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PetSafe Finds Videos Increase Sales and Lower Returns

When PetSafe [1] senior brand manager Robin Hawn arrives at work with her French bulldog Buckley each day, one of her jobs is to look over a video production schedule. Are there any new PetSafe products in the pipeline? Are customers asking for instructions on installation? Do any aspects of the brand need some building? Is there a new success story to be told? If so, it’s time to schedule another video.

Robin Hawn and Buckley

Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, PetSafe sells pet behavior, training, containment, safety, and lifestyle products. The company introduced the first do-it-yourself electronic fence in 1991 and the first wireless fence in 1998. Today, PetSafe offers products such as kennels, bark control systems, remote training products, and doggie doors.

For the past four years, PetSafe has been bolstering its website with an ever-growing collection of videos — 120 so far — that do much more than just sell products. A blend of animations, how-to instructionals, commercials, and behind-the-scenes views, the videos, with 1.3 million views and counting, have become an important part of PetSafe’s overall marketing plan, with a positive return on investment.

Digging Up the Yard

“We started doing the videos because some of our products can be somewhat complicated for consumers to grasp,” says Hawn. “We all know that most people don’t read the manual, and we also know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Why not show people rather than tell them? The first videos we did were based on calls coming into our customer care center. We simply took the most prevalent questions about product installation and pet training, and that list became our video schedule.”

While reducing calls to customer service is a great reason to post instructional videos, that kind of ROI is not top-of-mind at PetSafe. “We have a very open culture, and we want people to call us,” says Hawn. “We just find that when it comes to something like installing an electronic fence, watching someone do it improves on the experience of listening to someone explain it to you. The result is a better customer experience, and that’s what we’re really after.”

The Dog and Pony Show

The marketing plan for any new PetSafe product includes a video, even if it’s only a high-level look at what the product is all about. Video production is added to the photography schedule, and everything is produced in-house by a team of four.

“We outsourced the production work during our first year of making videos, but once we saw that customers were paying attention we decided to invest in doing the work ourselves so we could keep control over the branding,” says Hawn.

Video coordinator Andrick Buggs takes over on shoot days as “a one-man show,” doing his own set up, gaffing, shooting, and breaking down. His camera of choice: the Sony NEX-FS100. For editing, Buggs relies on Final Cut Pro X [2], and he can work fast when he needs to. “There have been times when I actually shot a video and had it edited and finished the same day, but that’s a rarity now because I have more on my plate than ever,” says Buggs.

Scoffing at the classic warning never to work with children or animals, Buggs does admit, however, that there are unique challenges to his job: “I recently had the pleasure of working with four hyperactive kittens from a local shelter. They certainly had their own idea of how that shoot would go. No sooner would we get them situated on the table and roll the camera when one would leap off the table and the rest would follow suit. But in the end, we got what we needed!”

Once Buggs finishes his work, PetSafe distributes the videos through YouTube. Why? The quick answer is convenience. “We wanted to be where we knew people were already going. YouTube makes it so easy for us to embed videos in our site, and the vendors who sell our products can embed the videos in their sites, too. When we were getting started, this was the easiest way, not only for distribution but also for tracking views, and we still feel that way,” says Hawn.

A Wise Investment

Although PetSafe doesn’t try to boil down its video efforts to a single ROI calculation, it does compare video impressions to other types of ad impressions, PR impressions, and e-mail blasts, and the value is clearly there. “We’re also during surveys to figure out how often consumers are going to videos as part of dealing with a customer care issue,” says Hawn. “In some cases we’re able to shorten our conversation with customers by directing them to a video.”

More important, Hawn adds, is that customers do an impressive amount of online research before they buy, and PetSafe is tracking how many customers watched a video before making a purchase. “Not only do we shorten the steps to a purchase, but we’ve found that our product returns have gone down five percent, and that’s big money,” says Hawn.

Going forward PetSafe plans to produce at least one video for every new product that comes out and expand its video library further by including more behind-the-scenes profiles of the people behind the products. If a product engineer has been inspired by his or her pet, there’s a story to be told that customers can relate to. PetSafe also wants to find ways, perhaps through contests, to encourage its customers to contribute their own video success stories, creating a sort of feedback loop that can encourage both product improvements and brand building.

By having a clear marketing objective, deciding which measurements matter most, and choosing the appropriate distribution platform, PetSafe feels it’s made all the right video marketing moves so far, and hopes that more videos that lead to more purchases and more customer engagement will make their investment in video even more worthwhile.