Following the revelation that women will happily buy magazines featuring models who look more like them (and less like, well, models) comes the news that shoppers respond well to ads featuring retailers’ actual employees (who are also not models).
The Wall Street Journal identifies the trend based on 58,000 videos made by online shoe giant Zappos in 2010. Nearly all of them featured members of the company’s staff discussing shoes, bags, and clothing. The videos, which were meant to help customers make well-informed purchase decisions, proved successful — products featured in a video saw a 10% increase in sales over items without, and the return rates for the videoed products was lower.
Even more interesting, Zappos found that the videos’ viewers weren’t discouraged by seeing an employee as opposed to an actor or model, and consumers responded particularly well to honesty — say, an employee describing something that didn’t fit them well. Even if shoppers didn’t end up buying that particular product, they were still more likely to continue browsing the site.
Other brands are jumping on the employees-as-spokespeople bandwagon — J. Crew asked its male staffers to star in videos explaining how they got their J. Crew jeans worn in so perfectly (the answer: by not washing them for months on end). After the video series was successful, CEO Jenna Lyons had nine women staffers style the “cafe capri” khaki in ads:
Based on their height difference alone, no one would mistake those two women above for standard models — yet they still look appealing. And we’re not the only ones who think so — Laurie Williams, Zappos’ video and photo products manager, told WSJ that if the company could shoot their clothing on regular people-on-the-street, they would do so. Will actual “model” models soon be a thing of the past?