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Why consumer-generated YouTube videos are your best sales associate

By Natalia Zakel

Are retailers aware of what today’s customer journey looks like? With so many channels available it’s practically impossible to pinpoint when and how customers choose to interact. Pre-internet customer journeys were often linear, but with consumers becoming channel-agnostic, the traditional customer journey is taking on many unpredictable forms. What does this mean for retailers and what can they do?

Research with a side of video

Aware of this ongoing change, Google looked at thousands of users’ clickstream data in order to learn more about customers’ purchase journeys - what they searched, when, and how – down to the point of purchase. What Google discovered is that although no two journeys are alike, what they do share in common is research. Today’s customer journey consists of crazy amounts of research. The purchase decision depends on research.

Learning more about a product prior to purchase is in no way a new concept - however, the type of research has changed drastically. Consumers are not turning toward brands to tell them about the product, they are turning to each other. Exploring the experiences of others is now a meaningful part of decision making - it’s digital word-of-mouth, and video is the preferred form.

YouTube hero

A larger fraction of users are searching for video content through text or photos. That’s because video is an emotional format, and consumers buy on emotion. Retailers often think of search and video as two distinct channels, but people don’t experience them in silos at all. They use them together as critical resources on their path to purchase. As a matter of fact, 80% of people say they typically switch between online research and video when researching products to buy.

The top reasons people watch a video after a search is to see the product before they buy it or see how others have used it, learn more about the product they have in mind, and see credible, authentic reviews. And where exactly are they searching for these videos? YouTube. With 1.9 billion monthly active users and 576,000 hours of video uploaded every day, it’s no surprise that consumers interested in learning more tune into this platform giant. This trend is evident as YouTube has become the second biggest search engine after Google, and the third most visited site worldwide.

A closer look at two sample customer journeys in key verticals, electronics and personal care, showcase the power of YouTube videos. The below images illustrate this point, with the wide section of the chart indicating the person is broadening their consideration set or starting their search at the category level, and the narrow point showing the person is considering a specific set of product or brands or making a purchase.

Case Studies

The customer shopping for smartphones began his journey by watching a YouTube video of ‘brand A mobile phone review’ followed by four additional YouTube videos of ‘brand A unboxing and first impressions’. It’s easy to see that these videos narrowed and focussed his selection. He then watched two videos on a platform other than YouTube for ‘brand B mobile phone review’ and ‘electronic brand B mobile phone’. These videos did the opposite and instead broadened his decision-making. Ultimately, he chose to purchase brand A’s smartphone.

The customer shopping for skin care watched three YouTube videos mid-journey for ‘the best kbeauty products.’ Interestingly, there has been a 110% year-over-year growth in watch time of "which [product] to buy" videos on YouTube. The customer testimonials she watched empowered her to feel confident in her decision and ended with a purchase.

Sara Kleinberg, Head of Ads Research and Insights at Google explains, “People want to know what they’re getting into before they make purchase decisions, but that’s not new. What’s new, that we learned from looking at YouTube videos people watch, is that they are both seeking out—and watching—other people's personal experiences to help them decide what’s right for them. It’s much more than just a product review."

YouTube phone

In YouTube we trust

Consumers want to see people they can relate to, talking honestly about a product (both the good and the bad), before committing to a purchase. Testimonials have more influence on specific purchase decisions than factors that retailers can control, such as advertising, promotions and pricing. So much so that they’re among the most effective ways, if not the most effective way, to persuade prospective buyers.

The key element that peers provide, and what most brands can’t compete with, is credibility. No doubt people still look to brands for information but that’s only a small part of their consideration process. That’s because they feel that brands will only tell part of the story, and they have started disliking and distrusting brand messages.  In fact, a recent survey found that 84% of millennials stated that they don’t like advertising and don’t trust its messages.

Consumer-generated content is trustworthy because it’s authentic. And authenticity goes a long way, with 3 in 4 viewers saying it’s important that YouTube feature people who are genuine, authentic or relatable. Consumers are seeking out this real-life-use content that is rarely included in marketing material. It's straightforward, conversational, and easier to understand than professional reviews. It's like a friend telling you about something they recently bought.

YouTube videos

You versus YouTube

Video is one of the most engaging digital advertising formats, which is why it’s critical that retailers make use of it. By featuring video on your website, the average user spends 88% more time on-site. If you take that even farther and feature video within your product pages, the appeal is stronger. 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions and 85% are more likely on average to purchase that product. By understanding the effect video has, it would seem like a no-brainer for retailers to apply it. However, a survey aimed at marketers who don’t currently use video, found the main reasons they are because:

  • Lack of time, 23%
  • They just don’t know where to start, 21%
  • They were unclear on the ROI of video, 14%
  • They thought video was too expensive, 12%

There are a few disadvantages of doing your own product videos. For starters, the initial investment in equipment is expensive. Once you have created it, video doesn’t promote itself, meaning additional advertisement. More importantly - and directly linked to customers - is the difficulty to provide unbiased views. To counter that, a few advantages of using YouTube video are:

  • No production effort. Remember the 576,000 hours of video uploaded every day?
  • It’s unbiased, fulfilling customer desires for authenticity and value.
  • It’s completely free.

YouTube continues to lead.

YouTube app

Immersive brand experiences

Customers are expressing intent and their desire to learn more is creating valuable portals for assistance and engagement. For most brand experiences, these powerful moments are left to chance, to the customer’s own devices. This means that there are missed chances as well as tremendous opportunities for brands right now. Retailers should become advisers, assisting customers as they seek to make decisions by optimising their current experience. We know research defines the purchase decision and we can pinpoint the platform consumers prefer, so the solution is obvious: integrate YouTube into product pages.

Sample YouTube page

While written reviews and star-ratings are highly useful, videos featuring customer testimonials give the product a level of credibility and trust that viewers may not find in even the most well-written product review. Consumer-generated videos also give prospective customers a human connection to the product when they see people like themselves using and enjoying the item. Plus, by allowing the product page to be transparent, you build perceptions of brand authenticity.

The benefits of providing customers with this added service are that what they need (research) and want (authenticity), are all contained within the site, meaning that the shopper is never given the opportunity to stray from the purchase journey.

Today’s consumers buy differently. Are you selling to them differently?

It’s time for brands to rethink the customer journey, the touch points and the marketing that define the customer experience today. The only way to do so is through the perspective of customers. Brands must move beyond traditional marketing and customer experiences to become part of the consideration. Go the extra mile to alleviate anxiety, stoke excitement, promote confidence, and set the stage for ideal experiences. Reward customers with modern experiences and be rewarded.

Natalia Zakel, FACT-Finder

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