Friday, October 24th, 2008
This is the first in a series of posts based on my presentation (”Can I get that in pink and eggplant?”) about the future of customer experience online at the Web Experience Forum in Boston on 14 October 2008.
Video is the next JPEG
Just as static images are seamlessly incorporated into web pages today, we are going to see more seamless integration of video that moves beyond the use of an inline video player. Video will become integral to the content and not be a separate piece of content meant for independent interaction.
In the Harry Potter films, the Daily Prophet newspaper has “magic moving pictures” printed on the page as part of the news article. There is no separate video page and no video player off to the side – the moving pictures are simply integrated into the content of the page.
The Ralph Lauren site Rugby.com integrates video into the page content in a similar manner: the video, the images, and the text all live in the same space as part of a single experience. The brand experience is enhanced and strengthened by using simple yet high-quality video to supplement the information.
Video has the benefit of being able to convey more information than a static image. Seeing clothing on a walking, moving, breathing person tell us much more about fit and finish than a still image on a white background. We can understand much better how a product might, work, or behave by seeing it in action.
At Martin & Osa the models take turns moving, walking, and turning around to demonstrate how the clothing fits. There is a great nuance to the customer experience: when you select a filter to narrow down your selection, the models wearing clothes that do not match the filter literally walk off the screen. Video is being used not only to show products, but to verify and acknowledge customer interactions.
Video can also tell a story much better than a single image. Would you rather watch a short film or view a single frame from a short film? And the story does not need to focus on the product – it may be used to enhance the brand, to inspire people, and even to set a mood.
The North Face uses video in several ways: demonstrate products in use, educate about the professionals who use the products, show the environments and usages for which the products were developed, and show how the company supports athletes, indigenous peoples, and environmental causes.
And of course video can be used to facilitate shopping, but rather than showing models wearing clothes or salespeople demonstrating products, we can also shop from the same video we see on television and in the movies.
“Shopisodes” take video from popular television programs and provide images, details, and links to buy the products that appear in the video. You can buy the clothes and accessories worn by favorite actors, furniture and decorations from their homes and rooms, and even the items they are using. Each video segment is created to provide information and a link when that product is visible.
Video for product merchandising falls into two categories:
- “Fast” video is meant to be watched like a short film; it provides context and information, and it demonstrates products in use; “fast” video is not clickable, and it is more likely a passive, entertaining experience.
- “Slow” video is meant to provide information while remaining clickable; it focuses on the products and provides ample opportunity to interact with the video while it plays.
Video may also come in a range of quality levels. Low fidelity video has an amateur appearance, may be customer-generated (although professionally produced video may intentionally take on this style), and generally focuses on product information and usage rather than brand enhancement (e.g., product reviews submitted by real customers.) High fidelity video has a professional appearance and may convey a much wider range of information, from product usage to brand ideals to corporate social responsibility.
Although video is becoming increasingly important to the online experience, it is not yet ubiquitous, and there are some issues to be resolved. Video requires much more bandwidth, and although more and more people have broadband access, web pages with integrated video still have longer load times, so visitors wait for content. Additionally, there are still many video formats. Even though Flash Video is perhaps the most common format for inline video today, there are competing formats that offer higher quality video and audio but with a different customer experience, and there are differences across browsers and operating systems that mean that some formats may not be viewable to all visitors.
Nevertheless, the movement toward integrated video is certainly underway, and we are seeing more video being used to provide information and content in more places than ever before. Although we cannot yet walk to the corner and buy a copy of the Daily Prophet, it may not be long before we commonly have similar experiences when browsing the web.