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

We recently caught up with Susan Eckman to learn about her role as Legal Counsel, and to hear about her favorite PowerReviews moments so far.

How long have you been with the PowerReviews team?
I’ve been with the company since June 2016.

Tell us about your (growing!) team and your role at PowerReviews.
Being in-house counsel means I get to work with different PowerReviews departments on a daily basis to help them meet their business goals, while making sure we are in compliance with any applicable laws, rules, contractual obligations, etc. One thing I focus on, when working with the different departments, is knowing why we want to do something. Once I know the why, the majority of the time, I can help people get to their end goal (or at least close to it).

In September, Gina joined the legal team as a paralegal and I am so thankful to have her! Her strong work ethic, attention to detail, and desire and ability to learn things quickly have made her an invaluable part of the team.

What’s the best part of your job, as Legal Counsel?
Getting to work with smart and passionate people everyday. Since everyone needs legal at some point, I get to know every department. It’s amazing how talented our teams are.

Can you tell us about one of your favorite PowerReviews moments?
Our 2016 holiday party was amazing! Also the day finance “adopted” me as one of their own (even though I hate dealing with numbers), that was pretty fantastic as well.

Do you have any hidden talents we might not know about?
I played volleyball at Clemson University. Go Tigers!

Thanksgiving is already next week which means that the busiest shopping season of the year will soon be upon us. As you’re working hard to prepare your website and your stores for the surge in holiday traffic, be sure you’re factoring in the shopping habits of the newest generation of shoppers: Centennials (aka Generation Z).

Today, Centennials, who were born around the turn of the century, make up a quarter of the population. And already these young consumers have $44 million in annual spending power…not to mention a heavy influence on their parents’ spending.

PowerReviews recently surveyed more than 1,000 Millennial and Centennial consumers to better understand their shopping habits. Check out the infographic below for a snapshot of the study’s key findings. Then read on for six tips based on this research for effectively reaching Centennial consumers this holiday season — and beyond.

Generation Z Shoppers Infographic

1. Make Reviews Front and Center

Reviews are an expected part of the shopping experience for Gen Z. In fact, 95% of Centennials search and read reviews before making a purchase, and nearly two thirds read at least four reviews before converting. What’s more, nearly half of Centennials say they won’t purchase a product if there aren’t enough reviews.

This holiday season (and throughout the year), make sure product reviews are prominently featured on your website, both on the product page and beyond. In addition to providing young shoppers with the information they’re looking for, featuring reviews on your site also improves SEO. On average, when a product adds one or more reviews, the product page experiences a 108% lift in traffic.

2. Optimize Your Online Presence for Mobile

Centennials are connected consumers — most don’t remember a time before mobile phones, social media and the internet. Today, mobile accounts for 52% of their time spent online daily, which adds up to an average of 4 hours and 10 minutes spent on mobile each day. And this generation is using their mobile phones for just about everything — including shopping for products. In fact, 37% of Centennials prefer to research and browse for products on mobile devices.

In order to appeal to the next generation of shoppers, ensure your website is mobile optimized so it loads quickly and is easy to view and navigate wherever your customer is.

3. Feature User-Generated Visual Content

Visual content — such as photos and videos — have become an integral part of the lives of today’s consumers. This is especially true for young consumers, who are heavy users of visual-based social media channels such as Instagram and Snapchat. Gen Z shoppers have also come to expect visual content when they’re shopping for products — and they’re not satisfied by photos provided by the brand or retailer. In fact, 40% of Centennials won’t purchase a product if there are no photos of people using the product.

So don’t limit your consumers to text-only reviews, especially when targeting Gen Z shoppers. Make it easy for consumers to submit visual content, such as photos and videos, along with their reviews. Then, display this visual content in a compelling way on your product pages. Seeing other consumers using your products “in real life” will give young shoppers the confidence they need to convert.

4. Answer Centennials’ Questions

No matter how comprehensive your product information, consumers are going to occasionally have questions. And consumers want an avenue to get answers to these questions. Our research found that nearly half (45%) of Centennials won’t buy a product if they can’t ask a question about it. And 79% will go straight to another retailer or to Amazon if they can’t ask a question on a product page.

Add Q&A software to your website to allow your consumers — Centennials or otherwise — to get answers to the questions that stand in the way of making a purchase. Otherwise, you’ll lose them to a brand that does. And be sure to ask potential Q&A vendors if they allow previous customers to answer incoming questions, which is key because nearly two thirds of Centennials prefer having their questions answered by previous customers rather than the retailer.

5. Embrace Transparency

Why do Centennials turn to reviews? Because of their authenticity. While you never want to aim for negative reviews, displaying all reviews — both negative and positive — helps consumers identify the products that best fit their needs. And it also helps you earn the trust of consumers. In fact, 44% of Centennials say they wouldn’t trust a product’s reviews if there were no negative reviews present, and 60% read negative reviews first.

So be sure you’re displaying these reviews — regardless of sentiment. In addition, remember to badge all reviews that have been written as the result of a product sampling campaign or an incentive program so future shoppers have a clear understanding of who wrote each review.

6. Don’t Overlook Brick-and-Mortar

Our research found that while the majority of Centennials research and browse products online, when it’s time to make a purchase, 46% prefer to go in-store. And according to research from IBM, more Centennials shop in-store during the holidays than any other generation.

Look for opportunities to display user-generated content — such as ratings and reviews — in your stores to attract and convert in-store shoppers. For example, highlight star ratings and customer reviews alongside top-selling products to give your customers the confidence they need to make a purchase.

Wrapping Up

This holiday season, make sure you have a strategy in place to engage Centennial shoppers.

Centennial Shopper Study

Choosing the Best Ratings and Reviews Provider for Your Business

Whether you’re new to ratings and reviews or have plenty of experience collecting user-generated content (UGC) for your Shopify Plus store, searching for a new technology provider can seem like an overwhelming experience. This is especially true when you don’t know what factors to consider or which questions to ask.

To help you along the way, PowerReviews and Shopify Plus have partnered to create a comprehensive ratings and reviews Buyer’s Guide. Download this guide to access:

  • Criteria to consider when evaluating your options
  • Questions to ask potential partners
  • How to know when it’s time to switch to a new provider
  • And more!

Holiday Shoppers Rely on Reviews

It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season is almost upon us. You’ve been busy optimizing your website for increased traffic, ensuring inventory is well stocked and increasing staff to prepare your stores and websites for the holiday season. But make sure you’re not overlooking one thing that’s key for holiday prep — filling your product pages with ratings and review content.

In 2016, 75% of holiday shoppers said they considered product reviews to be important when choosing to make holiday purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. Gift givers heavily rely on reviews during the holidays, because they’re buying things they’re not familiar with. For example, a man is visiting his girlfriend’s family for the first time, and is buying a gift for her parents. Reviews give gift givers like him the confidence they need to know they’re giving gifts that’ll be well received. And don’t forget that shoppers are treating themselves, too — the NRF reports that more than 70% of consumers bought gifts for themselves last holiday season. These consumers also want to find review content for the products they’re purchasing for themselves.

How do you provide gift givers with the ratings and review information they’re looking for? Here are four tips for appealing to consumers that are shopping for both themselves and others this holiday season — and beyond.

1. Generate Reviews

There are two kinds of holiday shoppers — those who begin shopping before Thanksgiving and those who prefer to wait until December, according to research by CPC Strategy. Both sets of consumers rely on reviews to inform their purchases. And since 35% of shoppers start the purchase journey on a search engine, it’s key to start collecting reviews now — before the busiest shopping days — to ensure your site includes all the information your shoppers are looking for and is optimized for search.

One of the most effective ways to generate reviews is to send post purchase emails. Post purchase emails are automated communications sent to your recent customers a set number of days after a purchase, asking about their experience with your product or service. 60% of reviews in the PowerReviews network come from post purchase emails, on average. Make sure these emails are optimized for mobile, since 50% of emails are opened on a mobile device.

And don’t overlook your in-store customers. Today, a majority of transactions happen in a store. To generate feedback from this segment of customers, either tap into an existing rewards program or ask shoppers to share their email addresses at the register. Then, send a post purchase email asking them to provide feedback on their recent purchases. Consider offering an incentive, such as a coupon for a future purchase.

2. Collect Visual Content

Shoppers want all the information they can get their hands on prior to making a purchase. And product information is no longer limited to written descriptions and text-based reviews. In fact, 72% of consumers say they regularly or always seek out visual content prior to purchase. Visual content shows shoppers what a product looks like “in real life” and also gives consumers inspiration for holiday gifts.

So make it easy for shoppers to submit visual content — such as photos and videos — with their reviews. Then, display this visual content directly on your site. For example, display this content in an image gallery to increase visibility, engagement and conversion.

3. Prominently Display User-Generated Content

A growing number of consumers are making purchases on their mobile devices. And 54% of consumers use their mobile device to look for product ratings and reviews while shopping in-store. So make sure reviews are easy to find on your website, via all devices. In addition to displaying review content on your product pages, think of ways you can incorporate this powerful content into other areas of your website, including category pages and even your homepage.

And don’t overlook the opportunity to display user-generated content in-store. Business advisory firm AlixPartners reports that 71% of consumers plan to do half or more of their holiday shopping in stores. It makes sense then, to prominently display consumer reviews and star ratings next to top holiday products in brick-and-mortar locations, similar to what our friends at Benefit Cosmetics do.

Holiday Shopper Reviews Benefit

4. Syndicate Content

Sometimes a consumer purchases a product directly from a brand site. But other times they purchase a product through a retailer site. Syndicating your review content to your retailer partners allows you to reach both types of shoppers. And retailers that accept syndicated content have the opportunity to grow their review content — without having to generate it themselves. On average, retailers get 58% of their review content from syndication.

Wrapping Up

Consumers are increasingly turning to user-generated content — including ratings and reviews, images and videos — to inform their purchases, whether they’re buying for themselves or others. Start collecting and displaying reviews now so shoppers can find the information they’re looking for this holiday season and into the new year.

The following is a guest post from our partners at Workarea

This holiday season will bring an influx of traffic, and for most online retailers a good chunk of this traffic will be new. Whether you use segmentation to serve targeted content, personalization engines or a combination of both, we know more relevant experiences can boost conversion rates and revenue. But how can you deliver personalized merchandising to new visitors without browsing history?

A common merchandising mistake
Many ecommerce sites roll the dice on what customers want, and showcase featured products, brands and categories in prime home page merchandising slots.

Screenshot of iHerb homepage, showing 60% off discount for a variety of lip balms.
With a catalog of 35,000 products, iHerb has a .00003% chance Sierra Bees lip balm is the best option for prime home page real estate.

While there’s a case for featuring hot deals and heavily discounted products, the chances of nailing relevance or appeal for every visitor (or even most visitors) can be slim. This tactic can work great for brands with small catalogs and tight product lines or homogeneous customers, but the larger and more diverse your offering and customer base, the riskier this is.

What’s more, these single-shot offers don’t help you glean the useful information that helps you personalize the site experience immediately and in future visits. Instead of suggestive selling, think guided selling. Make sure your home page includes callouts for content and categories that match the customer segments you target through personalization, email marketing and other strategies.

Common segmentation attributes include:

  • Geolocation
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Interests
  • Ownership (vehicle, device, pet, etc.)
  • B2C or B2B status

Of course, your business may have its own, based on your product offering and target customer.

Here are 4 tips to convert new visitors through smart holiday merchandising and guided selling. (Bonus tip: you can use these strategies year-round!)

1. Get customers to self-segment

If you’re already using an email capture pop-up, ask for one more piece of information from your customers. Not only does this give you a head-start on segmenting your email list, you can pass this data back to your commerce system to serve targeted content and offers based on this context, within the user’s session (depending on your ecommerce platform’s capabilities). You can also potentially pass this back to your retargeting platform (again, depending on your solution).

An email popup from Billabong asking shoppers to sign up and save $10 off $50. With surfers riding waves in the background and palm trees in the foreground.
Billabong allows customers to opt into gender-segmented offers.

 

A popup from World Kitchen asking shoppers "Have we met?" with plates of food in the background.
World Kitchen asks for birthdate. The inclusion of birth year helps segment by age, which may be useful in promotional, merchandising and remarketing campaigns.

 

A popup from Birchbox asking shoppers to sign up for emails to get freebies, offers and 15% off the first purchase.
Birchbox asks customers to self-segment by interest.

Email opt-in fields also give you more reliable segmentation information. Click-through and buying behavior during the holidays is a poor indicator of what your customer will respond to year-round, when buying context shifts from gifting to buying for one’s self.

This can also be done through home page content. Rather than leave the customer to browse the site and filter category lists by hair type, Ouidad puts shop-by-hair-type front-and-center. This provides relevant product results quicker than traditional browsing, and allows Ouidad to segment customers and serve relevant content earlier in the purchase journey.

Screenshot of Ouidad's homepage showing four women with different types of curls. Loose curls, classic curls, tight curls and kinky curls. It asks the shoppers to choose their level of curl to learn more.
Ouidad makes self-segmentation its main home page goal.

2. Use Geolocation

Geolocation tools can tailor your experience in a variety of ways. At the country level, show the right catalog with the right pricing and shipping options, free shipping offers and other messaging. For example, the U.S. and Canada’s Thanksgivings fall within different months. December 26 is Boxing Day in Canada and the U.K.

Segmenting by state lets you target the right products and imagery by climate, cultural and lifestyle factors. For example, no snow blowers for Arizonians and plenty of umbrellas for the Pacific Northwest.

Different states also have different tax rules, and you may be able to offer faster shipping options in regions near your fulfillment centers. One Workarea customer leverages same-day shipping for time-sensitive Halloween costumes in the regions it can with great success, showing this offer only to the customers it applies to.

3. Offer guided selling tools

“Gift finders” are common holiday merchandising features. Essentially they offer a way to apply multiple attribute filters up-front, versus navigating through the traditional catalog structure and weeding through many more results.

When done right, they anticipate the attributes customers should be thinking about. Like a helpful in-store salesperson, they ask the right questions to give the best results.

Screenshot of Melissa and Doug homepage, asking shoppers to choose what their child loves-- either learning, cooling, vehicles or animals.
Melissa and Doug allows buyers to filter by age and interest for a tighter set of relevant results.

Year-round, package your product finder as an interactive quiz. Multi-attribute quizzes work better when customers are shopping for themselves.

Screenshot from TieBar of six shirts with different ties and bowties, telling shoppers to "Find Your Style" and take a quiz.
TieBar’s style quiz reveals your top work-week picks.

4. Feature top-rated products

New customers who haven’t arrived with a specific purchase in mind will bypass navigation and search, and browse your recommendations. While featuring trending products on your home page is better than random picks, nothing’s more persuasive than the social proof of top-rated products.

Samsonite’s home page features a Customer Favorites carousel, linking through to a special landing page.

Screenshot from Samsonite website with six different suitcases that are customer favorites. Two blue suitcases, one tan, two maroon and one silver suitcase.
Samsonite includes a Customer Favorites carousel on its home page.

In addition to a product finder, Carrot Ink’s home page features an animated carousel highlighting its top rated products (this also reinforces that Carrot Ink has thousands of happy customers).

Screenshot of the Carrot Ink website displaying top-reviews for key products.
Carrot Ink showcases top-reviewed products in an auto-scrolling carousel.

For visitors without browsing history, Best Buy provides a bold call-out.

Screenshot of Best Buy homepage with deal on a big-screen TV. Underneath there is a banner calling out a first-time shopper, asking them to shop around on their site.
Best Buy calls out “Your shopping history is empty. Let’s fix that.”

Clicking through leads to a recommendations widget that includes best-selling, most-viewed and top-rated products.

Screenshot of the recommendation page on an electronics website showing top-rated Sound Bars for sale.
Top-rated features can help kickstart customers’ click through and give you content for further personalization.

The goal with new visitors is to get them to click and provide your system with data to run dynamic content or personalized recommendations over time.

Remember holiday shopping context

Holiday visitors can be cookied, retargeted through display, remarketed to through email and social and greeted with personalized experiences upon their returns in 2018. However, what’s most relevant to them may be radically different when buying context shifts to personal shopping.

Depending on the personalization tools and tactics you’re using, you may be able to adjust for this behavior and context to various degrees.

Your safest bet is to keep collecting visitor context through bold, self-segmented content, calls to action and merchandising all year long, and baking it into your overall strategy.

For more holiday merchandising tips (and how to use data to make real-time merchandising decisions post Black Friday), check out our insight-packed on-demand webinar Holiday Merchandising Secrets: Using Real-time Data to Maximize Revenue.

About the Author

Linda Bustos is the director of merchant strategy for Workarea, the modern SaaS commerce platform purpose-built for medium to large businesses to achieve their full potential online.

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