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Measuring Online ROI: Brands Turn to Video as Consumer Yardstick

Video is proving to be the most powerful digital medium for reaching consumers in a measurable way.

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Even though brands and retailers have spent the past few years acquiring robust followings on the leading social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr — coupled with editorial content, blogs and e-commerce on their respective digital flagships, there is still no universal way to measure return on investment in the digital space.

But there is a way to obtain data on which platforms have begun to work in terms of fueling sales and driving traffic to e-commerce sites — and it’s all about video.

Video is proving to be the most powerful digital medium for reaching consumers in a measurable way — from YouTube to video commerce platform Joyus to retailers implementing video functionality on their own product pages. Additionally, an increasingly visual customer continues to gravitate to Instagram, with the platform dominating the user-generated content that is created and disseminated online.

YouTube has more than 1 billion viewers a month tuning in, according to Lisa Green, head of industry, branded apparel and fashion at Google. Companies like Macy’s, Chanel, Calvin Klein and Net-a-porter — although all active on YouTube — by no means intend to reach such a mass audience on their respective brand channels or through TrueView in-stream advertising (the current most-popular form of advertising on YouTube). With TrueView ads — divided into categories in-stream, in-slate, in-search and in-display — viewers choose if they want to watch the ad, and advertisers pay only when viewers watch. In-stream ads display video as an ad break prior to or during a YouTube partner video, and viewers have the option to skip after five seconds or watch the ad. According to Green, brands like the above are tailoring their content and advertising strategies to YouTube to reach their target customers.

“When you employ that type of strategy, that’s where you see your sales lift. Brands can either choose to target based on content or based on the demographic or who is watching the category,” Green said.

She pointed out some telling statistics YouTube garnered from a study conducted in partnership with third-party research firm Compete: Four in 10 consumers visited a store either online or in person as a direct result of watching a video online. She added that this shopper also tends to be a retailer’s most valuable customer, and 28 percent of those who watched a retailer’s online video spent more than $500 on apparel in the past six months, while only two percent of non-video watchers did.

Calvin Klein has seen a string of social media successes in the past year — much of the content centered around video on YouTube. The brand released a 32-second short featuring Lara Stone to introduce its new Push Positive Bra in August of last year — the video has seen nearly 10.9 million views to date and more than 450 million impressions. TrueView in-stream ads hit simultaneously, and Calvin Klein took over YouTube’s homepage in 10 markets, including Singapore, Taiwan and Korea.

“As a brand, video has not only been integral to our overall communications strategy but also a part of the brand identity. We see YouTube as the natural place to house and curate our digital video content. This complementary relationship led us to take a holistic approach to YouTube,” Calvin Klein chief executive officer Tom Murry said of the brand, recognizing the platform’s value as a home and destination to disperse innovative content online. “[It’s] an impactful way to reach and interact with our audience through multiple touch points — desktop, tablet and mobile.”

The company’s research showed that the audience retention rate for the Lara Stone video surpassed 80 percent — well above the industry standard — and the launch of the Push Positive was the single-best bra launch in the brand’s history. During campaign periods, calvinklein.com saw a 30 percent increase in overall traffic and a 385 percent increase in referral traffic from YouTube.

YouTube is also integral to Calvin Klein in terms of helping the brand spread video content to acquire new consumers, according to Melisa Goldie, executive vice president and chief creative officer at Calvin Klein. The brand includes code for its embed player when distributing video, allowing for third-party outlets to publish videos and grow viewership on these platforms. Nearly 40 percent of total organic video views come from embed players on blogs, news outlets and other third-party sites. Also, all content is optimized for mobile, as one in four views to YouTube come from a mobile device and about 20 percent of the brand’s YouTube video views come from mobile.

On February 3, the brand unveiled its first-ever Super Bowl spot for the new men’s Concept underwear line (the commercial has seen 2.9 million views on YouTube) — and simultaneously, billboards in SoHo drove traffic to the brand’s YouTube channel, where the 10-minute “Provocations” film starring Alexander Skarsgård (the spring 2013 ad campaign for Calvin Klein Collection, ck Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein Jeans) has seen about 410,000 views. A 30-second version of the spot has received almost 3.8 million views.

“We utilized multiple social platforms and complemented our strategy with a strong media buy on YouTube. During a very competitive advertiser period, we were able to gain additional exposure with over 12.8 million impressions. We also maintained a very high audience retention rate of over 85 percent,” Goldie said of the Concept campaign. For Provocations, an omnichannel approach was taken by the brand where a key component involved tagging global media (print, outdoor and digital) with the direct link to Calvin Klein’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/calvinklein. It also had significant global scale — running across 17 markets and garnering 320 million total impressions.

Topshop’s fall 2013 Unique show campaign, a collaborative effort with Google+, was a multipronged approach that kicked off five days before the retailer’s runway show in February. Topshop’s Google+ page was populated with branded content, as were topshop.com and the other social platforms the company is active on, and with three days until showtime, a “Topshop London Fashion Week: Be the Model” photo booth was installed in the Oxford Street flagship store. Consumers were encouraged to try on outfits and take pictures in the booth that were turned into shareable GIFs. Two days before the show, behind-the-scenes videos hit Topshop’s YouTube channel, and on the day of the show, Google Hangouts with celebrities, bloggers and fans were broadcast. The runway show was live-streamed on a myriad of platforms — topshop.com, Google+, Twitter and in the Oxford Street store, as well as embedded on numerous blogs and other Web sites — and views of the show (and related content) on YouTube and topshop.com surpassed 4 million, according to Topshop chief marketing officer Justin Cooke. Traffic driven to the site from Google+ multiplied by 1,400 percent from the season prior and mentions on Twitter doubled and even trended globally during the show.

“The beauty of video is we can say exactly what we want to say — it’s like being a movie director. You choose the cast, the script and you know the ending. That’s powerful for us,” Cooke told WWD of the company’s strategy, noting that music is also integral in capturing the mood with film. “There is a saying that ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ — well, maybe a video tells a million.”

Beauty sales were the highest ever in one day due to the “Get the Look From the Runway” initiative that Topshop implemented to elevate the beauty used on models in the show. Opting for an instant-purchase option, versus waiting six months for the trend to arrive, was key here, said Cooke.

Touted as the fashion industry’s first premium video e-tailer for direct response videos, Joyus revealed on May 6 that it’s raised an additional $11.5 million in Series B funding led by InterWest Partners and Time Warner Investments — bringing total capital raised to more than $19 million. Prior to Joyus’ September 2011 launch, Accel Partners led an initial round of $7.9 million, which included Harrison Metal and Silicon Valley angel investors.

Joyus founder and chief executive officer Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, a Google veteran, told WWD that she’s spent the last 18 months conducting research about the goings on within the video and commerce space.

Singh Cassidy cited the release of “The Evolution of Online Video,” a study conducted by Joyus that looked at data from March 2012 to March of this year that supports the notion that video shopping does work.

“Not only does video work as a way to drive direct sales, but we now think we have a good ability to predict commerce. If you think about a world where video isn’t just about engagement and the hope for [user] sharing — a video can really be a premium content story that sells product,” she said, revealing that whether a brand is fashion, beauty or lifestyle, each view on Joyus generates between 47 and 93 cents in revenue. This translates to every thousand views of video on Joyus resulting in $470 to $930 in direct sales revenue for the featured products in the video.

Theresia Gouw, a partner at Accel Partners, called video shopping the “next-best thing” to being in a store — except a store isn’t always open, and consumers can watch a video online whenever they want. She cited conversion rates on Joyus.com as being three to five times more than that of the average e-commerce site — which is in the 2 percent range, with better scorers reaching as high as three to four percent.

“Social media has been great for brand awareness and more as retention marketing to get people to friend or follow you — and then you have this opportunity to continue to market to your already-loyal base. That’s a different thing. It’s important, don’t get me wrong, but this is actually helping brands to do direct selling. This is filling a new opportunity that hasn’t been addressed before on the Internet,” Gouw said.

According to a study by New York University Think Tank Luxury Lab, or L2, in 2011 just one in five brands registered YouTube as a top-eight platform for referral traffic, but by 2012 the number had doubled to 40 percent. In just one year, the balance shifted from Facebook to YouTube as fewer brands registered Facebook as a top driver of traffic.

“This is starting to show the power of video in general. It’s a way to push consumers further down the purchase funnel,” said Maureen Mullen, L2’s director of research and brand advisory.

She credits Saks Fifth Avenue’s implementation of video into its e-commerce site last year with boosting conversion rates at saks.com. Mullen believes that a retailer making sizable investments in video can prove to create a strong showcase for a brand. Diane von Furstenberg and Tory Burch are getting into video too, introducing quick-load videos that are starting to roll out to mobile. “It’s more powerful than a lot of the original fashion video that was much more branded,” Mullen said of e-commerce-specific online video versus videos of runway shows or behind-the-scenes shoots, which better serve the purpose of raising brand awareness and not so much driving transactions.

In the rush to get ever more data on consumers and their behavior, more platforms are being launched. Olapic is an almost two-year-old technology solution that helps brands personalize and boost their bottom line by giving them the tools they need to best reach their consumer online. This means that Olapic can analyze and connect user-generated content from various social media with the e-commerce experience to let brands know how they can increase sales.

The company has been able to help Nasty Gal and Lululemon take engaged social-media followings and translate this to a lift in sales for each company’s respective digital flagship — and since January has signed 22 brands that include Coach, New Balance, Saucony, Dannijo and Bauble Bar. Cofounders Pau Sabria, Jose de Cabo and Luis Sanz said the company is in line to generate at least $25 million for its clients collectively this year.

De Cabo said that partners see a 5 to 7 percent cost-to-conversion increase on an e-commerce site’s overall conversion when they fully integrate the software. For example, a search on Instagram for the hashtag #nastygal results in more than 55,000 images — and Olapic can curate these images and link them to the actual product pages on nastygal.com that contain the items pictured.

The technology finds that more than 82 percent of photos culled from social networks come from Instagram, with the remaining 11, 5 and 2 percent from Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, respectively. The top-converting photos come from Instagram, and each of these images has an average click-through rate of between 15 and 20 percent that bring the customer to the product on the product-detail page. De Cabo compares this to the average click-through rate for banner ads, which is much lower, at just 0.11 percent. Olapic has found that users spend approximately double the time on a Web site when user-generated content is integrated into the e-commerce experience, and clients that use reviews see five times the engagement when user-generated photos are incorporated.

On April 24, Olapic introduced an analytics tab that enables brands to see the percentage of the source of photos and the most-engaged photos displayed on the site (as well as how many clicks the photo receives and how many clicks are converted to purchase). The tool also gives the ability to differentiate top products and sort photos from different categories to see what’s performing best.

As part of a push to evolve into a fashion footwear business, Coach launched its #CoachFromAbove campaign in mid-April. The brand is using Olapic to enable the hashtag functionality and moderate images — the back-end integration work — but instead of having user-generated content appear on content pages, there’s a dedicated page at coachfromabove.coach.com featuring fans who’ve published images with the dedicated hashtag.

“We want to keep the path to commerce pure — you can rate and review but that’s the extent on the product page. There’s no user-generated content [here],” said David Duplantis, Coach’s executive vice president of global Web and digital media. He added that this ongoing campaign is unique because it targets consumers who’ve already purchased footwear by using them as advocates to create buzz with content they can create themselves.

And while Instagram is a powerful tool that requires relatively little capital on behalf of participating brands, for Mullen, the use of mobile technology to increase conversion rates and weld the in-store and online shopping experience is where organizations will need to invest going forward.

“Instagram is a short-term optimization investment, but when you start talking about the strong offline and online linkages — those are two- to three-year road-map investments that require a lot of capital,” she explained.

Looking at the e-commerce space specifically, Mullen said a lot of brand investment right now is going toward integrating point-of-sale systems that link up with e-commerce fulfillment systems and similar large-scale technology updates. The next step after updating back-end systems, though, is investing in platforms that allow organizations to bridge that connection between what’s happening online and offline.

“When you can start putting attribution metrics in place to show the relationship between online and offline behavior, that’s where this stuff gets powerful,” Mullen said, noting that Sephora, Macy’s and Nordstrom have begun to do this well — and all have seen lifts in conversion when they combine the omnichannel experience.

 

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