Buried right down on page 7 of a 10-page report, the 2014 Future of Retail Study from Walker Sands Communications, is a tiny, but amazingly powerful statistic. Over half of the people in their research had a purchase influenced by a YouTube video. Not a video advertisement, a YouTube video. That's some pretty astounding information so let's dive deeper into it.

2014 Future of Retail Study Methodology

To understand the statistics, we need to understand how the numbers were put together. Here's what they had to say about the methodology:

Based on an analysis of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, Walker Sands’ latest survey uncovers what consumers want in an omni-channel shopping experience and how retailers can use technology to increase sales in 2014 and beyond.

In fact it's 1,046 consumers who were surveyed about " their spending behaviors in the past year, and preferences for future spending."

The survey analyzed consumer behavior and preferences for making purchases online and in-store. Responses were further broken down by demographics, including income and gender, among others.

OK so if we take a US population based on the 2010 US Census and subtract the 74.2 million Americans under 18 we get 234.5 million-ish adult Americans and we use their sample size of 1,046 we find a margin of error of 3.03%. At least, theoretically. Even is we toss those non-adults into the mix it's about the same margin of error, because of the massive size of the population in question.

Also, let's define omni-channel, for those who might not be into the jargon.

Omni-Channel Retailing is the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on.  -Wikipedia

So it's safe to say that their surveyed demographic was highly targeted. Most likely 18 to 54-year-olds who have shopped online, probably from Amazon who figure prominently in the research. It might even be "who shopped at Amazon and a brick-and-mortar store for the same product" but we can't be sure as there's little transparency in their survey targeting and demographic breakdown.

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So what this all means is, we need to liberally use the salt shaker on these statistics.

YouTube Video Impact

The statement is nestled into a larger paragraph:

Consumers are engaging with brands more on social and it’s becoming a critical piece of the omni-channel strategy. Three in five consumers interact with brands on social media. The most popular channel is Facebook, which 55 percent of consumers report engaging with brands on, followed by Twitter (21 percent) and Pinterest (10 percent).

Additionally, YouTube videos have influenced a purchase at least once for 53 percent of consumers. Seventeen percent of consumers have discovered a product through Pinterest.

So in a nutshell, 60% interact with brands on social media, 55% use Facebook, 21% use Twitter and 10% use Pinterest. Oddly, 17% say they found a product on Pinterest which is seven percent higher than those who reportedly have engaged with a brand on that platform.

However, YouTube, which was not ranked as social media in their results, pops up with a percentage affected almost as high as Facebook engagement. This makes me think they didn't take YouTube into actual account for some reason. It's also the only use of the word "video" in the whole 10-page report.

This is Legit?

It's a tough call. There's no mention of anything else video related or related to YouTube yet there's this one singular tibdit which, if valid, is a pretty big statistic. It means that branded content on YouTube is having a fairly massive impact on purchasing decisions of consumers. And perhaps even a repeated one because the wording states "at least once," meaning that from 1 to 554 people may have had a purchasing decision impacted multiple times by YouTube videos. It seems a shame that they simply glazed over a major portion of modern day marketing because they're focused on retailing, even though the two are intimately intertwined.

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Social Media for Retail

Just below that one utterance of video and YouTube is a small paragraph of interesting information which may also be useful to many of you but is again severely underplayed.

The most popular reason consumers interact with brands on social media is for coupons and promotions (78 percent of consumers). Consumers also use social media to discover the latest news and products from brands (65 percent of consumers), receive customer support (24 percent), and to see what others are buying (19 percent).

That's some useful information if you can take it at face value as you start looking forward to your 2014 online video marketing budgets. Coupons and promotions seem to draw consumers to social media. Those could easily be implemented in YouTube videos whether they be user-generated content with product reviews or specifically created branded content. Two-thirds of consumers also say that they get latest news and new product info on social media, which can also be turned to video as a series of videos leading up to a new product reveal. You could also work on that 19% who see what others are buying by facilitating some user-generated content creation videos as well.

The rest of the report is fairly retail-centric but if you've got some spare time you might flip through the ten pages, especially if you're doing a lot of eCommerce or deciding eCommerce versus brick-and-mortar selling. Hint: Do both.