ReelSEO had the opportunity to sit down with VZAAR’s Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Parkins to get the scoop on what VZAAR is setting out to do, where they came from and where they hope to go. VZAAR has been operating as a provider of a non-branded video player for eBay sellers to show off their company, wares and even themselves. This has led them to quite a fair amount of success as they now maintain a fair share of the videos that are being used to sell items on eBay. They have recently branched out and now allow their player to be embedded in any site so ReelSEO thought it was time to sit down and get more information about this one-year-old plus company.

Where did the idea for VZAAR come from and how did the company come to be?

In April of 2007 founders Ken Moss and Ian Snead approached Adrian Sevitz an ex-eBay employee with an idea of creating a marketplace where the hook was that items were sold with video. Adrian was quick to suggest that given eBay’s market size this was a tough ask and that they would be better off building a video solution that met the needs of the thousands of businesses that sold on eBay on a daily basis. The site, went live in September of 2007.

From day one the ethos behind VZAAR was that the video content was the asset that we would sell to businesses. To that end we’ve built a non-branded player that means commercial sellers don’t have to carry someone else’s brand like they do on YouTube. Furthermore, we want the content to be king and so we don’t link to other videos by competing sellers. We want to help convert the buyer. If we do that for the seller then we’ll be happy.

Are there any stats that you can point to that demonstrate the power of online video for ecommerce, specifically how it helps to sell items on ebay with your product?

It is a little too early for video to be specifically called out as a driver of sales but we’ve certainly seen its power in attracting buyers and the means to which it can be used as a marketing tool for businesses on and off eBay. One guitarist in Oklahoma cited a significant difference in visitors to his listings when he used the video on various blogs and forums in order to drive awareness

and CarGiant in the UK told us that their video allows them to:

“talk directly to people who are about to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds with us. Making them feel confident enough to buy and trust us as good sellers is vital. So we use our video to show off our business, premises and staff. Buyers know we’re a bona fide firm from our video and they buy with confidence.”

Jack Fitzgerald of Industry Recycles has seen videos “attracting 43% more visitors, and as a result are gaining us more bids, and more sales” whilst seller kurtkiefer was kind enough to say that

I can tell you without hesitation that the prices our auctions brought with videos are much higher than those without. Much higher.”

Longer term, the value businesses will associate with video will come in a variety of ways from the ease and cost-effectiveness of having a guaranteed video provider, to the reduction in costly and time-consuming questions from concerned or curious buyers who want to know more about products. Video, when served well, can add real value to a page, especially when it is not confusing the buying experience with pre-roll adverts or off-player links.

What about the power of custom video production vs. the standard free video – is there anything that points to one or the other being more effective? What else can you tell us about the video production arm?

At launch we certainly saw people leading with product type videos, showing the motor vehicle in detail or the quality of a vase up close for example. 15,000 videos later that is still very much the case, but where a business is selling the same stock time and time again and possibly dealing in thousands of items a month, the more generic the video is. “About Us” videos have certainly taken off. CarGaint are a great example. They launched a new brand in the UK and wanted to support that with a video that detailed their 118 inspection point process and their customer satisfaction ratings. A 30-second video now placed on all their eBay listings has allowed them to promote the sheer range of vehicles they stock as well as answer commonly asked questions.

Video production is always going to something that businesses need to address and so to ease that we have partnered with production companies here in the UK as well as in the US and Australia. In each case these companies have passed on a special rate to VZAAR users which means that a slick, well edited video can be produced for commercial use. The partnership with iSpeakVideo is of particular interest because they produce the video to script in-house thanks to a portfolio of actors and actresses. That helps to keep costs down and shortens the turn around time. 

Are videos only placed on ebay or are they syndicated elsewhere? Is this something that actually helps sell the product or is this something to appeal to the fact that Youtube is “hot” right now?

When we started we sought to build a solution that met the needs of eBayers wanting to improve the quality of their eBay listings with video. To that end we succeeded as we are the only video service with a direct eBay API that means sellers can embed video without having to copy and paste code which can be confusing and time consuming. Essentially, by doing that we enabled large PowerSellers to add video to hundreds of listings with a click of a button. We are now powering approximately 15% of all of eBay’s video listings (YouTube have the other 84%) and in June of this year VZAAR was recognized in the Design category at the eBay Star Developers Awards.

Several weeks ago we launched our new video player that allows embedding of the non-branded VZAAR player on any website. This has opened up the marketplace for our current users and means that we can now offer business that sell products or services online a professional looking and easy to use video solution .

Are there any particular categories on Ebay that are more suited to video?

Vehicles is the obvious one. Video really lends itself to cars and the detail a buyer wants to see when sizing up such a large and important purchase. We’ve really enjoyed seeing and hearing some of the more creative sellers using video to sell on their cars, boats, bikes and even tractors! I even got in on the act recently when selling our Mini One (below), and the buyer told me that one of the things they really liked about the video was that they could see who I was, and that in their opinion I was someone who could be trusted to have looked after the car. I took that as a real compliment.

In addition we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the emergence of other categories on eBay where video has started to lead the way. High priced items such as jewelry and diamond rings do well with short, punchy videos whilst some real competition has broken about between sellers in the laser disco category! I kid you not. One of the aspects of eBay we’ve enjoyed seeing develop is that the competitive nature of sellers means that when one category leader takes up our product others start to follow. That’s a nice trend to watch and one of the reasons for keeping our brand on the free player as that to date drives around 10% of our new user traffic.

What features of the video player are custom to your product and help with the eBay experience?

When we launched we had Bid and Buy buttons on our player as well as the seller’s eBay ID and feedback score. Again, that made us an attractive and fun product for businesses selling on eBay, but to some extent it held us back because our player became limited by the metadata it delivered back to the player. As a result sellers were unable to use that asset on other sites on which they sold. To that end, we made the tough decision recently to remove these assets and to focus on giving business what they truly want. A non-branded, cost-effective video player that is easy to manage and distribute.

Is there available metrics/tracking/reporting outside of the eBay experience?

At the moment there is not but in the near future we’ll be close to adding some new analytics that will inform businesses of the bandwidth, plays and completions they are experiencing on a monthly basis. This will help to inform them of the packages that they should sign up to.

Thanks to Jamie for taking the time to talk with us at