Lights… Camera… Silence: Are Silent Autoplay Videos the Commercials of the Future?

Video Ads

Silent Autoplay Video Ads

Flying broomsticks, talking portraits and invisibility cloaks were a few of the magical forms of entertainment we got to see on the big screen during the Harry Potter films.

Animated newspapers

Animated newspapers were common features in the Harry Potter films.

Though each of these unusual props worked in tandem – along with other forms of wizardry – to make the films the popular blockbusters that they became, it was the animated newspapers that often intrigued me (of course!). Moving, flashing images of Harry Potter or Sirius Black displayed across the traditional, black and white tabloid newspaper were eye-catching, to say the least.

Much like these silent, animated pictures, autoplay videos that have become common on social media sites like Facebook and through Twitter’s Vine app, have the ability to catch our attention as we scroll. In an attempt to make newsfeeds more engaging, Facebook began allowing user-uploaded videos to auto-play in-line when they’re scrolled over in 2013.

autoplay video

An example of an autoplay video on Facebook.

You’ve probably encountered this in your own Facebook newsfeed by now – you’re scrolling along, skimming the posts in your feed when a video enters the screen and begins to play, silently (more than likely, it’s a feature on babies, or cats and dogs… just kidding… kind of). Only when you click or tap on the video does the sound pop on. Once you’ve scrolled past the video, it immediately ceases to play. No harm, no foul, right? If you don’t want to engage with the video, you don’t have to. But, then again, there might be more to it than that…

The Autoplay Argument
Much banter has been made over the rise of the autoplay video. Some marketers say video autoplay has the ability to discourage consumers and damage a brand’s reputation because of its annoying disregard for allowing users an “opt-in” option before playing.

Still, other marketers have called Facebook a “super troll” because of its move to blast “intrusive” video ads into newsfeeds at a time when marketing is moving in the direction of giving MORE control to users.

And then, others are concerned about having to create new content to fit the autoplay format, instead of being able to re-purpose old video content.

To these arguments I say, silent autoplay video advertising is here to stay. To conclude that autoplay video advertising will damage a brand is simply fear-mongering brought about by an unwillingness to accept change.

I do think silent autoplay video formats will require marketers to specifically design video in such a way that complements the new silent feature, but this is not necessarily a bad thing…

To design ads for silent video it will take solid creativity on the part of content developers, strong visual storytelling skills and a deep understanding of the content consumer.

On April 16, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced their Top 5 Digital Innovations Changing Advertising and Marketing in 2015, and the report included some insight about silent video. CEO of Decoded Advertising, Matt Rednor, was quoted saying brands need to consider silent video in their plans for 2015.

“Autoplay on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter starts with the video muted and a majority of people don’t take the extra effort to click to turn on the sound,” Rednor said. “As brands shift their spend to online video this year, they’re going to see that just running TV commercials online won’t work as well and will start designing for the flick, creating short-form video ads that people consume in their feeds without sound.”

Rednor predicted 80 percent of brand content on Facebook in 2015 will be video, and the network will be more effective than TV.

Adding fuel to this flame is the fact that video in general is far more shareable than any other form of online content. According to Douglas Karr of MarketingTech Blog, video is the easiest online content to grow on social media, with 12 times more chances to be shared than links and text combined. Twitter users share 700 videos every minute, while 60 percent of social media users choose Facebook to share their videos.

“By 2018 video will make up 79% of all Internet traffic, up from the current 66%, so you have to be prepared because the so-called online video boom will never cease to grow.” – Douglas Karr, MarketingTech Blog

Where consumers are concerned, consider some of these stats on video usage from Hubspot:

  • 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • Posts with videos attract 3 times more inbound links than plain text posts.
  • 85 percent of the US internet audience watches videos online, with the 25-34 age group watching the most online videos.
  • 25 million smartphone users stream 4 hours of mobile video per month. 75 percent of smartphone users watch videos on their phones, 26 percent of whom use video at least once a day.
  • Viewers are 85 percent more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.

HighQ, a software development company, called 2015 “The Year of Video Marketing,” and supported their claim with this interesting infographic on the rise of online video.

If all of this isn’t enough to convince you of the importance of having an online video content strategy that works across all networks, in January, Strategy Analytics published its latest figures for advertising spend in the U.S., reporting that social media — advertising on sites like Facebook and Twitter — will see the most growth at 31 percent this year, followed by video (29 percent) and mobile (20 percent). By 2018, it’s predicted that TV’s share of ad revenue will fall to 40 percent, whilst digital’s will have grown to 35 percent.

Ad Spend chart

Ad spend across different mediums from Strategy Analytics

A Less Intrusive Form of Video Advertising
Have you ever visited a website and, while browsing through the content, some invisible person suddenly begins talking to you? You scroll back up, looking for the source, only to discover an audio autoplay video has opened at the top of the page, effectively slowing down your page and causing a lot of undesirable noise.

With silent autoplay video, a video will never yell at you. Facebook, for example, has made it a point to make these videos as non-intrusive as possible. According to Social Media Today, mobile users will not have to worry about data usage with this new video system; Facebook’s autoplay is only pre-downloaded by devices that are already connected to the internet. Videos will not play with sound unless you actively turn the sound on.

Example of a Business Insider autoplay video, utilizing features that work with silent video.

Example of a Business Insider autoplay video, utilizing features that work with silent video.

Great examples of brands using silent video content (thought not necessarily advertising) to their advantage are already cropping up.

Take Business Insider, for example. The business news site makes daily posts to Facebook that showcase the silent video storytelling format. They post educational videos on such topics as “The Simple Science behind Weight Loss,” and “8 Essential Tips for Making Google Search Better and Faster.” Each video, playing silently, makes use of large, bold text, well-developed graphics and powerful images. This video at left was viewed more than 12,000 times, with 300 shares.

Southern Living Magazine is another brand doing silent autoplay video content development right. The video below visually walks users through substitutions for common baking ingredients. The video was first posted on Facebook on April 18, and was viewed (silently) almost 200,000 times, with more than 5,000 shares. The video is high quality, and almost as entertaining as it is interesting and informative.

So, what is it about silent autoplay video advertising that makes it effective? Consider these reasons:

  • They’re not pop-up ads or road-blocks.
  • If you don’t want to view them, you can keep scrolling.
  • They won’t yell at you. The sound won’t play unless you click on the video.
  • They won’t burn up your data plan.

What do you think about the silent autoplay video feature? Do you think it’s here to stay? Can you think of any other brands who are creatively using the silent autoplay video feature to their advantage?

Behavioral Retargeting Gives a Leg Up to Online Novice Fashion Retailers

In nightmares, sometimes we are being chased by an unknown, barely visible individual or thing.

We run, this way and that way, trying to escape our terror, but to no avail – our dreams are smarter than we are, anticipating our every move or reaction and, no matter what we do, only awakening can banish our fears.

Behavioral retargeting can be a lot like a bad dream…

Everywhere you go online, there it is. Those boots I pondered buying earlier are taunting me in the right-hand sidebar. An entire outfit, the individual pieces of which I placed in a shopping cart I later abandoned, keeps flashing to the side of my email inbox as I scan through random messages. For us ladies who have a penchant for online shopping and fight the urge to give-in on a regular basis, the battle is real.

Though retargeting ads can sometimes be annoying – especially when that pair of boots you already purchased as a gift for your mom keeps following you around online – they have their benefits for consumers, such as personalizing the online shopping experience, and they are helping many small fashion retailers carve a niche for themselves in the online retail industry.

Re-Targeting the Target
On average, we see almost 2,000 banner ads per month, and, according to ComScore, over 5.3 million display ads were served to U.S. users in 2014. Only about 8 percent of Internet users account for 85 percent of clicks.

Why so little interest in banner ads?

Our online search experience has become so flooded with advertising of some sort, that we have learned how to tune it out. Though retargeting has been around for some time, with the advent of new forms of technology and other advancements, it has only just begun to gain in popularity. In a survey of 400 clients by a San Francisco-based marketing company, 74 percent said their retargeting ads performed better than regular banner ads.

Why does retargeting work?

Considering that almost 70 percent of all online shopping carts are abandoned before purchase makes it easier to wrap your head around how retargeting gets the job done… retargeting works by keeping track of those people who visited your site and displaying retargeting ads to them as they visit other sites. According to a Shopify article, 2 percent of shoppers convert on the first visit to an online store; retargeting brings back the other 98 percent.

The reason behavioral retargeting is so effective is because it breaks through the clutter – it is a highly personalized ad that is relevant to the target audience at the time it is displayed.

The target has already expressed an interest in the item being displayed, so therefore, they are a more eligible prospect. Gone are the days when guesswork was needed by a marketer to determine which items a lost customer was interested in – with behavioral retargeting, the customer will find it hard to forget about that item they were on the fence about.

Retargeting Infographic

Behavioral Retargeting Infographic courtesy of Retargeter.

Online Fashion Boutiques Take Retargeting in Hand
According to a Business Insider article, in the first quarter of 2014, 198 million U.S. consumers bought something online; that translates to 78 percent of the U.S. population age 15 and above, with millennials remaining the key age demographic for online commerce. Cyber Monday sales this year were up 8.7 percent, while sales over mobile devices jumped 29 percent. However, brick-and-mortar stores saw about 6 million fewer shoppers over the holidays. There is a trend in online shopping that can’t be denied

Allen Gannet of The Next Web said the rise of the online-only brand marks a new generation of e-commerce – one that offers more affordable, higher-quality brands that consumers are growing to prefer. Though there are many brands that would now fall into this “new generation” of e-commerce, online fashion boutiques that provide clothing, shoes and accessories to women (particularly the millennial generation of women), are really stepping to the forefront in a time when some brick-and-mortar clothing stores are closing up shop.

Wet Seal, Delia’s, Aeropostale and American Eagle are all once popular clothing stores that have either closed now or are struggling to re-define themselves in a changing industry and re-identify with their once loyal target market. As they struggle to find an identity, online boutiques like Red Dress Boutique, Mint Julep, Lime Lush, Grace and Lace, and Two Chicks on a Clothes Line are finding that the power of the “social business” – one with strong social networking and email marketing capabilities, a personalized website and a heavy retargeting strategy – sometimes brings more benefit than being able to offer an in-store experience.

Let’s take a closer look at three of these successful boutiques who are gaining popularity among online female shoppers (and, of course, because I’m a loyal customer of all three).

Red Dress Boutique

Red Dress

Red Dress Boutique “Our Story” puts a personalized touch on the business.

The Red Dress Boutique is quite possibly the most well-known of the three, toting itself as the “fastest growing online women’s boutique in the U.S.,” with 80 percent of its clothing line retailing under less than $50. Red Dress owners Josh and Diana Harbour appeared on an episode of Shark Tank in late 2014. The company had $8 million in gross sales in 2013, with anticipated sales of $12-$15 million in 2014.

Red Dress was the first boutique I took an interest in online. I first became aware of them on Facebook when friends began sharing a Red Dress post as part of an online contest. After visiting their site, I could not escape that fur vest I talked myself out of buying. It followed me for days before I finally caved and made my purchase. Red Dress was actually my first taste of behavioral retargeting.

Though their clothes are high-quality and they offer a variety of both casual and professional dress, it is their story that most interested me the first time I visited their site. They have an “Our Story” section of their website that tells Diana’s journey from working a 9-5 job to becoming an entrepreneur based off of a dream she had to design clothes. Each outfit on her site is lovingly given a unique name and a unique story. The outfits also come with a very detailed sizing chart and description of the fit, so that no customer is left in doubt about what size is perfect for them. The company now sends hundreds of orders per day to women all across the country.

I would be remiss not to mention that their marketing does not stop once you’ve made your purchase online – the item arrives wrapped up like a gift, with the Red Dress logo stamped across the front and a special hand-written ‘Thank You’ card addressed to the customer. If that’s not personalization, I don’t know what is!


Mint Julep Boutique

Mint Julep

The Mint Julep Boutique offers women’s clothing and accessories to fit many different sizes and style preferences.

The Mint Julep was a site I also first became aware of on Facebook. Of all the boutiques featured here, Mint Julep provides the heaviest marketing on Facebook, posting creative, enticing statuses with photos daily. Their email marketing of “New Arrivals” and “Slouchy Sundays” make them the boutique I most frequently feel compelled to visit online. Their website is fresh and fun, with a well-maintained blog called The Sugar Cube that provides advice on style, maintained by each of their employees. This year, they’ve expanded their audience reach by adding sections for “Curvy” women and “Maternity” wear.

According to an article in DigiDay in 2013, four in 10 social media users have purchased an item in-store or online after sharing or favoriting it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, and Facebook is the leader when it comes to driving social traffic to retail sites, responsible for about 60 percent. Half of social media-driven purchasing happens within one week of sharing, tweeting, liking or favoriting the product.

Last year, an outfit I had lingered over on Mint Julep followed me around Facebook for two days. I eventually bought the look – from the boots on the models feet all the way up to the scarf around her neck. I love putting on that entire outfit, getting compliments and praising the Mint to anyone who asks.


Grace & Lace

Grace and Lace

Grace and Lace Boutique began as a frilly boot sock boutique.

Grace & Lace, also a boutique that appeared on Shark Tank, offers looks that remind me of a similar brick-and-mortar shop known as Free People. The styles are very casual and chic. The company first started out offering frilly boot socks and bows, selling $800,000 worth of socks in their first calendar year. Following their appearance on Shark Tank, the company closed out 2013 with 2.8 million in sales.

I have not had much experience with Grace & Lace employing retargeting to me, but their email marketing and company story are the biggest drivers of their success. Their slogan is “Made with His grace and a little lace.” Grace & Lace is a Christian-based boutique, whose owner offers a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story about her triumph over tragedy, and the birth of her boutique.  Their site immediately prompts you to “join their mailing list” to receive a 10 percent discount coupon.


These boutiques’ eagerness to embrace emerging media and trends is one big driver of their success in the online fashion retail market, however, they also offer highly personalized experiences to their customers and stories that are relatable. Though the fashion retail space is changing (mainly how consumers shop is changing), I think brick-and-mortar stores can survive – but they will have to learn how to carve out a niche of their own in an industry that is quickly moving online, where the customers are.

Have you had experience with any other online boutiques that have “creeped” on your online searches? Or, any other boutiques with an interesting story, for that matter?