Third-Party Product Info Is a Click Away

ExpoTV's Ask an Owner consumer interaction platform promises consumer-crafted video product reviews.

Expo Communications, proprietor of Web-based social network ExpoTV for consumers wishing to share product information, has released the beta version of a platform that allows customers to ask each other specific questions about products they buy.

Ask an Owner, announced May 20, allows consumers to create and post their own video product reviews of up to 75MB in file size for public viewing.

"There are lots of places where a customer can ask questions and lots of sites have product reviews," said Expo Communications Vice President David Rubinstein. "But at the end of the day, you don't know who's posting that review or their relationship with the product."

Because ExpoTV users film themselves with their products, Rubinstein said, they can provide an "authentic response" about product-related questions. Using the Ask an Owner platform, a consumer can have a question about a specific product automatically sent to all the users who have posted reviews about it. Replies to the questions are sent in text format with a link to the original video review.

According to Jessica Thorpe, director of marketing for ExpoTV, so far testing of Ask an Owner has revealed that 41 percent of consumer questions are answered within an hour, 51 percent of questions are answered within 2 hours, and almost 80 percent of questions are answered within one day.

Rubinstein said Ask an Owner will also be made available to manufacturers and retailers for marketing purposes. Companies will be able to link directly to the Ask an Owner platform from their Web sites so prospective customers can ask product questions of ExpoTV users.

"They will be able to link to ExpoTV and we will become the seal of product approval," Rubinstein said. "It's the ultimate in a company saying, 'I'm confident in my product.' It's a third-party-managed source of information."

Rubinstein said retailers and manufacturers will also be able to license ExpoTV content, use ExpoTV as a "next-generation research platform" and have access to "engagement communities" of users. "They will have the ability to invite people who talked about a certain product to solicit feedback and share concepts," he said. "We can create a safe environment for advertisers [to interact with consumers]."

Vahe Katros, a user experience consultant based in Palo Alto , California , said that ExpoTV could be a powerful tool for obtaining empathy with customers. "The root of customer-centricity is empathy, and what a shame that we have this fantastic vehicle to listen and we miss that rich window after the sale, when the consumer's mind is full of insights that can move the dial on who we are as a brand," said Katros.

"Social networking can be a big source of noise, or it can be a resource for understanding the unmet needs and goals of the consumer," he added. "Finally, someone gets it; it's all about context and what ExpoTV is doing is providing a vehicle to probe for insights when it matters, during those fleeting moments after the sale when meaningful insights occur."