If you asked a roomful of retail executives what keeps them up at night, we’d be willing to bet most would mention product returns. After all, Statista data projects product returns to be a $550 billion problem for U.S. retailers by 2020.

And while estimates for overall return rates vary, data from B-Stock Solutions found up to 13% of in-store holiday purchases are returned. As for online purchases, that number is closer to 30%.

Yikes.

What’s worse is when a customer returns a product, there’s more to lose than the cost of the product itself. First off, there’s the cost of shipping. An NRF study found that 75% of consumers expect free delivery on online purchases, even if the purchase is less than $50.

So there’s a lot of pressure to offer free shipping, but as retailers already know, it’s risky. Shoppers are more likely to purchase products they’re not so sure about if they know shipping is free. And if the product is returned, the retailer is still forced to pay shipping both ways.

Even though some industries retag and sell returned products for full price, others are forced to resell products at a fraction of the total cost. What’s worse is some have to toss products in the trash.

It’s also important to know product returns cost you customers. If a shopper has a negative experience, they may not consider you again.

That’s bad news because data shows it can cost five times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. Clearly, product returns come at a big price for retailers.

But there is good news!

There are ways to limit returns, reduce confusion and keep your customers happy. See our seven ways to greatly reduce your product returns once and for all:

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1. Beef Up Your Product Descriptions

In-store shoppers have the benefit of experiencing products firsthand before making purchases. They can feel the fabric of a sweater or hold a bottle of perfume to understand size. Online shoppers can’t.

Instead, they depend on product descriptions to find items that best fit their needs. Well-written product descriptions help your customers make smart purchase decisions. Poor product descriptions frustrate shoppers and leave you with more returned merchandise.

most annoying problems with product descriptions example

The PowerReviews How to Compete With Amazon and Win report found 43% of shoppers cite poor product descriptions as their top irritation when researching products online. Additionally, 48% said their top irritation post-purchase is that the product didn’t meet their expectations.

This proves the importance of providing shoppers with plenty of details about products. If you haven’t revisited your product descriptions lately, now’s the time.

What Your Product Pages Need to Eliminate Second Guessing

You know you need quality content to increase the path to purchase. That’s why you want to make sure your product pages clearly and comprehensively communicate the features and benefits of your items. You want them to be easy to read–regardless of the device the shopper is using.

Product reviews and questions submitted via Question & Answer software can help you identify ways to enhance product descriptions. For example, home furnishing brand Room & Board, noticed similar themes in the questions that were being asked about products in the bedroom category.

roomanboard question and answer software example

The company used this information to provide additional content to product pages in this category. Quickly, the brand saw a decrease in the number of questions asked about these products.

Remember to write descriptions that put your products in the best light, but you shouldn’t overstate your products’ capabilities. If you do so, shoppers will be disappointed when the product doesn’t live up to the description. In fact, they’ll be more likely to–you guessed it–return the product.

2. Focus on Great Photos & Videos

Visual content plays a large–and growing–role in the path to purchase for most of today’s shoppers. Baymard research found average consumers want to see between 3 to 5 images of a product to better understand what the item has to offer before making a purchase.

Provide plenty of photos and videos of your products to help shoppers understand what to expect when it arrives in the mail. That way there’s limited surprises for the shopper and fewer product returns for you.

Start by revisiting your professional product photos. Ensure you’re providing several images of each product that are shot form a variety of different angles.

vans zoomable product images example

Like Vans offers here, allow shoppers to zoom in on photos so they have a clear picture of the product’s details. You don’t want a customer to return a jacket just because they don’t like the buttons!

While your professional photography is important, remember that more shoppers want to see photos and videos submitted by others like them. The PowerReviews Snapshot for Ecommerce report found 88% of consumers specifically look for visual content submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase.

PowerReviews Snapshot for Ecommerce visual content graph

While user-generated visual content helps with conversion, it also allows brands and retailers to reduce product returns. Shoppers better understand what a product looks like in “real life” when it’s used by real people.

Trust Your Visuals

For example, let’s say a shopper is looking for a dress for an upcoming wedding. She finds one she likes, but the model in the professional photos looks shorter than her.

vinyard vines visual of dress on site

The shopper looks through photos submitted by other customers who have purchased the product and finds a handful of content with others around her height. She doesn’t like the length of the dress on taller shoppers, so she opts for a different dress that likely has a better fit.

It might seem simple, but the retailer just avoided an unnecessary product return that most consumers would’ve taken a guess in the dark. If you’re not already doing so, start collecting unique user-generated content such as photos and videos from your shoppers.

Use this content directly on your website and on your Instagram. With the help of the PowerReviews Visual and Social Suite, this valuable content is loaded directly on your product pages to give shoppers realistic expectations of your products. Not only can you collect and display this unique content, but our tools allow you to easily ask for permission to use it on your site.

visual and social display Room and Board example

As Instagram marketing influencers continue to grow, you have to make sure you get the rights before publishing.

3. Collect & Display Product Reviews

We shouldn’t have convince you too hard, but product reviews are essential.

How much so?

Our data shows a whopping 97% of consumers use ratings and reviews when making purchase decisions. Reviews help steer consumers toward products that fit their needs. And they also steer them away from products that don’t–reducing the number of product returns you receive.

Consider this example. There’s a consumer shopping for a new hairdryer. The consumer has curly, fine hair. She finds a hair dryer from our friends at Ulta that fits her budget and has an average star rating of 4.5.

ulta blow dryer product page example

But before buying, she digs into some of the one star reviews. There she find a handful of reviewers mention the dryer works really well for their curly hair.

Instead of doing more digging, she has confidence in her purchase specifically due to the several mentions of the dryer working great for curly hair.

ulta blow dryer review search

The hair dryer arrives, the customer loves it and you avoid an unnecessary product return. Make it easy for shoppers to leave reviews for the products they purchase. Prominently display this content on your product detail pages to help future shoppers identify the products that will (and won’t) work for them.

Want to see PowerReviews in action? Schedule a demo with our team to get started today!

4. Identify Trends in Negative Product Reviews

Product reviews are a great resource for brands and retailers wanting to improve the customer experience, gain better insights and reduce product returns.

If you notice that one of your items has a low average star rating, dig into the reviews to identify trends. For example, several reviews for a pair of low-rated jeans might mention the zipper gets caught.

most popular negative review example

This could be a cause for a number of the product returns. You share this feedback with the manufacturer and work together to improve the product. Once the issue with the zipper has been resolved, shoppers are less likely to return the jeans.

Your ratings and reviews provider should make it easy to set up alerts when you receive a review below a certain star level or when a review includes certain keywords. They should also make it easy to share reports and feedback with the appropriate teams throughout your company.

Software platform that analyzes reviews and how they help product sales.

5. Highlight Size & Fit Info From Other Shoppers

Shoppers return products for a myriad of reasons. But for apparel and footwear brands and retailers, incorrect fit is one of the biggest reasons for product returns.

This isn’t surprising, as online shoppers can’t try on clothing or shoes prior to purchase. Shoppers can always purchase the size they typically wear, but we know that things can run small or large per brand.

size and fit example of powerreviews

If you think your brand falls into that category, you can reduce size-related returns by helping shoppers identify the right size with relevant shopper information. You can do this by asking shoppers who write reviews to include information about the size and fit of the product.

For example, a review writer can indicate that a jacket is small, large or true to size. Once you’ve started collecting this peer-provided size information, prominently display it on your product pages.

In the example below, shoppers can see that the Rivno Jacket tends to run a bit small for others. With this information, customers confidently make purchases with the more reliable size and fit information about the jacket.

rivno jacket sizing example

Be sure your ratings and reviews provider can display this customer information easily on your pages and that all the collected content is authentic.

6. Let Shoppers Ask Product Questions

No matter how comprehensive you make your product descriptions, consumers still have questions. Forrester research found half of shoppers abandon an online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their product question.

The other problem to know with this statistic is the other half of shoppers order the product anyway. And guess what? You’ll see a product return if it doesn’t meet their expectations and the retailer offers free returns.

Help your customers find products that fit their needs and avoid unnecessary returns. Make it easy for people to ask questions about your products that aren’t answered in your product descriptions.

PowerReviews Q&A Engaging Display

One easy way to do this is to add Question and Answer software to your product pages. Shoppers submit questions they have about your products, and they get answers by brands, retailers or even by other verified customers.

Make sure your Q&A software provider offers a search feature that allows shoppers to check if a previous buyer already asked a similar question. That way your customers get even faster answers to their questions.

review search example of powerreviews

This gives consumers quick and clear expectations of what to expect from a product when it arrives.

7. Solicit Feedback From Shoppers Returning Products

When a shopper returns a piece of merchandise, don’t miss out on an opportunity to understand why. Understanding why shoppers return items helps you identify ways to improve products and experiences. This will even help reduce future product returns.

Make sure you ask for the reason of the return from the customers while it’s still fresh in their mind. For example, perhaps the jacket didn’t fit or maybe there was a product defect.

By asking the right questions after they’ve returned the item, people will give you insightful feedback. And more than likely, these consumers will appreciate the fact that you’re wanting to improve their experience.

Ulta Post Purchase Email

Try to identify the products that get returned most and analyze the reasons why they are returned. When several shoppers indicated poor fit, there’s an opportunity for you to add information, resources and tools to your product pages to determine the right size to order.

Say there are several others mentioning product defects, try to work with your manufacturer to provide helpful customer sentiment analysis data. If you don’t provide them with feedback and product return data, how will they improve the products?

Start Reducing Product Returns Today

The key to reducing product returns is to provide shoppers with all of the information they need to identify the products that will fit their needs. Don’t let a lack of product information be the downfall to a major release or overall sales.

Ready to learn more about how you can start leveraging user-generated content like ratings, reviews, Q&A, photos and videos to help your shoppers make smart purchase decisions–and help you reduce your return rate? Contact us to schedule a demo today!

Alex York

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Alex York is the Content and SEO Marketing Manager at PowerReviews. Catch him hunting down the perfect gin cocktail in Chicago or endlessly scrolling through Netflix. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjyork.

For businesses and customers alike, Instagram is all the rage right now.

A massive user-base of over 1 billion, second only to Facebook? Check.

A whole slew of business features such as Instagram Stories, ads and advanced analytics? Double-check.

But perhaps most pressing for brands is the phenomenon of social selling on Instagram. In fact, 60% of users rely on the platform to discover and research new products.

It doesn’t matter if you’re marketing to Alaskan adventurers or expectant mothers: Instagram is a powerhouse for social selling.

And you better believe that Instagram influencer marketing is a huge piece of why so many brands are flocking to the platform en masse.

Why Instagram Influencer Marketing Works (And How to Get Started in 2019)

The rise of influencer marketing has been a long time coming.

Much like Facebook, the Instagram algorithm has caused some serious headaches for businesses who are watching their organic reach dwindle. So rather than dumping money into paid ads, businesses are looking for a way to introduce their products to new shoppers that actually results in reach.

Instagram influencer marketing is a cost-effective, authentic means to do just that. A staggering 92% of millennial and Gen Z customers trust product recommendations from influencers versus traditional ads.

Also, consider shout-outs breed long-term brand awareness among your target audience rather than paid ads, which are time sensitive and require optimization to be truly effective.

Getting started with Instagram influencer marketing might seem daunting, but it’s arguably easier than ever. That’s why we’ve highlighted six techniques to ensure you’re building buzz the right way by partnering up with influencers:

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1. Have Your Branded Hashtag Handy

Before getting knee-deep in researching influencers, it’s important to make sure that your own business is ready to approach influencers.

Boasting a branded hashtag might not like a big deal. However, tags are essential to an effective Instagram influencer marketing campaign.

How so? Hashtags help raise brand awareness and provide followers with a low-hanging avenue to promote your content. Not only that, but branded hashtags also allow brands to better measure the success of their campaigns.

the northface instagram bio page

The greater the exposure of your branded hashtag, the more potential customers you can reach. For example, North Face puts their #neverstopexploring hashtag front-and-center in their Instagram bio.

This makes it easier not only for influencers to tag their content, but also satisfied customers who want to show off the brand’s products in the wild.

Branded hashtags allow you to spot satisfied customers who could also double as influencers. For example, a hashtag in heavy use like #jcrewalways contains posts from accounts both big and small. You might be surprised at who’s already willing to promote you organically.

jcrewalways instagram branded hashtag example

Branded hashtags are also critical for encouraging and curating user-generated content. With the PowerReviews Visual and Social Suite, your brand instantly pulls UGC from Instagram for your on-site product pages and requests permission from users to put it on display.

mac visual and social display graphic

By collecting and displaying this authentic marketing content, the visuals from Instagram serve as an awesome trust-builder to boost conversions. Additionally, influencers will likely enjoy the spotlight of living on your product pages.

2. Make Sure Your Influencer is the Right Fit

Perhaps the biggest challenge of Instagram influencer marketing is simply finding someone who’s the right fit.

After all, there are millions of influencer posts floating around right now. Tracking down the perfect person for your brand might feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

And then there’s the challenge of ironing out specifics such as your budget, how many followers an influencer should have and so on. That’s a lot–right?

Relax. There is no “right” way to find influencers. But the following tips can help you find some solid leads fast.

When in Doubt, Look at Your Audience

When scouting for influencers, ask yourself: “Does this person reflect my target audience?”

Think about it. It wouldn’t make much sense for a skinny tea brand to reach out to a video game influencer, would it? On the flip side, a gaming chair brand probably isn’t too worried about the world of modeling and fashion on Instagram.

Your brand’s customer demographics, current followers and sales data helps clue you in on who to target. You can also look at industry-specific hashtags to highlight Instagram users who might speak to your audience.

For example, brands like oVertone have influencers that fit into such demographics like teenagers or twentysomethings with vibrant hair and personalities to match. With follower counts both big and small, the folks dominating the #unicornhair tag are the exact sort of power users they’re looking for.

unicorn hair hashtag search on instagram

Source Influencers From a Third-Party Tool

If you’re not sure where to start looking for influencers, a third-party tool can do a ton of the legwork for you.

Tools such as TapInfluence have a massive database of influencers broken down by industry keywords and tags such as #fitness or “cooking.” Users can see details such as follower count, engagement rate, reach and price to narrow down their ideal influencer.

tapinfluence product gif example

If you’re looking for potential influencers and power users on Instagram to promote your products, we’ve got you covered. BzzAgent has a growing community of hundreds of thousands of everyday influencers.

This massive directory of shoppers is more than willing to review your products on Instagram and other social channels to build consumer trust, authority and authenticity for your brand. And at the same time, you deliver hundreds of authentic reviews from folks who will give their real opinions on your products.

Want to see your brand build a strong community of influencers to increase trust and ratings and reviews? Request a demo to speak to our team today! 

Double-Check That Your Influencers Are Actually Influencers

The boom of Instagram influencer marketing has resulted in an influx of so-called “influencers” with fake followers and sub-par engagement. Followers mean very little without context.

That’s why brands should be looking at influencer engagement rates (followers divided by comments and likes) as a key metric.

Not that engagement rate and follower counts are two major factors in influencers justifying their price tags, it doesn’t hurt to double-check an account’s numbers. Tools such as Phlanx can help you do just that to give yourself some peace of mind.

phlanx influencer tool example

3. Pursue Everyday Influencers First

There’s no rule that says that Instagram influencer marketing needs to be expensive.

If you’re running your first campaign and want to be conservative with your budget, consider getting in touch with a smaller influencer community first. In fact, shoppers want to see your products on or in use from everyday influencers more than you think.

Data from the PowerReviews Snapshot for Ecommerce report found 88% of consumers want to see user-generated photos and videos before making a purchase. That’s why so many brands are investing in micro-influencers (with follower counts of ~10,000+) or everyday influencers.

PowerReviews Snapshot for Ecommerce visual content graph

This let’s brands test the water of influencer marketing and better understand how they can scale. A hidden bonus is these Instagram influencers typically have highly engaged audiences.

Promotions coming from smaller accounts seem more authentic to other consumers versus those with hundreds of thousands of followers.

View this post on Instagram

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A post shared by LIZ | BREW BABE (@brew.babe) on

4. Encourage Creative Captions & Copy

Instagram influencer marketing works so well because influencer posts don’t feel like spammy sales pitches.

Well, they shouldn’t feel that way, anyhow.

When working with influencers, a bit of creativity can go a long way. Rather than hit followers over the head with offers and deals, top influencers craft creative captions to highlight what they’re selling. There are plenty of directions you can take with influencer content that isn’t simply “Hey, buy this!”

For example, some influencers go the inspirational route with storytelling and long-form captions.

Meanwhile, puns and humor are fair game for more light-hearted influencers.

Below is a straightforward example of how to highlight a product without being too salesy. The influencer in question is a perfect match for the brand as she manages to weave the product into a post naturally.

On that note, don’t be afraid to give your influencers some creative freedom when it comes to captions. They know their audiences better than anyone at the end of the day.

Make sure your influencers have the correct Instagram sizes down for each piece of content as well. It’s critical to still follow the best design outlines for better content.

5. Publish More Than Just Static Photos

Although visual content is obviously a must-do for Instagram, influencers are capable of much more than just product photos.

Just as you might look into different types of ads on the platform, brands should likewise integrate different types of content into their Instagram influencer marketing campaigns.

With hundreds of millions of Stories posted daily, there’s a non-zero chance your customers are checking them out, too. Featuring products as part of a story is fairly straightforward and can help funnel traffic directly to your product pages.

Similarly, video content provides a more compelling means of putting your products on display. Additional PowerReviews internal data discovered nearly 30% of consumers said visual content, such as videos, was very essential when making a purchasing decision.

With the influencer space growing increasingly competitive, anything you can do to make your products stand out is a plus. Also, Instagram is not a bad place to start (or focus the majority of your attention on influencer marketing).

Data from a PowerReviews recent health and beauty study found 18% of shoppers said Instagram is the preferred social platform to use when shopping and researching health and beauty products. If nearly a fifth of your shoppers are actively seeking and willing to buy on Instagram, it’s probably a smart idea to promote your products here.

6. Take Care of the Technical Stuff

Brands should view influencer campaigns akin to any other in terms of metrics.

From analytics to shopper insights, data should be able to both inform your content strategy and assess the performance of your campaigns once they’ve gone live. Some must do’s to keep in mind regarding the technical aspects of your campaign include:

  • Making sure that your influencer shares their engagement metrics beforehand
  • Having a specific link or landing pack to better track traffic and conversions (think: setting up a tracking link and Google Analytics with Bitly)
  • Monitoring social metrics including new followers and mentions via social listening

Also, consider time spent communicating creatives (captions, post types) with your influencer.

These data points will ultimately help you figure out the ROI of your campaigns. Whether you’re looking for more sales or simply more reach, having goals and a way to track them beforehand will determine whether or not your campaign was a success.

Oh, and after you’ve run your first campaign, nailing down what you need for your next becomes much, much easier.

Ready to Get on the Instagram Influencer Marketing Bandwagon?

Influencer marketing continues to evolve and grow and customers continue to embrace social selling in droves.

Such campaigns allow you to reach your target audience on your own terms, all the while saving some serious dough in the process.

Rather than scratch your head over organic reach and ads, maybe it’s time to look into a combination of influencers and UGC to maximize your ROI from Instagram. With the help of the tips above and the PowerReviews suite of review syndication tools, you can start seeing returns from social selling ASAP.

Interested in seeing how your brand can work with a massive community of influencers to get you more authentic reviews? Schedule a demo with our team today!

Brent Barnhart

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Brent Barnhart is a professional writer and content critic. When he’s not battling the latest buzzwords, you can often find him strumming the nearest guitar. Feel free to bug him on Twitter or check out his website brentwrites.com.

Every good brand knows consumer trust and loyalty can’t be bought or won through snazzy marketing—it’s something that you earn. While it’s relatively simple to win sales through promotions or rewards, getting someone to truly believe and get behind your brand requires a deeper and more genuine connection.

This is why brands are starting to focus on authentic marketing.

When you market your brand in ways that feel relatable and real to your target audience, you not only win more sales, you gain loyal patrons who are proud to align themselves with your company.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the steps you should take to convey legitimacy through authentic marketing. Read through the insights below and see how you can apply them to your strategy:

Why the Rise in Authentic Marketing?

Before diving into specific steps, let’s first take a look at why authenticity marketing is so important:

  • Consumers are inundated with messages. With the sheer amount of marketing and advertising out there, people have learned to tune out messages they can’t relate to. Authenticity marketing lets you cut through the noise and stand out to your target audiences.
  • People’s ‘BS detectors’ are stronger than ever. Modern consumers can smell deceitful marketing from a mile away. As Josh Braaten, CEO of Brandish Insights, a brand measurement and consumer insights company, puts it, “with all the fake news out there today, consumers are getting more discerning than ever and have less patience for anyone who is stretching the truth or trying to deceive them.”
  • Consumers are more conscious of brand values. Implementing authenticity marketing will help you express brand values and purpose. And since many consumers (younger ones in particular) are more inclined to align themselves with businesses that share their values, authenticity marketing puts you in a position to win over the right customers.

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How to Convey Brand Authenticity & Earn Consumer Trust

Now that we’ve discussed why brand authenticity is necessary, let’s dive into the ways that you can implement authenticity marketing.

Get Clear on Your Values

As previously mentioned, part of being authentic means promoting your values and purpose. To do that successfully, you first need to identify what your business stands for and use it to guide your marketing efforts.

“The first thing a retailer needs to figure out is the ‘why’ of their product or business,” said Lisa Cox, a San Francisco-based brand strategist and designer. “Why does their business exist and why does it matter? I see companies try to portray what they think will come across as authentic, but consumers can see when there is nothing there to back it up.”

Cox believes the best way to get your values across is to tell the story of your business and do it in a genuine way. The company story is one of the best things brands have to work with to be more honest and authentic.

“You can’t fake authenticity so go all in and be vulnerable,” said Cox. “Share the actual reason you started your business like you are talking to a friend.”

Once you’ve gotten clear on your values, purpose and story, find ways to spread the word. Look at your marketing channels and other assets. Then use them to promote your brand’s ideals and narrative.

chipotle authenticity marketing example

Chipotle does an excellent job here. The company is committed to serving food that’s sourced from the best ingredients and crafted through ethical means. Aside from stating this on their website, Chipotle reinforces its brand values on its packaging and in-store signage.

Be Transparent

Being transparent is the ultimate display of authenticity. Giving people a look at how you actually run your business or create your products adds credibility to your brand and encourages sales and loyalty.

Here are some of the ways to inject more transparency in your marketing:

Be Open About Your Products

Give people more insights into how your products are made. What goes into each item? How much does it cost to create your merchandise? If you’re able to answer these questions honestly, you’ll set yourself apart from the majority of businesses who keep these things hush-hush.

Everlane is a prime example of a retailer that does this. One of the company’s core beliefs is “radical transparency.” To show consumers that they’re committed to it, Everlane publicly displays the “true cost of its merchandise” on its website.

Every product page has a “Transparent Pricing” section that breaks down the costs that go into creating each item, so shoppers know exactly what they’re paying for.

everlane transparent pricing website example

Pull Back the Curtain on Your Operations

Give people a behind-the-scenes look at your business. Introduce customers to the people running your operations and offer a glimpse into your processes and business activities.

Showing customers that your behind-the-scenes actions reflect your public your image earns their trust and confidence in your brand. Customers don’t trust brands unless they can truly promote themselves as ‘one of you,” which requires effort on your part.

Reformation, an apparel retailer that focuses on sustainable fashion, did this in 2018 when it posted several Instagram stories showing its factory operations. Reformation even encouraged its followers to ask questions via Instagram and publicly answered those questions in its stories.

reformation behind the curtains instagram story example

Level Up Your FAQ Game

Speaking of which, FAQ pages are great, but the questions and answers displayed on these pages often feel canned and rehearsed. Take things to the next level and add a layer of authenticity to your FAQs. Do this by letting visitors submit questions you can publicly answer on your website.

This works best for specific product pages, where you can address item-specific questions. Genuine FAQs don’t just contribute to your brand’s authenticity, they also help shoppers make more informed decisions.

Otterbox provides an excellent example of product page FAQs done right. All of its product pages have an FAQ tab which displays user-submitted questions along with candid answers from the Otterbox team.

otterbox question and answer reviews

Employ People Who Naturally Embody Your Brand

The people who work for you play a huge role in promoting your brand, so strive to hire employees who possess the right attitudes. For example, if you’re an outdoorsy brand whose mission is to protect Mother Nature, then you’ll want to employ people who share the same passion for safeguarding the environment.

A good tip to follow is to hire for attitude and train for skill. Recognize that while you can teach people how to sell or to follow your company policies, it’s much harder to change someone’s values and disposition.

Some of the world’s top companies are known for doing this and ultimately creating a more authentic marketing play toward their hiring methods. Trader Joe’s, which is famous for its quirky and friendly brand, hires people who are naturally outgoing and who like to talk to others.

Mark Gardiner, author of Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s, went through the company’s training program when he applied for a position at the grocery store. Here’s how he described his experience:

“[The] profound thing that happened after realizing, wow, these people are really not a random group of people. These people are all naturally empathetic…they want to listen to other people talking about themselves, they want to have conversations with other people.”

Who You Hire Says a Lot About Your Authenticity

Disney has a similar hiring strategy. The company pays a lot of attention to the details when hiring, so they recruit specifically toward people who fit their culture.

Both Trader Joe’s and Disney are known for having amazing employees who provide memorable customer experiences in line with the company’s image. Follow their lead when you’re recruiting your own team.

Your efforts in authenticity marketing will be futile if your employee attitudes aren’t consistent with the values you want to promote. So it’s always smart to try and stick to hiring individuals who naturally embody your brand.

Stop Sugarcoating Everything

While your marketing and advertising initiatives should position your company in the best light, being overly polished or glammed up can convey inauthenticity. This could easily prevent customers from being able to relate to you.

Every now and then, it helps to be a little vulnerable. Showing your customers the wins and losses that you experience in your business strengthens the connection people have with your brand. According to Cox, one example of a business doing this well is Kween and Co Granola Butter.

“The founder [Ail Bonar] often lets us into her life, sharing her motivation to start the company and, more importantly, she also shows her struggles with running a CPG company,” she said.

“Companies are afraid to show their struggles because they want to portray an image of perfection and success,” said Cox. “Showing the ups and downs of the business is more relatable and brings us along for the ride. Ali is vulnerable with her followers and this pays off in the end because you develop a real emotional connection to her and her product.”

Have a look at her Instagram Q&As. Here she candidly talks about how she does it all and what her advice is for other creators.

kween instagram story examples

Consider doing something similar when you’re communicating with your customers. Tone down your efforts to appear perfect all the time and be real with the issues you face in your company.

Walk the Talk

You can brag about your values on your website, even paint your mission and vision on the walls of your store, but your marketing will fall flat if you don’t do anything to backup your claims. As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words. So why not make sure you’re actually doing something to forward your mission and values?

Take a Stand

A brand’s authenticity is put to the test when faced with controversial issues. A company that doesn’t speak up about things that go against its mission or ideas will quickly lose the trust— and business—of their customers.

edelman brand trust report image

This is particularly today when consumers are increasingly becoming more belief-driven. The 2018 Edelman Earned Brand report found that 64% of shoppers worldwide are belief-driven buyers who base their shopping decisions on a brand’s position on controversial issues.

The good news is, brands are increasingly recognizing this. From Ben & Jerry’s ice cream joining the climate change movement to Nike featuring Colin Kaepernick in one of its ads, we’re seeing more and more brands take a stand on issues.

If you haven’t done so yet, start taking a more solid stance on topics you genuinely care about. Be vocal. Sign that petition. Publicly commit to taking action. You might ruffle some feathers, but you’ll gain the loyalty of consumers who share your beliefs.

Give Back

Getting behind causes that support your mission is an excellent display of authenticity. It shows that you’re serious about your vision and you aren’t just spewing feel-good platitudes to win people’s business.

Outdoors apparel retail Patagonia is doing just that. Last year, the company announced that it would take the $10 million is saves from the recent administration’s tax cuts and donate the money to environmental groups.

This bold move sent the message that Patagonia legitimately cares about the environment and the company received tremendous feedback from its community.

Authenticity Marketing is Here to Stay

As we mentioned earlier, consumers are increasingly becoming belief-driven when making purchases and they’re getting better at discerning insincere and too-good-to-be-true advertising. For these reasons, being more authentic in your marketing is no longer a best practice—it’s a necessity.

Let PowerReviews help in your efforts to be more transparent and authentic marketing professionals. Our content moderation services can help you scale your user-generated content efforts without compromising authenticity and quality.

Learn more and request a demo with PowerReviews today!

Francesca Nicasio

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Francesca Nicasio is a writer and content strategist specializing in B2B content for companies in the retail, technology and SMB space.

Chris Dadabo

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Chris Dadabo

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The world of private label products, especially in the grocery industry, has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Around half-a-decade ago, Consumer Reports said 93% of U.S. women shoppers chose private label brands to save money. But as the market shifts, consumers are opening their pocket books a bit more, but only if they trust the quality of the products.

And how are shoppers gaining trust on private label brands? It’s all about trust and marketers are continuing to see the power of positive shopper reviews influence these decisions.

We know that every major grocery retailer is focused on improving their margins through marketing their owned brands or private label. So when a shopper chooses to purchase a private label item, the price they pay (and the sales revenue the retailer realizes) is typically much lower than what would be generated by a comparable national brand.

However, the profit the retailer generates is often 5 to 10 times more (and sometimes even higher) than what the national brand produces. It’s no wonder retailers always look for ways to get their shoppers to purchase private label items.

Why Trust is Changing the Private Label Sector

The primary mechanisms for promoting private label revolve around lower prices, advertising in their weekly circular, featuring products on their website and providing placement adjacent to comparable national brands on their physical and digital shelves.

There’s just one problem with these tactics.

None of these approaches address the central obstacle to shoppers trying private label products: trust. Shoppers want to know if the private label product quality is as good as the national brand.

And there’s something to say about the big products ringing in consumers’ ears–people recognize more popular items, are assured of the quality and ultimately, know what they’re getting.

Magid Brand Trust Graphic

In a study released by the Magid market research firm, data shows that brand trust is more important in grocery than in any other major industry. That’s a 17% jump from the next highest major industry demanding brand trust, appliances and furniture.

So what should grocers be doing to improve their shoppers’ confidence?

How Grocers Drive Trust in Private Label Products

Fortunately, there are solutions that get to the heart of the consumer confidence. In the same Magid marketing report, data further identified the greatest driver of private label penetration as positive shopper reviews.

More than trust in the retailer, the associated savings or good experiences with other similar private label products, shoppers simply trust one another. The opinions of other shoppers who previously purchased the products have a major influence on whether new shoppers are willing to give the private label product a try.

The issue is many retailers who display product reviews actually do not assign any significant resources toward collecting reviews and promoting them for their private label items.

If we take a cursory look at five of the top CPG retailers displaying product reviews, the data illustrates the issue:

  • About half of private label items have 0 reviews
  • Nearly 20% of private label items have 1 review
  • Almost 30% of private label items have 2-49 reviews
  • Roughly 1% of private label items have 50+ reviews

Ratings and reviews partner banner

Positive Shopper Reviews Add Credence to Private Label Products

We know that private label products depend on trust from consumers, and that the best way to increase assurance is through positive shopper reviews. But how do you implement a review strategy that can reshape your grocery commerce in the private label sector?

Whether or not you’re using a reviews syndication software, it’s important to ask these important questions about your provider. Are they able to collect, display, and moderate grocery product reviews that makes it not only an easy solution for retailers, but also have the ability to accelerate the purchases?

dollar general reviews tracking example on grocery items

It’s a tall order, but here at PowerReviews, we work with major CPG retailers to do just that. We help these retailers collect, moderate and display meaningful, trustworthy and positive shopper reviews to increase brand trust in private label products.

Even if it’s something as small as diced tomatoes, these reviews help buyers know the quality of products so they don’t hesitate to buy. That’s why we believe informed shopping experience truly help accelerate the path to purchase.

dollar general positive shopper reviews on diced tomatoes

Getting More Authentic & Valuable Reviews

You may already be sold on the value of positive shopper reviews, but you might not know how to increase the content. And it’s important to know the more reviews, the higher trust from consumers with your products.

In fact, the PowerReviews report Beyond the Supermarket Shelves found the threshold for securing shopper trust at the product level is to collect at least 50 reviews. With the average private label product collecting 50 or more reviews at a dismal 1%, CPG Retailers have a long way to go to in order for reviews to have a material impact on their private label sales.

There’s definitely a demand for these grocery reviews as well. PowerReviews data found 39% of consumers would like to have reviews for non-perishable packaged foods. Additionally, 31% said they wanted reviews for fresh food products such as meat, produce and dairy.

appetite for reviews graphic from powerreviews

This is where we help. PowerReviews is no stranger toward teaming up with CPG retailers to build trust in their private label brands and the national brands they carry. Our core methods for collecting reviews content include:

  • Purchase Data: Use loyalty purchase data to identify verified shoppers and solicit reviews via email to collect more information for retailers and their products.
  • Product Sampling: Distribute samples to shoppers prior to introducing new products and help ensure review content exists, especially when products reach digital and physical shelves.
  • In-store Transactions: Identify targeted products in physical transactions and solicit reviews on register receipts to generate more authentic content from verified purchasers.
  • Printed CTAs for Reviews: Promote web product pages through printed call to actions on the physical product packaging and help direct shoppers to the web for review submission.

In Conclusion

Retailers that work to achieve sufficient review coverage for their items can use the content as a marketing tool. This helps draw shoppers to their products through use of the trust factor.

Some retailers have even begun to display shopper ratings and reviews on their physical shelf labels in addition to the digital product pages on their websites and mobile apps. For private label products, you have to easily show shoppers that others not only enjoy your products, but trust you the same way as a national brand.

A concerted focus on collecting and promoting positive product reviews will help retailers expand their private label penetration, improving overall margins. Want to see PowerReviews in action? Reach out to us and request a demo to see how we can help!

Peter Bond

Peter Bond

Peter V.S. Bond is Vice President Of CPG Commercialization, focused on enabling commercial success within the Consumer Packaged Goods/Retail vertical. His experience also includes working with large enterprise CPG and Retail clients Kroger, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Campbell Soup and others. He is a voice of the customer and CRM evangelist.

Bi-Weekly Portal Training

Welcome to PowerReviews! Please join us for an overview of the PowerReviews Portal. We will cover the basics including adding users, moderating reviews, and reporting.

Please choose a date below and register to join the live webinar session:

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If you have additional questions please email clientsuccess@powerreviews.com.

To say the retail industry is ever changing is an understatement. Brands have to move fast, be agile with their products and know the ecommerce trends happening now and always be thinking about what’s to come.

Not to keep retailers up at night, but the competition is getting more intense each year as more brands move to digital platforms. According to data from Statista, ecommerce is expected to make up nearly 14% of total global retail sales and possibly reach closer to 18% by 2021.

statista ecommerce sales graphic

It’s safe to say consumers are back in the buyer mode, but now they’re influenced by things like social media, digital ads and word of mouth from friends and family. With the economical changes over the past decade, many shoppers got smarter about how and why they make their purchasing decisions, whether it’s online or not.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for retailers trying to get ahead in the digital marketing age. As the year begins, we compiled data around the industry to determine what you should look for in the upcoming year.

That’s why we’re here to provide you with five ecommerce trends in 2019 that brands have to know in order to stay ahead:

1. Brands Will Tell Better Product Stories

Research is at the forefront of every buyer today. And in 2019, this movement toward better product descriptions and information will be more crucial than ever. This is why brands have to up their game when it comes to telling the story of their products.

Did you know when consumers research your products online, 43% get upset or irritated with poor product descriptions? What’s even more telling is data from CNBC that showed 40% of the typical apparel products bought online are returned. This is a huge waste of everyone’s time and money.

So where do you start to fix this growing problem? Improve your copy and tell a better story.

Descriptions Go a Long Way

One of the most essential ecommerce trends in 2019 will be brands investing in product descriptions that not only better explain what they’re buying, but provide enough information to inspire confidence in their purchase.

north face product example

For example, The North Face does a fantastic job at detailing sizes and warmth levels for their jackets and coats, so buyers have no doubts when they click “add to cart.” You can see there’s plenty of storytelling here from The North Face in their descriptions and product information, which helps their items rank better organically on search for relatable search terms.

north face review and product info example

Remember–you don’t have to be an Ernest Hemingway with your product storytelling. Consumers simply want to know what they’re buying. So the more copy you add, the safer they’ll feel about their buying decisions.

In fact, Salsify found 87% of consumers believe good product content and descriptions are “extremely important” when buying online. Some brands might be thinking they don’t have capacity to write in-depth product descriptions for the thousands of products they sell.

nutrisystem stats for ice cream sandwich

But with the help of PowerReviews, brands have the ability to implement Ratings and Reviews software to drive more content from their own customers. Finding time to add descriptions to every product isn’t a small task, but through visual content and more reviews, you easily tell a better story of your product.

2. Social Media Will Play a More Critical Part in Product Discovery

We shouldn’t have to sell you too hard on the importance of social media and marketing. But there’s still some debate on the impact of social media with retail sales.

The Salesforce Shopping Index found that in Q1 2018 less than 5% of website visits for ecommerce brands came from social media channels. Even more so, the same report said approximately 2% of digital orders started on social media.

However, we just talked about the rise of consumer research in our last ecommerce trend and how it’s impacting sales. Again, this means a lot people are doing their due-diligence before making a purchasing decision.

Even if consumers aren’t buying online, they admit it has an influence on their in-store purchases. The PowerReviews report Mapping the Path to Purchase noted 56% of in-store purchases are heavily influenced by digital commerce efforts.

The Rise of the Everyday Influencer

What’s also important to know is the value of influencer marketing through social media. More consumers trust the opinion of their peers over brands, paid celebrities and more.

This is why social media will continue to be a resource for consumer product discovery. More brands are seeing value from the everyday influencer than the celebrity social advertisement.

The shift is all but likely to grow among ecommerce trends in 2019 as brands use product sampling partners to get real reviews from trusted sources. A report from Forrester said almost half of U.S. adults actively avoid ads online.

There’s so much more importance on brands reaching bigger audiences without over targeting consumers with social media ads. Even though there’s definitely benefits to paid social, the shift toward everyday influencers could become the staple of retail marketing in 2019.

3. Consumer Trust Will Need More Personalization

Another one of the ecommerce trends in 2019 to look for will be around further personalization in products for consumers. This means brands shouldn’t just target everyone with the same copy, visuals and sometimes even pricing. Instead, brands should funnel consumers to specific items that fit their exact needs.

The PowerReviews Custom Review Display allows retailers to better personalize information to consumers through features like Size and Fit.

forrester and emarketer attitudes toward pricing graph

A 2018 report from Forrester discovered 65% of consumers like it when product prices are personalized to their specific buying habits. This is an interesting statistic because it further proves consumers like to be considered unique. They also value experience and want to be rewarded for brand loyalty.

In fact, a Frost and Sullivan study found customer experience will be the main priority for brands by 2020, which would jump pricing and product. Brands are beginning to shift toward more authentic marketing efforts to stay transparent.

Why are personalization and authenticity such critical ecommerce trends in 2019? The annually updated Edelman Trust Barometer evaluates consumer trust with brands. And in 2018, only 48% U.S. respondents said they trust businesses. Compared year over year, that’s a 10% drop with faith in brands.

edelman trust barometer example stats

How to Quickly & Easily Increase Consumer Trust

It’s not necessarily rocket science, but gaining consumer trust starts with something as simple as effort. Like we’ve mentioned, personalization is a great tool for consumer trust and it helps shoppers know their time and money are valued.

If you’re looking for few quick and easy tips to build consumer trust, here’s a list of tactics to consider in 2019:

  1. Collect Information on Your Shoppers: If you dig deep enough, you can collect demographics and use case data and use it to build more trustworthy products. With a tool like Progressive Collection from PowerReviews, shoppers provide more insights for the products they bought through reviews. This provides more depth to product pages through detailed questions about items such as size, fit and best uses.
  2. Look into Previous Customer Journeys: Did a customer visit a product page more than once? Did they sign up for your newsletter for exclusive deals? Reward these customers with personalized deals highlighting the products they’re most interested in. Use past customer experiences to better personalize their future interactions. This builds trust by showing returning customers products they actually want.
  3. Let Your Customers Share Content: Your customers want to be confident in the products they buy online and in store. Make sure you provide several avenues through Reviews and Ratings and Question and Answer software to get your consumers’ voices heard. This builds trust by showing your audience you care about them picking the right size, color or item through previous customer reviews.

Questions and answers banner

4. Brands Will Invest in Interactive & Visual Content

There’s no doubt we live in a highly-visual age–and the standard single or three product images don’t quite cut it anymore. For example, Wayfair now allows customers to use their smartphones to take pictures of products and find them in their store.

wayfair search feature ecommerce trends

This kind of visual content adaptation is making it easier for consumers to find the exact things they want when buying something online. Product visuals not only build trust–like we just mentioned–but they also fill various content gaps.

And as you might guess, consumers really do enjoy browsing through more visuals before they make a purchase decision. In fact, the PowerReviews Snapshot for Ecommerce report found 20% of shoppers aren’t very happy when there’s a lack of product photos and videos online.

Still not convinced on the power of visual content for your products? The same PowerReviews study also discovered just 3% of shoppers don’t seek out any visual content when looking to make a purchase. And on the flip side, 40% always search for photos and videos prior to a purchase.

snapshot of ecommerce powerreviews graphic

The demand for mobile-friendly content is just as important too. Many shoppers in today’s ecommerce market do their buying on a mobile phone. A Vision Critical infographic stated 82% of chief information officers say they’re focused on better mobile experiences for their businesses.

Collecting and displaying visual content for products has to be as seamless on desktop as on a mobile device. Make sure you’re properly loading content and at good enough speeds to avoid frustration with potential customers. Typically, retailers should aim for under 3 seconds, according to MachMetrics, compared to the US average of 9.8 seconds.

Professional Visual Content Is Not Enough

Providing better visual content isn’t a new concept to a lot of businesses. Brands know that high-quality images, videos and websites raise the bar for shoppers. And many companies will put the money behind professional photography and videos to highlight their products.

However, high-quality product photos and videos aren’t the end all to making shoppers comfortable to purchase. The growth in user-generated content has more consumers looking for authentic visuals from customers just like them. People want to see how a couch looks in a living room similar to theirs or a makeup product on the skin of someone similar.

The same PowerReviews Snapshot for Ecommerce study found 42% of shoppers believe it’s important or very important to include user-submitted content like photos or videos in product reviews. When looking at those between the age of 18-29, the demand for user-submitted content jumps to 58% of consumers.

It’s hard for consumers to see polished and intensely-edited content as a relative source of truth for products. There’s more personality and a better story behind products that show user-generated content on product pages.

ijet visual and social suite example

With PowerReviews, brands and retailers rely on the Social Suite to collect photos and videos from major social media channels, match this content to their products and display this content in the Visual Content Gallery on their product pages, alongside natively collected images and videos.

5. Balance Between Ecommerce & In-Store Sales Will Grow

Filling the gaps between in store and online have been a priority for businesses for several years. The problem many continue to face is the siloing between the two avenues and treating each as their own separate entity.

Another major ecommerce trend to watch in 2019 is the growing connection between online and offline sales. Again, the omnichannel movement isn’t anything new. But with more shoppers abandoning carts or complaining about the lack of information in-stores, the need to help shoppers create better overarching purchasing decisions is strong.

Forrester data found 55% of U.S. adults will leave their online purchases in the cart if they can’t find a quick answer to their product question. But at the same time, a report from June 20 said more than 30% of consumers feel brick-and-mortar companies lack in-store product information and content.

The balance between these two sales funnels is dependent on creating trust in the products with helpful content describing the items for sale. Use review content to build shopper confidence across the board.

mobile product reviews skechers graphic

Why? Well 72% of shoppers said they’ll likely make a purchase if the product has written text reviews and visuals. Additionally, another 20% admitted they’d be more likely to make a purchase if they found these reviews included user-submitted content.

Speed of Shipping Will Always Be a Pain Point

Unsurprisingly, consumers demand faster, easier and cheaper shipping options today. For businesses balancing their in-store and online options, 2019 should be the year to get more creative.

The biggest complaint for post-purchase shoppers is receiving a product that didn’t meet their original expectations (48%). However, product returns for retailers accounted for roughly $400 billion in 2018, which is a 53% spike in just three years.

More retailers are offering free shipping and returns, but at what cost? The need to limit product returns is growing, and one way to address this issue is with better product descriptions. Rely on trusted Ratings and Reviews software to add more content to product pages so shoppers can make better purchasing decisions.

And this doesn’t exclude the in-store shopper. In fact, the previously mentioned Mapping the Path to Purchase study found 48% of shoppers are likely to do research online before ultimately deciding to make their purchase in-store. These two channels have to work together and provide shoppers with the best content available.

Looking Ahead to 2019

As 2019 begins, retailers and brands have to prepare their marketing and sales teams for another successful year. Take these statistics from last year and be ready to learn from industry trends and make improvements in the future. We wish brands the best of luck toward 2019 and hope these ecommerce trends point you in the right direction this year!

Alex York

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Alex York is the Content and SEO Marketing Manager at PowerReviews. Catch him hunting down the perfect gin cocktail in Chicago or endlessly scrolling through Netflix. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjyork.

How consumer dependence on ratings and reviews continues to evolve

Today’s consumers have come to expect easily accessible information to aid their purchase decisions. And increasingly, they want this information to come from others like them in the form of ratings and reviews.

To see how consumer dependence on the growing power of reviews has changed, we surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers to see how they use reviews for purchase decisions today. Download this study to understand:

  • Where shoppers consume reviews
  • How reviews influence purchase behavior
  • Why consumers do and don’t write reviews
  • How to leverage ratings and reviews

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