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Specialty retailers are always searching for strategies that separate them from mainstream stores selling similar products. has an additional hurdle: The online retailer must compete with big chains offering a chance for a customer to sit in a chair.

“The most obvious challenge with selling chairs online is that shoppers can’t sit in them, touch the fabric and get a real hands-on experience,” says Sean Belnick, founder and CEO of

To compensate, provides rich video content that has helped propel the e-retailer into one of the top online chair destinations, with sales rising from $23 million to $73 million in five years.

Video viewers purchase at almost three times the rate of non-viewers, with an average order 17.5 percent higher, according to the company. For product pages with video, 33 percent of sales came from the 13 percent of site visitors who viewed videos.

Those viewers-turned-customers include Google, the Pentagon, Apple and Fox’s “American Idol,” as well as small businesses, organizations and everyday consumers. Belnick says the typical visitor looks to combine form and function to complement office space and add to employee productivity.

Office workers spend an average of five hours and 41 minutes every day sitting at their desks, according to a recent British Psychological Society study. “People who come to our site are looking for chairs that encourage good posture and support,” Belnick says. offers a large variety of choices and strong customer service. Where a major bricks-and-mortar retailer may have only a couple of fabrics from which to choose, offers hundreds of options.

“One of the reasons we founded was to save shoppers the hassle of going to a store where they are pressured by a salesman and often don’t find exactly what they’re looking for,” Belnick says. “As a retailer, you need to do everything possible to replicate that tactile experience virtually so that the shopper feels comfortable with the item. Product video [bridges] the gap and better showcases our products.”

High-quality difference
Craig Wax, CEO of full-service video production firm Invodo, says online retailers carry such a large assortment of SKUs that it’s important to have a consistent shopping experience. The challenge is selecting the right products to highlight.

“The big challenge on the content side is really the scale, being able to create a lot of video that is high-quality and conveys the features and benefits and converts [browsers into shoppers],” Wax says. Invodo writes scripts, produces and edits videos and hires on-air talent for demonstrations.

Invodo initially created 150 videos for, focusing on higher-margin and -volume products. Belnick says the company is working on videoing all 1,500 products in warehouses; another 23,500 items in its catalog ship from manufacturers and will not have videos.

Belnick partly credits the video clarity for such high customer reviews (the average chair rating is 4.2 stars on a five-star scale).

“We are able to monitor how the videos perform and collect insights from shoppers who rate the videos and share feedback,” Belnick says. “Many of the chairs we sell are highly customizable and have many features and benefits that a shopper may not be aware of if they were examining a chair in person.

It’s tough to say if video works across all retail segments, but Wax’s companies have made videos to help sell everything from coffee makers to golf carts.

“It’s much more than a moving picture of the product,” he says. “We’re actually highlighting the key features of that product, explaining why they’re important, and while we’re talking about each feature we’re typically going in really close for a B-roll shot so that you can actually demonstrate [it].”

Retailers with physical store locations can add mobile-focused content, giving shoppers a chance to view videos in-store. Customers can scan a QR code and get in-depth product information without waiting on a store associate for help.

According to a recent Invodo consumer survey, 49 percent of smartphone owners and 61 percent of tablet owners had watched mobile product videos over the previous three months.’s customers are watching these videos on all channels, especially Facebook and YouTube.

“Video has also helped make our customer service even better, and has helped us reduce returns, which was a major business goal for us,” Belnick says. customers report that “they have gotten a better understanding of the products they buy,” he says. “As a result, there are fewer occasions where a shopper wants to return an item because it wasn’t exactly what they expected.”

The key to’s success in its partnership with Invodo was starting with a “pilot program that allowed us to see very quickly how videos could impact sales,” Belnick says, “and then we could easily scale up from there.”