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Retailers, YouTube and Holiday Shopping: Amp the Emotion

  |  October 29, 2013   |  Comments

YouTube is becoming a top destination for shoppers, Google says, but retailers need to think beyond posting TV spots.

YouTube is becoming a top destination for shoppers, Google says, but retailers need to think beyond posting TV spots.

With 89 percent of holiday shoppers going online to research purchases, according to Google's research, retailers are still using YouTube to post creative that differentiates themselves and appeals to consumers who are in the upper to middle of the purchasing funnel. They'll push out specific promotional ads around Black Friday, according to Steve Arthur, head of industry for retail at Google.

" I expect this holiday - and it's starting now - to be more promotionally driven than ever before," Arthur says. In order to avoid a race to the bottom price-wise, retailers should focus on brand messaging that creates an emotional connection.

"By expressing yourself on video so that your best shoppers see a part of you that's really endearing. Video is the best way for retailers to position themselves emotionally," he adds. 

Arthur cites a new campaign from L.L. Bean that uses YouTube's TrueView video ads to show products in aspirational, outdoor settings.



"I know they have a round two right behind this that will have increasingly promotional messages," he says. "It's neat to see someone who's never done video advertising online come out with this kind of campaign."

The days of brands attempting to create viral videos for YouTube are over, Arthur says. It's too much of a crap shoot. Instead, he advises retailers to adopt a three-way strategy that includes owned, earned and paid media on YouTube.

The owned story is the brand's own channel, although brands can also segment their channel to appeal to different sets of customers. Well-built brand channels do a lot more than post TV commercials. L.L. Bean's video on how to snowshoe, Arthur says, is a good example of how to get customers engaged. "A lot of retailers are attacking that DIY angle," he says.

Once brands have a robust YouTube channel, they can use paid media, such as TrueView ads, to make sure consumers discover them.

Google shared some YouTube advertising case studies from last year. In 2012, Cardstore moved some of its traditional marketing investment to fund a YouTube homepage masthead. The masthead display ad included two panels. One contained a video ad, and the other had a carousel with actual products from Cardstore. The company saw a 300 percent increase in site visitors, with the masthead ad producing 80 percent of the traffic.

Snapfish began prepping for the 2012 holiday season in February of that year, launching a small TrueView test of one video spot. The company found a large drop-off in viewers 12 seconds into the spot. (Google only charges advertisers if a TrueView spot is viewed to the end.) Snapfish used that information to tailor its 2012 Black Friday and Cyber Monday ad campaigns, using two eight-second videos followed by a written call to action. As a result, the company's cost per view dropped to 30 percent that of the spot tested in February. TrueView ads also were 14 percent cheaper than paid search on a CPC basis, Google says.

Balsam Hill, an online retailer of artificial Christmas trees, had run video ad campaigns in the past. Last year, it tested remarketing in an attempt to find people who had visited its website but not made a purchase. WebMetro, its agency, tested multiple variations of creative to determine which had the best view-through rates, click-through rates an conversions. The agency also tailored its calls to action to YouTube, optimizing the first five seconds of the video ads.

Originally, Balsam Hill and WebMetro had focused on remarketing only to 30-day non-converters; YouTube analytics encouraged them to expand the campaign to include other prospects on the video sharing site. Google says that the company eventually saw CPAs on YouTube that were similar in cost to search and lower in cost than most of their display campaigns. More important, Balsam Hill saw 10 times the number of conversions compared to a previous 2011 campaign, with cost-per-conversion that was 87 percent lower.

A July 2012 study by Google found that, on average four out of 10 apparel shoppers who watched a video went to a store online or in person to check out that product.

TrueView ad formats include in-stream, running as pre-, mid- or post-rolls; on YouTube's search results pages; or on the brands watch/channel page, next to partner videos.

And in August, Google extended TrueView advertising to online games, working with game publishers on the DoubleClick Ad Exchange, AdSense for games, and select publishers on AdMob.

While creative can be the biggest barrier for advertisers wanting to use YouTube, Arthur points out that the pricing model - pay only for ads that are watched for at least 30 seconds - makes it easy to test.

He says, "There used to be this idea that YouTube was a way to put their standard TV units to extend their reach and frequency to online users. Now, it's the idea of building YouTube-centric type campaigns."

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Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

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