The spinnable 360-degree product image is so common across the e-commerce web that it's difficult to imagine what online shopping would be like without it. Yet, if innovators like Robert Reed of Blinds.com have any say, we might just see this perennial image stalwart transformed by the relentless progress of online video.
Robert and Blinds.com are no strangers to leveraging online video as a selling and customer service tool. As the web's largest e-commerce merchant of window blinds, the company has employed video for six years to help sell its products. "We consider online video to be a very important part of our sales efforts. We have already proven that video views have a positive impact on our sales," he says.
Recently, Blinds.com launched a patented new product called InstaFit, which allows customers to install a product in a window without needing a bracket. Such an idea might seem ordinary, but in the world of window treatments, it was quite revolutionary. "Using a video to show how easy the product was to use was essential," says Robert. "However, we have always had a desire to provide customers with as much detail as we can within an easy-to-use-format. We thought it would be an excellent idea to not just allow customers to watch a video, but to actually interact with it. A customer might want to interact with the product to see how it opens and closes, for example. "
"Our video platform provider, Liveclicker, offered a tool called 360° Videos, which basically allows an HD video to function as an interactive 360-degree spinning image. The more we explored the idea, the more we thought it could be extended to other kinds of motions, such as opening and closing a blind. We launched some videos on our site and termed the format Product In Motion."
"We soon discovered that a key advantage to using online video as an image replacement was the time savings involved. Capturing Product In Motion videos compared to using images reduced our production time by at least 50 percent," contends Robert. "If you can imagine taking a series of pictures, making sure they're all lined up just right, opening them in image editing software, and then creating a video file - this process takes a lot of time. With Product In Motion, we capture video files at the outset and couple them with an interactive scrubber so a customer can easily 'open and close' the product using a video player."
While results have been positive, Robert admits the new format has presented some challenges. "A disadvantage would be that a video might be limited to an HD resolution of 1920x1080, while images can be captured at much higher resolutions. The advantage is still in the favor of images for extreme close-up shots," he says.
Alongside the rollout of the interactive Product In Motion videos, Blinds.com extended the reach of interactive video when it began soliciting customer feedback in-video via an overlay link. "We have already captured over 400 comments directly from our shoppers over the last couple of months, without any promotion of the feedback mechanism other than a simple and unobtrusive link in the video player. In-video customer feedback helped us to understand how our titling impacted viewing expectations, which prompted us to make some changes around how we titled some of our product videos."
With the addition of Product In Motion videos and feedback collection within its video player, Blinds.com is pushing interactive e-commerce video in some new and unexpected directions. Robert indicates video is an area where there are still many opportunities to innovate and differentiate the company's products and brand online. "The more we explore, the more we're finding there are many benefits to using video, not just a few."
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Justin Foster is an entrepreneur specialized in e-commerce and online marketing. In addition to co-founding video commerce startup Liveclicker, Justin also founded the Video Commerce Consortium, the industry's largest trade group devoted to advancing the use of video in e-commerce. Prior to Liveclicker, Justin led the services practice for WhatCounts, an email marketing technology provider, where he was responsible for client strategy and development. He also founded the Email Marketing Roundtable, an industry group that represents over 1,500 email marketers worldwide. Justin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pacific Lutheran University with emphasis in Information Science and Entrepreneurship and a minor in Chinese from Beijing Foreign Studies University.