I interviewed Anthony Bucci, Co-Founder of RevZilla and spokesperson for the popular RevZillaTV YouTube Channel. RevZilla is an online retailer for motorcycle riding gear, accessories and parts. While they have a retail showroom in the team’s hometown of Philadelphia, much of their business is now driven through their website and supported through online video content. Anthony shared with me how the company started out with online video and how they have immersed video into their customer shopping experience.
RevZilla’s video production started in the summer of 2009 with nothing more than a Flip camera and an idea. Today they have produced more than 1,500 HD videos – mostly motorcycle gear reviews, but also some fun and entertaining brand content. They boast 4,750 YouTube subscribers and 4.1 million views to date – and have used their fan base to grow their business to reach customers worldwide. Their business model is built around consumers like themselves who not only share a passion for both the products and the brands, but also the motorcycle lifestyle experience – whether they’re a seasoned pro or a novice enthusiast.
Generally, consumers who buy motorcycle gear want to see technical details of the equipment that can be hard to show online. The main problem for shoppers was the lack of quality videos online made by the original manufacturers, and that the videos being put out by the large name brands were too fixated on flash without enough technical substance. This provided excellent opportunity for RevZilla to use video to showcase detailed breakdowns of motorcycle gear, and share the deep product knowledge and how-to content from their in-house experts. The strategy proved to be highly successful with winning over a large audience in a niche space – from the hardcore riders to the novice enthusiast.
How Revzilla Optimizes Video Into the Customer Shopping Experience
RevZilla’s product pages are a prime example of a customer-centric shopping experience immersed with high-quality video, including the following features:
- Related videos to the original product page and video being watched
- The option to watch higher-resolution video in a pop-up window. (This allows for maintaining SEO while adding to the customer experience.)
- Social links for sharing videos.
- High-quality photos of the product at several angles, that can be clicked and zoomed on while watching the video
- A call-to-action to subscribe to RevZillaTV on every product page.
RevZilla’s success was especially noticed by Google, who selected them as one of 9 companies into their YouTube Ambassador Program. Google recognized their wide popularity and also the professional example they’ve set with a customer-centric video approach that other retailers and e-commerce businesses could learn to emulate from.
My Interview with RevZilla’s Co-Founder and Video Spokesperson, Anthony Bucci
Grant: What was the vision you had for RevZilla’s business model?
Anthony: Our approach at Revzilla has always been that we want to be the Zappos for motorcycles. And when I say that I mean we wanted to be completely experiential.
In the motorcycle world, there are a ton accouterments that go with the actual bike – and a lot of websites that sell this type of gear directly to the consumer. We don’t sell the actual motorcycles, that’s for the brands and manufacturers to do. We sell everything but the actual bike – clothing, jacket, boots, gloves, parts, accessories, tires, exhaust systems. Say you bought a Honda motorcycle; we sell the stuff you need for that bike that you wouldn’t necessarily buy from Honda.
We felt early on we could do it in a way that especially appeals to other motorcycle aficionados and enthusiasts like ourselves, where it didn’t feel like you’re buying it from a massive retailer. We wanted it to feel more like a passion-driven purchase. We wanted to make it not just a shopping experience, but a personalized unique experience. Nothing we do is generic, and that’s especially true with our videos.
Grant: When did you guys start doing online video and what was the light bulb in your head that went off?
Anthony: It was the summer of 2009. I’ll never forget the light bulb for us. We hadn’t even been 2 years old as a business, and there were a lot of customers calling us with sizing questions and product questions. When you think about motorcycle gear, you have a very emotional technical product. Part of that is because the motorcycle components – the gear – are all really cool. They look cool and they feel cool, and you wear it while doing something that’s very cool – riding a bike. They’re the first thing people usually buy after they buy their bike. It’s an emotional purchase.
Let’s just focus on the helmet – a five, six, seven hundred dollar motorcycle helmet. There’s a lot of technical performance such as how quiet it is, the aerodynamics, or how well it’s going to protect you in a crash. There are a lot of specs that go into how that product is picked. Also, each company that manufactures a helmet has different head shapes and different sizing. Just being a 1-2 years old business, people called all us all day long and asked us all these questions about the product. They asked us about comparison, and they asked us to tell them about our experience with the product.
So we thought, what if we do some light video around the stuff? Just something short and sweet giving them real help, so they can hopefully be better informed before they get on the phone with us.
Grant: So take us back to those very early days shooting video.
Anthony: I remember our first video shoot we did at RevZilla. We started out in our showroom in our store on a Sunday in the summertime of 2009 – no air conditioning and just a Flip camera. We spent an entire day – just three people – to shoot two videos: one on a jacket and one on a glove. It took us a whole week to produce those two videos because we really didn’t know what we were doing.
Grant: Were you concerned back then with the quality of your videos and how consumers would react, if the videos didn’t have the production quality you’d see with the big brands?
Anthony: We just kind said to ourselves, alright, let’s just do it low-budget. We accepted that the quality of what we were doing from a video production value was going to be admittedly low, and we would be apologetic about it. We figured that if we could give our shoppers some good information that maybe they would forgive us for the low production value.
Grant: What is a typical week for the RevZillaTV team? What are some of the key things your video content marketing plan focuses on?
Anthony: Throughout the course of a week our team is always keeping their fingers on the pulse of things like: what’s new, what’s hot, what’s trending, what time of year are we in? What are the types of things that are new and are hitting the marketplace? What are the frequent questions we’re getting about product types or different brands that we might not have content on? We always have our running list of what we want to focus on that happens seasonally, and that just evolves as we’re merchandising and picking up new brands.
So throughout the week, we pull all that stuff together. We typically shoot a few days a week. We shoot multiple days at this point, so it’s not a quick and dirty process at this moment.
Grant: How would you categorize the types of video content you shoot, and the marketing strategy behind them?
Anthony: There are two general categories of videos we do: Reviews and intermittent videos. Most of our videos are in the first category by far. Our intermittent videos are of things that are typically promotional, like a sale or a deal; or they can be fun stuff. Those are typically sporadic and without any set plan.
The way that I look at it, video content for RevZilla has to be relevant and has to add value. In a lot of ways, the product is the star – I just happen to be the expert there to walk you through. I think that for the most part, for 90% of our videos, that’s kind of what we lead with. We’re trying to help someone fill-in-the-blanks around a given type of riding they’re doing (like off-road versus on-road), or a type of product they may need, or a brand or category of products.
We always have to think of the contextual element. Say for example you were a consumer looking at helmets, and you particularly liked a European brand and wanted to learn about what made it distinct from others. Or, you might be someone who wants to get into the off-road world and says, “I need things that are water proof and rugged and protect me if I fall.” That’s basically how we approach videos; we take into account all the nuances and lifestyle choices.
You can see that we start our video strategy in a lot of different places; but I think our golden rule is that regardless of the production value, the content has to be valuable. We’re trying to not create commercials. First and foremost, we’re trying to create informative pieces of content. Our enthusiasm and desire to help will naturally come through.
Grant: Talk to us about what you’ve learned on your video journey. If the Anthony of 2012 could go back in time, what would you share with the Anthony of that fateful Summer 2009?
Anthony: Thinking back, I feel like we built a video program pretty fast and we were pretty nimble in our attack. The Anthony of now would tell Anthony of 2009 to speak more clearly, to have better energy, to stand still and to stop fidgeting. I think what was most important from the beginning, both online and off, is we were not afraid to raise our hand if we didn’t know something.
I think our big takeaway is that if you aren’t sure of something, don’t wait to seek out the information that you think is going to get you to the next level. Press even harder. We found that in the beginning even though we were putting out video as more of an afterthought than a serious plan, the act of just putting it out regularly really helped us progress quicker. It made us put more of our resources in it, and really make it a focused effort to learn as much as we could as fast as we could.
Grant: When you watch other videos of competing businesses or similar business models, is there anything that stands out to you with what you think they could be doing a lot better?
Anthony: That’s a tough one to answer because we’re all so different within a specialty retail universe. I think the big problem that still persists with most industries doing online video marketing is that they assume that they already know what their customers want. They don’t engage their consumers on a personal level to try and understand what they are really looking for. The most difficult steps in the buying process and the things they’ll get most excited about might not always be the things that you assume they are. We’ve learned a lot about what people were looking for by asking them and listening to our consumer base to find the best the direction for our content team.