Why you NEED to be using rich media online

When I first started working in interactive media — over 15 years ago now — the Web was all about text. Sure, there have always been images on the Web and video’s been around for a long time, too — I produced a live video Webcast back in 1996, even. But that stuff was hard and had kind of a lousy user experience — dial-up Internet speeds made image and video downloads painfully slow, software for audio and video required special software that was often buggy or that installed all kinds of spyware and other stuff you didn’t want on your computer.

Those days are long gone now, though. Audio and video online are easy now — nearly 70% of all adults online have watched a video online and nearly 20% of them watch video online every day.

And, what’s more,  online video is becoming key in helping businesses connect with their customers and potential customers. There’s a growing body of research  that video online drives a number of important business results, including awareness, engagement and actual conversions.

Awareness

Online video generates awareness of your business in two important ways.

First, using video on your site can help potential customers find out about your business in the first place. Now that video is an important part of Google (and the other search engine) search results, having video on your Web site and on sites like YouTube can improve your all-important rankings in search results.

Here at Fruition, for instance, we’ve seen our search rankings for certain keywords move from oblivion to the top 10 just by posting a couple of videos on our site. Even better, people from all over the world have shared those videos using YouTube, spreading our message even further.

But there’s another important aspect to how audio and video online can help with awareness.

Multiple studies are showing that people recall companies’ messages  better when they experience them through video compared with static text and images. One study, from Microsoft and Dentsu, showed recall rates being 210% higher for video than for plan text and images. And a NielsenWire study from earlier this year even showed that video ads online performed better in terms of ad and message recall than video ads on TV.

Engagement

Not surprisingly, then, studies are also showing that people have higher engagement levels with online audio and video.

Another study from Microsoft showed that people spent  10 times longer viewing video content than they did looking at plain text and images with similar messages. And a study published in the Quarterly Review of Distance Education showed that students taking courses online had significantly higher levels of engagement with course material when it was provided using online audio and video.

Conversions

Of course, awareness and engagement don’t mean all that much to your business if they don’t ultimately connect to your bottom line.

And online audio and video really shine when it comes to getting people to take action and become your customers.

For instance, a 2008 study by FindLaw found that online video dramatically shortened the decision making cycles of people looking to find a lawyer online. And a MediaMind survey of 25 major online campaigns found that conversion rates for rich media ads were more than double the rates for plain text and images.

Even more compelling, a study by Treepodia found that just adding the option to view a video on a Web site increased the sites’ conversion rates by nearly 50% — and that was for people who didn’t even watch the video.

Better ROI

At the same time as online audio and video are driving better and better business results, they’re becoming less and less costly to produce. Equipment costs are dropping tools are becoming easier to use. According to a recent Pew study, roughly 14% of adult Internet users have uploaded video to the Web. And while, for a lot of purposes you’ll want professional production values for your online videos, we have a number of clients who are successfully  incorporating DIY video into the mix.

With that kind of an equation in place, now is definitely the time to earn big return on investment with your online video.