Consumer Generated Video Tips for Retail and e-commerce

I interviewed Pete Blackshaw, Global Head of Digital & Social Media at Nestle, who shares his tips on how retail and e-commerce businesses should take advantage of consumer generated media with their own video marketing strategy.

I originally talked with Pete last year for my article titled “Consumer Generated Media, Customer Reviews, and Brand Marketing Strategies,” back when he was the Executive VP for Nielsen Digital Strategic Services. Pete has recently authored a book about consumer-generated media titled, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World.

Here are 3 key takeaways from Pete’s book around consumer behavior today:

  • Businesses no longer hold absolute sway over the decisions and behavior of consumers.
  • The longer companies refuse to accept the influence of consumer-to-consumer communication and perpetuate old ways of doing business, the more they will alienate and drive away their customers.
  • To succeed in a world where consumers now control the conversation, and where satisfied customers tell some people, while angry customers tell many more people, companies must achieve credibility on every front.

What is “consumer generated video?” (CGV)?

Consumer-generated video, or “CGV,” is a part of consumer-generated media (CGM), which describes the content that consumers create and share amongst themselves.

Pete described CGM as having following traits:

  • It’s often inspired by relevant product or service experiences.
  • It’s frequently archived online for convenience reading  by other consumers or key marketplace influencers.
  • It can be influenced, but not controlled, by marketers.

Here is also how I distinguish CGM from a similarly used yet non-matching term, user-generated content (UGC): The emphasis around CGM is on consumerism and consumers (a term used interchangeably with “customers”). CGM involves a relationship between customers and businesses, where an investment is made by consumers to “buy into” what a brand (i.e., business) is offering.

The special benefit of online video in consumer generated media and customer relationships

Pete explained to me that back when he worked as a Brand Manager for Procter and Gamble, his job was to monitor conversations online and interpret them to help companies understand how they should proceed with digital or social media plans. Here is his own statement about the role of online video in consumer-generated media:

“Online video plays a huge part in (customer conversations). It’s one of the fastest growing sources of content online, and it’s clearly at the heart of the whole CGM and social media movement. In fact, online video is one of the most persuasive forms of CGM, and is critically important for businesses to pay attention to.” added Pete. “It’s those videos that get a lot of traction (with other consumers).  They connect with consumers in more impactful ways than regular text can. Video + consumer generated multimedia (or “CGM squared” as I like to refer to it), makes for a higher impact. It’s the consumer generated video that’s really touching consumers in powerful and viral ways.”


8 reasons why retail and e-commerce businesses should work with consumer-generated videos:

  • It’s easy. Consumers can easily point-and-shoot with any digital video device and automatically upload to their social media channel of choice, and converse with their peers and audiences-at-large any way they want to.
  • It’s amplified. Pete described to me the “amplification” effect that video done by consumers has with fellow consumers. “Video creates an echo effect.  It brings out a lot of really important dimensions that combine together to affect consumer conversation.” He said.
  • It’s trusted. eMarketer and other marketing analyst firms have reported that people are more likely to trust content coming from their peers, and people “like them” over brands they are just starting to build relationships with. “Video provides a more meaningful currency for consumers to share. Even if they don’t share it in and of itself, it actually has a higher degree of persuasiveness and impact.” says Pete.
  • It’s informative. CGV is a great way to measure consumer perceptions and overall feedback from your targeted audience.
  • It’s popular. “YouTube and the other video sharing sites it has inspired have proven to be the ultimate platforms for the most sticky, viral, and incriminating CGM.” said Pete.
  • It’s evergreen. CGV provides long-lasting sources of influence, especially with Google, social media, and other search engines.
  • It’s influential. People who are passionate about your brand are more likely to create and share videos.
  • It just plain works. Last October the digital measurement firm comScore, in collaboration with EXPO Communications, released a study showing that user-generated videos are just as effective for sales as professionally-produced videos. “The results of our research suggest that user-created video is a format that not only yields promising persuasive executions, but does so in a way that complements traditional forms of media,” said Frank Findley, the then Vice President of comScore ARS, and now comScore’s VP of Research & Development. (You can read more about that study in my earlier article, “Do User Generated Videos Outperform Big Budget Brand Videos in E-Commerce?”)

With retail by it’s very nature being a customer-driven business, along with the high impact of video being more interesting and persuasive over plain text, it makes perfect sense for businesses to be employing their own CGV strategy and harness the influence of their own consumers.

Example of a CGV Platform: Zappos

Zappos is a great example of company dedicated to a CGV strategy.  They not only have a a separate Zappos’ customers YouTube channel for it’s customers, but also the Zappos “Video Experience” page where they encourage customers to post self-made video testimonials of their Zappos shopping experience.

“YouTube is a good platform for knowing whether something clicks or not – based on the views, comments and even the ratings.” Said Pete.

When your business may NOT be ready to employ a CGV strategy

The obvious answer may be if your brand is already on real shaky ground with your customers. Pete acknowledged that that there are some areas with CGV that can potentially create some real liabilities. “For example, if you’re a brand that already gets a lot of complaints or has a lot of skepticism and has a low trust factor, inviting consumer testimonials through video may create a heightened risk factor.” He said. “Chances are you’ll get the same type of venom in those videos.  So you may want to take a more conservative approach.” A lot of this speaks to what Pete wrote about in his book as the six drivers of brand credibility – trust, authenticity, transparency, listening, responsiveness and affirmation.

Brands also need to understand where they may have existing or built-in vulnerabilities. This can include:

  • Making exaggerated ad claims in their videos
  • Only giving lip service to social media activity. (For example, only “seeding” video content but not actively participating in customer conversations.)
  • Being prohibited by law from disclosing information, such as businesses involved in finance or healthcare.

For brands that are targeting consumers, yet at the same time are highly sensitive about disclosing any public information, it is important to find ways of educating consumers about those issues to preserve their trust.

9 Tips for effective CGV strategies in retail and e-commerce

  • Incentivize customers to give video reviews of your products, services, and your brand overall. Don’t be hesitant about putting out critical reviews, either. This can increase the degree of integrity and trustworthiness people have around your brand.  Customers will see your commitment to giving a quality experiences and not avoiding criticism. (You can also respectfully respond to genuine and well thought out criticism with your own video response.)
  • Encourage customer testimonials. “Consumer generated media known for first person testimonials typically informed by relevant experience with products or brands archived online.” said Pete.
  • Feature your customers as the stars. If you have a video studio, designate time for customers to stop by and share their stories around your brand. If you don’t have a studio, offer to hire a videographer for a day where you can have customers congregate. And of course, you can always have your customers submit their own videos, which you can embed in your brand’s blog. (Building a video channel just for your customers, like in the Zappos example, is a great way to encourage a sense of community.)
  • Respond to customer videos, and to customers with videos. You can create video-based FAQs, which could feature either the video submissions of their questions, or their questions in your own videos addressing them by name (and location). The Google Webmaster Central YouTube channel is a good example of this. Videos are becoming really popular as “how-to’s,” or “show me’s” – basically, as instructional guides. If you look at the data from known platforms like YouTube and instructional video sites, they are doing a lot in this context – all of that is really, really sticky.” said Pete.
  • Feature CGVs on your own blog. Doing a regular feature on your customers where you write stories around them is great encouragement for them to create and submit video content, and have a backlink to their own site, video channel, or other social media page.
  • Work with a CGV broker. Companies like EXPO serve as brokers for licensing and sharing consumer video reviews of a retail merchandise.
  • Handle exaggerated customer claims. “Sometimes consumers are so emotional about products that they unwittingly exaggerate the truth about product performance.  And companies I think have an obligation to not let those video testimonials confuse consumers.” says Pete. “Yes, the consumers are in control, but I think in many cases companies also have a certain degree of liability or accountability for what that consumer says.”
  • Disclose ALL relationships. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations require disclosure of any relationship between a business and the individuals featured in a video. That certainly includes prohibiting employees posing as customers in videos, which some businesses have gotten caught doing and have resulted in criminal charges. New companies like CMP.LY are now offering their own “compliance tags” which can be applied to videos and other content; and provide full disclosures for businesses to keep up to date with FTC guidelines for testimonials and endoresments in videos and other social media.
  • Offer live video chat. Setting up either a one-on-one or group video chat, with either a customer support specialist or a key influencer with your company, is a great way of providing customer service and building on their loyalty. Even better, offer it regularly so customers know they can always submit their questions in the interim.