It has now been six months since the outbreak of COVID-19. But most days, it feels like it’s been much longer. The pandemic has forced businesses like yours to innovate to stay afloat. Ecommerce businesses especially are facing additional challenges because millions of new customers are now shopping online. You’re in a tight spot. On the one hand, you have limited options for creating new content. But on the other hand, you desperately need new video content for eCommerce to stay competitive.
Most production companies were shut down by the crisis. They are just now beginning to slowly ramp back up after six months of inactivity. Agencies and brands have struggled with their content pipelines, even as production companies attempted to pivot their production strategies.
The content production landscape has undergone major changes in response to COVID.
Some big businesses have dealt with this challenge by successfully utilizing old footage. A great example is Nike’s recent spot by Portland ad-agency Wieden+Kennedy. But there are only so many ways to re-edit old content. This is especially true if you are a small to medium-sized company with a limited bank of available content. Some businesses have attempted to film some of their own content. But let’s face it, most people just cannot produce campaign-ready content at home. After all, you are business people, not cinematographers or actors. Unless you’re doing a fireside-chat video, an iPhone recording of you in your living probably won’t cut it. To showcase your product or service offering, you need something more than a smartphone recording.
You could turn to stock footage—but so can every other person on the planet. Your business needs custom videos that will stand out from the crowd. There are pros and cons that come with using stock footage. A major pro is that it can be a good source of revenue and a great alternative to shooting. On the other hand, existing stock footage may not specifically help you tell your unique story all on its own. One way to get around this is by strategically supplementing productions with stock video. This is much more effective than relying on stock videos for every single frame. This is especially true for eCommerce, where your videos need to be immediately identifiable with your brand.
So, let’s go over some strategies, trends, and workflow tips for creating amazing eCommerce video content during COVID.
Because things can go wrong, or they can go really really right.
Yes, you do need to be aware of some very important changes. The typical, pre-pandemic video production workflow does not exist in its same form. But a remote production workflow presents unique affordances and opportunities if you’re prepared to capitalize on them.
If you’re new to getting video content produced for you, keep reading. Did you already have a video strategy but now you’re trying to figure out how to adapt to the pandemic? Skip down to How eCommerce Videos Need to Change Due to COVID.
Ultimately, the pandemic doesn’t have to affect your ability to create great videos.
Why Video Was Essential for eCommerce
If you sell anything online, you absolutely need to include videos. This was true pre-COVID and it remains true today. Ecommerce businesses use video content to compete with brick and mortar stores. If a potential customer cannot touch and feel your products in person, then you need to innovate. You needa incredibly engaging and informative video content to convince them to make the purchase.
Market research shows that using videos can increase pretty much every KPI in your business. Let’s start with engagement and bounce-rate. More people will choose to watch the video when given a choice between text and video. This reduces the bounce rate. Plus, videos are multisensory which means they’re more likely to stick in your prospect’s mind longer than plain text. Finally, humans process video faster than text.
Videos can help you turn prospects into customers faster.
Every eCommerce business should be incorporating videos into their marketing strategy. Whether you sell products or services, there is a video format for you. For instance, you could do product highlight videos, product reviews, or unboxing videos. You could incorporate behind the scenes fabrication videos, do an animated explainer video, or produce a classic advertising video. Short videos are always better and the ideal video length is under two minutes. Product videos can be longer if you’re showcasing features and demonstrating how it works.
In pre-COVID times, videos were already king of content. Many eCommerce companies also placed a heavy emphasis on UGC or user-generated content. First, customers receive and film their product. Then, eCommerce companies can capitalize on this free content and incorporate it into their websites and social media feeds.
Even before the pandemic hit, there was already a growing trend towards remote collaboration and production tools among eCommerce businesses. It can be easier for a business to scale if your team can work remotely. Many eCommerce teams are spread out across the country or even the world. They can include full-time employees and freelancers who perform one-off video production tasks.
Why Video Is Even MORE Essential Now
COVID means that even if you have a public-facing office or store, people may prefer to go online to make their purchase. This is likely to be a lasting change in business, regardless of a widespread vaccine.
Video content for eCommerce is even more essential now because eCommerce businesses must compete for customers alongside companies with established storefronts. During COVID, these companies redirected their sizable budgets toward creating great eCommerce experiences.
Not only is public health a major incentive for shopping online, but eCommerce can be faster, easier, and offer more options for personalization. Sure, your customers can’t see, touch, sample, or try on products IRL. But a high-quality video can produce almost exactly the same experience from within the comfort of their own home. Rather than sitting through a salesperson’s pitch, a video can preemptively answer all your customer’s questions. This empowers them to hit Purchase with a high degree of confidence. Plus, they can pause the video anytime and come back to it later.
Using videos in eCommerce can make shopping from home more seamless.
For instance, customers can now watch a product feature video on Instagram and immediately visit the checkout page for that specific item. Online shopping also has the potential to be more delightful. This is especially true if the user experience integrates in-home technology to deliver an amazing (and branded) shopping experience. Augmented reality and virtual reality videos can enable customers to envision what your product will look like in their homes.
Finally, great videos can draw more people to your company website. This allows you to collect cookies and track other customer data. This helps you improve your business’s online experience and re-target these visitors later.
The point is that great video can help businesses stand out. With increased competition in the eCommerce marketplace due to COVID, videos are even more essential now than they were pre-pandemic.
How eCommerce Videos Need to Change Due to COVID
Video content needs to change post-COVID. It’s no longer acceptable to simply present your product and ask people to buy it. Today’s customers need to see your product or service situated in the context of today’s world. Not only that, but they want to know who you are and what values you hold.
In a recent survey, one out of five people said they plan to purchase more items now through Amazon than they did pre-pandemic. Instead of seeing this as a threat, see this as an opportunity. You can make your company stand out as an alternative. Showcase your values, your responsivity, your homegrown roots, and your high-quality products. Amazon is popular because it has a wide product selection and user experience is predictable. But you can compete on other fronts.
COVID has kept loved ones apart for months. Major corporations have furloughed their workers and people are struggling for balance and security. People are feeling delicate right now. Any eCommerce video strategy should speak directly to the universal human experience. Millions of people around the world are sharing this moment.
This is the perfect moment for your eCommerce business to show its personality, highlight its relationships, and foreground its employees and customers.
In terms of technology and production methods, eCommerce businesses need to implement new solutions for creating engaging videos. Whether it’s a round-up of user-generated videos from your former clients or an animated video presenting your new product, the time to innovate is now.
How Video Production Works Normally
Most businesses hire out their videos because the process of film production is highly complicated. Great videos don’t just happen by chance. First, you need to find a visual and narrative concept that will clearly showcase your product. It must also appeal to your target market. You also need to confine your imagination to the budget and locations that are available to you.
Great video content for eCommerce require a well-oiled machine. This includes a skilled crew, talented on-camera performers, excellent equipment, and a post-production team of editors and composers. Some companies handle both strategy and production in-house. This can make it easier to stick to the brief and pivot if problems arise during production.
In normal times, here’s what video production looked like. We’ll go over the Strategy phase (pre-production) and the Execution phase (production and post-production).
Strategy Phase: Video Content for eCommerce
You need to answer the following questions to create truly effective video content for eCommerce:
- Who is our target audience?
- What problem is our product or service solving for?
- How can we stand out from our competitors?
- What will we showcase to stand apart?
- Which emotions do we want viewers to feel?
- What visual style is appropriate given our brand and our product/service?
- What actions do we want the audience to take?
- Where will this video live (platforms)?
Video production requires the participation of many people who are trained to perform highly specific tasks. Each person utilizes complex tools and equipment specific to their job title.
You may not think that makeup or wardrobe is complicated, but the industry is rife with stories of people trying (and failing) to do it all themselves. For instance, trained makeup artists know which color palettes look best on different skin tones. They know how to make talent look fantastic no matter who you cast. They also understand how the camera “sees” makeup on human skin. This allows them to create a polished look that doesn’t look cakey or unnatural.
In this strategy phase, it’s typically the writers, producers, and business owners who shape the content. The producer is responsible for creating some sort of project management system (like a GANTT chart) for tracking deliverables. This holds true for both big and small projects, from local advertising spots to major feature films. Producers may also coordinate the hiring of key personnel and help oversee the budget.
After the vision is defined, other team members can be hired.
Someone will need to research a location and secure appropriate permits. Writers create the script and break it down into scenes and a shooting script to organize shoot days. Not all scripts are shot sequentially. For instance, if there are costume changes or location changes it might make more sense to shoot out of order. Grips and cinematographers are needed to handle lighting and camera rigging. The casting director will find the right person who can appeal to your target audience. This person must also have the training to execute the campaign you have in mind. You should also hire various stylists to handle set dressing, product styling, wardrobe, hair and makeup for your talent.
This stage involves a lot of coordination between different departments. This is necessary to ensure a cohesive strategy and comprehensive visual style are presented. Think video calls, meetings, shared Google docs, and more. And that’s just pre-production.
Execution Phase: Video Content for eCommerce
If you’ve never been on set, it’s like being on a whole other planet. Crew members speak an entirely different language because there are film-specific terms for things. For instance, C47 (clothespin) and 10-1 (trip to the bathroom).
To really understand how film production works, check out a behind-the-scenes industry site like Raindance. There is a shooting script and it’s almost never adhered to 100%. Actors are wrangled. Batteries are charged (and recharged). A script supervisor keeps an eye on each scene to make sure that no serious deviations occur between script and spoken text. A stylist keeps track of the product or props to show them off in their best light. Someone else is in charge of “dailies,” or raw and unedited footage shot during that day. This footage is quickly categorized and offloaded. This allows cinematographers and directors to review the dailies each night before returning to set the next day. This helps them fix mistakes and get on the same page.
In post-production, the director works with colorists, editors, and composers or music supervisors to assemble the final video. Depending on the size of the project, post-production can take between one week for a TV commercial and many months.
It’s easy for a director to easily yell to a gaffer to fix the lighting. They can pull an actor aside to coach them through a scene. In normal production times, in-person interactions were pretty crucial to on-set processes.
But when in-person interactions are off the table, everything changes.
How Video Content for eCommerce Works During a Public Health Crisis
Some parts of the video production process are easy to do remotely. But other parts are made more difficult, especially if the production company has never done it remotely before.
Strategy Phase: Video Content for eCommerce
The brief creation process is the foundation of every video production. In this stage, the client works with the production company to describe exactly what they want to achieve with the shoot. This process is mostly the same as in pre-pandemic times, but there are some notable differences.
You still need most of the same people (like a casting director and a director). But because of COVID, the strategy creation and hiring processes now occur primarily over video calls or online.
The brief creation process is even more important now. A great brief template can unlock the key to excellent videos, and you don’t need to meet in-person. This stage becomes even more important when you’re making eCommerce videos during a public health crisis.
The brief can get key stakeholders aligned on strategy. This is the time when the production company needs to show you what they can (and can’t) do for you with regard to remote production.
Execution Phase: Video Content for eCommerce
Here’s where it can get tricky. On a remote production, the camera person, actor, and director will probably be in separate locations. They will need some way to communicate via video or voice. They also need a way to replay footage so that adjustments can be made. Rather than simply leaning over to watch a scene on the monitor, a camera person might have to offload the footage and then wait for it to upload. Not all directors are comfortable directing over Zoom.
If your video content for eCommerce is using a combination of stock footage, motion graphics, and voiceover, then the production process is a bit easier.
Most of these tasks can be performed separately and remotely. For instance, professional voiceover artists frequently have a home sound booth where they record alone. The person selecting the stock footage needs to ensure that it is royalty-free. It also needs to be eligible for commercial purposes with alterations. Your editor needs to be aware of royalty-free music databases. They need to choose music that’s not so generic that everyone has heard it on a YouTube advertisement a million times already.
Not all production companies are comfortable working remotely. Filmmaking is inherently a team sport.
But some companies worked this way even before COVID hit.
DIY Or Outsource It?
If you want to do all of this yourself, make sure that your eCommerce business can handle all the tasks listed above. That means budget and capacity. The only thing worse than no video is a bad video.
On the other hand, you could outsource your video production. All you have to do is articulate the strategy. You can also work hand-in-hand with an agency to create a killer brief, so you know for sure that they can execute on it.
If you’re outsourcing, look for an agency with an eCommerce-specific portfolio. They should handle the entire process in-house, including scripting, casting, production, and post-production.
When it’s time to create video content for eCommerce, choose videos that can make the biggest impact. Instagram is a great way to utilize product videos, especially with in-app purchasing options. Adding a video to your splash page is another excellent way to create eye-catching movement on your website.
If you’re on a budget, don’t get videos made for Meet the Team pages or testimonials. These could be just as successful with text and beautifully designed avatars, or embedded Google business reviews.
In the end, you just want to put your money where it will have the most impact. COVID has made it challenging to understand the best options for producing great eCommerce video content.
But all you need to know is that the film production landscape is changing. Production companies are adapting and you still have a lot of options when it comes to creating video content during COVID.
Don’t let the pandemic stand between you and great videos.