Friday, 6 March 2009

Why shouldn't you use customer reviews on your site?

It has been a busy week @ e-inbusiness. With lots of new prospects on the horizon, the e-inbusiness roadshow has been from town to town. Like the littlest hobo, every place I stop, I make a new friend etc…….

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past 2 weeks talking to people about social media. Some rooms fall silent and the tumble weed rolls. Others erupt into debate between advocates, sceptics and those who just love sitting on that fence. Social media has polarised the business community! I know that some social enthusiasts are vexed by this but I say game on. I would rather the discussion provoke a response rather than apathy. At least with negativity there is an emotional reaction you can dare to influence, perhaps change. The conquest for the new frontier has begun. In this week’s blog I’m going to take one element of social media, customer ratings & reviews, and explore its potential in more depth. Of all the forays into engagement and buzz, I think this is the easiest for people to conceptualise and ‘get’ and there are a lot of stats floating around to beef up the business case.

For those new to user generated content, ratings & reviews enables online shoppers to post reviews of products & services that they have bought. The usual mechanism is to send the customer an email X days after purchase, inviting them to rate pre-defined criteria such as product quality. The customer clicks on a link to a webpage where they can complete the review. This review is then posted to the review engine (could be bespoke on your site or an integrated 3rd party solution like BazaarVoice, Feefo & Reevoo).

Why should you take reviews seriously?

Quite simply, if you don’t you will lose business. People read reviews and are influenced by them. If you don’t have reviews on your site, you will lose people to competitors who do. It really is that straight forward. I personally use reviews all the time for products I don’t know enough about, such as digital cameras. I want to know that the person I’m buying from is reliable and I’m getting value for money. I also want to know it does what is says on the tin. I am actually disappointed when sites don’t offer me reviews, surely it is in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs now!

And here is the dry bit, the research findings from JupiterResearch:

  • 77% consumers cite reviews as being useful in making a purchase online
  • 61% report that confidence can be increased via independent reviews
  • Petco experienced a 49% increase in conversion for products with reviews

Still not convinced, take a trawl around the web and in particular BazaarVoice’s website. Yes they have an interest in converting you to the cause but the research they cite is all independent. The facts speak for themselves.

What are the commercial benefits?

  • Increased product conversion
  • Increased average order values
  • Greater trust
  • Improved customer engagement
  • Great SEO content to increase your visibility

Why would my customers be interested?

Why wouldn’t they? 65% consumers research a retailer’s reputation before purchasing, according to an Internet Retailing article. Reputation is becoming increasingly important online, as is quality and trust. The economic climate is also influencing consumer behaviour. People are spending more time researching to get the best deal, not just on price but on quality & service.

Providing reviews adds reassurance, it says “listen to what people like you think”. It benefits your visitors and also your customers who can share their experiences with others. I actually like the idea that my opinion counts and can influence others – if I get great service, I want others to know so that they can benefit too.

An interesting stat this is doing the rounds is that 32% of consumers are willing to write an online review but only 19% would be prepared to write a letter or email a company directly.

How can I get people excited by this service?

Think differently. Don’t just stick the review content on your website and pat yourself on the back. Work out how you can communicate your customer’s opinions across your customer channels to increase visibility. Here are some winning ways to use reviews:

  • Advertise review content in your emails – “As voted by our customers”
  • Promote reviewed products in offline marketing such as display advertising & TV
  • Interact with your main reviewers, encourage them to become advocates
  • Integrate review ratings with your search marketing – powerful impact when a search ad has a “customers rate this 5/5” promotion

To give a few recent examples:


Argos recently added reviews on key products in its printed catalogue which reaches over 17m UK customers, 2/3 of all households

Free People

The US clothes etailer invited its most prolific reviewer to an in-depth interview, asked her about her life and why she likes Free People, snapped her in their clothes, then uploaded the photos to their Flickr group, dedicated a blog to the interview on their website and talked about it across other social platforms.

Being creative

Mobile shopping is taking off. Every time someone walks into a store with a mobile device, there is an opportunity to influence them via mobile marketing. In regards to reviews, you can promote online reviews on display stands, allowing customers the chance to read reviews of your products before making a purchase. This can increase in-store conversion be driving messages of quality, trust and reassurance. Also, if your products is syndicated in retail outlets and is up against competition, strong display stands with customer review options will help differentiate your offering.

A great example of this comes from Bazaarvoice’s customer, TurboTax. They launched a national campaign in the US to allow in-store customers to read views via their mobiles.

The summary

My view? Consumer feedback has become standard, it is no longer a novelty. What is creative is how brands are using reviews in a multi-channel environment to increase engagement. We all want honesty and transparency and from that trust will come. Don’t ask “why should I use reviews”, ask yourself “why shouldn’t I use reviews”.

1 comment:

Heather @ Wiggly Wigglers said...

I completely agree. We have over 430 reviews on our site and we are now able to harvest them to re-use in our paper catalogue as well as to let other customers know what benefits people have found. As for issues, it gives us a direct chance to put things right, tweek design or packaging without paying a focus group.