Creating Persuasive Interactive Video for E-Commerce

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There’s been a lot of buzz recently in the blogosphere surrounding the use of interactive elements to drive up the performance of video, so it begs the question – how should video interactivity be applied to e-commerce video?  The answer, I believe, is that interactive techniques should be applied to video when shoppers are both highly motivated to engage in a behavior we as marketers are trying to drive (usually, but not always, this is a purchase), and when those same shoppers simultaneously have a high ability to complete the behavior.

If the idea sounds just a bit academic, that’s because it is based on the work of Stanford Professor BJ Fogg, who just wrapped up his inaugural Persuasive Video Course.   BJ invited me to deliver a lecture in his class last month on the topic of video commerce, and one of the things I took away from my experience at Stanford was just how much I still had to learn about persuasion in video – specifically regarding when and how to apply interactive techniques.  I’ve spent a good deal of time since then studying his models and theories, and have since begun adapting them specifically for e-commerce video to provide the community with a model for creating persuasive video experiences.

Last week, I chose to focus on the topic of persuasive video and interactivity in the opening keynote of my company’s annual Video Commerce Summit.  Without rehashing the entire presentation in a blog post, the general idea behind successful interactive video is to make viewers aware they can access and interact with video content through triggers that appear contextually or in-video at the right moments.

I knew the whole idea of video triggers was brilliant when I realized the concept was both obvious yet easily overlooked, and often poorly executed by marketers.  So – how do you create successful triggers with your video content?  BJ Fogg teaches us there are three characteristics of successful triggers:

1.  The trigger has to be noticeable. If your trigger is not noticeable, then no one is going to interact with it because their attention is focused elsewhere and they won’t realize interactivity is possible.  The idea of noticeable triggers flies in the face of the ‘intuitive lean-in video content theory’ which basically states that marketers should seek to create interactive video experiences simply because consumers expect it.  If you think consumers intuitively expect interactive video experiences in e-commerce, I’d have to disagree with you.  Consumers today are used to passively consuming video content, not interacting with it, so in order for hotspotting to work with video content, a prompt of some kind must let the customer know interaction is possible – and the interaction must be noticeable without the consumer taking an action such as hovering their mouse over the video or clicking on objects in-video.

interactive video hotspots

In the example above, the hotspot is called out as the video plays as a text link appearing within or alongside the interactive content.

Hotspots remain an interesting application of video interactivity, but marketers are applying noticeable triggers in other ways – for example, by displaying buttons in-video as JC Penney has here:

jcpenny interactive video hotspots

2.  The second characteristic of successful interactive triggers is that they must be associated with the target behavior. If you’re creating an interactive video that’s going to drive someone to a brand or category page, then the behavior you’re trying to drive is to get someone to shop. If you’re trying to get someone to go to a product page, then you’re trying to convince them to consider the product.  If you’re showing a video on the product page, then you’re either trying to get someone to develop a preference for the product, or add to cart. If you’re really just trying to share knowledge (be it about a product, skill, or experience) then really you’re trying to get someone to learn.

Think carefully about the way you craft your triggers.  Small changes in words or design can have a big impact on expectations of the viewer when engaging with interactive video.  For example, notice how the trigger in the video below (a simple text overlay) instructs the viewer to SHOP for Breville Espresso Machines.  When clicking through the link, the shopper is taken to a page featuring several Breville espresso machines. That’s a good trigger.  But what about the “Buy Now” button?  When I click on it, I’m not taken to a cart or a page to buy.  Maybe a better trigger would be “Browse Related Products” or change the button to just link to the product page.

3.  Finally, in order for a trigger to be successful, it must occur when the user is both motivated and able to perform the target behavior. Take a look at the ‘ShamWow’ commercials.  Have you ever watched one?  Regardless of what you might think about the “ShamWow Guy,” this commercial is pretty persuasive.  Direct response marketers have known for years that a winning direct response spot involves a compelling demonstration, repeated benefits of how the product impacts one or more of the core human motivators (increasing pleasure/reducing pain, creating hope/fear, or providing acceptance/avoiding rejection), followed by a compelling offer and finally the call to action: “Call Now – Have Your Credit Card Ready!”

Am I suggesting you start creating your videos in the style of ShamWow?  Absolutely not.  But the commercial does hit home the point of delivering an effective trigger in your video content, and of striking with a trigger at the time the viewer is the most motivated to take action.

With the Internet, we can of course be a lot more subtle and numerous with our triggers, since the interactive nature of the web affords us additional opportunities to drive desired behaviors immediately and with greater ease (clicking a mouse is still easier than picking up the phone).  Still, marketers and merchandisers would be wise to track the engagement of their videos to ensure they are effectively maintaining the viewer’s attention until the point where the trigger is actually presented to the viewer.  Understanding the right place to put your triggers isn’t as complex as it might sound – it really stems from an understanding of why shoppers buy products.  If you don’t really know why a shopper would buy a product, then try to think about how the product addresses one of the core motivators (pleasure/pain, hope/fear, acceptance/rejection) and place your triggers at the places in the video where those product benefits are shown or stated most prominently.  (More on these motivators in a later post).

Finally, in order for a trigger to be effective, shoppers must actually be able to engage the trigger. Note that this is different than ‘noticing’ the trigger, as someone who fails to notice the trigger might only be tipping the marketer off to potentially ineffective trigger design and/or poor trigger placement.  On the other hand, someone without the ability to engage with the trigger is unable to perform the action you want.  We’ll get more into how to use video content to communicate how products can save customers time, money, brain cycles, etc. to drive up a shopper’s ability to take action in a later post.  For now, I’ll just leave it at a higher level by stating that if a shopper is unable to find your videos, then they can’t engage in the behavior you’re trying to drive with the trigger. This might seem like an obvious point, but remarkably few marketers realize this.  They bury videos on clandestine, lightly trafficked areas of their web sites, or place videos only on product pages without considering that someone might want to share the video over Facebook, tweet about it on Twitter, or make it available for an affiliate to market with.  Video syndication offers marketers additional opportunities to expand the reach of a video to different channels, and in the process reach a wider audience of potential customers.

In closing, as you consider interactive video or continue refining your existing interactive video efforts, remember the three cardinal rules of effective trigger design:

  1. The trigger must be noticeable
  2. The trigger must be associated with the targeted behavior
  3. The trigger must occur when the user is both motivated and able to perform the target behavior

Next time we’ll talk a little more about the core motivators of human behavior.  Until then, Happy Selling!

Thanks to Justin Foster for authoring this great post … ;-)


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