Don’t Think Outside the Box; Think About the Box

Why Product Reviews and Unboxing Videos Matter

I have a confession to make. I rarely purchase any big-ticket items (anything that costs more than a dollar) without doing some serious research. In the past, my research would have begun with a thorough examination of product specifications and benefits — what the product could do for me. However, now I often find myself shopping for products based on user reviews. And not just how highly rated a product is but also the number of people who reviewed it. Often e-commerce sites will rank products based on popularity, which is important to me as well. Frankly, all of this has become a bit unsettling to me. When the hell did I become such a conformist?

While consumers might not be entirely trustful of a brand producing an unboxing video, they totally appreciate product-related content, such as launch videos, demonstration videos and explainer videos. 

It all probably began when I realized I trust the opinion of Bob in Wisconsin more than I do the hypnotic marketing-speak that has been at the forefront of selling for decades. I mean, here’s a guy who’s actually been using the product out in the real world. Bob has firsthand experience with how this product performs. Why not listen to his opinion? Even if Bob is a bumbling idiot who misuses the product (no offense, Bob), I can usually glean something useful from the review. So why do I put so much blind trust in Bob’s opinion? Understanding a bit about my past will help answer that question.

Time for feedback - unboxing and user reviews

Test Me if You Can — Product Testing and Real-World Use

One thing that I share in common with Frank Abagnale is that I have claimed to be an expert in several disparate career fields. One such career was product development. I worked for a company that made durable furniture for the healthcare and higher-education markets. Because this furniture would receive more use than typical household furniture, it would go through rigorous testing. I was in charge of the testing. At the very core of all the testing was a wooden butt. This wooden butt would sit on a piece of furniture tens of thousands of times. Up, down, up, down, up, down. It was glorious.

Real-world use can’t always be anticipated.

What did all of this testing prove? It proved that our furniture could withstand the abuse of a wooden butt. Now let’s skip ahead to this same product being used out in the field. Perhaps it’s a sofa for a common area at a university. And let’s say Bob’s son, Luke, is attending this college. Luke wants to relax on the sofa. Where’s the first place Luke sits? On top of the arm — not the seat that we have thoroughly tested with our precious wooden butt. The point I’m trying to make is that even with all the advanced research and development that goes into designing and engineering products, real-world use can’t always be anticipated. This is where Bob’s opinion becomes a valuable commodity.

Unboxing and Validating the Product Through Reviews 

However, Bob is not always thorough with his written reviews. Sometimes we wonder how many replacement bags come with a sweeper or how big the power supply is for a phone charger. Enter the unboxing video. With e-commerce on the rise, it’s sometimes difficult to get a feel for a product and its accessories from a photo or two on a website. But thanks to YouTube, you can watch someone like Bob unbox a newly purchased item. From judging how protective the packaging is to comparing product size relative to the reviewer to actually seeing the product in use, the popularity of the unboxing video has skyrocketed. Remarkably, one of the top-ranked YouTube channels is FunToyzCollector, which currently has more than 5.4 million subscribers and more than 8 billion overall views. Yes, billion.

Even if Bob’s motives are somewhat questionable, he is still more trustworthy than advertising is.

So if unboxing videos are so popular, why don’t brands publish their own unboxing videos, effectively cheating Bob out of all the hard-earned advertising revenue he’ll receive from YouTube? (And you thought Bob was doing this out of the goodness of his heart.) The answer is that even if Bob’s motives are somewhat questionable, he is still more trustworthy than advertising is. I touched on this in a previous post about welcomed video content versus interruptive advertising. And suspicion continues to grow. A recent article in Fast Company asserted, “Female shoppers no longer trust ads or celebrity endorsements.” That’s actually the headline of the article. It’s a bold, broad, sweeping assertion that’s frankly a little ridiculous, but the point is still understood: Advertising is largely perceived as evil. Boo. Hiss. Pitchforks.

Unboxing - unboxing and user reviews

While consumers might not be entirely trustful of a brand producing an unboxing video, they totally appreciate product-related content, such as launch videos, demonstration videos and explainer videos. Anything that showcases the product — features and benefits, selection advice, how it’s used, etc. — will be helpful to the consumer during his purchase-decision journey. When posted with useful titles and descriptions, this type of content remains evergreen for consumers to discover as they conduct their own online research. If you’re accustomed to posting to YouTube only, don’t forget to include product videos on your own website. Numerous retailers claim that when posted on their own site, product videos increase conversion rates and average order value.

Engaging the Video Community Through User Reviews

Besides producing product videos, brands can participate in user reviews by joining and encouraging the conversation. I know that some brands don’t want to risk negative comments, but directly addressing concerns goes much farther with consumers than suppressing criticism. Another popular practice is actually loaning or giving influencers products to review. Granted, not everyone will be glowing about your product, but it’s the good with the bad that communicates authenticity. Honestly, if you receive a lot of negative reviews for your product, it’s time to look inward and see if it’s misperception or a valid concern that needs to be corrected.

Directly addressing concerns goes much farther with consumers than suppressing criticism.

It appears as though the popularity of product review and unboxing videos is projected to grow for years to come. Brands should continue to find authentic ways to join the conversation and provide meaningful content that will help the consumer with his purchase. And brands should always remember: Bob in Wisconsin is king. Pay attention to what he has to say.

Photos: Shutterstock

Dennis Balgavy

Dennis Balgavy

Dennis Balgavy is a serial career changer: audio recording, product development, marketing communications, IT, research, video production, web development, and writing—and, oh, yeah, there was that time he flipped hamburgers.

Meet Dennis Balgavy