Is online video suitable for every visitor?

October 15, 2017

Jeddah — If your customer is doing a specific task on your e-store, then think twice before providing a time-consuming, distracting video. However, if your shopper is just exploring, then video streaming is the best. This is what researchers Muhammad Aljukhadar, assistant professor of Marketing and Business Administration at King Abdulaziz University, and Sylvain Senecal, Professor of Marketing at HEC Montreal, University of Montreal, have found in a research cooperation.

The research was financed by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the J. Armand Bombardier Foundation, and recently published at Online Information Review.

The use of “streaming media” by online users has been on the rise. Retailers have been adding to their sites short video segments to introduce products, to educate customers of the ways to fully benefit from a product, and to communicate various messages. The communication of product information via streaming video is being endorsed not only by national brands such as General Mills and Kraft Foods but also by smaller e-stores with limited marketing budgets. Online video is becoming conventional in e-commerce, with high growth rate of video view according to research firm eMarketer.

Nonetheless, little research investigates the boundary conditions for streaming video use by e-tailers, contributing to the “online video leads to better outcomes” conventional wisdom. The researchers suggested and found that communicating marketing messages via streaming video is not ideal for all your site visitors, depending on a key prediction of media richness theory: Performance improves when rich media is employed for customers with equivocal goals.

The researchers conducted an experiment on 337 online consumers with four conditions: two methods to communicate product information (the textual method versus the streaming video method) and two goals for navigating the e-store (recreational browsing versus the search of a specific product), after building a fictitious online store. So, whereas half participants were constructed to “Navigate on the Web site to efficiently search for a laptop you would consider purchasing in real life,” the other half were assigned the recreational browsing goal by instructing them to “Navigate on the Web site and do whatever you consider interesting and/or entertaining.” The participants were then randomly directed to either the e-store with or the one without the online video segments.

Then, the participants filled a questionnaire measuring their assessment of the e-store. The researchers found that consumers’ arousal, plus their assessment of the retailer’s trusting competence and the e-store information quality significantly improve when video streaming was offered to recreational browsers. For product searchers, video did not have an edge over text. Therefore, retailers should consider the customer goal when using rich media to communicate online information.

Segmenting consumers according to their acceptance of video and rich media is also warranted. — SG

October 15, 2017
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