COVID-19 Turned Streaming Video Into a Key Retail Strategy
Will the world ever “go back to normal” following the COVID-19 pandemic? Perhaps, but it’s going to be a longer haul than many realize. Traditional retailers are among the many facing a handful of changes since the pandemic struck, including how to navigate remote environments and the explosion of online shopping. This shift has also underscored the increasing importance of retailers digitally connecting with their customers, and how video plays a significant role.
The later portion of Q1 showed an increase in the use of video by retailers and marketers as the pandemic worsened. With limited foot traffic in stores, the need to reach customers outside the normal channels rose. Brightcove’s Q1 2020 Global Video Index, which tracks over 400 billion anonymized video data points from our customers globally, showed retail and marketing video views up 135 percent year-over-year.
The growth persisted into the first two months of Q2, with April retail views in the U.S. doubling compared to last year. Even as stay-at-home orders eased in May, views of retail and marketing video content online rose 82 percent.
Not only did video views increase, but the time spent watching video also rose. Consumers focused a significant share of the extra 4.35 hours in commuting time they saved each week on watching retail and marketing videos.
The bottom line is consumers simply are investing more time shopping with the help of video.
The Rising Tide of Streaming Video
Choosing the right way to market a brand or business is going to have its challenges. This means it’s critical for retailers to remain on consumers’ radar by increasing marketing initiatives and customer communication. Video plays a crucial role in this as it’s more visually appealing and there are multiple ways retailers can use video to engage with consumers — e.g., shoppable videos, social media, try-ons, and more.
Consumption of streamed video, whether it’s ad-supported, like a Pluto TV, or subscription-based, like Netflix or Acorn TV, is increasing in every region of the U.S., and in most regions in the world. In fact, reports show viewing has increased more rapidly among streaming services than traditional TV.
Post-pandemic, that’s not going to change. However, how we watch streamed video will. One of the biggest screens for growth in over-the-top (OTT) consumption for retail and marketing video was, not surprisingly, smartphones. In Q1, smartphones views increased by 253 percent, with time watched up by a respectable 83 percent.
Smartphone views substantially increased in April and May, 148 percent and 165 percent, respectively. However, connected TVs became the most popular ways to stream video content while consumers were in quarantine, which can be attributed to their bigger screens. Video views skyrocketed by 337 percent in April and 271 percent in May, showing that retailers will not just need to optimize their strategies for mobile devices, but for larger screens as well. We’ve already seen many of these strategies in motion pre-pandemic, such as shoppable TV ads, and we’ll continue to see retailers investing more to this end as streaming continues to rise.
The Bottom Line
While “getting back to normal” may happen eventually, retailers globally are already shifting strategies and adapting to today’s current landscape. That will continue for months, and even years, to come.
The facts lie in the numbers. The pandemic turned more consumers into online shoppers across all categories. For example, online groceries jumped by 110 percent, book sales doubled, electronics sales rose 58 percent, and apparel sales increased by 34 percent. Even as stay-at-home orders continue to lift, more consumers are, and will continue, turning to the internet to research and compare products before making a purchase decision. This means, while life may be returning to “normal,” retail trends will continue to evolve towards digital.
For businesses looking to transition to a more digital presence — and, perhaps, even more so for those that have been somewhat reluctant — the time to embrace video is now. Video provides better, more measurable access to consumers than any other form of marketing. Video is extraordinarily nimble and consumers are embracing it, so it’s time that retailers do as well.
Jim O’Neill is principal analyst at Brightcove, the leading online video hosting platform and online video player solution.