Did you know that 30% of online product reviews are fake? While many text reviews are anonymous or unreliable, so-called ‘expert’ reviews may not be based on continuous use and experience of a product. This is where Real Reviews come in. They are a video review platform focussing on the user experience of real consumers like you and me. “Real Reviews is the world's first website featuring user video reviews of products,” its founders say.
Making word-of-mouth experience mainstream
In the pre-internet days, when friends visited each other, conversations would touch upon the ailing fridge in one’s kitchen or the brand-new air-conditioner that made fans redundant or the terrible fizzy drink one bought on a whim. Experiences were shared, comparisons were made and conclusions arrived at. Advertising did have its influence on our buying decisions, but eventually what mattered is our shared experience with the product. In broad terms, Real Reviews seeks to revive that word-of-mouth experience and make it mainstream again, says Deepak Dhingra, cofounder of this startup based in Mumbai.
Real Reviews also give companies and businesses a platform to interact with consumers through the transparent medium of video.
Yes, there are online forums for consumer reviews but hardly any Indian consumers on video. “And we needed a format powerful enough to break the hypnotic charm of TVCs. So we’ve created a platform where the actual consumer - the ‘real, honest reviewer’ with no commercial stake – talks about his/her unique user experience on video so that other consumers can better decide what to buy. We don’t go after ‘experts’ but everyday people who really have a lot to say,” Deepak says.
So essentially, Real Reviews simulate those drawing room discussions with lots of video conversations on every kind of product and service in one place.
Journalistic approach to reviews
Real Reviews is one of the web properties of digital ad agency Nucleus Digital, in which Deepak Dhingra, Pallavi Dhingra, Uttarika Kumaran and Malvika Tegta are partners. Deepak has been in the business of web advertising and strategy for almost 18 years. Pallavi, former online editor at the Times of India group, has been associated with the advertising industry for the past 15 years. Uttarika has a background in culture studies and has worked with DNA newspaper, Mumbai. Malvika has worked with the New Indian Express, DNA and also was part of Firstpost.com when it launched.
“Together, we bring in web marketing expertise combined with a journalistic approach that shows in our work,” Malvika says.
According to her, what makes Real Reviews unique is “the medium we employ and that difference is vital”. She adds: “ We are also not interested in “reviews” in the traditional sense of the term. Of course, these are user experiences that consitute useful market information and that serve an important purpose. But each review is also a commentary on consumer culture, of attitudes, aspirations, fears and validation. It answers questons like: Why do I use what I use? Why am I saying what I am saying about this product? How does my self-image align with this brand? How do I choose to project myself with a camera on me?”
“The product in question becomes instrumental, or a extension of the self, in that context. You can draw out layers of information from content like this,” she says.
1.6 million hits, 900,000 page views, 30,000 new visitors
Real Reviews was launched in April 2012 in Mumbai. The trigger point was when Deepak went to buy a phone at Croma, but couldn’t test the call quality because that wasn’t allowed. In smaller retail shops, you do not even get to hold the phone in your hands before buying because the retailer would suffer a loss if he unboxed the phone before selling it. All Deepak could then fall back on were online reviews, which were predominantly expert reviews of tech specs and hardly any of those were an Indian perspective. He wanted to hear the experience of a user like him but couldn’t.
Therefore, the team had a clear vision right when they bootstrapped to startup. All four founders had regular jobs then. They brought in the capital to rent a space in Mumbai and buy high quality film production equipment. They already had the internet hosting, web design and social media expertise needed. “We are not actively planning to scale up though we may have to get to that very soon,” Uttarika says.
In just a short span, the website has grown exponentially. Today, they have over 250 authentic user reviews, 1.6 million hits, 900,000 page views and 30,000 new visitors every month (Server-based AWStats).
“We also feature in the top 5 search results for ‘product reviews in India’ on Google, alongside reviews websites that have been around much longer, a true testament to our unmatched USP and appeal. And in several product searches, Real Reviews videos are the first video results that pop up,” she says.
Tying up with companies to create conversations
Currently, they are in the process of tying up with companies who would like Real Reviews to create conversations about their products on the condition that these reviews will not be doctored. “Through the Real Reviews Red Box, companies sponsor product giveaways and our registered members get to try out new products for free. We recently concluded a successful campaign with Proctor & Gamble. This has helped considerably boost our reach pan-India,” Pallavi says.
“While we explore other models of revenue creation, we will continue to ensure that all reviews on Real Reviews are authentic and not edited for content. That is our core strength and what attracts consumers and companies to us,” she adds.
Their target market is basically anyone who buys products and has an internet connection.
As an informed shopper who regularly buys online, Pallavi believes today's so-called 'consumer culture' doesn't seriously consider the views and opinions of real consumers. Through her reviews on Real Reviews, Pallavi hopes to set a precedent for how consumers should engage with products they buy - to not just use them but also offer constructive criticism to help companies make better products in the future.
Would you like to talk about products you love or hate on video? What do you think about the video testimonial format? Tell us in the comments below.