Connecting With the Next Generation of Consumers

Also known as Generation Z, the Centennials are a new generation of consumer who are self-aware, savvy and equipped with technology. Age 13-18 and born around the turn of the century, they already make up nearly a quarter of the population. And by 2020, this will rise to 40%. What can brands and retailers do to better interact with these young, connected consumers?

PowerReviews surveyed 1,000+ Centennials to understand where, when and how they’re spending (or how they plan to spend). Download the study to understand:

  • The Centennial personality
  • The truth about Centennials and reviews
  • How you can get Generation Z shoppers to engage with your brand

This is part two of a two part blog series on the power of using reviews in advertising.

In today’s transparency economy, customers have come to expect reviews for just about everything — from books and movies to hotels and experiences. In fact, Forrester research found that ratings and reviews are the most influential type of product content.

Consumers continue to trust the opinions of family and friends, but increasingly, they’re looking to strangers for guidance in their purchase decisions. After all, the most authentic voices are those of the people who have already purchased a product and shared their experiences online.

It makes sense, then, that more brands and retailers are exploring ways to integrate the voice of the customer into other marketing initiatives, like print and digital advertising. Using reviews data to substantiate claims in advertising, however, is a bit of uncharted territory, leaving many brands wondering how they can (or can’t) use this information in advertising. For example, when — if ever — can a widget company claim their product is the “Top Rated Widget”?

Recently, Matt Moog, PowerReviews’ CEO, spoke on a panel with the FTC and several prominent attorneys at the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council’s (ASRC) National Advertising Division (NAD) Annual Conference in New York City. The panel explored how advertisers are finding new and creative ways to gather and use ratings and reviews as support for advertising claims.

In a previous post, I focused on why ratings and reviews are so powerful. Today, I’ll focus on best practices for brands and retailers looking to integrate ratings and reviews into advertising initiatives.

Make Specific Claims
There have been some recent instances of companies getting into hot water for making broad, general claims in their advertising based on the data from reviews. Rather than saying your blender is the “Highest Rated Blender,” consider touting it as the “Top Rated Blender on [Your eCommerce Site.]” Or, if you’re a brand that syndicates your content, it makes sense to say that your blender is the “Top Rated Blender on the PowerReviews Network,” as long as you have the data to back it.  

Keep Reviews Authentic
The power of reviews lies in their authenticity. Be sure you — and your reviews partner — have measures in place to preserve the authenticity of ratings and reviews on your site. For example, reviews should undergo a multi-step moderation process to ensure they’re authentic and fraud-free, including moderation by a real human. But don’t edit the actual content of the reviews. Shoppers’ voices should be heard as they really are.

In addition, don’t reject negative reviews simply because they’re negative. Negative reviews are powerful, as they can establish trust with your customers. And research from Northwestern University found that a 5.0 star rating isn’t the best for driving sales. Instead, an average star rating of 4.2-4.5 is ideal for purchase probability.

Generate More Reviews
How many reviews do you have to have for a product before you can consider the feedback representative? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer, and instead, it requires consideration on a case-by-case basis. The more reviews you have, however, the more representative the insights gained from them. Therefore, it’s key to consistently focus on generating more reviews, use data, and be specific in your claims.

Get Permission
Let’s say one of your verified shoppers has submitted a well-written, positive review for a vacuum cleaner. Including this review in your advertising initiatives can be a powerful way to grab the attention of future shoppers. But before you use reviews or images in your marketing initiatives, get the contributor’s permission.

Partner With Legal Counsel
If you’re considering an advertising initiative that uses ratings and reviews to substantiate claims, involve your legal counsel early on. He or she can provide guidance on the best way to incorporate this powerful content into your advertising.

Keep these best practices in mind to allow the voice of the customer to be heard in advertising, while also protecting your brand’s hard-earned reputation.  

This is part one of a two part blog series on the power of using reviews in advertising.

Earlier this fall, Matt Moog, our CEO, was invited to speak on a panel about this topic at the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council’s (ASRC) National Advertising Division (NAD) Annual Conference in New York City. The panel explored how advertisers are finding new and creative ways to gather and use ratings and reviews as support for advertising claims. Matt — together with the panel members listed below — discussed the power of authentic feedback, as well as the legal issues of using ratings and reviews data in advertising.

  • John Feldman: Partner, Reed Smith, LLP
  • Mary K. Engle: Associate Director for Advertising Practices, Federal Trade Commission
  • Kelsey Joyce: Senior Director of Legal Affairs, T-Mobile
  • Hal Hodes: Staff Attorney, NAD

This post will focus on the power of authentic feedback, while a future post will provide tips and best practices for brands and retailers looking to integrate reviews into their advertising.

The Reliability of Reviews
At the core of the panel discussion was the topic of reliability. Do reviews accurately represent the opinions of all customers? Are reviews less reliable because the writers are self-selected? And how many reviews need to be generated in order for a claim to be representative?

Those who write reviews are self-selected; consumers opt in to write a review. But the same is true for other data collection methods that we’ve come to rely on — such as customer surveys and awards based on consumer feedback. You’re shopping for a car and you check out the list of top rated SUVs from J.D. Power and reliability reports from Consumer Reports. Both are highly respected sources of information and both are based on feedback from consumers who opt-in to complete the surveys.  Like these sources, reviews are authentic, trusted, and reliable sources of information that empower consumers to make better purchase decisions.

The Value of Reviews
Today people review nearly everything: recipes, hotels, restaurants, movies, books, mobile apps, music, experiences, just to name a few. They expect to see reviews, star ratings and increasingly images and videos. In fact, according to a Forrester report, ratings and reviews are the most impactful type of product information for consumers.

Customers not only read reviews, they trust them — sometimes even more than they trust recommendations from family and friends. In a recent study, PowerReviews found that when compared to those over the age of 60, people under 45 are 61% more likely to trust consumer reviews than the recommendations of family and friends.

When consumers write reviews, they’re not just helping other consumers make informed purchase decisions. They’re also helping brands and retailers. Smart brands and retailers are using feedback collected in reviews to adjust their offerings to ensure their customers’ needs are met with better products, services, and shopping experiences. Reviews are becoming the primary tool that consumers and businesses use to listen and learn.

The Authenticity of Reviews
People trust reviews as the true voice of other consumers. What makes them so powerful? Their authenticity. However, there’s been buzz in the media about fake reviews, which is why it’s crucial to take measures to ensure ratings and reviews are authentic.

Ideally, consumer reviews are un-edited commentary that’s been screened for fraud and moderated by a real human. All reviews submitted through the PowerReviews platform pass through a profanity filter and fraud detection technology, as well as a human moderation team. But we never edit the review content itself. Consumers’ voices are heard as they really are, which allows for a truly authentic experience for shoppers.

PowerReviews also encourages our customers to display all reviews — including the negative ones. It may seem counterintuitive, but negative reviews actually have an extremely positive impact because they help a brand establish trust and authenticity. A recent study we conducted with Northwestern University found that the ideal average star rating for a product is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. A perfect 5-star rating is seen as inauthentic and too good to be true.

Authentic reviews are a powerful tool for both consumers and businesses to listen and learn. 

This is part two of a three-part series on best practices for retailers looking to drive more traffic and sales during the 2015 holiday season.

It’s no secret that the holiday season is a busy time for retailers. This year will be no exception, as eMarketer predicts holiday retail sales will be up 5.7% this year, the biggest jump since 2011.

Effectively leveraging reviews is one important way to drive even more traffic and sales during the last couple months of the year. After all, a study from Forrester found that ratings and reviews are the most influential type of product content. This is especially true during the holidays, when shoppers are on the hunt for the perfect gifts for their family and friends.

What’s the first step in effectively leveraging reviews? Generating lots of them. Read on to learn 4 best practices that can help you generate more reviews now in order to drive more traffic and sales during the holidays and beyond.

1. Consider Sampling for New Products
A recent study we conducted with Northwestern University found that reviews are especially impactful when a customer is unfamiliar with a product or brand and thus is less likely to purchase. Why? Because there’s risk involved with buying an unfamiliar product. However, the presence of reviews help shoppers overcome that risk.

If your brand is releasing new products for the holidays, it’s important to have plenty of reviews to give shoppers the boost of confidence they need to make a purchase. How can you generate more reviews for new products? Consider product sampling. PowerReviews product sampling campaigns see an 85% conversion rate for reviews written for each sample sent. And the resulting reviews can help mitigate risk for future buyers, leading to more sales.

2. Implement a Post Purchase Email Program
On average, 70% of consumer reviews come from post purchase emails. In fact, implementing an effective post purchase email program is the single most important step that brands and retailers can take to grow their review content.

Keep your post purchase emails short and simple, with a clear call to action. And avoid including other marketing or sales calls to action that may distract your customers.

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3. Test Incentives and Rewards in Post Purchase Emails
Nearly all shoppers use reviews when making purchase decisions. But far fewer actually write reviews.

How can you get more of your shoppers to leave reviews? Well, it seems a little motivation can go a long way. A PowerReviews survey found that more than half of consumers who aren’t writing reviews cited needing motivation to do so.

PowerReviews customers have found that promotions, sweepstakes and offer codes are a few effective ways to motivate shoppers to write reviews. Which will work best for your brand? Now’s the time to test different offers to see which will garner the biggest results. Also, consider running incentives now to generate more reviews in time for heavy shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

4. Solicit Reviews from In-Store Shoppers
Don’t make the mistake of only asking for reviews from customers who shop online. Stores are packed to the brim with shoppers in the weeks leading up to the holidays. If you’re not asking these in-store shoppers to write reviews, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to generate more content.

Sports Authority, a PowerReviews client, saw a 178% increase in month-over-month content submission once they began soliciting reviews from in-store customers. How did they do it? By capturing emails through their existing rewards program, then sending emails asking for reviews on items purchased by customers in-store.

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This is part one of a three-part series on best practices for retailers looking to drive more traffic and sales during the 2015 holiday season.

If you’re like most retailers, you’re always on the hunt for ways to get ahead of the competition. This is especially true during the holidays, when consumers have nearly limitless shopping options. The good news is, effectively leveraging ratings and reviews can be instrumental in driving even more traffic and sales during the upcoming holiday season.

In this blog, I’ll focus on 3 ways you can make your reviews — and your review generation process — more mobile friendly, which is key as more and more consumers are expected to use their mobile devices to browse and buy this holiday season. By adopting these best practices, you can generate more reviews…which will help you drive more traffic and sales during the upcoming holiday season and beyond.

Make Your Reviews Mobile Friendly
More and more shoppers are using their mobile devices to browse and purchase products. According to a survey from retail research agency Conlumino, nearly 45% of consumers plan to use a mobile device to shop for holiday gifts this year.

That’s why it’s key to make sure you have mobile-friendly reviews available on mobile apps and on your website. If you don’t, you risk losing shoppers…and not just those who are shopping online. Research from PowerReviews found that 70% of US shoppers want to be able to access product ratings and reviews while in store. Consider this situation: Kate is in a store shopping for a sweater for her son. She narrows her selection to two sweaters, but wants to see what other people have to say about them. So, she navigates to the retailer’s website on her mobile phone to find reviews for the two styles. She hunts around for a couple minutes, but then gives up. She leaves the store frustrated and decides to buy a sweater elsewhere.

Implement a Mobile-Friendly Post Purchase Email
Up to 70% of reviews originate from post purchase emails. And more than half of emails are read on a mobile device. If you haven’t already, now is the time to implement a mobile-friendly post purchase email to maximize the number of reviews you generate — giving holiday shoppers that extra boost of confidence to make a purchase.

To ensure your post purchase emails look great on all devices and generates a high number of reviews , you’ll want to:

  • Keep the design of the email clean and simple, with the important elements in the upper portion of the email whenever possible
  • Make the call to action prominent and obvious
  • Avoid marketing content or other distractions that’ll cause readers to click away from the email
  • Use a single column layout so the email scales down nicely on mobile
  • Use a 16 or 18 point font size to make it easy to read on all devices
  • Keep content short and simple
  • Limit subject lines to 55 characters or less

Simple changes can make a big difference. evo, an online outdoor and fashion apparel retailer, implemented a mobile-friendly post purchase email to solicit reviews and saw a 204% increase in reviews written on mobile.

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Use a Mobile-Friendly Write a Review Form
Let’s say a customer receives your post purchase email on her phone, clicks to write a review, and is taken to a write a review form that requires her to pinch, scroll, and zoom in order to write a review. Chances are, she won’t do it. Shoppers expect a seamless shopping journey, regardless of the device they use. Make the review process as easy as possible for your shoppers by switching to a mobile-friendly write a review form.

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Looking for more best practices for using ratings and reviews to drive traffic and sales during the holiday season and beyond? Download our free 2015 Holiday Best Practices Guide.

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Meet the Team is a recurring series on the PowerReviews blog, allowing you to get to know the people behind our success.

We recently sat down with Jessica Teji, Senior Client Services Director in our Chicago office, to learn more about her role, why she loves PowerReviews, and what she enjoys doing outside of work. Jessica’s only been with PowerReviews for six months, but she’s already made a tremendous impact helping our clients be successful with the PowerReviews platform.

Jessica_Teji

What do you do at PowerReviews?
As a Senior Client Success Director, my role is to help our Enterprise clients get the most use out of the PowerReviews platform. I work closely with Fortune 500 companies to help them increase User Generated Content (UGC) and utilize it across different channels.

I love helping our clients get a better understanding of their brand by observing the quantity and quality of UGC over time and identifying insights to continue to improve their products for consumers. For one of my clients, the engineering department’s performance is tied to the ratings on a new product launch. I’ve worked with this client to ensure that the moderation policies and right processes are in place to collect ratings and reviews and syndicate them to retailers as quickly as possible to increase conversion.

What’s your favorite thing about working at PowerReviews?
The people and the environment make coming to work enjoyable. Plus, our culture and events are always a great way to reconnect with employees across different departments. My favorite event was hosting Built In Brews (a monthly happy hour hosted by a different, high growth tech company in Chicago) when we moved to our new office in the Loop. I enjoyed inviting family and friends to come visit our office and learn about what we do. The mayor even made a guest appearance!

What did you do before joining PowerReviews?
I worked in finance at an asset manager, BlackRock, for six years in New York as a relationship manager for global insurance and financial institutions. After moving to Chicago, I worked for a five person startup and got exposure to SaaS, analytics and the entire lifecycle of a client.

What’s something people might not know about you?
I love photography of all kinds and have done shoots on the side for charity events, engagement sessions, smaller parties and other events.

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