Mary Beth West has been on the retailer’s board for 10 years.
Summit Sports employees test new skis and snowboards before they go on sale, then, fresh from the slopes, provide video reviews that are posted to the company’s web sites once the products are introduced.
Skis.com and sister site snowboardfusion.com this fall began offering video product reviews of newly released skis and boards. The videos were shot in northern Michigan in February, where 18 employees of Summit Sports, the company that owns those web sites, went to test the products before they were made available to the public.
“You would ski typically one to three runs with a ski and then ski over to the video tent where we had a videographer and director waiting, freezing to death, and they would video each person as they came up,” says Steve Kopitz, president and CEO of Summit Sports, based in Bloomfield Hills, MI, who was among the ski testers.
“The videos were totally unscripted. Employees could say anything,” he adds. “But they were encouraged to say not just whether they thought a ski was good, but what it was good for, such as it’s good at fast speeds now slow, things that would be helpful for consumers.”
Kopitz waited until the skis and snowboards went on sale this fall, then posted the video reviews to the two web sites. In all, 350 videos are available. For some products, a consumer can watch taped reviews by six testers. A link on the home page has been added recently providing a pull-down menu of all the videos.
It’s hard to say what impact the reviews are having because site traffic would be expected to increase as the cold weather approaches. But Kopitz says skis.com now gets about 30,000 unique visitors a week, and the number is growing by 3-4,000 each week.
Kopitz also has started using the web site videos in one of his 11 retail stores, Don Thomas Sporthaus in Birmingham, MI. A laptop on a rolling cart allows customers to see the video reviews of skis and snowboards they are considering. Seeing the reviews appears to give some customers the confidence to make a purchase, he says.
While the trip and the videos cost him about $20,000, and he does not yet have hard evidence that the reviews are generating incremental online sales, Kopitz is planning to make more videos early next year, including of additional products, such as jackets for which the videos can be taped indoors.
“Our web site is skis.com and our tag line says it’s the ultimate online ski shop,” Kopitz says. “In order to claim that we’ve got to do everything that can to help the person with their purchase, and these videos are Web 2.0 for sure.”