Home > Internet Video Ads > The winner: video customer reviews

The winner: video customer reviews

August 11th, 2007

In advertising, we call them "testimonials," but in truth customers couldn’t care less about them.

What they really want are real life case studies if they’re business buyers, or product reviews from other customers, if they’re consumers.

When we, the advertisers, say something, or even relate a customer comment second hand in the form of a "testimonial," our much-abused and rightfully skeptical prospects take it with a grain of salt.

On the other hand, when a real person says it, credibility skyrockets.

Since I started my latest round of writing about Internet video in 2005, I’ve often repeated my hunch that one of the slam dunk uses of video was going to be to capture customer reviews. In fact, as far back as 2000, I was making sure that every time I did a live event I grabbed video from customers. This video has been, far and away, my most effective selling tool.

Now the studies are coming in and guess what? About 80% of consumers put more faith in advertisers who present customer reviews than those that don’t.  Over thee out of four customers say it is extremely or very important to read customer reviews before making a purchase.

And not just any old reviews. They want customer reviews and prefer them 6 to 1 over "expert" reviews. 44% of online shoppers say that consumer ratings and reviews are the most useful e-commerce  feature.  No other eCommerce shopping feature came even close.

Another study came up with different but similar numbers.

First, 85% of consumers research big ticket purchases like travel, electronics and cars on the Internet before they make their purchase. And what do 63% of them most want to see on a web site? You guessed it: customer reviews.

In the consumer electronics category, Amazon and Circuit City  are the most trusted vendors, Amazon because it’s familiar and Circuit City because it’s the easiest to use. Less trusted, at least in terms of online buying, are Wal-Mart and BestBuy. Guess who doesn’t provide customer reviews…

But that’s just changed. Last week, Wal-Mart started offering customer reviews on its web site. Wal-Mart’s own self-reported numbers state that 85% of their customers are Internet users. Sounds a little high to me, but then again, Wal-Mart’s got a pretty good record of tracking customer behavior (an understatement actually.)

General Motors is also getting into the act with big media buys at Yahoo Answers. Yahoo Answers, in case you didn’t now, is one of the granddaddies of user generated content sites. Members ask questions and other members answer them. Yahoo claims 90 million users and 250 million answers posted worldwide. Notice the theme: people talking to people without the mediation of pesky "experts."

In the online video arena, one company is making business of video customer reviews: ExpoTV.com. These guys are harnessing the two biggest forces on the Internet today: consumer-generated content and video.  Currently, the site has over 50,000 product reviews, all provided by consumers who shoot, edit and upload their own videos.  ExpoTV then turns around and syndicates this content to sites like Smarter.com, Buy.com, AOL and Yahoo.

ExpoTV pays its visitors $5 for every video they submit that’s accepted. Interestingly, the company says that  only 5 to 10%   of videos submitted by its users have to be rejected on purely technical grounds like bad sound or lighting. Clearly, huge portions of the world are now not only comfortable watching video on the Internet, they’re also comfortable and capable of shooting and uploading their own videos. (Thank YouTube for kicking that revolution into high gear.)

So what’s the take away from all of this?

1. Are you making it possible for your customers to post reviews of your products and services so other prospects can see them?  If not, you may be missing out on a huge credibility builder.

2. Don’t think that text-only "testimonials" are enough. Consumers are getting used to the idea of seeing video customer reviews.  The first player in your niche to take advantage of this lesson will quickly leave the rest of the competition behind. 

Remember the numbers from the surveys:

1) Prospects value the opinions of customers over "experts" 6 to 1, 
2) Well over half of all Internet users believe that customer reviews and ratings are extremely or very important, and
3) The single most popular feature on eCommerce sites, by a very wide margin, is the availability of customer reviews.

Bottom line: Customers want to get their product information from each other. Not from advertisers. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Ken McCarthy

P.S. For a free highlights version of this blog go to:


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  1. fw
    August 12th, 2007 at 06:38 | #1

    I’d suggest that folks don’t want customer reviews per se. People want reassurance that they have made the right decision and not suffer the pangs of post purchase remorse. It looks as if a peer customer reviews provides a good method of providing this reassurance, but has anybody tested customer reviews and no money back guarantee against unequivocal money back guarantee and no video ?

  2. August 12th, 2007 at 08:30 | #2

    I work face-to-face with customers everyday, and YES, they want to know what others say about the product. There are to many products out there, to much hype, to much confusion. People need help, and this is a good way to do it.

  3. August 12th, 2007 at 08:40 | #3

    I buy 99% of my books, clothing, and shoes online and rely heavily on customer reviews to influence my purchase decision, especially for shoes. No one has ever steered me wrong!
    What influences me the most in people’s reviews is their impressions of the specifics of the product and their sincerity. I’m looking for personality as well as information when I read (or watch) testimonals. If it’s flippant, superficial, or sounds canned, I’m out of there.

  4. August 12th, 2007 at 09:28 | #4

    I am interested in the source of the studies you’ve mentioned above (“Now the studies are coming in and guess what? About 80% of consumers put more faith in advertisers who present customer reviews than those that don’t.”)
    I am working on a book about “The Power of Testimonials” here in Germany and so I am searching for proof (for example studies).
    Thank you in advance and greetings from Germany

  5. August 12th, 2007 at 11:39 | #5

    This is an excellent idea. I never thought of suggesting prospects and existing customers post a video.
    Do we just say ‘Go to YouTube and post a comment? Or is there some other method you recommend?
    James Wilson
    Wilson Productions
    Japanese Language Services

  6. August 12th, 2007 at 13:03 | #6

    Hi There….
    I have been looking at adding video testimonials to complement the existing text ones on our site. What’s the best/cheapest was of doing this?
    Mark Hutchinson

  7. August 12th, 2007 at 13:55 | #7

    I can personally vouch for the power of posting written customer reviews and I can only imagine the impact those same reviews would have were they video reviews.
    I launched my latest book on Amazon.com in March without an advertising budget. That first month we sold only 15 books, but then an amazing thing started to happen — people who bought the book started to post reviews and comments — really, really great reviews and comments. We are now selling a couple of “cases” of books per month after only a few months and the trend line is headed up — all without an advertising budget, strictly by word of mouth.
    I attribute it all to the customer reviews and comments.

  8. Tony Ostian
    August 12th, 2007 at 16:43 | #8

    Insightful. Invaluable. Cutting edge. Keep these money-making strategies coming, Ken. I look forward to seeing you guys August 25th in Chicago.

  9. August 12th, 2007 at 18:13 | #9

    Right on target as usual Ken.
    I like to look at my own behavior when I read Ken. I buy MOSTLY online and I buy a lot cause I buy for clients. Where do I buy.
    #1 Amazon (first large site with reviews)
    #2 NewEgg (customer reviews – yes)
    various other sites in the distance – eBay (yep – reviews), eBags (yep – reviews).
    I believe I see a pattern here.
    I trust sites that trust the public enough to let them give feedback.
    Something of note. A tiny percentage of bad reviews actually gives more credibility to the good ones. It proves to me the site publishes both sides and we all know the guy who will claim the product is defective when he never read the instructions 🙂

  10. August 12th, 2007 at 18:57 | #10

    funny thing, related to demographic issues on the internet…I wonder if the “who” of the customer review becomes more significant with a video feed…I put my husband’s age & gender instead of my own on a video site …initial security issues I guess…when I felt safer I tried to change it back, but was not able…months later I checked the traffic…apparently using a male profile was worth ten times the traffic I usually get…does this mean that men have more credibility on the net ? or just that there are more men out there watching videos online? So to topic- what kind of a customer review on video is most potent ? (male female, rich poor, good looking ugly, well dressed shabby, young old…?)

  11. August 12th, 2007 at 20:29 | #11

    Interesting observation from Sari (above).
    As much as I hate to say it, I believe that even with the law of large numbers at play we are all suckers for the articulate and the handsome.
    If someone is stuttering all over the place, scruffy and unkempt, what is the likelihood that we will take them seriously? (Be honest now.) When looking at video case studies we are “interviewing” the person to all intents and purposes; and we all know about the first X seconds of an interview, don’t we?
    Don’t get me wrong … I would rather have a video testimonial in preference to some faceless, voiceless “JoJo from Idaho” customer testimony that only knows how to speak in high-pitched superlatives. But it’s still worth remembering our own natural biases and not be viewing video testimonials as some panacea to increased conversion rates.

  12. August 12th, 2007 at 22:31 | #12

    Thanks Ken! YOU are one of the few, (if not the only one) to put out the straight ‘scoop’. I’m looking forward to our meeting! Personally, I’ve made it my Business to record customer reviews (and more) for my clients. The ‘cheapest’ way to do this, Mark is to post the videos to Google and others who will host them for freee. [you can see some of what I’ve done if you look me up there] Of course to have a quality end product you’ll need to be able to edit what you capture before posting, keeping in mind that you’re not going after a highly polished ‘Pro’ look, but more of a ‘down-home’ realism. Give a holler if you’d like an assist in any way. Jim

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