Audio Description for eCommerce

March 15, 2019 BY JACLYN LEDUC
Updated: July 8, 2019

Branded video content is the most memorable type of content for consumers.

These days, it seems that eCommerce companies are utilizing online video marketing more and more. 54% of consumers want to see video from their favorite brands, so it’s no surprise that they are giving the people what they want.

Video marketing is a powerful tool for eCommerce businesses, and it turns out that 78% of people are watching online video every week. According to Hubspot, branded video content is the most memorable type of content for consumers, and it’s an even more powerful marketing tool when it’s accessible.

In the case of closed captions, they improve brand recall, verbal memory, behavioral intent, and enhance the viewing experience overall. Closed captions also make videos more accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing and to people with other types of disabilities.

But is there a way to make your videos even more accessible?

ECommerce brands can make their videos more accessible, specifically to those who are blind or have low vision, by offering audio description. Audio description (AD) describes the visual elements of a video, within the natural pauses of the audio.

3.5% of the global population has some form of vision loss.

Audio description also benefits people who are on the autistic spectrum, multi-taskers, and auditory learners. Utilizing audio description provides value to eCommerce companies because it makes brands more accessible and appealing to a broader audience.

Below, we discuss what eCommerce companies should consider when looking for an audio description provider, such as what is important for eCommerce, challenges they face, and things to look for in an AD vendor.

What is important for eCommerce?

Accessibility: Did you know that 3.5% of the global population has some form of vision loss? That’s 253 million people. Also, 10% of the U.S. adult population has some degree of vision loss: that’s 23.7 million people. For eCommerce sites, that’s a lot of potential customers! Many eCommerce companies want to be accessible to the blind and low vision population and to open up their goods and services to more consumers. Without accessible video, these businesses are potentially inhibiting a significant amount of people from enjoying their content. The solution to this is to audio describe all video content, a practice to which several eCommerce companies have already turned. Offering audio description for video content will also protect eCommerce companies from being sued for inaccessible content.

How does the ADA apply to eCommerce websites?

Legal Compliance: eCommerce companies are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a broad, anti-discrimination law in the U.S. This law requires that places of public accommodation provide “auxiliary aids.” It’s been widely debated whether or not the ADA applies to online-only businesses since it’s not explicitly written into the law. However, several court rulings for cases provides precedent for the ADA’s interpretation in regards to digital businesses. For example, in the case of NAD vs. Netflix, it was determined that online-only business must comply with the ADA. Still, at this time, the ADA is up for interpretation in regards to what qualifies as a “place of public accommodation.” ECommerce companies should include audio descriptions with their video content for people who are blind and who have low vision to be safe from legal repercussions.

Quality: Well-done video descriptions are of the utmost importance for eCommerce companies. With 3.5% of the world population having some type of vision loss, online stores must ensure that their video content is fully accessible and described accurately. A quality video description will explain all of the vital information within a video. For example, a video on how to successfully paint your living room may show a step-by-step guide on “do-it-yourself” painting using a specific brand of paint. A quality video description would describe things like how the subject applies masking tape snuggly across all wall trim and light fixtures, and how they paint in upward and downward motions using a paint roller. For a comprehensive list of guidelines, the DCMP description key outlines several elements that make up a high-quality description.

What are the common challenges in eCommerce?

Scalable audio description for video

Scalability: No two eCommerce companies are the same in terms of their audio description needs. It may be that they have a large video library that needs to be retroactively described. Or perhaps they are new to video marketing, would like to put their best foot forward with accessibility practices, and plan to describe as they go. Whatever it may be, these companies need an audio description provider that can scale their services to match the amount of video that needs describing. It may be a challenge, but rest assured that it can be done without sacrificing quality or breaking the bank.

Workflow: Audio description is typically a secondary audio track that associates with a video in addition to the main audio track (speech, music, sound effects, etc.) An audio description file can be “burned” or embedded into the main audio track, but that leaves viewers without the option to turn the AD track on and off. A secondary AD file is what allows viewers to choose whether or not to turn audio description on, but not all video platforms support this option. Needless to say, it can be quite a challenge just to publish the audio description file. ECommerce sites should seek out a solution that has knowledge on audio description workflows and that offers tools that make the process more efficient.

Cost: The cost of describing videos typically starts at $15 per minute and can go upwards of $75 per minute. The reason why the cost of audio description is so high is because of the time, attention to detail, and level of skill it often takes to describe videos. ECommerce companies are concerned with finding the best deal for audio description, yet they don’t want to skimp on quality since that would negatively affect the user experience. It is a challenge to find audio description services that are easy on the wallet. Luckily, there are options available that deliver quality audio description files at competitive prices.

What vendor features are important to eCommerce?

Competitive Cost: The cost of audio description at 3Play Media is significantly lower than the industry standard. Our description process uses a combination of technology and human describers, which allows us to offer audio description starting at just $9 per minute for standard AD and $14 per minute for extended AD. Regardless, we’ll make sure that you’re getting high-quality video descriptions at a reasonable price.

paint brush and paint bucket

Customization: There is a standard of quality for audio description which all eCommerce sites should adhere to, but that doesn’t mean some level of customization isn’t acceptable. ECommerce companies want to make sure their brand is appropriately represented on all fronts, including in video descriptions. Things like the proper pronunciation of brand-specific terms and the type of voice that reads the description matters to many of these companies. At 3Play Media, our customers have the option of including a cheat sheet with their videos where they can include the spelling of a speaker’s name or the name of a new product line. Customers can also select both the speech rate and the synthetic voice that they prefer.

Easy Publishing: The process of publishing audio description files doesn’t need to be dreaded any longer. 3Play Media aims to make the publishing process as painless as possible. We integrate with several video platforms that natively support audio description files, such as Brightcove, JW Player, Ooyala, and Kaltura. If you don’t use these specific video players to host your videos, no worries. We’ve created a 3Play Plugin which includes an audio description embed. With this plugin, you’ll be able to add audio description files without ever needing to republish video or audio files. It also allows viewers to toggle audio description on and off and lets them change the volume of the description separate from the main audio track.

Thumbs up for reliability

Reliability: ECommerce companies are in the business of getting stuff done efficiently, and they need an audio description provider that works with their deadlines. 3Play Media offers many turnaround options: for our time-restricted customers, we offer 2-business-day, 1-business-day, 8-hour, and 2-hour turnaround. If time is not a concern, the standard turnaround is 4 business days, and extended turnaround is 10 days. We are also willing to work with customers on unique turnaround requirements, just get in touch with us to discuss the best solution.

Quality: At 3Play Media, we follow audio description standards based on the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) description key to ensure that your AD files are high-quality. Also, all audio description work is completed in the U.S. by native English speakers who are able to describe the unique details of your video content accurately.


Don’t wait any longer! If you’re an eCommerce company utilizing video marketing, start describing your videos today.

Get started today with audio description

3play media logo in blue

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