More than twenty years after online shopping started wending its way into our consciousness, the e-commerce experience hasn’t evolved all that much.

Retail marketers aren’t lying in bed at night contemplating how to use interactive video (assuming they even know what it is or that the technology is within their reach). But they probably should be. They’re far more concerned with the ROI on their campaigns (often utilising video), how to replicate in-store experiences online and how to differentiate their brand from the hundreds of other retailers vying for a slice of the e-commerce pie.

Interactive video delivers on all fronts.

 

Extracting real value from content

The incredible rise of e-commerce makes sense. Shaking off the confines of bricks and mortar, online retailers can offer tens of thousands of products to the world, versus a few dozen items in a boutique for whoever happened to pass by. With fewer overheads—pesky middlemen, stores and sales assistants—the internet emerged as a bargain-hunter’s dream.

Big online superstores, all bright colours and crammed with products, are the digital equivalent of the high street discount shop with lairy signage and shelves stuffed with merchandise. The message that’s fed to consumers—loads of products at a discount—is one of price and convenience.

It’s a perception that has largely persisted (more on that in a moment) meaning retail margins are tighter than ever, spilling over into bricks and mortar as stores are forced perpetually into sale mode. Consumers have been trained to never pay full price. If you won’t sell them what they want at a price they’re prepared to pay, a Google search will uncover someone who will.

Interactive video delivers an ROI edge with greater breadth and depth of data, going beyond basic views/completion metrics. Every interaction tells you something about the viewer. They help drive the audience through the sales funnel and you come out the other side with qualitative insights into how they feel about the content they see. When every cent matters, such a compelling content value proposition is critical.

 

Elevating online brand experiences

It’s not entirely fair to say all e-commerce is price-focused. You can buy pretty much anything online and luxury brands have embraced e-commerce as much as any other. But for many brands, bricks and mortar remains a powerful tool in the marketing arsenal. It’s where the ‘brand experience’ is most fully realised through scent, touch, service, ambience—the elements that a static photo on a device can’t replicate.

Video, as we know, can have a richer, more visceral effect on the viewer—just look at the popularity of ASMR content on YouTube. Add interactivity and video has the potential to ignite the senses and reimagine the online shopping experience to be as invigorating as going in store.

This is a game changer for brands that rely heavily on sensory appeal, like fashion and beauty. Consider a video of a beautiful dress billowing in the breeze, moving in for a close-up showing the fabric’s drape and texture, and the sound as it swishes through the air. Pop-up descriptions of the fibre content along with shoppable links do so much more to immerse the viewer than a simple hover-to-zoom photograph. 

 

 

Branching videos—a kind of choose-your-own-adventure style of interactive video—can allow a viewer to select additional garments to style their own outfit or to build a complete makeup look. Think of it as a far more effective version of “products you may also like”.

Find ways to give online customers the same level of engagement they get in store and all of a sudden they’re coveting (and buying) four items instead of one.

 

Creating maximum impact

Covid-19 has made us all lean more heavily on e-commerce. Lockdown cements online shopping habits that will continue long after coronavirus is a distant memory. Make no mistake, though, the pandemic didn’t create the shift to e-commerce, all it has done is accelerate a trend that was already well in motion, forcing laggard brands and consumers to get with the program.

That acceleration has the inevitable consequence of creating more competition, motivating brands to find ways to stand out. Clickable interactive video is so effective in this regard because it’s shiny and new. It looks fresh and feels different. Because it fundamentally changes the way people watch video, that makes it more memorable, more engaging and more shareable… now those are the kinds of things retail marketers lie in bed at night thinking about.