If you’re an e-commerce merchant looking to drive conversions, engage customers, and market your products better in 2020, you’d do well to embrace e-commerce video.

Video is a versatile, engaging, and increasingly popular content channel among customers today. From a commercial perspective, it provides e-commerce brands a wealth of cost-effective ways for showcasing their products online.

How? Video is the perfect medium for storytelling. Emotive, punchy, and easy to consume, video is ideal for weaving compelling product stories that drive conversions and sales.

Read on for tips on how you can use user generated content (UGC) videos, product narratives, documentary-style videos, and more to engage customers over video today.

Make Video Essential to Your Product Page

Product videos are a common feature of a standard product page. Alongside product photos, product details and specifications, variant options, and so on, videos help customers understand a product better.

Rather than including your e-commerce video as a complement to your product page, build it into the web design itself — make it essential to the user’s experience of your product page.

For instance, rather than showcasing your product through a selection of photos, record a short clip of your product being used. This helps customers connect with your product, lifting it from a flat image into the real-world (or as close to it as possible, of course).

ASOS is a good example of this. Many of its apparel products have a dedicated video alongside its product photos. Click here to watch the video.

The video is no longer than 10 seconds, but it shows customers how the jeans actually look when worn. Often product photos fail to show how something looks when it’s actually used, but this video shows the jeans as they actually are — more effective than any photo.

ASOS also didn’t audio, and with good reason — remember, most of your customers will be shopping on the move. Having their phone blast out a beat in the middle of a crowded bus can be embarrassing. Short but silent is the winning formula for a product page video.

Embrace User-Generated Video for Authentic Content

User-generated content is a boon for brands. Authentic, credible, and easy to source, UGC helps brands genuinely connect with customers through third-party, unbranded content. It works for a wide range of formats, from product photos to explainer guides, and e-commerce video is no exception.

And sourcing UGC video is much easier than creating original content yourself. Your customers post photos and videos of themselves using your products on social every day. This is a great opportunity to drive sales for your online jewelry store.

Simply take control of your UGC by encouraging your customers to submit videos with a branded hashtag and/or tag your brand in the post. Scan the tagged videos to find the best quality ones, and reach out to the original poster for their permission to us — simple.

It’s worth leaning on tech in this instance. Apps like Foursixty or Storybox let you quickly collate all posts tagged with a hashtag or Instagram account. These can then be cascaded across your online store with ease. Foursixty also takes care of the legal requirements for using UGC too.

With regards to campaign ideas, one need look no further than the enormously successful #MyCalvins campaign for inspiration. The branded hashtag (buoyed by influencers) turns CK customers into a proud community, full of photos and videos of Calvin Klein products worn by engaged customers.

Turn content authenticity into sales. Savvy fashion brands have embraced social selling, and the idea of ‘shopping the look’. UGC videos are perfect for this — tagging your products in customer-led videos shows them as they actually are to prospective buyers. It’s natural, genuine and boosts customer trust in your brand and your products — perfect.

Embed Your Products in a Narrative That Compels

Customers today are ad-weary. Constantly bombarded with marketing messages across all platforms, they are wary when they’re being sold to.

Consequently, when customers see a video that is obviously an advert, they switch off.

This makes it harder for brands to push a product — but not impossible. How? By telling a story.

Storytelling is an effective marketing technique that is proven to increase engagement by giving customers a reason to listen. When you weave a compelling story, you hook your audience into the narrative. Viewers stay watching the video for the story, unaware of the marketing message behind it.

By the end, your product emerges as the video’s real purpose. But by that time, your customers are emotionally engaged with the narrative, and thus more susceptible to your marketing efforts.

For a fine example of this in action, check out the Nike advert below:

Captivating from the get-go, the advert at first appears to be an exploration of the role of women in sport. Empowering and uplifting, the narrative builds into a crescendo, telling the viewer that “it’s only crazy until you do it”. This eventually blends into the Nike slogan, silently equating the brand with the inspiring message of the ad.

You can achieve the same effect by identifying a pain point that matters to your audience. In Nike’s example, it’s the marginalization of women in sport. But for you, it’ll be a pain point flagged in your buyer personas. For instance, perhaps your customers want eco-friendly apparel, or they want cost-effective cosmetic solutions.

This pain point forms the seed of your conflict. Talk about this conflict in relation to people, rather than products. Highlight how the conflict affects your customer directly, placing them at the center of the narrative.

Once you’ve raised the problem, insert your product at the end as a solution to the conflict. Like Nike’s ad, your narrative should lead naturally to your product, rather than it being inserted randomly.

Use a storyboard to help sketch out your narrative. This helps you visualize your video and iron out any flaws before you start recording it.

Use Documentary-Style Shoots for True Authenticity

Part of UGC’s appeal is that it feels authentic. Made by customers, for customers, it is entirely impartial — brands have no say in the content whatsoever. As a result, it is more trustworthy and more impactful for shoppers.

And part of storytelling’s appeal to customers is that it connects with them on an emotional level. It keeps viewers hooked long enough for them to engage with the product being marketed.

When these two disparate elements collide, you end up with a product video that is enormously successful. How? With documentaries.

Documentary videos take the authenticity of UGC and the compelling quality of stories to help you tell product stories that are both real and engaging.

Recreating the impartiality of UGC video is tricky for brands. But with documentary video, it’s possible to mimic that somewhat. Documentaries have a candid feel that conveys true authenticity.

And while fictional storytelling has its merits, nothing is more compelling than a true story. Documentaries are, by their very nature, true, and so provide the perfect medium through which to talk about your product honestly and frankly.

The apparel brand Patagonia is particularly adept at this style of e-commerce video. Check out the documentary-style video below of the German rock climber, Alex Megos:

The video follows Alex as he attempts to climb Fight Club, the first 5.15 climb created in Canada. It’s raw, gripping, and the payoff, when Magos reaches the summit, is enthralling. And throughout, Alex is sporting a yellow Patagonia t-shirt for a subtle brand placement.

Similarly, the video aligns Patagonia with extreme sports, enhancing its branding as an activewear brand.

Of course, creating a good product documentary requires tact and care. Creating a documentary about your product is tacky. But creating a documentary about a social cause or an event in which your product features will carry more impact — think expeditions into the wilderness with the crew wearing branded clothing.

Reap the Rewards of Live Video for e-Commerce

The overarching theme throughout this list is authenticity. This quality is what engages audiences, and what keeps them hooked.

UGC and documentary-style videos are adept at building this for brands. But for true authenticity, brands should look to the raw, unscripted quality of live video.

While the unscripted quality of live video often makes it a scary prospect for brands. But it is this same quality that makes it so beneficial for telling product stories.

So how can this be leveraged for e-commerce? A live unboxing or walkthrough of a product is a strong starting point. When recorded live, it offers a similar degree of authenticity that documentaries and UGC video do.

Alternatively, you could offer a live product tutorial for a personal customer experience. Check out the example from Kim Kardashian, below:

The video is intimate and candid, with Kim speaking directly to her followers as they watch her walkthrough her makeup tutorial. It’s entirely unscripted and, as a result, feels honest and personal as a result.

The trick to creating live video is to plan thoroughly, but don’t stick to it. Let your video guide you, and go with the flow — as long as you keep it clean, the raw and unplanned quality will grab your customers hook, line, and sinker.

Video shouldn’t be the only channel you lean on to tell better stories and sell your products — but it’s an essential one. Follow the advice above and create compelling videos that elevate your brand and drive sales well into 2020.