Youtube on Product Pages: Good Idea or Bad Idea?

I’m spotting more and more video on ecommerce sites – and many of these are YouTube videos. For example, Ideal Case:

Shoeline.com:

And one of the funniest, Vat19 (yes they sell the 5 lb gummy bear):

Vat19 actually added a video gallery category, you can explore only items with videos.

But have you noticed anything about the above examples?

How about the glaring ad overlay that in some cases links to other retail sites? How about the related videos that distract your customer? Don’t underestimate the power of Youtube to activate CADD (Customer Attention Deficit Disorder)!

Though Youtube is quick and cheap way to include video content on your site, you run the risk of irritating customer with annoying ads, distracting suggested videos and performance issues if Youtube goes down for maintenance. All of this cheapens your brand image and may work against your conversion goals.

Ideal Case and Vat 19 appear to have produced their videos themselves (judging by the video titles and product exclusivity), so my question is why they aren’t using the original, clean videos on their site?

Dylan’s Candy Bar uses another user’s video on its product page for its Time Capsule collection.

In this case, the Youtube video adds whimsical charm to a whimsically charming product that stirs up the feeling of nostalgia. I don’t know how they did it, but somehow Dylan’s Candy Bar managed to embed this Archie comic video without ad overlay and related videos.

Lush leverages its biggest fan, “Allthatglitters21,” on its product pages. Though the video drags on a bit (almost 15 minutes!), you can tell this is an authentic Lush evangelist as she reviews her latest haul.

Though this video originally comes from Allthatglitters21′s Youtube channel, Lush has stripped it of its Youtube skin, making it more clean and professional, avoiding the “cheap” look that a straight embed would. Lush may have reached out to her and obtained the original video file in exchange for free product. Some sites like Blip.tv allow you to download video files directly to your computer.

The takeaway

Youtube carries risks – namely making your site look cheap, annoying or distracting customers. You can mitigate those risks by using your original videos on your site, or asking for the Youtube user’s permission to embed their original video on your site.

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25 Responses to “Youtube on Product Pages: Good Idea or Bad Idea?”

  1. Some good points, but we have a number of smaller ecommerce merchants that use YouTube for reasons such as:
    - Save on massive bandwidth and disk usage issues.

    - Take advantage of a distributed network for better overall video viewing

    - Harness the “viral potential” of YouTube for people liking the video and sharing it on YouTube.

    - No need for complicated streaming server software or embedded code to be viewed optimally.

    I agree there is the potential for distractions and “cheapening the brand” with YouTube videos, but the benefits may outweigh the potential risks. If embedded properly from YouTube, you can minimize the “chaff” and utilize a great network for videos that has the added bonus of “video SEO” by being on YouTube.

    Rob – LexiConn

  2. Dave says:

    The main reason we’ve decided to use YouTube on our product pages is because of the viral factor. YouTube harnesses such a large number of viewers, that our product videos on YouTube itself (benefited by the views on our store) are in itself a powerful marketing opportunity.

    Also note that you have the option to not display related videos when getting the embed code from YouTube.

  3. Josh says:

    Very Interesting, I agree completely. If your an eCommerce site you are already battling many other sites for the customers attention, the last thing you need is for the customer to watch a product video then see a related video that sparks their interest, thus causing them to leave your site without making a purchase.

    Also, The 5 pound gummy bear is epic.

  4. Marjorie says:

    To expand on Dave’s comment: to prevent the “related videos” from displaying on your YouTube video, click the cog to the right of the embed code and uncheck “include related videos”. While this doesn’t necessarily remove Google Ads, it does get rid of one ADD factor.

  5. David Minor says:

    I think there is a setting for disabling ads in your own channel.

    We use Viddler which I believe doesn’t show ads (or at least, there are none in the videos we’ve embedded).

  6. According to YouTube help, the only videos on YouTube with ads are videos that have signed up to be monetized. See, http://help.youtube.com/group/youtube-howto/browse_thread/thread/c9f4557d7019f5a9. If you’re a small business owner uploading your own product videos, then you want get unwanted ads.

  7. Bryan Markham says:

    I totally agree that having YouTube videos on the product pages cheapens the products. I think it is totally fine for blogs but that is another story. Sites should really take the time to create their own players for their site but I understand the appeal of YouTube. It is very reliable, quick, easy and free.

    As far as the ads and related videos are concerned these are both features that can be turned off. Though the ads can only be turned off if you are the user that uploaded the video.

    I feel the YouTube videos are great to use if it is a small business or something personal but to see this on a large site would make me feel a bit uncomfortable.

  8. You can add a “rel=0″ parameter to the Youtube URL to disable related links; see http://code.google.com/apis/youtube/player_parameters.html .

    There are plenty of options for hosting videos yourself without using your own bandwidth and disk. We host our PDF files on Rackspace Cloud Files for a pittance, but we could also put our videos there and use something like Flowplayer to display them.

  9. Social media should be used cautiously and strategically. Just because it is available or others are doing it, doesn’t mean you should or will receive any benefit from it.

    Finding other ways to creatively enhance your product offerings is always superior to jumping on band wagons.

    Thanks for the post!

  10. Rebecca says:

    I’m not sure, but I believe ads are determined by the YouTube user, so you wouldn’t be able to take those off since the video does in fact belong to the user.

    As far as other related videos, this is a choice when you embed the video – simply un-check “Include related videos.”

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  12. Claudiu says:

    Great article Linda. For the people not interested so much in the viral power but rather the content of the video I think youtube is really not the solution.

    For our soon to be released product we use blip.tv which allows you even to customize the player with your own brand name so no CADD (not even really tiny elements). They are also using the Akamai network so downtime should kind of never happen (at least I hope so :) )

  13. Totally agree. I blogged about this almost a year ago with the exact same points.

    http://techmktg.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/how-to-use-youtube-as-a-marketing-tool/

    I think companies like Brightcove and Vimeo will be adopted by major sites soon. Companies that have experience managing UGC like Bazaarvoice (where I work) are also working on solving this problem in the very short time.

  14. Linda and others, are there site performance considerations as well?

    Seems like videos might slow page load times leading to frustration, lost sales and lost tracking info. More on lost tracking here: http://www.rimmkaufman.com/rkgblog/2009/06/08/javascript-tracking-holes/

    Thoughts?

  15. Thanks for the great article Linda. I tend to think that YouTube is a great marketing platform and shouldn’t be confused with being a conversion platform. Let me start by saying that I believe retailers should upload videos on YT to take advantage of any marketing opportunities the platform creates.

    But, I tend to believe that by putting a video on a product page you are expecting that video to be a conversion tool and YT is not a conversion platform. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is.

    With that said, even YouTube videos provide value to visitors, but if I had a choice, I would pick a platform that allows me to convert my visitors.

  16. Great points everyone, and do give George’s post a read. He offers a solution for handling the problems slow loading pages with footer javascript analytics tracking can cause in your reporting.

  17. Using YouTube videos on your ecommerce site is like putting ketchup on your pasta. It works, but is that really what you want to do?

    Here is an example of Qoof’s Video Commerce Solution in action: http://behindtheburner.com/

    Also you can see a dedicated video page we did for them here: http://behindtheburner.com/video/watch

    For serious Ecommerce Sites, YouTube is not the way to go, but I can see it working for smaller sites.

  18. There’s no reason to use Youtube as an embed on your website. As has been previously mentioned, having potential customers follow your video through to your Youtube channel can actually work as a sales deterrence.

    If you’re looking for an easy, cheap way to host/embed videos, you’re better served using Vimeo or Viddler. The embedded player customization options on both give you at least a fighters chance of making the embedded video aesthetically consistent with the rest of the page.

    Tapping into Youtube’s numbers can be valuable if you have a video with viral potential, but for the majority of business videos you’d be better served utilizing a video service that insinuates a higher quality level. Maintaining a Youtube channel is fine, but it’s not something that’s always appropriate to advertise.

  19. Ted S says:

    This is an interesting topic and something I’ve debated with internal teams a few times.

    While I’ve seen a few comments going back and forth about saving resources I think the real argument for doing this is about the viral potential. Sure you can add your own sharing links but as we all know and discuss on other blog posts, the best way to be social friendly is to have content live where people live and not try to force them back to a product page. If people see a YouTube video they are more likely to be familiar with how to pass it along, favorite it or otherwise engage with it.

    There are downsides to using a video straight from YouTube and the ads and branding can easily outweigh the benefits but I think as YouTube evolves its offering we will find a hybrid that allows for the best of both worlds letting businesses harness the power of the YouTube platform without risking the ads or next videos.

  20. It’s not either / or. Use vimeo and YouTube.

    Use vimeo on your site for the reasons covered above – mainly more control.

    And put the video on YouTube as well for these reasons:

    * SEO – YouTube videos appear in Google blended results
    * YouTube searches will find your video
    * Viral possibilities

    And don’t forget to split test pages with video and similar pages without video to find out if it really is helping or hurting.

    If it’s important enough you can find out how many people have watched the video through to the end, and the points where people abandon.

    • Nick says:

      Best reply out of the bunch, literally took the words out of my mouth. Our main goal with adding YouTube videos to our site was to increase traffic and potential sales increase from related videos within YouTube itself. We did notice a slight decrease in conversion rate with a few of our A/B tests on the product pages, but we have concluded an increase in conversion rate with a specific template of product page, mainly only one column product pages.

      • Curtains says:

        We have been testing SEO with YouTube videos and comparing to those without (equally competative terms). The pages with YouTube video are MUCH higher in organic search results.
        We have avoided using them in product pages so far and considering screencast or vimeo for this. We shall decide depending on which source Google loves the more. Time to research …..!

  21. Hi Linda.
    I enjoyed the reading (as always) – I do not recommed my clients to use youtube videos on their ecommerce site – namely because of the conflicts that you describe
    I ask them to keep the visual presentation, and the viral / marketing aspect of it to be seperated.
    Youtube can be a great viral catalyst, but it shouldnt be at the cost of the ecommerce sites conversion rate – which I am affraid would suffer from the influx of the aditional “related” videos an the posibillity of ads.

    Ive tested videos with various results (as I know you probably have) but it would be interresting to also test the carrier of the message.

    -Karsten Lund

  22. This is a subject which I have some special interest as I have often wondered about the usefulness of adding Youtube vids to ecommerce products page.

    Personally, I feel the main justification for adding youtube videos is for the SEO value of the accompanying links. A large percentage of youtube videos directly link to the website in question which in the long run should aid the websites ranking in the main SERPS.

    Also, many small ecommerce websites do not have the functionality option to add videos direct to the product page unless it is already a youtube video embed link or a flash file.

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