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Anyone shopping for Dickies apparel online can click two little words that have become ubiquitous in today’s media: “Watch Video.”

“Consumers are already tuned in to web video,” says Robert W. Dietrich, digital marketing manager for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company. “We’re simply playing catch up and trying to make sure we don’t fall too far behind.”

Dietrich is part of the Dickies team that rolled out an ambitious plan in November 2012 to add video to the company’s web catalog. The idea was to allow consumers to see not only pictures and descriptive text about a product, but video of it being worn by a model. “There’s clearly an element you get with video when you’re showcasing clothing,” he says. “You get to see someone move in it, which adds to the shopping experience.”

Selling the brand
When the company sought to make video a key part of its online marketing, it began by looking at its goals. “The main question was, ‘How do we create a great conversion rate for our own site, as well as a complementary experience for consumers buying through our partner retailers?’” says Dietrich. This was critical since 96 percent of the company’s business is through its retail partners.

The marketing team first broke down video needs into three main categories: Brand content — videos showing the “voice” of the brand, such as commercial spots that are often shared on YouTube; influencer content — video from company-sponsored music festivals, behind-the-scenes videos of bands and videos of company-sponsored skaters; and product content — visual details about a particular product.

The company was comfortable that its brand and influencer content were on target, but wanted to see how product content could help. “The real difficulty with product content has been on the video production side,” says Craig Wax, CEO of online video consultancy Invodo, which worked with Dickies on the project.

Traditionally video has been handled by an art director within a retailer’s ad agency or marketing department. The result, while often quite good, is expensive and time-intensive. “To assemble a really professional brand imaging video, you’ve got to put in some time and expense,” Wax says. “But the purpose of a product video is different: The consumer is just looking for information about that product, period.”

As a result, many product videos are more about selling the image or brand since the retailer has already spent money producing those videos and wants to get its money’s worth by including them along with static photos of the product. Invodo brought Dickies a concept to create product video that was cost effective and met customer expectations.

Instead of long hours selecting models, setting up shots with stylists and including lots of takes, Invodo took a more streamlined approach. “We get the talent lined up, the products we’re shooting and scripts approved fairly quickly,” Wax says. “Then when we get into the studio we have a system in place that helps us automate much of the workflow. We’re able to shoot high-volume, rather high-quality video showcasing a large catalog.”

Seeing the detail
For Dietrich and his staff, the issue was whether or not this type of high-volume product video would enhance the Dickies sales experience. “We saw great potential in it because there are some products, such as tactical wear, that really need video to help explain the benefits. These are products with lots of technical jargon and specifications and consumers can get lost in them. But a video … basically tells you the story.”

A triple-stitched seam can look somewhat flat and ordinary in a picture, but a video showing the fabric being stressed gives it a different dimension. “Our consumers, 35- to 45-year-old guys, don’t necessarily know what we mean by ‘poly cotton blend,’” Dietrich says. “But they know what ‘durable work cloth’ means, and that’s how Invodo helped with the scripts we used.”

The videos are straightforward and fairly uniform in their approach, showing close-ups of the product on a model who moves in front of a simple white background while the voiceover highlights the product’s features. “Because these are going to be on the websites of our various partners we needed to keep them fairly standard and true to the Dickies image,” says Dietrich.

Dickies rolled out 150 product videos on its website last November, then offered them to sites operated by major national retail partners like Walmart and Sears. In the program used by Dickies, Invodo tracks the analytics of user habits and supplies these reports to their retail clients. The initial results have been promising: From the first day it found that 7 percent of online viewers were checking out at least one product video.

One of Dickies’ retail partners reports that video watchers are three times more likely to make an online purchase than a non-watcher. Invodo says its data shows that 57 percent of all retail customers say they’re more comfortable making an online purchase after watching a product video. What’s more, “Our research tells us that about 85 percent of U.S. consumers have watched two or more videos on the web in the last three months,” says Wax. “That shows how comfortable people are with web video and how they’re basically expecting it when they go to a website.”

Personalized communication
Of course, as computer technology quickly changes there’s a race to keep up with web video, which is also shifting. Mobile platforms are becoming more common gateways to the Internet: More than 56 percent of Americans now use smartphones, a figure that is only going to rise in the years to come.

“By accessing video with mobile platforms consumers … can look up and see your product anywhere they are, including in the retail store,” says Dietrich. “Whether they’re shopping or pre-shopping, people are becoming more accustomed to watching a video while walking or moving around. They’re not as interested in scrolling through lots of text.”

As these platforms develop and streamline, what Dietrich calls the augmented store reality is likely where retail video is heading — video communication personalized to the consumer.

“When I walk into a retailer to buy a pair of work pants, through a near field communications link with my smartphone they may be able to connect with my social network profile and see that I’m also a buyer of a particular shirt style,” he says. “A video then pops up on my phone showing me the latest deal on that shirt, so it’s all about interacting with customers through the web, and increasingly that’s happening through video.”