Online merchants increasingly are using video content—whether product tutorials or shoppable social media posts—in innovative ways to boost brand identity and sales.

Web-only Eloquii Design Inc. wants to give plus-size customers permission to break outdated fashion rules. And the apparel retailer says the most compelling and effective way to embolden its girl is through video.

Video content builds a sense of community and allows Eloquii to connect more deeply with shoppers, says Kristen Campolattaro, vice president of brand marketing and consumer insights. Video has proven to be worth the investment, driving branding and business, she adds.

“Storytelling is so powerful, and we’ve used video to elevate special collections, telling the story of how [they] came to be and the inspiration behind it all,” Campolattaro says. “It’s also a great way for us to offer styling inspiration. We can’t physically style all of our customers, so we use video to help her get the look.”

Like a number of other retailers and vendors recently featured in the Internet Retailer 2018 Hot 100, Eloquii is discovering that video is a versatile marketing tool that can combine narrative, emotional elements or stylized tutorials with product placement in a way that translates into increased sales.

The company, No. 546 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000 rankings of North America’s leading online retailers, develops most of its video strategy and creative ideas in house but uses production vendors to bring concepts to life. 

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Campolattaro says Eloquii’s most innovative video initiative has been “Closet Confidential,” a series following real customers who are invited to the retailer’s headquarters for a personal styling session, which is documented on camera. The goal is to get a shopper to step out of her comfort zone, which inspires viewers to do the same—with new wardrobe items from Eloquii.

Integrating video content has had measurable e-commerce benefits including increased brand loyalty and a boost in conversion rate, Campolattaro says. “We see especially promising metrics for video in high-funnel Instagram ads,” she adds. “Prospects who watch the majority of a video ad are considerably more likely to convert on a follow-up ad.”

Eloquii declined to disclose how much it spends on these projects or to provide specific data on these results.

More than half—51.9%—of all Top 1000 merchants feature video content in some form on their sites, according to an analysis of Top500Guide.com data. Collectively, these retailers have posted more than 85,000 videos on YouTube with the average upload number per company at just less than 304. So, while video production and integration is not an entirely new frontier in e-commerce, retailers still are experimenting with the medium to best capitalize on sales in a Snapchat-primed market.

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That’s where MikMak comes in. The technology services provider, which was featured in a Hot 100 spotlight as a progressive company in the retail video realm, says it creates commerce experiences for the social-video generation by integrating with both Instagram and Snapchat to make stories shoppable. The business offers both a software suite called MikMak Attach, which creates a vertical video product landing page that can connect to any cart and is licensed to retailers with a flat fee, plus creative services via MikMak Studios. The studios group tackles end-to-end video production to create short-form product videos that prompt browsers to hit the add-to-cart button.

“I truly believe the internet is about to become one big video, and commerce will have to be a part of it in a significant way,” says CEO Rachel Tipograph, who left her job leading global digital and social media at Gap Inc. (No. 24) to found MikMak. “We want to make social video commerce always on for brands.”

MikMak has worked with Under Armour Inc. (No. 36), Birchbox Inc. (No. 199), Kate Spade (No. 124), B&H Photo-Video (No. 241), L’Oréal Group (No. 276) and others to help the brands scale social video commerce and bridge the gap between consuming videos and completing checkout. According to Tipograph, once MikMak Attach is loaded, nearly 14% of users add the product in a story to their cart. The company also has grown by 100% every year since its 2015 launch.

Tipograph references recent eMarketer data on the state of social commerce that cites 86% of users who said video within social media channels impacted their purchase decision more than images, texts, GIFs and live streams. The attention to storytelling is there, she adds, and not just from big names with giant marketing budgets.

“SMBs are open to being scrappy—they’ll shoot tons of videos from their phones and even use that content in paid media,” Tipograph says. “We constantly see how lo-fi content can often perform better than polished commercial content.” Shoppers now are used to clips that are lo-fi, or a more inferior quality of sound reproduction.

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In fact, mobile feeds have collapsed the marketing funnel, she adds.

“You will see a million-dollar commercial next to a cheap razor ad in your Instagram feed,” Tipograph says. “The customer today doesn’t care about your media plan—it’s all one canvas, and [direct-response] marketing has now become brand-building marketing.”

She mentions client Dr. Brandt Skincare as one brand that has made video the core of its product marketing. Every SKU has multiple versions of videos to determine which key attributes will cause a shopper to move down the funnel. A 27-second Snap ad shows a tutorial for the application and removal of a facial mask, includes a 40% off coupon code, and features buttons for more product information with the price displayed and a prompt to add the item to a browser’s cart. Tipograph also showcases Living Proof’s Instagram story for a molding clay product that targets women with short hair and a holiday cookie decorating how-to for Pepperidge Farm at Target Corp. (No. 20).

Smart-home products e-retailer Wink—another Hot 100 merchant—also has embraced the how-to concept in its video content, which explains to shoppers how a smart home can function and illustrates how consumers can operate and manage a connected house.

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“Most people want the benefits of a smart home, but they think it might be too complicated. People aren’t quite sure what it means and how it fits into their lives,” says Matt McGovren, Wink’s vice president of marketing and partnerships. “Short-form video content can help cut through those barriers and show that this technology is for everyone.”

The retailer’s homepage features a video aimed at demystifying the concept of a smart home, and additional videos are featured throughout the site. Shoppers can see how real-life Wink customers use their gadgets to streamline daily living tasks, such as adjusting the thermostat, turning off the lights, shutting the garage door or remotely turning off a hair straightener that was left plugged in.

According to McGovren, the idea is to show a Wink.com visitor how an investment in smart-home products can make her life easier. Wink produces some of its own videos in house and works with contractors for other content.

As a seller of products that fall into the computers and electronics category, Wink is in the company of other retailer groups with higher rates of using video content on their e-commerce sites.

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While more than seven out of every 10 online merchants that offer toys and hobby-related items feature on-site videos—the highest percentage of any of the 15 product categories tracked by Internet Retailer—the computers and electronics gang lands in fourth with 57.5% integrating the medium. More than half of the product categories have the majority of retailers in their ranks using video.

To read more about these companies and other innovative online retailers, download the free issue of Internet Retailer’s 2018 Hot 100.

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