into our SUV?' we'll get out the measuring tape and give them an answer," Tamkin says.

ThinkGeek.com, which sells everything from an LED Jellyfish Mood Lamp to a a T-shirt with a built-in drum kit, uses video to demonstrate products but also to connect with customers.

"We honestly shoot most of them like they're little short films ... almost sketch comedy," says ThinkGeek spokesman Shane Peterman.

In fact, ThinkGeek uploads most of its product videos to YouTube, like this one for the Dismember-Me Plush Zombie (see video).

Peterman says the videos have been a hit with customers and the company even encourages customers to send in their own "action shots," that the company posts on the site (see customers with zombies).

ThinkGeek doesn't have exact figures for how much video has boosted sales but Peterman says overall sales are up 30 percent since the site starting using video two years ago.

"It's definitely helped increase awareness and increased sales," he says.

Shoe retailer DSW recently started using video in a similar way, posting "webisodes" with style expert Bobbie Thomas. In one episode of "DSW Shoe Buzz," for example, Thomas talked about different styles of boots and what's to love about each one.

You play to your strengths, and when it comes to toys, what more powerful marketing weapon do you have than a cute kid?

Toy retailer LittleTikes.com encourages users to send in video of kids playing with toys, like this one with kids videotaping each other with a toy camcorder (see video).

Fry cautions that making product videos can be expensive but adds, "I think the payback is there."

"It gives users that 'Ooh ... ahh' factor," he says.

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