Branded e-commerce videos: what works?


Alex Connock, Managing Director at Endemol Shine North gives us a fascinating insight into how best to use branded video when considering e-commerce.

An e-commerce, or ‘shoppable’ video, plays on a website/mobile for the customer to watch…and click to buy. In many ways it is the quintessential piece of branded content: if it’s working right it will entertain, engage, and directly drive purchase in real time.

Use of e-commerce video is growing worldwide – from supermarkets to fashion brands. The e-commerce industry in the UK alone is estimated to amount to some £160 billion revenue in 2017 – so getting this space right matters.

But whilst there is a great deal of material out there about shoppable video technologies, there is almost no material available on what content works best. What length? What style? What method of click-to-buy? These are all questions a big TV and branded content company like EndemolShine group, and our peers, would love to answer as we work with an increasing number of retail and ecommerce clients around the world.

So we went and found out.

We conducted an interactive, video-based survey of 2,800 UK respondents working with Ipsos Connect, the digital specialist within leading global research organisation Ipsos MORI and found interestingly that 29% of that audience had already bought online, following watching an e-commerce video, and 49% usually have the sound on, when shopping online.

We tested many different types of content. We played each person in the study one of 28 videos – divided into seven groups. Brands featured included Foot Locker, Ted Baker, Iceland,, Phoebe Colema Jewelry & In each product group, the videos were edited to be varied in one specific way – say, length – and played to different groups. Each person saw one video, and each video was seen by 100 people. At the end of each video we asked a number of questions, but one above all: would you have bought the product?

So how does length matter to whether someone viewing a shoppable video will then click to buy?

We showed different groups 3 edits of the same video – an advertising film for, reviewing a pair of Predator football boots.

The best performing Kitbag video was 15 seconds. More people would click to buy on this version, than on either the 40 or the 90 second video, and 18% said they wouldn’t watch the 90 second video as it was too long.

The short length was strong enough to drive purchase – even though it under performed on both information and entertainment, while the longer videos drove more viewing but less interest in actually buying. More people would be likely to take action after seeing the 15 second video, than either 40 second or 90 second version. It’s clear from the more detailed data, that entertaining people with a ‘shoppable’ video may be useful, but it’s a lot less useful than them actually being prompted to buy something – and if this evidence is correct, the two might stand in opposition to each other.

Does it matter if and how you show the price?

We also tested for price, without telling people we were doing so. We tried putting the price of an item at the end, in the middle, and making a video without price at all. The video without price clearly has most appeal, and most click to buy. This is really worth knowing if you are putting a lot of video on an e-commerce site. People appear to respond to the product rather than the price.

So let’s look in more detail at how the style of video production matters

Everyone who has ever worked in advertising (we made around 30 TV commercials last year plus many digital branded videos at EndemolShine North alone) knows that the client always has strong opinions on the creative. It’s an axiom of marketing departments worldwide that each individual will think they have a better insight into which kind of video will drive people to buy. But how often do different creatives all get directly tested against each other? That’s what we did here.

We created 9 different marketing videos for online retailer Phoebe Coleman Jewellery, deliberately selecting a brand of which the respondents would not be likely to have previous knowledge. We tried every type of content, from product-light branded content, to Instagram-style mute video (very interesting as around half the audience habitually watch mute), via hard-sell shopping channel-style video (the industry standard for shopping TV for decades), user generated content (for some years considered a strong contender online) and animation.

The results really amazed us.

Videos with branded content and feature content, with very light product integration and an absolute opposite of hard-sell, had higher viewing figures, and a stronger message to buy. The customer reviewer had the least appeal, with branded content and feature content continuing to have the most impact.

We’ve all had discussions with clients where we have argued that branded content should be seriously considered against a more direct hard-sell. Finally here’s some direct evidence that that is a viable strategy. The clear winner of our test was branded content, which rated highest out of all the videos, with 44% saying they would watch whole video, and 20% would click to buy. Only 40% said they wouldn’t watch it – the lowest of all the videos.

Product-only mute video prompts more action to be taken – but branded content encourages more viewers.

Meanwhile 22% said their first impression of the ‘user-generated’ customer reviewer was not positive and 32% said it wasn’t interesting enough. Just 38% would take action after customer review video, compared to 58% for product only (mute) and 52% for branded content.

The moral of the story? Branded content is worth a serious look. And avoid user generated video as a sales tool.

Single product vs Multiple products

Would you think that you should put lots of shoppable items in a video, or just one. Intuitively we were convinced before we started that videos with just one product in them would do better than those with multiple products. They would be cleaner, clearer and more memorable.

But we were wrong. A video we tested showing 10 Ted Baker items had stronger click to buy than the video with just 1 item. It was also more enjoyable and more engaging. The best performing Ted Baker video is 10 items. 63% found the video enjoyable, compared to 56% for the one item video. 42% would watch all of the ten items video, with 23% saying they’d click to buy.

We also had a similar experience on a test of an Iceland video in edits of 9 items versus 2. More respondents felt the Iceland 2 items video told them something new.

The clear moral of the story? Lots of items can sell together in the same video.

Finally we looked into the method of click to buy in videos. We looked into ‘add to basket’ during video vs ‘click to buy’ at the end. The ‘add to basket’ option yielded marginally higher results.


So what does all this add up to?

Before they watched any videos, 30% of the respondents said that had clicked on an online video to find out more detail and 29% had actually made a purchase through an online video. Which means this is an extremely important aspect of branded content that the different attributes of styles of video content are really worth knowing about.

Basic but critical rules are starting to emerge.

1. Short videos work best. Content must be engaging, say something new, relate to the audience, pace and humour.

2. Videos with people do better than those without, but user-generated reviews do badly.

3. Branded content works better than ‘hard sell’.

4. ‘Mute’ works just as well as ‘voiced’.

5. Multiple items within a single video work well.

6. Wait until the video ends before offering ‘click to buy'; people could fear missing out on something.

So what are we going to do next?

This year we plan to work with a number of brands to A/B test different styles of video on real websites in real e-commerce situations – to refine our understanding of what kind of video drives people to purchase. We are investing to understand this fast moving and valuable area of the branded content industry.