Startups are famed for their fast-paced environment, open-door policies, and ability to get s#$t done. So how does a company keep their startup edge as they expand to over 2000 employees? For Shopify, innovation remains central to their company's success, and this is especially apparent in their video marketing strategy.
As a trailblazing startup, Shopify never shied away from producing video and established a strong video first mentality. But their ability to continue to expand their use of video throughout their growth, keep their transparent open doors culture, push new ideas and be experimental, while involving their entire company in the success of their video strategy makes them a company to admire.
In this case study we’ll discuss how Shopify:
- Keeps their communication open and honest (with hundreds of stakeholders)
- Manages and executes new ideas from every facet of their company
- Encourages an environment that allows for experimentation and the ability to fail safely
- Optimizes and streamlines their video production workflow
Remaining Video Centric throughout Hyper-growth
Shopify was founded in 2006 by CEO of the year Tobias Lütke. From a team of 5 working out of a local coffee shop selling snowboard equipment, the Canadian based eCommerce platform now has more than 400,000 active merchants, has transacted more than $34 billion worth of sales, while doubling staff practically every year.
In-house videographer, Matt Wiebe, was employee number #102 and has been with Shopify since 2012. Originally hired as the one-man internal video team, Wiebe (a true video ninja) is now part of an in-house team of 8 that also adds remote freelancers and experts to their video production process. At a time where video was often seen as a luxury, Shopify was leading the way by bringing video in-house and ensuring it became the keystone of their marketing strategy.
To give you the scope of how expansive their video reach is, Shopify have:
- Over 40% of all of their tutorial products are using video as a standard
- Over 25 separate video series on YouTube
- 9 Million views on Youtube, and over 2 Million fans on Facebook
- Integrated social media video completely into their overall strategy — they have specific versions depending on whether they’re publishing to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even Snapchat!
Getting it Right - How Shopify Thinks About Video Differently
Great Ideas Start From Being Open
Shopify’s commitment to video means it is available for teams across the organization to utilize in their own strategies. Access to video across customer support, engineering, HR, and marketing not only allows these teams to think about video differently but also gives the video team a steady stream of ideas and inspiration.
Ideas for videos are a two way street. The video team brainstorms with each other, receives pitches from other departments, and has an open door policy for anyone to come to them with new ideas for videos. If the idea is good enough, they bring it to the Creative Lead, their gatekeeper.
“When an idea comes up, we ask our Lead,” Matt Wiebe explains. “He's good at knowing when to say no, but it seems like most of the time he's saying yes and trying to support us however he can.”
“Marketing will come to us and say, ‘Hey, we're launching a new feature. We'd love to have a video showing it off.’ Other times, a guy on the engineering team could ask, ‘Hey, I think it would be cool if you would make a video about when traffic gets crazy and spikes and they have to figure out a new way to solve the problem, that would be cool.”
The ability to pull in inspiration from across the company, means that the Shopify video team get the best information and the best ideas from their best resource — the people! Better ideas means better videos with better messages, delivered at right time to their customers.
“Experiment and Learn” - How Shopify Optimize Their Video Content
One of best advantages of startup life is the ability to experiment, learn quickly, and iterate. So it should come as no surprise that Shopify also instills this mentality when it comes to fast moving online video. They are constantly experimenting with both video content, technology, and the various platforms used for publishing and distribution. Learning and adapting quickly puts them in a distinct advantage over some of their more traditional (slower) competition and their willingness to fail also means there are opportunities for superb successes along the way.
“We did an experiment where we tried to put out a video a day on Facebook for three months. It felt like insanity because we were creating so much content. And when you're making a video a day the quality is going to go down. But sometimes quality isn't important and by doing this experiment we were able to figure out when we needed to put in that extra effort.”
“The outcome was we found one video that struck gold and it gave us a ton of results. At the end of the whole experiment even though we had a bunch of videos that didn't quite hit their mark, it still felt worth it to have one that grabbed people's attention. It showed us the importance of experimenting. Having the freedom to try exciting new things is great.”
The one that achieved great results? “It was a three-minute video of how to start a T-shirt store in under ten minutes. And it just killed it. We had so many people watching that video and signing up for the free trial.”
“It was a simple video that we made in like two days and it gave us more results than videos we would spend months on. It’s really interesting to figure out what themes grab people.”
Another project that had that extra effort is their beautiful new documentary series Nowhere Else, which has been produced at a standard rivalling the best from Netflix.
“Our six-part documentary series follows a different well-known merchant and their journey. The idea that we're producing something along the lines of Netflix is amazing.”
The series has only been out a few weeks and has racked up 540k views on YouTube alone (double that again for Facebook!)
With content strategy moving so fast, and video feeling like such an overwhelming prospect, it’s often the case that companies are fearful of trying new things. But Shopify’s video strategy shows that the ability to be creating, delivering, iterating, (getting it wrong sometimes!) and still being brave enough to continue experimenting is a real opportunity to learn and succeed.
How Shopify Communicate Across Thousands of Stakeholders
With an in-house video team of eight working on a wide variety of videos involving many stakeholders, their ability to work together efficiently and effectively is extremely important. When Wiebe started at Shopify in 2012 they were already feeling frustrated by the old-school methods of getting feedback and sign-off of their videos. This friction was starting to seriously limit their ability to scale up their video production in line with the companies growth.
“It was just clunky because we would email each other for time stamped feedback. When you have five different emails chains, trying to put those notes into one place incorporate them in the next edit was a real pain.”
Engaging stakeholders from five different offices across different time zones was also an important factor, as well as collaborating with outsourced freelancers when a project needed it.
“We’ll bring on an editor or motion designer on a contract for a month or so. Sometimes we need to shoot stuff on LA or New York and we’ll hire a videographer out there and they’ll send the footage back. We also look at this kind of collaboration as a good way for us [the in-house video team] to get better. These talented freelancers often don't like the idea of committing to one company full time so these super talented people that work with us for a few weeks really helps to bring our level of work up.”
When one of Matt’s colleagues arrived one day with news that Wipster had invented frame-accurate pin-point feedback they immediately jumped on a trial and have been avid customers ever since. Shopify requires a fluid and fast workflow in order to deliver results, and Wipster can match them punch-for-punch.
“Since Wipster it’s been easier for everyone. It's easier to give feedback, and for us, it's easier to receive that feedback and incorporate it. And it's great too because they can see what other people have said and respond to those comments, without having this messy email chain.”
And for something that is being used company wide (where not everyone is tech-savvy!) it was important for Wipster to be easy to use.
“I don't think there is a learning curve with using Wipster. Everyone we’ve sent the link too, you know, instantly figures out how to start using it. It couldn’t be more user-friendly and just intuitive.”
Connecting their team and being able to collaborate on top of the video has helped Shopify to streamline their workflow and continue to innovate like a startup. This means video content has a shorter production cycle, can get out the door faster, and helps Shopify iterate and optimize their content as a natural state of being, not a “nice-to-have”.
Think Fast and Deliver — Shopify’s Success Continues
Thinking video first with a innovative culture of experimentation and shorter production cycles is a huge competitive advantage for Shopify. Their startup mentality of getting s#$t done means the focus is less on the red tape and more on the outcomes. A focus on outcomes allows them to iterate quickly, and adapt their video strategy going forward for maximum effect. And this self-fulfilling cycle continues to fuel their growth and keeps them at the top of their game.
Pulling ideas from the company and having a platform that allows them to engage their team and move projects through to approval faster simply reflects their natural workflow and enhances their ability to innovate.
As one of the worlds best and most innovative eCommerce providers, Shopify uses video to achieve business outcomes and we here at Wipster are proud to working alongside them since our early days of 2012. Long may the partnership continue.