ModCloth: Creating a Community of Satisfied Customers with Product Videos

Using product videos to increase transparency and build communities of satisfied customers.

How many times have you ordered something online, only to be sorely disappointed with the item that arrives on your doorstep?

Many online stores rely on photographs and descriptions to tell the stories of different items, and in some cases, these methods are sufficient. For products like clothes, however, that must fit, feel, or perform a particular way, customers need more information to make purchases they are happy with.

That’s why many online retailers are using video to deliver a clearer picture of garments in all their glory. With product videos, companies are offering increased transparency and building communities of satisfied customers.

ModCloth and video

ModCloth, an American online retailer with a fun vintage vibe, has recently begun experimenting with videos to showcase their merchandise and promote their brand. Each video is intended to offer a more honest depiction of the look and fit of the garments that customers are placing in their shopping carts. Over the past few months, ModCloth has already noticed an increase in click-through rates for the products that are badged with videos.

Everything from the models to the design choices within the videos reinforce ModCloth’s unique culture and brand.

Retail companies like Zappos, Patagonia, and ASOS have been reaping the benefits of video for a while now. Laurie Williams, senior manager of website operations at Zappos, explained in an article on the Smart Insights blog:

“Since Zappos started producing product information videos in 2008, we have seen an increase in conversion, decrease in returns, increased organic traffic through SEO, and an enhanced social presence. Our goal when creating product videos is to educate our customers in making the best buying decision. Even with the offer of free returns, if a customer receives a product and it isn’t what they had in mind, they can become disenchanted.”

Andrew Witchey, merchandise video manager at ModCloth, told us that he drew inspiration from Zappos’ informative merchandise videos and relied on ModCloth’s brand to dictate his stylistic decisions.

Guiding video decisions with analytics

Andrew keeps a close eye on his videos’ analytics to help inform his production efforts, from individual editing decisions to overall shooting schedules. “Being able to see when viewers re-watch a video is awesome, and it helped me determine that many were re-watching to get model and product size information,” Andrew says.

“This led me to change up the way we approach the videos to better serve our community of shoppers and provide them with more of the information that they are really seeking from the videos.” Videos that feature sizing information more prominently will be rolling out in the coming months.

In terms of influencing larger decisions, Andrew explained, “The analytics also help me see the most viewed videos and those with highest engagement, giving us some indication of which categories and products we should focus our efforts towards.” The price points and availability of the items have always impacted ModCloth’s video production schedule, but the analytics offer a valuable new perspective.

Behind the scenes

While Zappos and other online retailers have teams of people dedicated to churning out thousands of videos, Andrew handles the conception, shooting, and editing of ModCloth’s videos on his own, and relies on a small team of stylists and models to help prepare for each shoot.

In describing his production process, Andrew noted that creating videos for the products was actually a much more forgiving process than shooting photographs. For photos, small details can ruin shots. The lighting, the fit of the clothing, and the positioning of the model all have to be just right at the exact moment the photo is taken. In product videos, the clothing moves naturally on the model’s body.

As you can imagine, Andrew and his team of stylists have honed their process. Basic shots from one camera angle are relatively simple to execute, and each outfit takes a mere 15 minutes to shoot. So far, approximately 6% of ModCloth’s garments have accompanying videos, but Andrew and his team intend to rapidly build upon that percentage. With a steady rate of 25–30 outfits per weekly shoot, they’re constantly expanding their video library!

Enabling regular production

Along the way, Andrew has developed a few techniques for keeping up with an ambitious rate of production:

  • Find a space that won’t be disturbed. Having a space that remains set up without disruption from week to week is an awesome time saver.
  • Prep in advance. I work with a few awesome stylists who handle most aspects of the product, but making sure that the product is pulled, outfitted, steamed, and styled prior to the shoot day is huge. Making sure all my gear is ready the day before can also shave some time.
  • Work efficiently. There’s no reason to shoot 30-second takes when you use 6 seconds of total footage from each shot.
  • Keep track of what’s being shot. You’re only as quick as your post production, really, so shooting more in one day than you can edit in the hours that you have allotted doesn’t do any good. Continually look one step ahead.
  • Be direct. If you’re looking for something specific from the talent, you need to speak up. “Fixing it in post” or dancing around a visual problem will eat up time. Not all of our models are used to being in front of a camera, so being direct with them is the best way to stay efficient and moving forward.
  • This one is weird, but honestly, have fun! If things are too monotonous and stale, then you start to drift, and the production suffers.

Andrew’s DIY studio

Andrew’s video toolkit

Andrew converted an old conference room into his very own studio. We were curious about the gear he filled it with, so we asked him for a rundown.

“I shoot with aCanon 5D Mark III and nearly always a 70–200 2.8L. That lens is my work horse. I also have a Small HD monitor for easier focusing. For the product videos, we use 2 and 4 bank fluorescent lighting. Keeps things cool in our cramped space and provides the nice even lighting we’re looking for when showcasing fit. For our creative shoots we use a 5 light Arri kit for greater flexibility. I have a tripod spreaderwith wheels that is a savior for product shoots. I move all around when shooting and it’s great to just drag the camera around with me.”

Building trust with video

Videos with minimal post production effects can build trust among your audience base, change how customers interact with your products, and empower them to make informed buying choices. We were really excited to learn about all of the ways that ModCloth has been using video, and we can’t wait to see how they adapt their efforts in the coming months.

Have you experimented at all with product videos? What companies have you seen using product videos well? In your opinion, what makes a product video helpful?