In 2011, YouTube videos received more than a trillion playbacks, equating to roughly 140 seen for every person on earth. Online video has become mainstream and non-media brands are moving into the space with dedicated channels aimed at creating brand engagement and driving sales.
Marks & Spencer launched M&S TV in 2009, in conjunction with Adjust Your Set. Simon Wood, head of online operations at M&S claims that one in 10 customers viewing the channel click through to the product pages, spending longer on the site and looking at three times as many products as non-viewers.
“Our customers are quite discerning and we know they visit our site in search of inspiration. Through M&S TV, we can provide exactly that,” he says. “By broadcasting compelling content, customers will spend longer browsing and this helps support sales.”
Clothing company Thomas Pink also worked with Adjust Your Set to launch its Pink TV channel in 2009 and 135,000 people have viewed its online video content since then. The aim of the channel was to replicate the in-store experience in an online environment.
“I think the migration [to TV] has come from using very striking, strong images within an ad campaign, then asking ourselves: ‘how do we give it movement and animation?’,” says Nadine Sharara, head of e-commerce at Thomas Pink.
“Pink TV was an evolution of the ad campaign and turned images into something that was more tangible from an online perspective. We have grown a lot since then, as has the content.”
Creating branded content in TV form online has been a learning curve for all companies in the space. The growing demand for online video is clear, but knowing what will prove popular on a standalone channel is less straightforward.
Discount designer lifestyle brand BrandAlley launched its online TV channel in August 2010. After seeing success with its viral videos on YouTube, it wanted to try creating more engaging video content and a dedicated channel offered a good opportunity.
“It was a test initially to see whether this engaged different types of people or our existing audience better, and then whether it would be an inspiration to shop or whether they would just go on, watch something then move off,” says Melissa Littler, UK marketing director at BrandAlley. “It has engaged a younger audience, a more male-dominated audience and they do go on and shop. They also spend a lot more time on the site, so have a higher average basket.”
Thomas Pink has learned that to be successful, branded content needs to maintain uniformity with the rest of the company’s marketing.
Sharara explains: “I think you need consistency; you get that from using the same production team and art and creative directors, for example, otherwise you could get very excited, start producing a video for everything only to realise it doesn’t have a journey.”
Some brands are discovering that their online TV branded content works best in the format of instructional or ‘how to’ videos. Beauty retailer LookFantastic launched its online TV channel in March 2010 in an effort to increase interaction with its product range.
Daniel Crown, chief executive at LookFantastic, says: “We did make-up tutorials that were very popular – so we would have leading make-up artists come in and use different products.”
BrandAlley has also created its own educational content, and has seen differing demand from men and women. Littler says that while a lot of its content is geared towards women – beauty tips, packing, what to wear and styling – the viral videos also attract male viewers.
She says this has had an impact on what content the brand features. While men want to be entertained, women are more keen on being inspired and kept in the know about trends.
Instructional videos have also worked for Thomas Pink’s Pink TV – such as how to tie a bow tie and how to tie a half Windsor [tie knot] – facilitating interaction between the brand and the customer.
“Dwell time on the website is up by about 40% since we launched our online TV channel,” says Sharara. “People know Pink TV is a destination with expert guides, so in terms of repeat views, those videos are probably the most useful.”
As LookFantastic’s Crown says, educational videos help to position brands as an authority in their area. “People may have bought things on our site but I want them to come back when they want information, such as learning how to apply make-up, rather than going to YouTube, for example,” he says.
Skincare brand Liz Earle worked with Adjust Your Set to launch its online TV channel in September 2011, seeing it as the next logical step from its website. Hannah Webley-Smith, global brand director at Liz Earle Beauty Co says the company was keen to educate consumers about looking after their skin and how they could use the brand’s range to do so.
“[The TV channel] enables us to share engaging, informative content that complements our brand messages, adding layers of education and detail on our products, botanical ingredients, team of experts and much more,” she says.
Retailers are also starting to use their online channels to strengthen their offering to their partner brands. Crown says LookFantastic has hosted content from companies such as hair brand GHD.
Littler agrees that brands are interested in how they can showcase their own products on the BrandAlley TV channel. “It is a really nice thing for us to offer the brands we work with – if we say: ‘Ok, we can host your video, here is another audience you can reach out to and promote your sale’, the sale is better off the back of it, and we’re all happy about that,” she says.
Other firms, such as M&S, syndicate their online TV content to media partners too, which Wood says builds a wider and loyal audience for the brand. Thomas Pink also has plans to syndicate an affiliate video player in 2012 featuring click-to-buy buttons that allow consumers to buy products directly from the video on third-party sites.
Syndicating the actual player rather than just content will allow it to continue to carefully track and analyse customer behaviour and sales. “We are going to be selective about who we work with, and since it is so pioneering, it will take time to build traction on it, but we are excited about the potential,” says Sharara.
Brands are also finding that dedicated online TV channels can provide them with test beds for what can be incorporated into other marketing activity.
For BrandAlley, its discovery that online video allows it to tap into a younger, more male-dominated audience will be applied across other channels.
It is early days, and brands are still working out what works and what doesn’t – without getting carried away. Littler says that her plans for 2012 are to maintain consistency and creativity.
She is reluctant to put any numbers on the amount of branded content that will be uploaded to the site each week, saying she needs to remain “realistic” about how much the brand can say through online TV because there is only “a certain budget” available.
It is clear that social media will also play an increasingly important role in the way that online TV channels expand reach and grow their audiences. Liz Earle has built “share” buttons into its video player to allow customers to send videos to contacts via social media, while Wood says M&S is developing more interactive content, which it is feeding out via social networks.
Wood adds that M&S sees this as a way of partnering with consumers to develop its brand. Ultimately, the role of branded content is to help the company attract and maintain consumer interest. He concludes: “This allows us to enter into more of a dialogue with our customers.”
Head of digital content, Debenhams
We launched Debenhams TV with the objective to become the destination for online shoppers and browsers looking for easy-to-digest advice before purchase.
One year in and the channel has had over 1 million views. Its success is down to its engaging, fun editorial videos, which bring to life what are usually still images from the website. It also taps into the expertise available within Debenhams – whether this is sharing tips, how-to explanations across beauty or lingerie and advice customers wouldn’t usually have direct access to when not shopping in-store.
From a brand perspective, video content provides an engaging way to build our brand equity online and we have seen this directly proven to boost sales. We can also track a customer’s journey – from how long they are watching content and whether they go on to make a purchase.
When Debenhams TV launched, it was very much a singular channel confined to a specific section of our site. Today, we have found that video has increasingly found its way from online to in-store, mobile and social networks, with Facebook emerging as the second biggest source of video content online, next to YouTube.
Our content aimed at women has performed the best, specifically our lingerie videos, such as our ‘bra fit guide’ and ‘lingerie buying guide for men’, as well as our key trends videos, such as those on partywear. Every video has the option to click to buy, to ensure we have consistently high brand engagement and direct conversations with customers.
Debenhams TV has had associated revenue of over £3.5m since launch, with the average basket value of those who shop after watching Debenhams TV being 12% higher than those who don’t.
Online baby retailer Kiddicare, bought last year by supermarket Morrisons, has one out-of-town superstore but no high-street presence and 80% of its business comes from its website. In 2006, the company launched Kiddicare TV, developing it into a standalone online TV channel in 2009, with all videos filmed to work across devices such as mobiles, tablets and web-enabled TVs.
Chris Wood, video commerce manager at Kiddicare, explains/ “The platform was initially created for SEO purposes and immediately benefitted the business.”
Each video’s search terms have been selected to associate the product and video catalogue together, resulting in higher views and increased customer interaction. “The main objectives of creating online video content that highlighted each product’s functionality were to increase sales revenue and reduce returns; and to increase brand awareness by returning ‘video in search’ results,” says Wood.
He adds that Kiddicare TV is product-centric. “Instead of making the video all about the brand, it focuses on the product and its unique selling point, demonstrating how to use it, in the same way that would be done in person in the superstore,” he says.
The site also hosts many own-brand pages, powered by a video wall. Research into the viewing habits of site users shows that manufacturers’ videos perform poorly in terms of sales conversions, in comparison to Kiddicare-created and branded videos. “This appears to be because customers perceive branded content as a staged presentation of the products and tend not to trust it,” says Wood.
In addition to more than 90,000 written customer reviews on the site, Kiddicare introduced a video option in 2010, with reviews accessible directly from the product information page. “User-generated content is undoubtedly the most popular video content on Kiddicare, receiving approximately five times the views of the professional videos,” says Wood.
He adds that if a product is supported by video content, it is usually the number one selling product in its category on the site. “Products with supporting video content show between a 20% and 50% upturn in sales, a 75% decrease in shopping cart abandonment and a 30% reduction in returns.”
The online TV channel also helps the brand to be more efficient in its customer feedback. “Once directed to a video by the Kiddicare.com customer service team, 90% of customers with problems do not call back with further queries or problems,” he says.
On average, 42 short videos are uploaded to the Kiddicare site per week and receive approximately 865,000 million views on Kiddicare TV each month.
nma explains branded content
Branded content is fast becoming one of the most effective forms of online marketing. No longer limited to the web, brands that adopt online TV channels can now extend them across mobile and tablet devices along with connected TVs.
Meanwhile, click-to-buy features within the videos themselves have been proven to lead to increased conversion rates.
In adopting online TV channels, brands are becoming even more like media owners, using their online hubs to test different types of creative content and formats, and in doing so learn more about their audience.
new media age