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Do Video Backgrounds Help or Hurt Conversions?

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Not everything that glitters is gold. Only by testing can you know for sure if you’ve hit the jackpot. Image via Shutterstock.

So far, video backgrounds have been implemented fairly successfully on websites (they add a certain cool-factor, right?), but there is some debate over whether or not they should be used on landing pages. While video backgrounds may look beautiful, initial research reveals that they could prove too distracting for some landing pages, and could contribute to lower conversion rates.

As is the case with most new innovations in web design, it can be tempting to use this new technology without a clear understanding on how it affects conversion.

Nonetheless, marketers love video backgrounds: they are modern, appeal to the inner design ego in all of us and have already been hailed as one of the biggest design trends of 2016. Trendy marketers have made it clear that they definitely want to use them on landing pages.

In fact, when Unbounce released video backgrounds as a built in feature, it become one of the most popular discussions in our community. Ever. And, when we opened it up for beta testing, we got some pretty enthusiastic responses.

Like Jon here…

jon

And David…

david

And, of course, Gary…

gary

And, Dave…?

dave t

So, video backgrounds on a website? Go for it. But video backgrounds on a landing page? Not so fast.

Not so fast
Image via Giphy.

Here’s why: Video backgrounds can make pages load slower and distract visitors from your Call to Action (CTA). And since every great landing page has only one end goal (conversions), it begs the question: Should we nix the idea of using video background altogether?

Well, not entirely.

Like anything else you implement on a landing page, you’re going to want to test that puppy out thoroughly to see what effect (if any) it has on conversion rates.

Here at Unbounce, we’ve been testing out the use of video backgrounds on landing pages. Based on our results, we’ve come up with some guidelines outlining when to use a video background versus a static hero image and best practices for applying a video background.

When should you use a video background on a landing page?

I looped in Unbounce’s senior conversion expert, Michael Aagaard, to explain how using a video background on landing pages has worked for us:

We’ve been experimenting with video backgrounds for a while now. What we see is a tendency for video backgrounds to work well on landing pages where the goal is to communicate a certain “vibe” or “feeling.

In other words, video backgrounds could work well on landing pages that promote a unique atmosphere, like a conference, performing arts event or restaurant.

Video backgrounds can help demonstrate a hard-to-describe experience or atmosphere.

When shouldn’t you use a video background on a landing page?

Aagaard explains that video backgrounds could have an adverse effect on landing pages when there’s a complex sales offer at stake. When that’s the case, he recommends concentrating on the landing page copy to convince users to convert:

With more complex offers where you need to read a lot of copy in the first screenful, video backgrounds can be a bit distracting.

Copy has a direct and measurable effect on landing page conversions. If your offer requires a lot of explaining, use your words rather than running the risk of distracting visitors with video.

The Unbounce house rules for using video backgrounds

Landing pages are different from websites, and thus deserve their own set of laws for applying video backgrounds. Here’s our (not-yet-foolproof) list of ground rules for using video backgrounds on a landing page. Is this a comprehensive, complete, end-all, be-all list? Of course not! Join the dialogue and add your own rules and/or lessons learned in the comments below.

1. Avoid major distractions

Keep the conversion goal front and center. The video background content should always support the overall goal of the page. ConversionXL founder Peep Laja has a similar opinion:

Video that doesn’t add value works against the conversion goal.

Essentially, video backgrounds shouldn’t distract visitors from the primary goal of the page — rather, they should supplement or enhance the CTA.

The video background on this landing page enhances the CTA without distracting visitors.

2. Contrast is essential

In most cases, you’ll want to have some text layered on top of the video background — make sure it’s legible and easy to read throughout the entire video loop. Generally, aim for a strong light/dark contrast between the video background and the copy.

One way to ensure full, legible contrast is by applying a solid, monochromatic filter on top of the video. Not only does this look super professional, but also the color contrast makes the text, form and CTA on the landing page really pop.

The monochromatic filter applied on top of this video background makes the text and CTA really pop. BTW, like this ^? Log into Unbounce to use this brand spankin’ new template.

3. Short loop

A 5-10 second video loop should be enough time to get the point across without sacrificing quick load time.

Keep in mind that a background video will be playing on a constant loop. If the video is too short, the loop will appear disjointed or incomplete. On the other hand, if the video is too long, the viewer may click away from the website, or onto another page before the video has had a chance to work its magic in eliciting the desired emotional response.

Look for (or produce) a simple looping background that is relevant to the content of your landing page.
There are many libraries of stock video clips online (here’s a pretty good roundup). If you can’t produce your own footage, make sure to double-check the copyrights associated with any video before you use it.

4. Mute the audio

One of the biggest pet peeves of net users everywhere is unsolicited audio when landing on a page. Don’t let your landing page be that landing page.

The general rule of thumb is that sound should always be muted (on all Unbounce pages, audio is turned off by default). If, for some reason, you need to add sound to your video background, don’t autoplay the video with sound — let viewers press play when they’re ready.

5. Remove visual controls

As long as the video content is relevant and the quality sufficient, there should be no reason for landing page visitors to press play or pause.

#alwaysbetesting

So, if you follow all of our House Rules, placing a video in the background of your landing page should increase conversion, right? Or, at the very least, it won’t actually hurt conversion… right?

Well, maybe.

Video backgrounds are still in the early days of their inception and, like any good data-driven marketer, you’re going to want to take it for a test drive before committing fully.

A/B testing is both an art and a science. It’s also very unpredictable. Most marketing departments, usability specialists, designers and management rely on a mixture of experience, gut instinct and personal opinion when it comes to deciding what makes a delightful marketing experience for their customers.

We recommend running an A/B test to compare how your page performs with a video background compared to a static image. Start by segmenting a small portion of traffic towards the page — just to be safe.

At the end of the day, it’s your customers and your brand that will decide what converts best.

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