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Amazon looks to increase product videos by holidays

Spencer Soper
Bloomberg News Inc. is aiming to post more promotional and instructional videos on its website to hawk pet supplies, baby products, housewares and electronics, a move to keep people from clicking on Google’s YouTube and Facebook Inc.’s social-media sites to find video reviews before buying.

Amazon this year began inviting some of its 2 million merchant partners to join a test program in which the online retailer coordinates short product videos for posting to the site by mid-December, when the holiday shopping season is in full swing, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. Amazon is offering merchants a discounted cost for 30-second video ads to encourage participation in the newest feature added to “Enhanced Brand Content,” the documents show.

“You can move hearts and minds with video in ways you just can’t with text and standard display,” said Jason Kint, chief executive officer of Digital Content Next, a trade association formerly called the Online Publishers Association.

Amazon relies mostly on written descriptions of products, photos and reviews from shoppers to boost customers’ confidence in its wares. But the site largely lacks videos similar to television commercials or consumer reviews and how-to’s posted on YouTube and social media platforms that have given rise to affiliate marketers and influencers who promote products to their followers and get a cut of sales.

The test is part of a broader push to get more promotional videos on the site. Bose Corp. is one of the prominent brands that now have videos on Amazon, through a "premium" page program that costs $500,000, Advertising Age reported last week.

The “Enhanced Brand Content” video pilot program seeks content from smaller merchants in a wider range of categories that lack big marketing budgets. Some videos posted through the program include a demonstration of Coffee Gator’s French press coffee maker and a "how to wash your face" video posted beneath a facial cleanser.

"Video is the latest feature addition to Enhanced Brand Content and we look forward to rolling it out further so more small businesses can create engaging, helpful content for Amazon customers," Amazon said in an emailed statement.

Product videos are becoming an important feature for consumers before they make purchase decisions. More than 1 in 3 millennials, those in their 20s and 30s, find video demonstrations of products to be “very important” when shopping, according to a survey by Astound Commerce.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google has tried to turn YouTube into a prime destination for these marketing dollars. Two years ago, the search giant introduced a new feature that lets advertisers run customized ads for consumer products within relevant YouTube videos.

Amazon’s push with merchants comes as it works to build an advertising business to challenge Google and Facebook, which dominate the $83 billion online ad industry. The e-commerce giant is recognizing the value of its product search engine as an advertising platform because so many shoppers go to the site to find items and research purchases. Videos are increasingly part of that research, said Jonathan Bowen, owner of JLB Media Productions in Los Angeles, which shoots product videos for businesses.

“With electronics or a kitchen gadget, people want to see a video of what it actually does,” Bowen said. “Everyone knows what a spatula is, but for some of these products, pictures alone don’t do them justice.”