Today’s consumers have nearly endless choices when it comes to shopping. In order to compete — and win — in this increasingly competitive marketplace, it’s critical for brands and retailers to provide consumers with the information they’re looking for when researching and purchasing products — including reviews, photos and videos submitted by others like them.

Earlier this month, Cheryl Amaya, Director of Customer Success at Workarea, joined us for our monthly webinar. During the session, we discussed the different types of UGC, the role they play in the shopping journey, and how brands and retailers can leverage these different types of content to compete and win. During the webinar, I shared these five tips  for optimizing your business with UGC.  

1. Improve Organic and Paid Search Results with UGC
Our research on the path to purchase found that more than a third (35%) of consumers start the purchase journey on a search engine. The good news is, ratings and reviews can help boost your presence on search engines by providing fresh, keyword rich content that search engines (and consumers) love. For example, let’s say you navigate to Google and search for “classic polo for my college son.” The first result is a polo shirt from Vineyard Vines, thanks to a review that includes the keywords you searched for. Plus, since the website is structured according to Schema.org standards, it appears in the search results, enticing you to click through.

UGC (User Generated Content)

Ratings and reviews can also improve your paid search results. For starters, adding star ratings to Product Listing Ads will increase your clickthrough rate. And Selling Ratings allow you to display stars in search results, capturing the attention of even more online shoppers.

[bctt tweet=”35% of consumers start the purchase journey on a search engine.” username=”powerofreviews”]

2. Optimize for UGC Collection
The #1 best practice for collecting more user-generated content — such as reviews, photos and videos — is to ask for it. Be sure to send a post purchase email asking your customers to review recently purchased products. We’ve found that up to 90% of all review content is a result of a post purchase email. Make it extremely clear what you’re asking the consumer to do. For example, if you’re looking to generate more visual content, put the ask in the subject line and in the body of your email.

In addition, remember that many orders include more than one item. In fact, in the PowerReviews Network, more than 60% of orders have more than one product. So make it easy for shoppers to submit reviews for all purchased products from one page.

UGC reviews

3. Optimize for Mobile
Today’s consumers are doing just about everything from their phones — including writing and reading reviews. At PowerReviews, we saw an 87% increase in reviews written on mobile in 2016 compared to 2015.

Make sure the entire process of submitting reviews, photos and videos can easily be completed on a small screen. And instead of requiring consumers to navigate to a third party site such as YouTube in order to submit a video, allow them to upload this content directly to your website from their phones.

4. Highlight Visual Content Beyond the Product Page
PowerReviews research found that 88% of consumers specifically look for visual content submitted by other consumers before making a purchase. Once you’ve collected great photos and videos from your consumers, display them where future shoppers can easily find them. Start by featuring this visual content in an engaging gallery on your product pages. Then think about ways you can leverage this content on other areas of your website, including your homepage, category pages, and campaign-specific landing pages.  

UGC photos

In addition, think about ways you can feature this visual content in your other print and digital marketing initiatives. For example, Apple prominently features user-generated photos in their billboard campaigns to inspire future shoppers.

User Generated Content of a billboard

5. Identify and Engage Loyalists to Generate Content
Consumers who are passionate about a brand or product are priceless. Identify loyalists not just by spend, but also by the amount and quality of the content they’ve submitted. Look at the number of reviews they’ve written, the products they’ve reviewed, how often their reviews are voted as “most helpful,” and whether they’ve submitted high-quality images and videos as part of reviews.

Once you’ve identified these loyalists, reach out to ask them to contribute reviews, photos, and videos. Consider offering them incentives — such as loyalty points, coupons, free samples or a sweepstakes entry. For the sake of transparency, make sure to appropriately badge reviews that were generated as a result of an incentive. That way,  future shoppers understand who wrote each review.

Want to learn what else we discussed during this webinar? Watch the on-demand session now!


Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Way We Shop

Earlier this spring, part of the PowerReviews team headed to Las Vegas for Shoptalk, a retail and ecommerce conference focused on how consumers discover, shop and buy. While in Vegas, I had the opportunity to connect with leaders from top brands and retailers to hear about the challenges they’re facing and the unique ways they’re leveraging user-generated content to better connect with their shoppers.

I also had the chance to attend some powerful keynotes and breakout sessions packed with great insights and practical takeaways. While attending sessions, I noticed a few recurring themes:

  • The interplay of online and in-store shopping
  • How experiential retail is building connections with consumers
  • The potential for artificial intelligence to change the way we shop

In previous posts, I discussed the first two themes — the interplay of online and in-store shopping and how experiential retail is building connections with consumers. In this post, I’ll focus on the how artificial intelligence will change the way we shop.

You Can’t Spell Retail Without AI
Though artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, several conference sessions explored how it is positioned to be one of the biggest transformations coming to retail. Why? Because artificial intelligence has the potential to fundamentally impact the way consumers browse and buy products. AI allows brands and retailers to deliver the personalized experiences that today’s consumers crave. And businesses must keep up in order to deliver what their shoppers want.

Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg, SVP of Commerce and Content Practice at SapientRazorfish, kicked off a panel discussion on artificial intelligence in retail by stating (in a voice hoarse from an evening of Las Vegas fun), “You can’t spell retail without AI.” Jason moderated a panel of speakers from AI companies that are disrupting retail, including leaders from IBM, Twiggle, Sentient Technologies, and Clarifai. Each speakers shared examples of how AI is transforming the industry.

Recommendations
All the panelists agreed that as an industry, product recommendations are not done well. Darin Archer, Director of Product Management, Watson Commerce, at IBM, described how AI could go beyond today’s recommendations engines by providing context for relevance — location, loyalty, recent history — in the moment of now.

One of the panelists, Andy Narayanan, GM of Intelligent Commerce at Sentient Technologies, said that Big Data is complex and not scalable- that it hadn’t delivered. He positioned AI, on the other hand, as autonomous decision-making, a continuous optimizer of recommendations– just like an associate in-store.

Personalization
Narayanan predicted that in the next five years, most retailers and brands will have AI driving their core business. Today’s shoppers expect personalized experiences. But providing these 1:1 experiences is a big challenge for retailers. Andy explained how AI can help retailers provide a customized experience for shoppers, by determining what products to show a customer and how to present those products. As the retailer better understands the customer, it can better optimize its recommendations for the shopper, just like an in-store associate.

The potential for AI in retail goes beyond recommendations and personalization, extending to image recognition and more. The possibilities seemed endless.


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 Jaclyn Harwood, a member of our Analytics Team, to chat about what a Data Scientist does at PowerReviews, what she loves about our office and where you can find her on the weekends.

Jaclyn_Harwood

How long have you worked with PowerReviews?
I joined the team in June of 2015, so almost two years! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by and how much the company has grown since then.

Not everyone knows what a Data Scientist is. Can you explain it in a couple sentences?
I definitely get this question a lot which is not unwarranted since this job title didn’t technically exist before 2008. Data Scientists are expected to take large, messy datasets and organize them through math and programming in order to extract meaning from the data. As a Data Scientist, I try to think of questions surrounding our data and then solve for the answers to bring insights to both our internal teams and our clients. One of my major projects here has been developing our client-facing reporting tool to ensure our clients understand the value that reviews bring to their customers.

What do you love most about being a Data Scientist?
I am privileged to be in a very cross-functional role where I get to work with other departments to help them obtain the data and insights they need. I really enjoy working with our other teams and it helps me to understand how our company works as a whole. I also love to learn and feel so lucky to be in a field where the landscape is constantly changing and the community is extremely active.

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the PowerReviews team?
My favorite thing is how passionate all of our team members are and how everyone is always willing to help each other. You can go up to anyone in the entire company and if you say you have a question or need help looking into something, they will go above and beyond to make sure you get what you need. In the end, we are all part of the same team and everyone’s actions reflect that mentality. People here are proud of their work and passionate about our company and it makes coming to work everyday an absolute pleasure.

Can you explain PowerWomen, and why you think the group is important?
PowerWomen is a new group I recently helped to start with our Manager of Content Operations, Shannon Johnson. Our vision for this group is to promote diversity, inclusion, and equality through attracting, developing, and retaining talented women. This organization is open to all PowerReviews employees and we plan to host different workshops/speakers, attend events in the community, and start a mentorship program. Our first event is a show at the Public House Theater called Cannonball, which has an all female cast including one of our very own Client Success Directors, Virginia Muller!

Women still only hold 14% of executive positions in this country and that needs to change. I personally think this group is important because it will raise awareness within our company and the larger Chicago community.

What’s your favorite part of the new PowerReviews office?
My favorite part of the new office is definitely the kitchen. The kitchen is where we hold our monthly company-wide meetings, have our weekly Tuesday catered lunches, and it has the best view of Lake Michigan. It just makes the office feel truly like a second home and everyone loves to hang out in there.

You taught a class at General Assembly not too long ago. What was that like?
It was great! To be honest, I have never taught before and when they asked me to do it, I wasn’t sure if it would be something I would enjoy. I was slightly nervous before my first class but as soon as I got up there I felt great and I really enjoyed talking to other people who were interested in starting a career in Data Analytics/Science. Many of the attendees were looking for a career switch and were trying to understand how to break into the field.

What’s your favorite weekend activity?
My favorite thing to do on the weekends is to just get lost in Chicago. I am completely obsessed with this city even though my true allegiance is with the great state of New Jersey. I live in the Logan Square neighborhood with my boyfriend and sometimes we will spend the day just walking all the way down Milwaukee Ave, stopping at new restaurants and little shops along the way. I also love to travel and play tennis.

MeettheTeam_CTA


This blog post is the first in our series of key takeaways from the keynotes and breakout sessions from the 2017 PowerReviews Digital Commerce Summit.

Last week, PowerReviews hosted our first annual Digital Commerce Summit in Chicago. It was a great time — with tons of opportunities to network with other industry professionals and hear from a great lineup of speakers on various topics related to building trust with consumers.

During the Summit, I had the opportunity to present to attendees on the growing role of visual content on a consumer’s path to purchase. Shoppers are increasingly turning to visual content to help them make purchase decisions. And more and more of them are specifically seeking out photos and videos submitted by other consumers like them. Our recent research found that 88% of consumers specifically look for visual content submitted by other consumers before making a purchase. Providing shoppers with the visual content they crave helps brands and retailers build trust. We also found that 65% of shoppers are more likely to trust products that have user-submitted photos or videos in their reviews.

It’s clear that visual content has become an important part of the purchase journey. So how can brands and retailers collect and leverage user-generated photos and videos to attract and convert shoppers? Here are five tips I shared during the PowerReviews Digital Commerce Summit.

1. Request Videos and Photos Directly from Your Shoppers
In a perfect world, your customers would automatically submit a review with a great photo or video of your products. But the reality is, most customers need a little nudge. The best way to provide that nudge is by sending a post purchase email, asking shoppers to submit photos and videos along with reviews of the products they’ve recently purchased.

Use a direct, compelling subject line with 55 characters or less to entice recipients to open your email. And make sure the email itself is short and sweet, with a clear call to action. Finally, be sure your post purchase email is mobile friendly, since more and more consumers are opening their emails on a mobile device. evo, a leading online retailer of outdoor gear and fashion apparel, experienced a 23% increase in reviews written on all devices after switching to a mobile-friendly post purchase email.

2. Capture Visual Content Natively
In order to generate more visual content, you need to make the collection process as simple as possible. Rather than requiring consumers to take the extra step of first uploading content to a third party service such as YouTube or asking your internal teams to curate visual content by combing through millions of photos on social media sites, allow shoppers to natively submit their photos and videos through your website. Capturing this content natively will also allow future shoppers to find all the product information they need right on your product page, which means they’re more likely to stay on your site and make a purchase.

How to collect customer visual content

3. Prominently Display User-Generated Visual Content on Product Pages
Once you’ve generated consumer-submitted photos and videos, display this content where future shoppers can easily find it. A great way to do this is by showcasing consumer images in an engaging gallery on your product pages. If you’re a PowerReviews customer, the image gallery is available out of the box.

User Generated visual content

4. Enhance Other Marketing Initiatives with User-Generated Photos
In addition to displaying user-generated visual content on product pages, think of ways you can include this powerful content in other marketing initiatives, too. For example, include user submitted photos on other areas of your website, including your homepage, category pages, and campaign-specific landing pages. And consider ways to integrate these images into other digital marketing initiatives, such as email, display and social campaigns. Finally, don’t forget about traditional marketing campaigns, too. For example, Apple does a great job integrating photos taken by their customers on their iPhones into their billboard advertising.

A UGC billboard from an IPhone

5. Keep Your Visual Content Authentic
Professional photos of your products are important. But more and more shoppers are specifically seeking out photos and videos submitted by other consumers. This user-generated content adds a level of authenticity and builds trust between consumers and the companies they do business with. Our research found that 65% of consumers are more likely to trust products that have user-submitted photos or videos as part of reviews.

Preserve the authenticity of user submitted visual content by avoiding editing or otherwise altering this content. However, it’s also important to make sure you have measures in place to make sure no inappropriate or fraudulent content makes its way on your site, which can break down the trust you’ve worked hard to earn with your shoppers.

Want to learn more about the role of visual content in a consumer’s path to purchase? Download this PowerReviews study on the power of visual content.

Arit Nsemo

Arit Nsemo

Arit has a background in client success in the online space. Currently, Arit is based in London, England where she is responsible for the success of PowerReviews clients in EMEA, taking a consultative approach to relationship management.

Last week, over 100 PowerReviews customers, partners and analysts gathered in the Windy City for our inaugural PowerReviews Digital Commerce Summit. Over the course of a day and a half, attendees had the opportunity to connect with their peers and hear and share stories about how they’re using (and plan to use) user-generated content to build trust, connect with their consumers, and drive success.

We heard from a roster of amazing speakers ranging from a reporter at the Washington Post to leaders from some of the largest brands and retailers on topics ranging from review generation and SEO strategies to customer loyalty and how to get the most mileage from your reviews. I know I learned a ton.

It wasn’t all serious, though; we also had plenty of fun. On the first day of the Summit, a latte artist wowed us with his coffee art.

Latte Artist

Then, after a full day of sessions, everyone headed to the beautiful Shedd Aquarium to eat, drink, explore exhibits and show off their dance moves at our opening night dinner and party.

Shedd Aquarium

If you attended the Summit, thanks for making it an amazing event! I hope you left feeling energized, inspired, and armed with actionable insights for better connecting with your consumers.

If you didn’t attend the Summit, read on for a quick overview of what you missed. And keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a summary of key takeaways from several of the keynotes and breakout sessions.

The Transparency Economy

The theme of this year’s event was the Transparency Economy, an economy in which individuals are empowered with authentic user-generated content to make better decisions in all aspects of their lives — as consumers, patients, travelers, students and citizens. Authentic feedback drives transparency among consumers and businesses. And transparency drives trust and accountability (which then drives commerce).

The importance of transparency was a key theme that was woven throughout all of the presentations during the Summit. On Wednesday, our opening keynote focused on the role of information and opinion in culture and commerce. Roxanne Roberts, Reporter for the Washington Post, explored where citizens get their information, whom they trust and how that shapes what they believe and how they act. James Rubec, Product Marketing Manager at Cision, discussed how UGC data helped predict the election better than official polls. And Paul Rand, Chairman at Critical Mass and author of Highly Recommended shared actionable insights and best practices to help brands become the most discovered, talked about and recommend in their category.

PowerReviews Summit Panel

Then, onWednesday afternoon, Rishad Tobaccowala, Strategy and Growth Officer at Publicis Groupe, explored how people and companies are changing their behavior in a high velocity, networked and increasingly transparent age. He also discussed that in order to be successful in today’s transparent world, businesses must focus on learning and always have empathy at the core.

Rishad Tobaccowala

 

Doing Great and Doing Good

Businesses that provide consumers with the information they need to make smart decisions can do great in the Transparency Economy. And they can also do good. Making a positive impact on the world was a key theme of several Summit sessions. Steven Dyme, Co-Founder and CEO at Flowers for Dreams, shared the story of building an innovative alternative to the traditional floral industry, delivering beauty in inspired floral arrangements, responsible sourcing, and donating 25% of profits to Chicago area charities. On Thursday morning, Jessica Droste Yagan, CEO at Impact Engine, shared her story of creating McDonald’s Corporation’s sustainable sourcing strategy and explored how feedback, transparency, and accountability help businesses, consumers, and workers around the globe. Finally, Dave Heath shared the journey of Bombas, an innovative sock company that has donated 2.5 million pairs of socks to those in need.

User-Generated Content is the Foundation of the Transparency Economy


In the Transparency Economy, user-generated content is the main way consumers share feedback with each other and the companies they do business with. As such, UGC plays a central role in the success of a business. The challenge for businesses is to successfully generate and leverage this powerful content in order to drive traffic, sales and insights.

That’s where PowerReviews comes in. At PowerReviews, we’re committed to helping you get more content, more reach and better insights. Throughout the Summit, speakers shared information about product capabilities and best practices to help you reach your UGC (and overall business) goals.

Jessica Teji, Manager of Client Success at PowerReviews and Robin Simkins, SVP of Customer Marketing at PowerReviews, shared how product sampling can help brands generate more products for new products, seasonal products, or products with high traffic but low conversion. And Arit Nsemo, another Manager of Client Success at PowerReviews, discussed the growing importance of visual content in the path to purchase and how brands and retailers can get more of it.

Generating content is just the first step. Our session on the PowerReviews Open Network  discussed review syndication, the distribution of user-generated content collected on brand sites to retail ecommerce sites. Our speakers — VP of Product Marketing Rebecca Grimes and VP of Network Danny Harris explored the evolution and expansion of the PowerReviews Open Network and how it’s helping brands increase the reach of their content.

Businesses can also use the insights from ratings and reviews to improve products, services and the shopping experience. Arend Henderson, SVP of Analytics at PowerReviews, discussed how to track sales impact, follow the growth of content, and gain valuable product insights. He also shared information on new capabilities that’ll allow businesses to more easily identify insights from their user-generated content.

Ratings and Reviews Drive Traffic and Sales Online and In-Store


User-generated content doesn’t just help consumers make better purchase decisions. It also helps businesses drive traffic and sales online and in-store. When a product goes from zero to more than zero reviews, that product will experience an average 108% increase in traffic and a 65% conversion rate lift.

Additionally, PowerReviews customers using best practices and the latest technology see even better results. Throughout the Summit, we heard proven best practices that are helping brands and retailers achieve great results. For example, on Wednesday, Arit Nsemo shared best practices to help companies collect more of the visual content today’s consumers crave. And during our PowerReviews Best Practices Customer Panel, some of our top-performing customers including Hayneedle.com, Abt, Benefit Cosmetics, Advance Auto Parts, Skechers and Beam Suntory shared their strategies for maximizing the performance of reviews, Q&A and visual content.

Learn More

Want to know more about the insights, tips and strategies that were shared at the 2017 PowerReviews Digital Commerce Summit? Check back each week for key takeaways from a Summit keynote or breakout session.

While the impact of ratings and reviews on traffic, sales and conversion is universally acknowledged, a lesser known benefit is the ability to improve organic search results. This webinar will explain how user-generated content (UGC) impacts reviews and SEO. We’ll also provide practical guidance on how to optimize presentation design and leverage UGC to improve SEO.

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