Make the most out of how-to videos in online retail

Are you using how-to videos on your online retail store? If yes, then you already know just how useful how-to videos are for shoppers who want to learn more about the products you’re selling. If you haven’t given how-to video content much thought, then now is the perfect time to get a closer look at why they make sense for online retailers who want to make the most from visual commerce.

Are how-to videos really that popular?

Not too long ago Google published a think piece introducing the concept of “I-Want-to-Do” micro-moments that explains what stands behind our intent for consumption in the shopping journey. It happens so that these micro-moments are also responsible for giving birth to the YouTube’s how-to content movement.

YouTube is undeniably the biggest vault of how-to videos today. For many consumers, it’s the #1 place to search for tips, tutorials and advice on just about anything. There are more than 135 million how-to videos on YouTube today, instructing consumers on everything from how to tie a tie, to how to dance, make a cake or use the Apple Watch.

Searches for how-to content come from all age groups but are most popular among millennials, where 67% of this demographic group turn to YouTube for how-to videos.

Searches for how-to videos on YouTube are growing 70% year over year.
Over 100 million hours of how-to video content have been watched so far in 2015 in the US alone.

According to Google Consumer Survey conducted in April 2015, the most popular subjects for which consumers seek how-to video advice are beauty, cooking and home improvement. In the beauty category alone, over 5 billion hours of content have been uploaded in the past 10 years, including tutorials, explainers and reviews. As YouTube estimates, that’s equivalent to about 100,000 years of instructions, lessons, and tutorials! 66% of beauty consumers agree that YouTube is one of the best sources of information that helps visualise how different products fit into consumer lifestyles.

YouTube reports that how-to content is searched 3 times more than music videos.

Why are people so drawn to how-to videos about products?

67% of millennial shoppers claim they can find a how-to video on YouTube on pretty much any subject. A large volume of how-to videos are product-centric and serve as instructional guides on how to use particular products. Shoppers are always on the lookout for tips on the efficient and creative uses of products, and how-to videos speak to them on a level that written manuals never could.

1 in 3 millennial consumers link purchases directly to watching how-to videos.

Product and brand-specific how-to videos attract hundreds of thousands of views from consumers who research their future purchases or search for instructions for the items have already bought. Watching a how-to video is less intimidating than asking for help from an expert in person and takes just a fraction of the time.

What resonates with consumers is the practical and authentic aspect of these videos. They make products and brands seem accessible and break down their complexities into practical tips that can be easily applied in real-life setting. How-to videos are engaging and inspire viewers to take action.

Why should online retailers care about how-to videos?

It is clear why consumers are fond of how-to videos. They provide instant answers to practical real-life problems and help them learn about product functionalities and uses. But how relevant is this content for online retailers?

Look into shoppers’ habits. Watching how-to product videos is becoming a natural step in product discovery and evaluation. How-to product videos are highly engaging and hold viewer attention. Beside informing shoppers about product uses and functions pre-purchase, how-to videos are also useful for handling uncertainties related to a product after the fact. By demonstrating the correct use of products, how-to videos help build customer confidence in purchases, and can reduced the number of product returns attributed to false handling or assembly.

Consumers spend less and less time engaging with the content that requires reading and more time with visual format. They expect to be able to find how-to video tutorials for just about any product, and they expect retailers to feature this content right there on their websites.

Which online retailers use how-to videos successfully?

Beauty retailer Sephora is a good example of a savvy multi-brand retailer making use of how-to video content. In the aim to improve online engagement and conversion, Sephora launched a series of branded how-to videos that demonstrate the best ways to apply products carried by the retailer.

The retailer aimed to inspire viewers to discover new ways of using products. As a result, Sephora saw an 80% lift in consumer intent to shop and has drawn 300K subscribers to its YouTube channel with 37M views. is an interesting case. The retailer uses how-to videos to demonstrate to shoppers the use and installation of ramps and other products carried in its catalogue. Its YouTube channel features over 250 videos with over 2.6M views. Many of its videos are embedded directly on product pages to facilitate shoppers with learning about the functionalities of the items and how to buy the right products for their needs.

The videos are very detailed, showing different parameters that shoppers need to consider to select the product that is the right fit for their needs, making it easy for consumers to decide what to buy.

How to select the right how-to video strategy

Now that we’ve seen the benefits and examples of using how-to videos for online retailers, it’s time to discuss how to bring this content live to product pages.

1) Select which product pages could benefit from how-to videos

The first thing to consider is which products deserve to have how-to videos. Not every product always requires the aid of video to show a detailed breakdown of its uses. This is usually required for complex, multi-purpose or novelty products for which consumers would need time and practice to get acquainted with.

An easy way to check whether shoppers could benefit from how-to content is to go over the search results for that product on YouTube. If there is a substantial video content available for that product, it means that there is a demand among consumers to learn more about it via videos.

2) Choose video strategy for your online store

Consider whether you wish to create your own how-to videos or to source already existing content from video sharing platforms such as YouTube. The level of commitment you are willing to dedicate to your video strategy will guide your choice, so take into consideration the time, effort, creative resources and budget you are willing to spend on creating or curating videos.

3) What to have in mind when making your own how-to videos

Creating your own how-to video content can be an attractive if you sell merchandise under your own brand name and/or have unique expertise in the product category. When creating your own videos consider the questions and doubts customer might have when viewing a product page and what additional information they might need to alleviate possible concerns or uncertainties.

Pay attention to the production quality, as this will be tied to shoppers’ perception of the product as well as to your brand as a retailer. And make sure you are focusing at all times on the needs of the customer rather than delivering an infomercial-like hard sell in your video. Authenticity goes a long way.

4) What to consider when sourcing how-to videos from social media

For many retailers, however, sourcing already existing video content is a much more viable option, in terms of the effort and resources. YouTube is abundant with branded as well as user-generated video content on products and their use. Brand-created videos comprise 17% of content on YouTube, while user-generated content makes up 32% of videos on the social platform. This is something to consider when selecting which type of content sources to pursue.

When curating how-to videos from social media, decide which parameters are important for your online store:

  • Do you want to have brand-made videos? Do brands have their own YouTube channels with readily available how-to content that can be reused on your product pages?
  • Do you want to use user-generated videos? Are there any expert channels that provide relevant how-to content for your products?
  • Does video popularity matter for you or do you place importance on the information featured in the video?
  • Which content is likely to generate the most engagement and conversions from shoppers?

These are some of the questions worthy addressing when deciding on the how-to video strategy.

One thing to remember: no matter which strategy you choose, it is all worth it. Videos have the proven power to engage and convert shoppers and drive purchases.

This article was originally published on Goodvidio blog.

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