Although web video has been a buzz word for a while now, only recently it’s been adopted by online retailers, particularly of apparel and accessories, as an effective sales driving tool. The combination of constantly reduced video production costs, free online media channels with the rising importance of personal and authentic brand connections made the online video format the ideal medium to communicate brands message.

Fashion brands and retailers are in a big advantage here compared to other brands, since fashion products have the built in design aesthetics. Some even have artistic qualities which make them into perfect moving visuals.

asos

Let’s take a look at some of the new web video formats the most innovative fashion brands and retailers are creating today, starting from the most direct to the most sophisticated:.

1. Video catalog.

As the most straight forward format, video can replace static product photos and allow e-tailers to showcase their products in the best way possible without actually seeing it in real life. Advantages: shoppers can experience better the movement of fabric, fit and silhouette.

Example: The UK-based ASOS.com uses specially shot runway videos to showcase the latest fashion products, which proving to be a great tactic considering their 104% growth in sales in the past year. Video catalog example

2. Video product reviews.

Similar to the video catalog, video product reviews allow e-tailers to showcase their products from multiple angles, and also add an actual overview of its qualities. Advantages: more personalized approach in showcasing the products leads to higher conversions.

zappos

Example: Zappos announced this week that it plans to create 50,000 videos in 2010, all featuring Zappos employees talking about the products. “It’s our take on it,” said Rico Nasol, Zappos content team senior manager, “Our customers want to see more Zappos people.” The e-tailer claims video demos increase conversions in 6-30%. Example.

3. VideoZine.

Unlike video product reviews and demos, video magazines feature multiple products and focus on a specific trend. Advantages: a great way to package the seasonal trends and showcase in motion a large number of products. The mood, sound and narration play a great role in the product sale.

Example: Net-A-Porter has done a great job by putting together sleek moving images of some of their hottest products. Check out this video report on Fall must have accessories:

4. Meet The Designer.

We live in the era of social media, where everything is personality driven, even marketing. Who can better sell a product than the person who’s passionately designed it? Advantages: an opportunity to create personal connection with the customer, and communicate the vision directly. Designers and creative people in general many times are blessed with unique character features, and this gives them an opportunity to turn their charm into actual sales.

Example: Shopflick, one of the leaders in the space, allows designers to sell their fashion products through videos. Product pages include designer interviews and background, as well as videos showcasing products and narrated by the designers themselves. Check out LA based Yotam Solomon “selling” one of his dresses in this video:

5. Video Blogging.

This might be the most time consuming and intense way to connect with the customers, but just ask Isaac Mizrahi what camera exposure did to his career, and you might be convinced that it’s worth it. Advantages: the most immediate and personal connection with the customers allows them to take a sneak peek into the daily life of a designer, and the creative process, thus creating emotional connection to the brand.

Example: a pioneer in the space, Isaac Mizrahi video blogs often on his site IsaacMizrahiNY.com

6. Behind The Scenes.

One of the ways the internet democracy is changing the brands today is by removing the corporate walls and making them more accessible to customers. Advantages: this is a great opportunity to give customers a sneak peek into the unique company culture, as well as create entertaining content.

Example: this season Barneys let the video camera into their headquarters to create some Holiday cheer in this video by their oh-so-lovely Creative Director Simon Doonan (as the cranky elf). The result – cheer brilliance:

7. Video Art.

These days we see more and more alternatives to the traditional runway presentations – designers experiment with installations, studio presentations and even video art, distributed purely online. Advantages: designers are able to express their vision via different medium, and create a narrative to support their collection’s inspiration. The key is finding a filmmaker with a similar style approach, who can add another layer to the fashion message, rather than making their own story.

Examples: from the SHOWStudio collaboration of Gareth Pugh with filmmaker Ruth Hogben, to the corky Cynthia Rowley movies and whimsical Erin Fetherston tales – fashion and film never worked better together:

8. Experts.

Using experts in their respective fields is always a great strategy to personalize the brand. Only these days instead of using celebrities, brands turn to influencers, bloggers and even their customers to create their video content. Advantages: real people have real voices, they are able to convey the message in an authentic way, and experts in their field are able to highlight brand’s value authoritatively.

Example: last month the NYC based department store Century 21 invited five fashion bloggers into their store to create web video segments on Holiday shopping tips and style. Disclosure: my company StyleCoalition produced the video campaign for Century 21 and I was one of the bloggers featured in the series. Check out this video montage, or watch the entire series:

9. Webisodes.

Some brands go as far as creating their own web series only to put their logo on it, as per this recent article in NY Times. Advantages: full control over content and script allow targeted message and higher engagement with the brand, the products are introduced in a subtle way without disturbing viewer’s entertainment process.

Example: among the major brands proclaiming “brought to you by … ” online are Maybelline cosmetics, which is sponsoring Candice Bushnell’s new web series, “The Broadroom,” available at maybelline.com/thebroadroom. The episodes look nothing but usual drama until one of the ladies pulls her Maybelline lipstick out of her clutch. The branding is minimal, but played well into the script.

I’m sure we will be seeing more and more retail brands exploring web video in 2010. As they experiment and measure success, less dollars will be invested in 30 sec commercial spots, and more into authentic content relevant to their customers.