Where The Rubber Meets The Road: 5 Tips to Help Manage Your Product Video Expectations

There are so many amazing things that you can do with online video once you have the video assets.  We read about trends, new ideas and examples everyday here on the Video Commerce Consortium and at ReelSEO, and everyday I get excited about what business are doing with their video strategies.  There are also tons of great articles with convincing ROI figures from online video but there are still literally hundreds of e-commerce sites stagnant in their development of a video strategy.  I’m sure there are probably thousands of reasons for this from budget constraints, timing, and lack of a cohesive direction to just plain not knowing what you want or what you’re going to get if you jump in the online video pool.

There are several retail video strategies any business can leverage but I’m going to focus on the preliminary vision in helping build the idea of what your product videos can look like.  Your product videos will be how your customers interact with your products and will help them decide if they buy now.  They also build a more profound image of you as a brand.  Needless to say, this is an involved topic and there is no single solution.  To start,  I’ll be looking at some macro types of questions and focus on potential options through examples.  So, what are your product videos going to look like?

1. What is the Goal?

I think a better way to position this question is, what do your customers need to get from your product videos to help them convert?  Many times product videos are defined to encompass product education either through demonstration, a verbal explanation or both.  Knowing your customers and your products will help guide this process in building the core scope and approach that works best for you as a brand.  There is no cookie cutter solution for a company that sells flowers verses company that sells mufflers.  Your approach may be comical, natural, inspiring, profound or straight-to-the-point.  To take this one step further, your product video goals may also include building brand loyalty, conveying corporate stability or communicating domestic customer support.  I’m not going to go into detail on how to accomplish these additional goals in a product video strategy but simply note that product videos can take a larger scope.

2. What are You Going to Say?

With a goal in mind, what you’re actually going to talk about becomes a little more objective.  Sticking with the core content of a single product, I’ll break it down into four formats.  (1) Product Descriptions, (2) Script it Yourself (3) Expert Testimony and (4) Let the Product Speak.

Product Descriptions
For all intensive purposes, Zappos has come to own the product description video and it’s worked very well for them.  Product description videos essentially take text written by the manufacture and use that as a guideline for scripting the product video.  This method is highly scalable but isn’t perfect. For example, here is a video for a $265 pair of New Balance running shoes:

Here is a video for a $50 pair of New Balance running shoes:

The scripts are very similar so the one thing I’d suggest to keep in mind if you sell hundreds of similar products is to find that one truly unique factor about a specific product and make sure that point is conveyed.

Script it Yourself
Take your own approach and talk about products based on customer inquiries, returns or even what you personally like about the product itself.  This approach can be a little difficult to scale at first but it gets easier with time.  I think the most valuable point with this approach is to come up with 3 or 4 key points you want to say about the product and use your own words as fillers.  If you’re writing detailed scripts it can be difficult to remember and often times comes across sounding “too scripted.”  The core benefit is that you’re able to talk directly to your customers about details that you know matter to them.  I personally like this approach but it takes practice.  Here are six tips for creating good online video scripts from the American Writers and Artists Inc.  This was for a video contest they held and Jessica Kizorek makes some good points.


Expert Testimony
Expert testimony videos are very cool.  Everything that needs to be said is by a product expert who actually uses, used or knows your products based on industry experience.  Here is a video of a $90 North Face Base Camp Duffel that I love (this video was previously featured on The Video Commerce Consortium in this post on Interactive Shoppable Videos) :

Of course, this particular type of video isn’t scalable but Jimmy Chin makes one very important point beginning at the 1:20 minute mark, “Every single North Face athlete is using one of these on every single expedition over the course of the last 10, 15, 20 years…”  This bag is not going out of season, out of style or out of production anytime soon.  This bag certainly justifies a video of that production level.

Here is a bit more scalable approach with a similar bag, the Marmot Long Hauler Duffel:


Expert testimony videos are more affordable than you think, and they don’t require an elaborate production process.  I’ll get into shooting locations later, but my advice is to go out and talk to some experts and look into what it would cost to shoot with them for a day.  The cool thing about shooting with experts is that you don’t need many takes to knock out a very good product video that sounds sincere and natural.  With proper planning you can arguably shoot more products than you think.

Let the Product Speak
Sometimes not saying anything speaks volumes.  Here’s the Bank Bomb from ThinkGeek:


Listening to someone explain how the Bank Bomb works would be like listening to someone explain a joke; boring and unnecessary.

3. What is the Delivery Method?

There are some parallels with delivery and what you’re going to talk about, but there are several ways to deliver what you need said about your products. Here are three examples for the Nerf N-Strike Deploy CS-6 Blaster.

Here is Aubry, the online video spokesperson for Toys R Us:


Here is a haul video by manslayer468:


Here is the original Nerf commercial:


You can see just how different each of these product videos are.  They each communicate different key points about the product, and you can begin to get a better idea of which method may work better for your customers.

4. Where do you shoot?

Where are you going to shoot?  Do you need a studio, gym, garage, kitchen, mountain, classroom, office?  Based on your goals, what you’re going to talk about and your desired delivery method, this question should be a little easier to answer.  I’m personally a fan of shooting in locations that relate to your products but every situation is different.  Here are two examples of an expert testimony for the Beauty Blender Egg:

Shot in a hair salon:


Shot with a blown out background:


5. Who is delivering the information?

Almost as important as who, is how is someone delivering the information.  In the video by Jessica Kizorek, she makes a few points on camera presence, but this is a very important point.  In building an ideal image of your brand representation, beginning with asking who is important.  Is it a man, woman, young, old, long hair, short hair, blond, beard?  Who should be educating your customers?  It could be someone in the office, or you may be better off finding someone who fits the look you want. (Buy.com address this point in a recent VideoRetailer.org blog post, Video Commerce Lessons from Buy.com.)

There’s really a lot that goes into these five points, and in no way did I nearly touch on every possibility.  What I do hope is that if your video strategy is stagnant or you’re searching for a new direction that you have some new thoughts, and  new possible avenues to explore that you may have not yet thought of.  Beginning with the big picture then honing in on specifics, you’ll find that ideal product video really isn’t as far as you think.