Aug 22, 2013 | By poq

Is video the winning factor for online fashion retailers?


We’ve written previous posts on both Vine and Instagram video, but fashion brands have reached well beyond those two formats with online video.

The Lumière brothers’ invention has gone a long way to be included nowadays into almost every step of on- and off-line fashion retail. Videos give a better view of products online, they communicate brand culture, they promote new trends; they make a statement; a video can be a marketing tool and a whole new way of online purchase. YouTube is also an important element in the equation, although despite its age (it started in 2005!), many companies have only recently started using it as a marketing outlet.

This blog post looks at the three main uses for fashion video – product, marketing, and shoppable video.

Product videos

An increasingly popular website tool, product videos help describe and endorse the products to the user within the confines of either the official website or YouTube channel.

ASOS, Toast, M&S, French Connection and more and more online fashion retailers use video clips to enrich the customer experience and dispel any doubts they might have by giving as realistic and as accurate as possible view of the product – especially for the indecisive shoppers.

Needless to say, customers happily use online videos to inform purchase decisions. According to Internet Retailer, 52% of consumers claim that watching product video makes them more confident in deciding whether to buy online. Additionally, when a video is information-intensive, 66% of consumers will watch it at least two times.

There are many examples of such videos dramatically improving conversion rates.  An Econsultancy report on the subject has also identified several brands that had such success. One, shoe retailer Zappos, experienced gains of 6-30% in conversion rates on certain products through the use of product videos on detail pages.


Additionally, product video is said to significantly decrease the number of items returned as clients are less likely to be disappointed with the real-life product.

Even on these brands’ YouTube channels though, videos that feature dramatic or cross-branded content fare better than the product-focused ones.

Marketing videos

Celebrity appearances are among the most successful on the format – Emporio Armani’s ad featuring (half-naked) Cristiano Ronaldo got 2,021,154 views. This range of success can be achieved even without the intervention of the brand’s official account. In October of 2009 Lady Gaga’s then-new single “Bad Romance” debuted at an Alexander McQueen show, and the video was posted to an unofficial account (3,576,040 views).

Although not strictly fashion-focused, Nike’s NikeFootball channel shows that Ronaldo is even more bankable as an endorsement than as eye-candy. His advert for the brand’s Vapor line of cleats is the most popular video on the channel (7,431,937 views), followed by similar videos featuring Balotelli and Neymar. NikeFootball’s channel seeks to be a destination for frequent new content featuring recognizable football star, and its nearly 700,000 subscribers attest to this success.

These sorts of endorsements enhance the likelihood of users to click on the video itself, even if the quality may be the same (or lesser in Lady Gaga’s case) as any other video. It’s hard to convince someone to watch a commercial, but not so much for a sponsored music video or highlight reel. Of the branded channels we examined, most had a celebrity appearance in either the most or second-most popular video.


Burberry takes this concept a step further, by allowing its celebrity endorsers to create content on its own channel. Although their most-viewed all-time is a traditional spot with Romeo Beckham, scattered throughout the top thirty are episodes of “Burberry Acoustic”: an intimately set series of songs performed by knownbutnothuge artists. It’s worth noting that these videos hover around a half-million views each, while the accompanying Facebook page only has 6,598 likes.

Traditional television advertising has long been out-of-reach for fashion brands. Expenses and audience were both prohibitive. With YouTube though, the barriers get smaller and less important. Money can be spent on the video’s content rather than its distribution.

This has encouraged many fashion brands to create videos which are less like a commercial and more like a movie.

They impress with cutting edge special effects and boast a cast of A-list actors and director: “We wanted a movie we would be proud to show to Steven Spielberg” said Cartier UK’s executive chairman Arnaud M.Bamberger about the latest project L’Odyssée de Cartier.

prada movie

My personal favourite is definitely last year’s Prada ‘movie’ directed by Roman Polanski. The 3-min clip stars Helena Bonham-Carter carelessly kicking off her stilettos (close-up on Prada logo on inner sole) as she throws herself on her therapist’s couch (Ben Kinsley) – who, in return, becomes oddly fascinated by his patient’s fur (Prada, of course). The impeccable acting and ever so glamorous clothes make a perfect match.

Then there are also brands which are all about the visual experience and putting up a show, which is viewed online by thousands and remains the brand’s highlight of the year.  I would be surprised if the Victoria’s Secret annual live show did not beat Superbowl one day when it comes to audience.

Video shopping

If there was one thing that we could call the most breakthrough innovation in recent use of video in the fashion industry, it would be definitely the possibility of shopping for products directly from a video.

The concept is simple: clicking on the product that you spot in a clip takes you directly to a product page with item to buy with a few clicks. Again, celebrities are common to star in those.

The fast-fashion label chose singer Little Nikki to star in its first shoppable video, where customers can purchase the AW13 collections worn by Little Nikki and her team of dancers

The big brains behind YouTube also have been quick to embrace the trend, introducing new external annotations technology that allows brands to integrate videos and online shopping. Juicy Couture, French Connection are among the few innovators who have opted for the solution.

According to Lisa Green, head of industry apparel at Google, the new feature is supposed to help drive traffic from YouTube to brand’s main retail sites.

The experience is not entirely seamless yet – often in these product videos, clicking on the link stops the video and takes us to a new window with a product, constantly disrupting the whole process. Nonetheless, shoppable videos definitely add a new exciting dimension to the whole online retail experience.

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