Bug my Eye? – Autoplay Vs. Manual on ecommerce videos

Who pushes play is not as simple a question as it may seem. And we’re not talking “Who”, as in which type of person, but rather in the most basic sense –

Are you bugging my eye? Auto-play video - not my favorite...

Are you bugging my eye? Auto-play video - not my favorite...

Is the video played automatically by the site or does it require a click from you? In other words, which way to play:

Auto-Play Vs. Click-To-Play?

Auto-play, of course, is when a video starts to play automatically as soon as you land on a webpage with video.

Click-to-play, on the other hand, means that you have to click on some sort of trigger in order to start the video playing.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of auto-play. It “bugs my eyes” and tends to scare me, because usually I’m not expecting it. It also clues those around me (i.e. my coworkers) that I’m looking at something not work related…

Auto-play can be very effective – according to some studies

My personal preferences aside, Auto-play is an easy pitch to make for most etailers. The thought being:

“Heck, we invested in these here videos to bump up our sales, no reason why we shouldn’t do the best we can to make sure our visitors watch ’em!”

If the pitch wasn’t easy enough, some studies show Auto-play to be an effective gateway to conversions:

Anne Holland, principal of the excellent WhichTestWon blog, an invaluable resource full of A/B tests and their results, quotes an Eyeview Digital study showing that, at least in one case, Auto-play video provided a dramatic increase in page conversions.

The secret to Auto-plays’ effectiveness lies of course in the fact it guarantees your video, or at least the first few seconds of it, will be seen, and viewing videos as we know, sells.

Will choosing Auto-play increase sales?

So will having a video in auto-play mode on your product pages automatically increase conversion rates?

Not necessarily…

  1. Seen or not seen, there is evidence that video increases conversion rates by its mere presence on your product pages. It’s important to test Auto-play videos against clik-to-play to get a clear picture for what works on your site.
  2. In the case study quoted above from the WhichTestWon blog, a muted version of the Auo-play video out-performed one where the sound was left on, indicating that even when choosing Auto-play it’s important to consider the exact configurations of the player.

Bu these aren’t the only points that challenge the “Auto-play is the way” perspective:

“Auto-Play should be D.O.A” – Why NOT to go with Auto-Play

I admitted earlier that I personally dislike Auto-play. Well it seems I’m not alone…

While researching for this post I found ample evidence that Auto-play is one of the online world’s most universally disliked interactions. So much so that it’s listed in a hilarious Popular Science post titled: “How to Lose Traffic and Alienate People: The Revenge!”.

Auto-play is also convincingly denounced by Mr. Eric Franchi.
As Senior Vice President of Business Development for Undertone Networks, one of the leading interactive service companies in the US and recently recognized on Inc. 500’s list of “Fastest growing private companies”, Franchi is a voice worth listening to.
Last September he published an excellent post titled “The Death of Auto-play” on Mediapost’s Online Video Insider listing three arguments in favor of “Pronouncing auto-play D.O.A.“. The most powerful and relevant of which is, in my opinion, that:

Your users hate it: … There are few things that irk a site visitor more than an unannounced blast of video …

Franchi also remarks that although Auto-play may, in certain cases, provide better conversions, he has yet to see a study simultaneously showing how it affected bounce rates. In other words – even in those cases where Auto-play was demonstrated to lead to more sales, no data was provided as to how it affected visitors choice to leave the site.

To summarize, I think voices denouncing Auto-play all relate to one major issue:

Auto-play is inconsiderate of users right to control their online experiences.

As such it is invasive and hurtful to privacy.

When one looks at it that way it’s not surprising Auto-play is so vehemently disliked…

The final decision is yours

Both opinions considered, the final decision of how to play the videos on your site is ultimately yours, and yours alone.

The evidence favoring each method is inconclusive and even if it were, who’s to say that a case study based on someone else’s site will necessarily be relevant for yours as well?

Whichever decision you go with the bottom line is that it’s vital to test the results in comparison to the other option, and ensure that all the variables for success are taken under consideration.

Here at Treepodia we’ll be happy to support you with any setup constellation you choose, and provide you with the metrics you require in order to evaluate your choices so contact us today