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Urban Outfitters embraces vertical video, debuts UOTV shoppable channel

Urban Outfitters is rolling out UOTV, a vertical video channel accessible through its mobile site, showcasing its dedication to reaching millennial shoppers on their most frequented platforms.

UOTV is the first branded channel on a new vertical video platform, called Tilt, that is powered by visual commerce and marketing platform Curalate. It is designed to make use of smartphones’ unique vertical aspect ratio to encourage mobile viewing.

“Producing content is an investment,” said Apu Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Curalate. “Like any investment, obtaining a higher return on it is just good business.

“On Snapchat and Instagram Stories, brands are telling amazing stories. And then they disappear. Furthermore, these brands are developing a competence in storytelling vertically and in snippets/stories.”

New aspect ratio
Snapchat has by now established itself as an engagement tool for many brands, who create content for Snapchat in an effort to connect with younger audiences. The problem is that all of that vertical video content goes away after 24 hours.

Seeing the waste of all that content and perceiving a window of opportunity, Curalate released its Tilt platform specifically to offer a way for brands to host all of that vertical video content created for Snapchat.

Curalate notes that half of all video consumption comes from mobile devices, but most video is still displayed in the horizontal, widescreen style that one might see on a desktop or TV. This format is not ideal for a phone, where a user would have to hold it sideways in order to view it properly.

Instead, vertical videos, such as the kind mainly used in Snapchat Stories, should be the ideal video format for phones. To that end, Tilt is meant for brands that want to capitalize on vertical videos on a platform other than Snapchat.

Since Tilt is a mobile video channel, vertical video content is not lost after a certain amount of time the way it is on Snapchat. Instead, brands can keep that vertical video content and get the most mileage out of it possible by hosting it all in one place.

Urban Outfitters is joining on by creating UOTV, Tilt’s first branded mobile channel. UOTV will display short vertical videos produced by Urban Outfitters.

The videos themselves will be shoppable, meaning they can link directly to the purchasing page for the products listed in them. UOTV will also be viewable directly from Urban Outfitters’ mobile site and will not require an additional download to view.

Challenge of formality
Mobile video’s popularity is definitely growing, especially live streaming. Twitter just announced live streaming apps for the Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV (see story).

Vertical video has also taken off. Snapchat has even begun the airing of a variety of shows produced by TV networks such as E! (see story).

The struggle brands have faced with vertical video since last year has been how to balance the informal nature of vertical video platforms with a tight on-brand message.

Many platforms that specialize in vertical video, such as Snapchat and Periscope, are also very informal. Snapchat does not allow previously recorded footage to be uploaded and Periscope must be filmed live, meaning that brands wanting a tightly scripted message have to broadcast it live or do it in one take with no editing.

Curalate and Urban Outfitters are betting on the familiarity of vertical video, combined with the more professional production values of regular video campaigns.

“Smart brands will utilize a mixture of both [social media and Tilt],” Mr. Gupta said. “Snapchat and similar platforms are great for driving awareness and engagement at the top of the funnel.

“Their paid capabilities mean that you can also buy reach. Owned channels, on the other hand, are great for moving people from intent to purchase.”