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IsabellaOliver.com Overcomes 3 Key Challenges of Online Retail Videos

Nearly every online retailer has considered adding video to their site, many experiment with it, but few pull it off effectively.

That’s because its not so easy. Here's a look at three key challenges retailers face when adding video to e-commerce sites, and how one retailer overcomes them:

3 Online Retail Video Challenges:

1. Problematic playback: one of video’s promises is that it will bring your shopper closer to the product, helping her bridge the “I can’t lay my hands on it" gulf of online shopping. But if video loads slowly or plays erratically, it only accentuates the problem, increasing awareness that we’re shopping with a machine and not in the warm comfort of our favorite boutique.

2. Inconsistent deployment: Adding video to a site adds real cost in time and dollars. As a result, many retailers compromise, adding clips to only a few of their best-selling or most expensive products. While this may make sense to the retailer, it can cause frustration for shoppers. Site visitors are always “learning” your site and if they find a feature helpful to their decision process, they’ll find it unhelpful if that feature plays hide and seek.

3. Distracting deployment: Some sites seem so pleased with themselves to have added video that they’re willing to throw the overall product presentation out of balance with big honkin’ videoscreen icons and huge “Click here to watch” links. This always strikes me as a shot in the foot, brand-wise.

Here's how Isabella Oliver Gets it Right

Isabella Oliver Top Video

Precisely because they overcome each of these 3 hurdles with such panache, it's worth your time to check out to the great “runway videos” on IsabellaOliver.com, a stylish maternity-wear site.

My lovely wife and I were shopping this site when we happened on these videos. We were checking out the wrap around top, when right beside the main product photo, we noticed a "video thumbnail", a small, elegant, and definitely pregnant woman striding confidently toward us. When we clicked to enlarge, the video model took center stage and completed her runway walk. What's so cool about the way this site handles video? A few things:

Supersmooth playback: Watching these videos online is, umm, not like watching a video online. It’s more like watching a live model overcome the limits of your screen-- and Internet pipeline. Using an animated GIF for the thumbnail and Flash for the video creates a fast, seamless experience. The technology is used in a way that draws no attention to itself. You feel closer to the apparel, not the computer.

Consistent availability: After watching one video, I immediately started clicking around the site -- cross-sell items, left nav, everywhere -- wondering if I’d find a product that did not receive the runway treatment. If that item’s there I didn’t find it. This thoroughness eliminates potential gaps in my shopping experience. It also gives the impression of “Wow, these people really love on what they’re selling." When you’re deeply invested in making your site great, there’s a halo effect: a visitor assumes you’ll be deeply invested in making their experience as a customer great, too.

Supports the product and supports the brand: It didn’t take me long to do so, but I’m glad to have essentially stumbled upon the video on this site. The video-thumbnail keeps the page fast loading and gives me, the shopper,the chance to decide when I think this feature will be helpful. Essentially, I can opt-in, and the subtle preview is in tune with this retailer's brand.

Spend a few minutes shopping IsabellaOliver.com and then think about how your site might use (or better use) video. Are there other sites that you think do a great job using video to help their shopper choose and buy? Tell us about them here.

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