Web video marketing, sales, and collaboration application Wistia today announced they have the first-ever heatmap tracking feature available specifically for online video engagement and tracking. Wistia’s CEO Chris Savage says the new feature is designed for visual analysis of individual viewing of video content by offering a colored display of the viewer’s interaction with web videos, and help sales and marketing teams quickly capture leads. (Watch a short video and demo of Wistia’s video heatmap in action.)

Explaining “heat maps”

A “heat map” is a 2-dimensional graphical display of data where the values taken are represented as colors. Heatmap tracking software has been an effective means for usability professionals to track engagement of users experience on a website, either by capturing the user’s visual field using eyetracking tools (on the individual level), or capturing clicks on parts of a web page (on the aggregate level) . A heat map can quickly help identify the strong and weak points on a web page, as well as testing the optimal placement of elements on a web page.

Heat map of a Google search results web page

Heat map of a Google search results web page showing both eyetracking and click-through visual data

The limitations of web page heat maps in the visitor viewing experience

Until Wistia’s release, heatmaps based on visual engagement have been a costly solution often requiring eye-tracking hardware and software, extensive setup time, and gathering individuals to be in a physical location at a given time. Even when managing all of these components, the number of participants in a heat map test can be a rather small sampling in comparison to the total number of web visitors.

Web page heatmaps have been even more hampered in attempting to tracking video engagement. Even enterprise-level solutions are only capable of tracking the “surface engagement” of that video, rather than provide any in-depth data on the actual viewing experience of the video itself. The web page heat map cannot distinguish between whether that individual user actually played the video and how they watched it, versus just having their eye linger on or around it). So unfortunately, no substantive analytics for video can be gathered from a website heatmap, to determine if the video is performing well with visitors or not.

The limitations of today’s web-based video analytics

Another big problem, which has been well documented here at ReelSEO, is that most video and analytics platforms today don’t focus on what makes the videos interesting in themselves to their audiences. Instead, they are stuck on just helping their clients monetize videos with advertising. This is despite data showing that video ads make up just 1/6th of the business video content on the web today.

Chris_Savage_CEO_Wistia-smChris says that Wistia’s new solution does focus on viewer interest, and has optimized the metrics of video to give data for two different key results: 1) Gauge the interest of the viewer, and 2) Use the viewer data towards optimizing the video for better viewer effectiveness – and from it, other video content as well. “No one else seems to be focused on this segment of video analytics yet.” Says Chris

How Wistia’s says their video heatmap solution will help sales teams

Chris says that Wistia’s heatmap measures all of the viewing interactions between the viewer and the video – including rewatching, skipping, and new viewing sessions. According to Chris, this provides a visual way “scoring” leads, giving marketing and sales teams a very visual way to know at a glance which prospects are most promising given their video viewing behavior and level of interest.

How Wistia’s Video Heatmap works

Wistia’s Video Heatmap actually consists of two features that measure a video’s performance – a Visitor Stream (for individual performance results) and an Engagement Graph (for aggregate results).

The Visitor Stream

Wistia’s “Visitor Stream” is described as a real time look at the visitors watching a particular video on a web page. As the video is being watched, Wistia instantaneously displays the individual user’s data in an easy-to-follow interface, itself consisting of three parts

  • The first part is the user identification, showing the individual user’s location, organization (ISP), and IP address. This data is gathering right when the user is about to watch the video.
  • The next part is the graphic interface, consisting of a horizontal bar. The bar displays the heat map developing in real time, with a color-coded feature indicating how often a viewed repeated watched sections of that particular video. A green bar means the viewer watched a section of the video once. Yellow, twice; orange, thrice; and red, 4+ times. Areas where a viewer didn’t watch (including being skipped over) are left blank.
  • The third part is the completion percentage, or total duration a viewer watched the video.


The Engagement Graph

Wistia’s Engagement Graphic is actually a collection of the data from all viewers put together to show a video’s overall effectiveness. This feature shows an aggregate chart of the total number of viewer’s percentage rate of watching a particular point in the video, down to the second. You can see on aggregate where people are interested, and where people are losing their attention (aka, drop-offs).

Wistia's Videostream feature

Wistia's engagement graph

My recommendations Wistia’s video heat map solution (and Wistia itself!)

grants-rant-tiki-islandWistia’s Video Heatmap does appear to be the first-of-its kind feature for visualizing video engagement in a nifty graphic user interface. But by impression of Wistia’s choice of omitting what I consider to be some key usability features could create real limits to the level, and potential, of user engagement itself. Thus I am sharing my recommendations for improvements, which I think would be especially helpful to sales and marketing teams who they are promoting themselves more heavily to:

  • Combine heatmap data with next-level engagement data. I would certainly like to see a solution that combines the viewing engagement provided by a heatmap, with the next-step action that follows the viewing experience. Right now, the Wistia heatmap only shows one follow-through activity – dropoffs. I think it would be a good feature to showcase in the video heatmap at what point people take a positive action, such as a clickthrough either on the page or in the video itself (provided the video has clickability features). (Note: Wistia can measure click-through activity from links on the web page itself stemming from viewing a video, but it doesn’t have features allowing for in-video clickability, which is an option with some other online video providers, or “OVPs.”)
  • Include sharing features. Right now, Wistia, does not include any sharing or embedding features it its video platform. Chris says that this is intentional, believing that Wistia’s customers should just want to control and measure their content on their own sites or in their Wistia environment, rather than putting all the content they create into every outside channel, or making it available for anyone and everyone to plop directly on their own websites and blogs.  “I see people syndicating a taste of their content that people can share and embed using other services and driving the most interested viewers back to the brand’s site.”

I understand wanting to have the content owner in control, so why not at least make that an option for the content owner to decide for themselves? I would argue that sharability and viral tools are very helpful to actually obtaining leads and conversions, and certainly in-video clickability. As a video marketing professional, even though I do want people to watch a video on my own website, I would rather include the option for others to share and embed it, so I don’t lose out on the greater reach online. Also, if Wistia manages to make their OVP include clickable links – similar to what Veeple does – then the audience will have real engagement options that takes visitors back to the original site, or original content items that get in front of the visitor and leads to sales.

I followed up with Chris on this point, and here is his reply in full:

We’ve never had one customer or prospect ask for in-video clickability. Our customers are more focused on getting someone to watch their entire video instead of trying to get them to click away onto something else. Postroll actions are a different story and we do have people that have built postroll actions onto their videos using our player API.

I can see the value of having clickable videos for entertainment purposes where there might be product placement, but having people click away to something mid-video on your own site seems pretty backwards to me. I think most companies have a more fundamental problem of getting visitors to actually watch their videos in the first place, which is what we’ve heard from our customers. The solution to this problem is not to make a longer video that has clickable “hot spots” ready for when someone is finally interested in what you’re talking about… with online video if they weren’t interested in the first place they won’t keep watching and waiting for that interesting clickable moment.

So Wistia has determined that their target customer base – sales teams and others involved in direct marketing – would prefer an OVP that keeps people on the website, and conducts their actual engagement experience through the website itself. So after some reflection, my comments could be construed as recommendations for if Wistia decided to make their OVP more enticing to a larger market. (But in fairness, direct marketers are a certainly large group and very well suited to online video. Add Wistia’s own project management features on top of the marketing and analytics, and you could make the reasonable argument that perhaps some social media features found standard in other OVPs may not be of primary expectation to direct marketers’ needs. Survey, anyone?)

If Wistia already knows that sales and marketing teams in the direct marketing fields share the same mindset, they they may just very well achieve at least moderate penetration of this target market. (Although I would recommend they should be including not only case studies, but comparative studies as well.) What’s more interesting is to predict whether video heatmaps will gain widespread interest to general online marketers as well? But for now, the heat is on Wistia to show more of that they not only know what direct marketers really need with their video, but how to deliver it with the results that they want.

This new video heatmap feature is now available on all accounts and pricing levels, including their 15-day trial version available to everyone.