Online video has proven itself an incredible tool for e-commerce. Online retailers of all kinds use video to deliver compelling, valuable content to leads and customers, improving sales figures and profitability significantly.
But not all videos are equal. Many e-commerce marketing strategies revolve around highly polished studio productions. Interactive webinars are relatively underexplored in comparison, which presents a great opportunity for online retailers who want to stand out from the crowd.
Why webinars are a great marketing tool for ecommerce businesses
Webinars have something most videos don’t – interactivity.
When people attend a webinar, they get something more than a screen full of information. They gain the ability to participate in a dialogue.
Brands that know how to use webinars to encourage dialogue end up with a highly active audience of people who are engaging with their products and services in a visceral way. Webinar participants naturally get more involved in the content than passive video viewers do. The more they participate, the further along the sales funnel they move.
This approach is especially valuable for online retailers that sell complex products, or products that require ongoing maintenance.
This is especially true when it comes to the musical instrument industry.
Musical instruments are incredibly complex products that people spend their entire lives learning how to use. Musicians develop deep, near-spiritual relationships with their instruments. They give them names. They pass them onto their descendants as family heirlooms.
Reverb.com offers a great example of how webinars can help build a brand and generate sales. A leading ecommerce website, Reverb draws millions to its online store every month.
The website’s core audience consists of professional and semi-pro guitarists. These are people who will gladly pay tens of thousands of dollars for an original 1964 Fender Stratocaster, but won’t even look at a 1972 model of the same exact guitar – and don’t get them started on whatever Fender’s selling today.
Obviously, a one-way video describing one of these guitars is not quite enough to make that kind of sale. Prospective buyers will have questions, and lots of them. If Reverb didn’t make a two-way dialogue possible between experts and buyers, it simply wouldn’t be able to sell many of its highest-priced items.
Many of Reverb.com’s webinars are hosted by highly celebrated musicians, largely considered masters of their craft. That kind of expertise is precious to its community, and has paid back enormous dividends to the brand itself.
How to create an interactive webinar that engages your audience
Looking at Reverb.com’s example, it’s easy to see there are a few characteristics of ecommerce webinar success that stand out.
Seek out recognized experts
Having a widely recognized name host your webinar confers an advantage that’s difficult to compete against. Getting recognized industry experts to host a webinar series can be challenging, but there is no better way to demonstrate market-dominating expertise and authority.
Obviously, the music industry is home to more household names than most retail sectors. However, in today’s hyper-connected digital environment, almost every sector has its own set of highly visible, highly respected influencers. Getting these people onboard will give your brand a valuable image boost that’s near-impossible to generate otherwise.
Keep in mind that experts don’t have to be famous. As a rule, fame is a relative term; an owner of a leading web design firm may be anonymous to the general public, but a rock star within his or her own community.
Anyone with the appropriate credentials and experience can be the expert you need.
Educate first, sell second
The better-informed your customers are, the happier they are likely to be with the purchase they ultimately make. Educated customers don’t return products, and they don’t complain about unmet expectations – they know exactly what they’re getting, and will often proudly broadcast that acquisition to their communities.
Online retailers have a tendency to focus on selling first and teaching later. To make the most of a webinar-based marketing strategy, you have to do it the other way around. Webinars allow you to teach your customers everything there is to know about your products before they buy them.
"Successful webinars rely heavily on being interactive – if you want your audience to stay engaged then you need to actively involve them in each step of the process. Ask pointed questions that get your audience thinking and encourage discussion. Moving away from a boring “lecture” style webinar is paramount for keeping your participants interested. Go beyond just facts and information by giving examples and demonstrating how the product or service works; this will help make it easier for customers to visualize themselves using it, driving up interest levels."
Arne Stamer, CEO at my-package-tracking.com
Incorporate a Q&A session
User interaction is the one thing that separates webinars from regular video. But you don’t want viewers constantly interrupting your host’s presentation to ask questions. Instead, there needs to be a specific time set aside for interactive content – the Q&A session.
This usually takes place at the end of the webinar’s initial presentation, and in some cases it can exceed that presentation in length. This is actually where the value of the webinar format lives, so you should be happy to extend Q&A as long as participants wish. Great questions deserve detailed responses, and people will pay close attention to the answers they get.
Keep content focused and on-topic
Since webinars are interactive, they can easily jump off the rails and head into uncharted territory. While you shouldn’t limit Q&A sessions to time constraints, you should definitely pay close attention to content and context. A single webinar should focus on one narrowly defined subject, and not stray too far from that topic throughout its runtime.
This will necessarily result in shorter, more manageable webinars, which is a good thing. You may be able to divide your content into sections to make it easier for people to review after the webinar is over.
Tips for promoting your webinar and getting more people to attend
A successful webinar needs attendees. More than that, it needs curious, engaged attendees who are ready to participate interactively with your content.
E-commerce retailers can do a few things to ensure the right audience signs up for their webinars. Targeting is incredibly important here, since you want to make sure your webinar participants come into the experience with questions they want answered.
- Use popups to promote your event. Targeted popups give you the ability to broadcast your webinar event to website visitors in a non-disruptive way. The key is to show popups to website visitors who express interest in content connected to your webinar topic, like certain products or blog posts.
- Tease webinar content on social media. Social media can be a powerful magnet for webinar signups. If you have a third-party guest or host appearing on your webinar, you should seek to maximize the impact of that event on their social media following, and help share your successes together.
- Optimize your registration landing page. The easier it is for website visitors to sign up for your event, the better. When you create a landing page, it’s absolutely crucial to have that in mind. An optimized landing page should immediately address your target audience and showcase the value of the webinar you’re hosting, while making registration a simple and pain-free experience.
What to do after the webinar is over to maximize its impact
Your work isn’t over once the webinar ends. You can maximize the impact of your content by publishing it to your website and promoting it to the people who missed it.
Take a moment to review some of the questions asked in your Q&A session and try repurposing some of that content as a standalone video. If someone asked a particularly inspired question, you may be able to create a whole new item of content based on that alone.
Consider hosting webinar content using a professional video hosting platform. This opens up new options for capturing customer information before showing them the content. For example, you can gate the webinar with a registration form so that viewers have to sign up to see the content.
Webinars help bridge the digital gap
Webinars are exciting because they offer interactivity that many other digital events do not. They can boost your sales overall, increase checkout upsells, and educate your audience. Although they often look like keynote presentations of the kind you would expect to see at an industry conference, they are more interactive than those as well. This makes the webinar a unique tool for bridging the digital gap and giving a live, in-person feel to broadcast communication, giving e-commerce brands a unique advantage capturing customer interest.