As consumers, we’re constantly looking for information to validate our purchase decisions. Does this tablet have the right screen size and computing power? Exactly how brown is this “chocolate mocha” dining room set? Will these shoes match this purse, and are they true to size?
Product reviews have become a critical part of the consumer purchase process and have the power to turn hesitant consumers into confident buyers. Even Google has recognized the value of reviews, recently introducing a five-star rating system into its Product Listing Ads (PLAs) to make review information more readily available to consumers as they search for products. This post discusses how to leverage review syndication, but if you don’t have reviews to syndicate check out our post on how to get more reviews.
Brands must ensure product and review information is easily accessible to those curious consumers at the moment of purchase. As consumers’ purchase behaviors continue to evolve with new channels, more brands are looking to increase visibility of their products through the syndication of product reviews to retail sites and search engines.
Here are the three most important reasons brands should maximize their reach through review syndication:
1. Participate in the consumer conversation
Many brand websites act as a hub for consumers to share reviews, testimonials and their overall experience with a product. These sites often attract the most passionate fans who create loads of rich, incredibly valuable content. However, many brand pages aren’t transactional or are just one of many places consumers can purchase a brand’s products.
With syndication, brands can ensure that all consumers have access to the rich content and reviews housed on the brand page, and thereby insert themselves into the consumer conversation wherever a brand’s products are sold. For example, L’Oreal’s website lorealparisusa.com is a consumer engagement tool educating visitors on fashion, beauty and its product offerings while collecting reviews on its complete line of products. Those reviews are then syndicated to other retailers like ULTA and Walgreens. By syndicating reviews, more consumers are exposed to the customer experiences of others when making purchase decisions.
2. Create a personalized buying experience that’s easy to navigate
While one consumer may want a compact DSLR camera with the newest auto-stabilization technology, another just needs something with a long battery life. At the same time, not every product can be the fastest, biggest, newest, cheapest and best. That’s where tags come into play. A tag-based review system scans all product reviews for commonly used words and phrases to put together a quick snapshot of the most referenced product characteristics as well as pros and cons. When reviews are tagged based on product attributes (e.g., this desk might be less expensive, but the trade-off is that it takes a long time to assemble), the shopper gets a clearer idea of what they’re buying.
Not every product is going to be a perfect fit for every consumer. However, a tag-based review system can help match the consumer to the right product for them, which results in a more personalized, authentic experience with the brand.
3. Better understand your audience
As mentioned above, it’s the most passionate fans that frequent brand pages. Therefore, when brands syndicate their reviews, they can see the native content from those avid customers in line with the reviews collected on retailer sites. With proper analysis, brands can track how the two batches of reviews compare.
Are customers purchasing from one retailer looking for different features and functionality than those purchasing directly from the brand page? Understanding the nuances in customer expectations can help brands improve their products and optimize product pages in order to properly appeal to each audience.
Increasingly, brands and retailers are adopting engagement-based loyalty tactics to evolve in tandem with the way people shop. While transaction-based loyalty programs — where purchases are linked to rewards — are successful at driving repeat sales from a single customer, engagement-based programs work to foster meaningful relationships with customers at large.
With engagement-based loyalty initiatives, customers engage with a brand or retailer in a variety of ways: Contributing content such as user photos, writing reviews, giving feedback on their experience and participating in online communities to answer questions from other consumers. When executed correctly, engagement-based loyalty initiatives provide brands with a steady stream of feedback and user-generated content about their products and services.
As more brands and retailers adopt engagement-based loyalty programs, there are several best practices to keep in mind.
- Align with branding. Engagement-based loyalty programs need to align with the organization’s overall branding strategy. From graphics to program components, such as badging systems, every element of your loyalty initiatives must seamlessly integrate with your online and offline branding.
- Identify desired outcomes. During the development stage, it’s important to determine the desired result, specifically looking at which customer behaviors you want to promote, and then tailor the initiative accordingly. For example, if you want to encourage the creation of product reviews, your approach should be different than if you want to motivate customers to share user-generated images over social media.
- Think long term. Your engagement-based loyalty initiatives need to keep people engaged with your brand over a long period of time. Rewards and game levels should be achievable — but not too easy. Ideally, your initiative will remain active online for years to come, so customers shouldn’t be able to hit peak levels within a month or two.
Finally, one of the keys to successful engagement-based loyalty is that your initiatives must have a direct and clearly communicated benefit for consumers. Why should they participate in this program? When you invite people to participate in an initiative, make it crystal clear what the person stands to gain in terms of reciprocal value.
For many brands and retailers, the right loyalty mix is a strategy of both transaction-based and engagement-focused initiatives. In 2015, consider adopting an engagement-based loyalty strategy for your brand and stay ahead of the curve, identifying your most engaged customers and improving your ability to turn them into brand advocates.
The end of the year marks out time for relaxation, vacations, and celebrations. The end of the year also marks out time for reflection. These reflections can range from the individual personal accomplishments, your family, your company, all the way up to your government. If you’re in the business of making products, selling products, or both, 2014 marked a time of unbelievable growth in mobile to research, browse, and transact. Let reflect on the state of the mobile shopping experience as we start 2015.
2014 Holiday Traffic driven by Mobile Devices
The reports are in: 60% of all traffic during the week of Black Friday in 2014 came from a mobile device. And, Lifestyle & Shopping mobile app usage lead the app category YoY growth. Here’s a chart showing YoY mobile apps usage for the various categories in the app stores:
From Showrooming and Webrooming to Mobile Payments
The truth is that shoppers use mobile for more than just browsing when it comes to the consumer journey of buying products. Showrooming and webrooming that were once a primal fear for companies are now common behaviors for the vast majority of consumers. Advancement of mobile payment technologies within companies like Braintree, Paypal, Bitcoin, Venmo, and Apple Pay in 2014 are making one-click payments a thing of beauty (and simple). You can even use your mobile device to transfer money to family and friends around the world for free via solutions like Square Cash (via email) and SnapCash (within app).
The Beauty of Mobile Reviews
PowerReviews customers like Ulta Beauty have successfully been using our APIs to power their native mobile app reviews/Q&A experiences for years with great success. Here it is live in action:
Powering Responsive Reviews
And customers like Ugg Australia have been using our on-page reviews technologies to power their responsive desktop site to insure the right content is always available to their shoppers.
Mobile Consumers to Retailers: Evolve or Perish
But this unbelievable growth in mobile usage isn’t always being met with smiling faces from consumers. Many retailers and brands are behind the curve in mobile readiness, with reports of slow page loads, inconsistent user experiences, and lack of information accessible on the mobile site/app. With product reviews being the number two element considered during a purchase behind price, you can’t afford to leave reviews + Q&A capabilities out of these experiences.
Brands are no longer the key influencer in defining themselves. Rather, a brand experience is created with every touchpoint a consumer has with it.
The increase of touchpoints has shifted the power to the buyer, leaving brands with a new challenge: The Connected Consumer. According to iamwire.com, Connected Consumers are “those who use connected devices such as Media tablets, e-readers, portable navigation devices, media players, imaging devices and mobile gaming devices, to interact with and consume digital content.”
While 80% of companies believe they deliver “superior” consumer experiences to their consumers; just 8% of consumers agree (Bain Consulting). The Connected Consumer is touched by a brand before, during, and after a purchase.
Brands should not see these touchpoints as problems to solve. Instead they are increased opportunities to connect with consumers and innovate a better purchasing process.
There is no better time than today to start connecting with consumers through these leading touchpoints:
1.) Become part of the conversation.
Word-of-Mouth continues to be a lead consumer touchpoint and social media makes it even easier for brands be part of those conversations. 74% of online adults actively use social networking sites (Pew Research). The average social network site user is half as likely to be socially isolated, than those not actively using social networks. Ignoring or just deleting negative comments and complaints on your social channels is more harmful than you think. One in five brands say they rarely, if ever, respond to consumer complaints through social media platforms. Yet consumers expect a response from brands within one hour. Six in 10 consumers will take “unpleasant actions” to express dissatisfaction with a brand’s untimely social response. It is also important to note that negative reviews are not something brands and retailers should fear. Learn how you can turn negative reviews into positive customer experiences.
2.) Provide fully branded and customized ratings and reviews on product pages.
User generated product reviews and ratings has been on the mind of leading brands and retailers for more than 10 years. The most basic of review services offer a single text box for consumers to share their experience and feedback on the product or service. However, this is not enough to keep a competitive edge. Create a positive review experience by offering review snapshot summaries, customizing review formats by type of product, creating an optimized UX experience, using keyword tagging and seamlessly tying the look and feel to the website or app design.
3.) Optimize online shopping experiences for smartphones and tablets.
According to eMarketer, the number of mobile shoppers is expected to exceed 145 million by the end of 2014 and 18-20 percent of all holiday season sales this year will occur on mobile devices. Make sure your site is ready with these tips.
4.) Stay engaged with your consumers.
Marketing should not stop once a consumer makes a purchases. Staying connected helps create brand loyalty and repeated business. Sending emails requesting a product review or feedback is commonly used. In addition to gaining review content, the consumer feels their voice is heard and it allows the brand or retailer to respond to consumer needs. Only 30% of companies maintain effective consumer feedback loops (Bain Consulting). Helpful content, such as user guides, or a simple thank you note goes a long way in creating brand loyalty. Engagement-based loyalty is a way to encourage ongoing conversation, not only between a brand and its customers, but also among customers themselves.
Today consumer relationships matter more than ever and the relationship begins far before someone even becomes a paying consumer. A seamless brand experience filled with conversation and engagement touchpoints throughout the buying experience allows brands and retailers to truly connect with the modern buyer.