Practical Ecommerce

The PEC Review: Animoto for Quick, Basic Product Videos

Product videos give shoppers a better idea of what they’re buying, slash return rates, and boost conversions. So it is little wonder that many online retailers are adding videos to their product detail pages.

But not all product videos are created equally and, frankly, not every product deserves the same level of video-production investment.

For your best selling, highest margin, or most-complicated items, you will almost certainly want to produce videos like the ones you might find at Golfsmith or Williams-Sonoma.

Golfsmith, screen capture linking to video page.

Golfsmith, screen capture linking to video page.


Williams-Sonoma, screen capture linking to video page.

Williams-Sonoma, screen capture linking to video page.

These videos demonstrate how to use the product, explain why the product is beneficial, and add a personal, human touch, which makes them very effective. Yet, they do cost more and take more time to produce.

For the rest of the products on your site, you may still get some conversion benefits from using simpler, video slideshows like the ones at

Animoto is a quick and easy-to-use automatic video maker that can help you transform the product images you already have into video slideshows. What’s more, the service is reasonably priced and offers an API that could make it possible to produce videos for all of your products automatically. For giving online retailers an easy way to make product videos, I am awarding Animoto four and a half out of a possible five stars in this, “The PEC Review”.

“The PEC Review” is my weekly column dedicated to introducing you to the products or services that I believe will help you improve your business. This week, let me explain why I think you should use Animoto.


First and foremost, Animoto is easy to use. In just a few minutes, I took three product images and a logo; uploaded them to Animoto; picked a song from its music library; and produced a product video similar in quality to what you could find on dozens of ecommerce sites.

At each step, Animoto’s user interface was clear and functional. For example, I was able to upload all of the images at once in a batch process. In fact, you can watch my sample Animoto video below. Notice that the video loops, which is another Animoto feature.


Animoto also makes it very easy to distribute your new video. You can embed it, as I did above. You can export it to YouTube or SmugMug. You can post it to Twitter, Facebook, or several other social networking sites in just a couple of clicks. And, with a Pro Account, you can download it for integration into your site.

Video API

Animoto offers an application-programming interface (API) aimed at letting site visitors make videos via your site or application.

After a cursory look at the API documentation, I think there are a couple of ways this could benefit ecommerce sites.

First, it should be possible to use the API to programmatically create an Animoto video for every product on your site that does not already have a video. You may need a developer’s help, which could mean that you’ll have to invest money to get the API working. But once in place, video production should be easy.

Second, you could use the Animoto API to let customers post or make videos of themselves using your products. These video testimonials may be fun for customers and good for business.


I made my sample Animoto video with the company’s free plan, which lets you make 30-second or shorter films that end with the Animoto logo. The Pro Account costs $249 per year or $39 per month if paid in installments. The Pro Account also provides access to Animoto’s commercially licensed music libraries.

four and one-half stars

Video Quality

I want to say just one more thing about video quality. The best ecommerce videos are the ones that demonstrate how to use the product, explain why the product is beneficial, and add a personal, human touch—as I mentioned above. While you can certainly use Animoto to finish those sorts of videos, I believe it will be the most help with second-tier, slideshow-like videos that can be quickly produced for those products that don’t merit the cost or time associated with a regular production.

Summing Up

Animoto is an excellent, automatic video production solution that could help online retailers quickly produce product videos. The service is inexpensive. It is easy to use, and it makes it easy to share the video once it is produced. Animoto is worth the four and a half out of five stars that I’ve awarded it in this, “The PEC Review.”

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Steve @Erraticblog June 22, 2010 Reply

    While in general I agree with your review, Animoto is great option for making simple videos, be sure to read the fine print before paying for a pro account.
    I had a pro account up until last year. Animoto changes their terms every so often and in my opinion, not for the good of the customer.
    My problem with their pro service is when you get a pro account and make an unbranded video, they revert the video back to an Animoto branded video after your pro account has expired.
    In my opinion if the video is unbranded when you create it, it should stay unbranded after your Animoto account is closed. They basically take something from you that you already paid for. It’s because of this that I do not recommend their pro account to anyone.

  2. Armando Roggio June 22, 2010 Reply

    @Erratic, great comment. I will look into your branded/unbranded point. That does sound very unfair/unprofessional.

  3. Steve @Erraticblog June 22, 2010 Reply

    Yes Armando, in my opinion very unfair. Here is the TOS for commercial accounts:

    One area of the TOS (~6th paragraph) states:
    Once you have paid the appropriate fees to become a Commercial User, you may then create Animoto Videos which you may use for commercial purposes. However, you may not use Animoto Videos created prior to, after, or outside of your Commercial User membership for commercial purposes. For example, if you create an Animoto Video as a (non-Commercial) User, and subsequently become a Commercial User, you may not use such Animoto Video for commercial purposes.

    So basically, you pay to make a commercial video but if you don’t pay the $249 per year you can’t continue to use it in a commercial manner. Their "for example" describes a non-comm to commercial, but one of the catches is the line above that… prior to, after, or outside of.

    Crazy in my opinion.

    The branding/unbranded issue is not even discussed in the TOS. But I went back and forth, over and over again with an Animoto rep on this issue. I never received anything other than these 3 bullet points as a response.
    * As before, Animoto will only host your videos while your account is active.
    * However, you may now use Animoto videos you have downloaded even when your account has expired.
    * As always, you are responsible for ensuring your use is in compliance with applicable laws.

    So in short, I had paid for a commercial account, created unbranded videos, let my account expire, but while I still use the videos I downloaded, the videos should really not be used in a commercial nature (according to TOS) and the videos I had paid for are now branded (non-downloaded).

    Again, crazy in my opinion. Videos created with a commercial account should always stay unbranded and should always be able to be used commercially.

    Besides these issues that I’ve mentioned above, I must also state again that overall the Animoto service of actually creating the videos does work well. I was very happy with the videos that were created.

  4. Armando Roggio June 22, 2010 Reply

    @Erratic, Thanks for the second comment.

    It is encouraging that you can use the videos that you have downloaded, seemingly without the Animoto branding and, based on the response you got, for commercial purposes.

    I sent a message to Animoto regarding your comment. I hope they will post a response here or at least email one my way.


  5. Russ Somers June 23, 2010 Reply

    Interesting product, Armando – I hadn’t seen someone make this process self-serve before. Smart idea!

    I think you’re spot on with the suggested strategy of using true video to cover as much of the catalog as possible starting at the intersection of high volume and high margin – and then using animated slideshows to fill in the long tail. Maybe Animoto’s the right tool for that. I certainly look forward to trying it out.

    At Invodo (full disclosure: yep, I work there) we obviously have a bias for true product video. It enables a more direct connection with consumers, thus converting better. For that reason we’ve built scalable production processes to cover large percentages of a product catalog. But where volume, margin or catalog churn make coverage a challenge, I think you’ve suggested a winning strategy.

  6. CustomerSupportGeek June 28, 2010 Reply

    Very True! Videos often are what people need , they are like product test for online buyers. They can be very reliable if the videos and the description themselves are interesting.