Your customers are always a few taps away from launching an investigation of the century into your products and brand on their smartphone. While this seems a little scary, it’s simply the reality of how shoppers leverage online customer reviews.

Whether it’s choosing an auto shop, jeweler, restaurant or finding the best place to buy a new dog bed, online customer reviews heavily impact purchasing decisions. For ecommerce brands and retailers, product reviews are now a common step of the decision making process.

Data from the PowerReviews Health and Beauty Study found 95% of consumers say online customer reviews play a role in their product search and another 86% said reviews are essential to the purchase decision.

Health and Beauty Reasons why consumers purchase utems

Specifically for health and beauty products, respondents said the No. 1 reason they buy from the places they regularly shop is because of the customer feedback–like ratings and reviews. Consumers want to hear about the experiences of others like them. The easiest way to satisfy this need for information is by leveraging online customer reviews.

If you’re still on the fence about the impact of feedback, see our five recommendations to leverage online customer reviews to attract and convert shoppers:

1. Invest In Advanced Review Collection Capabilities

Online customer reviews are capable of swaying shoppers into making a purchase. Data from our Power of Reviews survey found approximately 30% of respondents between ages 18 and 44 look at reviews before every single purchase.

Shoppers Looking at Reviews on Every Purchase PowerReviews Graphic

That’s a huge amount of trust going into your review content. But one of the biggest hurdles for businesses is having enough online customers reviews on product pages to actually influence shoppers.

Brands and retailers are often hesitant on heavily investing in customer feedback because they’re unsure how to generate more reviews to begin with. PowerReviews own customer data shows when products move from zero to more than one review, the conversion rate increases by up to 65%.

How to Collect More Online Customer Reviews

We’ve gone over the impact of review content, but how do you actually generate more customer feedback on your products? Here’s a couple of ways you can immediately boost your review collection capabilities:

  • Post-Purchase Emails: Your customers just bought your product, so why aren’t you sending requests to ask for a review afterward? Data from the same Health and Beauty Study found 59% shoppers need a few weeks with a product before giving feedback. Try to analyze the best time to send post-purchase emails for your specific products.
    Ulta Post Purchase Email
  • Make Review Collection Easy for Customers: Reviews are hard to collect because there’s not a lot of benefit in leaving a review versus reading a review. Make review collection simple by avoiding lengthy forms or by asking too many questions. Provide clear instructions with a simple user-experience that don’t navigate to separate pages for each review.
  • Ask for Reviews for Key Products First: If a customer buys a $5 dog food bowl and a $75 dog bed, you’re likely going to want to push for a review on the higher-priced item. PowerReviews’ Progressive Collection lets you set high-value products or items in need of reviews to the top of a multiple review collection form to ensure you get the reviews you need first.

review collection

PowerReviews discovered when brands use a single review form for multiple products reviews, the average increase in review volume grew by 92% year over year–compared to a review form for each product. If you truly want to increase your review count, contact our team today to see a demo our advanced review collection capabilities!

2. Put Your Reviews Front & Center on Product Pages

When shopping online, 63% of consumers specifically seek out websites that have product reviews. Additionally, 77% of mobile shoppers are more likely to purchase an item if the website or app offers product reviews.

Once you’ve started generating reviews, start prominently displaying this content on your product page designs so shoppers can easily find it, regardless of the device they’re using to shop. A good rule of thumb is to pass the 3-second test.

Shoppers, well, all of us, have a very short attention spans, which means you need to capture the eyes on your product page quickly. In 3 seconds, can you easily find where to read online customer reviews on your product page?

PowerReviews Review Snapshot GIF Example

If you don’t think you passed the test, it’s high time to invest in a reviews collection platform that makes it incredibly easy to find and locate customer reviews. Don’t give your shoppers any reason to exit your product page by making sure consumers have a great breakdown the product reviews.

For a lot of online retailers, clothing products are difficult to show true size and fit to make customers confident in their purchase. In fact, the majority of product returns for these companies are due to items not fitting correctly.

Crocs Customer Fit Report Example

That’s why we recommend adding size and fit features to your product pages so customers get a much better understanding of how an item will actually look on them. Reviews are always a great way to understand size and fit, but by collecting size and fit data from your reviewers, you present more accurate information–front and center.

Don’t just stop at your product pages too. Look for opportunities to include ratings and reviews on other parts of your website like category pages and even your homepage.

3. Highlight Your Customer Reviews In-Store

A growing number of consumers turn to reviews to make their in-store purchases too! In fact, data from the same PowerReviews Health and Beauty Study discovered 80% of shoppers search for product reviews while shopping in-store.

PowerReviews Health and Beauty Study In-Store Graphic

In addition to ensuring this content is easy to find and read on your website from any device, look for opportunities to display review content in your brick-and-mortar store locations. For example, include star ratings and excerpts from reviews on signage alongside key products.

Like we mentioned at the very beginning, consumers are seconds away from reading your product reviews online. That means it’s getting easier to browse review content while shopping in-store.

Now more than ever, it’s extremely important that your review content is easy to access and more importantly, mobile friendly. That means using appropriate font sizes and ensuring page load speeds are as fast as possible.

PowerReviews Health and Beauty Report Litmus Graphic

In a 2018 Email Client Market Share Trends Report by Litmus, the company found mobile devices were responsible for 46% of all email opens–beating out desktop. The data should have businesses perking up a bit. So make sure your review content is accessible and readable for shoppers in-store.

4. Syndicate Reviews for More Coverage

Review syndication might not sound appealing to some businesses wanting more reviews. However, it’s one of the best and most authentic ways to give your shoppers more access to online customer reviews.

For example, review syndication is the transfer of user-generated content like ratings and reviews collected on a brand site to its retail partners. If you’re a brand that syndicates content to retail sites, you benefit by getting content in front of more shoppers and locations.

On the flip side, if you’re a retailer accepting syndicated brand content, you benefit from increased review coverage and depth. That means you don’t have to worry about generating all the content yourself. In fact, retailers receive an average of 58% of their review content from syndication.

So, how does the process work? There are essentially two major steps to the review syndication process:

Step 1: Product Matching

Product Matching Example

The complex process of product matching is to ensure review data is correctly connected across one site to another. This allows brands and retailers, who might use different product names, numbers and codes, to match and align items.

In fact, PowerReviews’ AI-powered Product Knowledge Graph automatically matches on UPC, which gives brands 79% more products matched compared to other providers.

Step 2: Share & Display Review Content

PowerReviews Review Syndication Display Example

After products are matches across retailer sites, the reviews are then shared to retailers to display across their own sites. To provide authenticity and transparency, there’s a requirement to show the original review collection location.

PowerReviews has brands include their name, logo and a link on reviews displayed through retailer sites. This helps customers be confident in the content and it’s original location.

Want more info on review syndication best practices? Contact our team to learn about the PowerReviews Open Network. Our network features more than 150 of the world’s largest retailers and more than 1,000 brands!

5. Embrace Negative Reviews & Don’t Be Afraid of Critical Feedback

Perfect online customer reviews might seem ideal, right? But consumers consider products with 5-star reviews are less helpful than those with both positive and negative feedback.

average star rating for purchases graphic

Our research with Northwestern University found that purchase probability peaks when a product’s average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5. The mythical perfect 5-star review was deemed to be less profitable.

Additionally, the PowerReviews report How to Beat Amazon found a third of shoppers believe poor reviews gave balance to their shopping research. Consumers agreed that a negative perspective was actually very important to their overall purchasing decision.

That’s why brands and retailers shouldn’t be afraid of negative reviews, but instead, embrace the critical feedback. The same report found 85% shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews before making a purchase. That number increases to 91% when looking at consumers between the ages of 18 and 29.

How to Beat Amazon Top trust factor graphic

There’s a growing demand for transparency with businesses today. It’s up to brands and retailers to provide authenticity with consumers. This is especially true as the number of fake reviews continues to increase across Amazon. And the company’s fake review problem doesn’t just affect their customers, but all online shoppers.

No business should aim for negative reviews. But allowing both positive and negative feedback on your site adds authenticity to your content and builds trust.

Help your shoppers make better purchasing decisions by providing more authentic online customers reviews. And if you need any help through the process, our team is happy to provide more information on the value of reviews.

Alex York

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.

The amount of customer content has skyrocketed in recent years, which leaves many wondering about the credibility of reviews. That’s why PowerReviews partnered with Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center. Our goal was to understand how reviews vary depending on whether they’re written by verified buyers or anonymous consumers.

In the case of verified buyers, a shopper makes a purchase online and receives an email from the brand requesting a review. Reviews from verified buyers are tied back to a transaction.

But with anonymous consumers, a shopper navigates to a brand or retailer website without any prompting and writes a review. Since these reviews aren’t tied to a specific transaction, there’s no way to determine if the reviewer actually purchased the product.

The amount of fake reviews can be detrimental to the customer decision making process, which why brands and retailers have to increase the credibility of their reviews. So what can brands and retailers do?

Here are five practical recommendations to preserve the credibility of reviews:

1. Get More Reviews From Verified Buyers

The biggest insight from this research is reviews from verified buyers are significantly more positive than reviews from anonymous consumers. The average star rating for reviews from verified buyers is 4.34.

Take that into comparison to an average star rating of 3.89 for reviews written by anonymous consumers. Reviews from verified buyers boast a larger percentage of 5-star ratings too.

Stat Images2-09

In fact, reviews from anonymous consumers have a larger percentage of 1-star ratings. But reviews from verified buyers own 6.5% more product “pros” and 50% fewer product “cons.”

This is consistent with a theory that users who write reviews without prompting are likely to have extreme (often more negative) opinions.

2. Eliminate Fake Reviews Right Now

Allowing reviews to be submitted via the web opens retailers up to the possibility of receiving fraudulent reviews. And fake reviews can tarnish the trust you’ve built with your consumers.

A recent report from the company Which? found Amazon to have an outstanding amount of fake reviews for popular items like smartwatches and headphones.

amazon fake reviews graphic on fake reviews

That’s why it’s key to have measures in place so review content remains authentic and fraud-free. For example, all content submitted on the PowerReviews platform passes through our advanced technology. This is so we ensure the content is fraud-free and free of innuendo and profanity.

The content is then reviewed by our team of human moderators before it’s displayed on a client’s site.

3. Be Transparent About Who Writes Reviews

Though it’s unclear whether consumers place more trust in reviews from verified buyers, it’s important to be transparent about the source of reviews. Ask your ratings and reviews provider if they allow you to use a Verified Buyer badge so future shoppers know who wrote each review.

ijet display badges on powerreviews

This allows shoppers to have the information they need to make their own decisions on the reviews. Don’t leave out details that could make shoppers second-guess your content.

4. Implement a Post-Purchase Email Program to Collect More Reviews

If you aren’t already, be sure to send a post-purchase email to each shopper reminding him or her to review the products he or she has recently purchased. Reviews from verified buyers not only build credibility for retailers by capturing the opinions of customers who’ve actually used the product, but also help drive sales with consistently positive sentiment.

preview your post purchase email

Additionally, you have to consider timing with your asks. Timing on a customer writing a review varies between different products. The PowerReviews The State of Consumer Trust in Health & Beauty Shoppers discovered there’s a massive difference between asking for reviews 1 day after the consumer made the purchase or 1 month.

PowerReviews Health and Beauty Review Ask Timing Graphic

Our data found nearly 60% of shoppers need a few weeks with a health and beauty product before writing a review. This means you should first ask your customers how long they need with your product or test different periods of time.

5. Provide Incentives to Attract a Better User Sample

When you generate more reviews, you gather more insights from the content. But the problem is not all review readers are writers.

In fact, PowerReviews research found while the vast majority of consumers use reviews, only 42% write them. And more than half of consumers who aren’t writing reviews cited needing motivation to do so.

nordstrom post-purchase email example

Test different incentives in your post purchase emails, like a sweepstakes, giveaway contest, coupon code campaign for free shipping or by leveraging an existing loyalty or rewards program. Again, transparency is key.

Ask your reviews software partner if they allow you to indicate whether a reviewer received a sample or other incentive for writing a review so future shoppers have a clear picture of who wrote each review.

Want to see how product sampling, post-purchase emails and review moderation all fit under one umbrella? Contact our team today see a demo of PowerReviews in action so you can immediately impact the validity of your reviews!

Alex York

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.

You can’t have a retail business without a good product to sell, which is why companies invest enormous resources into a thoughtful product development strategy.

The most successful retailers understand the importance of developing new products and improving their existing merchandise. Continuously finding ways to innovate will keep your business competitive.

Not sure where to start?

This post will walk you through the seven stages of an ecommerce product development strategy. By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid idea of how winning products make it to the market—and how you can create more of them.

1. Smarter Product Ideation

Every great product starts with an idea. It happens when you and your team get that light bulb moment and come up with a concept that would change the world—or at least, add value to other people’s lives.

There are multiple ways to navigate the ideation process, but one of the most popular and effective methods is to start with by gathering customer feedback from your existing shoppers. Conduct surveys and analyze your product reviews to identify pain points and opportunities to improve.

Let’s say you discovered that a significant chunk of your customers are asking if an item comes in another color or size. You now have valuable feedback that you can use when developing your next product line.

Image describing the rating sentiment of Blackberry Syrup

Pro tip: Want to make this process easier? Instead of manually combing through your reviews, use a review analytics solution like Product Pulse, which uses natural language processing and sentiment analysis to uncover trends and insights that you can use in your product development strategy. Powered by our Intelligence Engine, the solution has processed over 40 million product reviews, 2 million unique topics and 5 million unique opinions. 

Learn more about Product Pulse and see a demo by contacting our team today!

Learn the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Technique

In addition to analyzing reviews, you should also consider the SCAMPER technique when cooking up product ideas. SCAMPER stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate and Reverse/Rearrange.

It’s a way of thinking that prompts you to ask questions about how you can innovate and improve an existing product.

  • Substitute – Think about a product and ask yourself if you can substitute any of its materials or parts. For instance, if you’re selling brownies and want to make them healthier, you could use other ingredients to replace things like sugar or butter.
  • Combine – Find two or more things that your customers love and combine them. A great example of this can be found in the Doritos Locos Taco, Taco Bell’s most popular menu item, which combined the restaurant’s famous tacos with Doritos.
  • Adapt – You could enhance a product so it adapts to modern changes. For instance, when more people started using their camera phones to take selfies, smartphone companies adapted to consumer behavior by developing front-facing cameras.
  • Modify – The “M” can also stand for “Minify” or “Magnify.” It prompts you to think of ways to modify an existing product by highlighting or reducing specific features. A fashion designer could modify existing work by making dress buttons larger or by shortening overall length.
  • Put to another use – Can you use the product (or the technology behind it) for another purpose? An increasing number of retailers, for instance, are upcycling old clothes and materials to create new ones.
  • Eliminate – How can you simplify the product? Are there features that you can eliminate? We can see this in action in the latest Apple products, which contain fewer ports. Take the latest Macbook Air, which no longer has USB ports.
  • Reverse/Rearrange – Can you interchange or reverse the components of a product? For instance, a shoe designer can move the brand’s logo around to see if it would make a bigger impact on the design.

2. Determining Product Demand

Already have a product idea that you love? Great. The next phase is to determine if there is a demand for it. The last thing you want is to go into full-on production mode only to realize that people don’t want it.

So, take some time to assess just how much your market wants or needs your product. You can do this by:

Conducting Customer Surveys

One of the easiest ways to determine whether or not people like your idea is to ask them. Conduct a survey or speak directly to your most engaged customers to run the idea by them. Ask them what they think, why they like or dislike the concept and how much they would be willing to pay for the item.

The answers to these questions will tell you if your idea is a winner or a dud.

Take Pre-Orders

You can take things a step further and see if you can get people to place pre-orders for the product. Set up a product page for your concept—complete with a product description, photos and a CTA to buy.

If you get enough pre-orders you can take that as a sign to move forward with production.

Start A Crowdfunding Campaign

Another route is to crowdfund your idea. Use a platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to set up a campaign explaining your idea and mapping out your plan. If you get enough people to back your campaign, you might just have a winner on your hands.

Analyze Search Trends

Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends to find out if people searching for the type of product you want to develop or if they’re looking for a solution that your idea can solve.

3. Creating a Prototype

The next step is prototyping.

Prototypes are essential in any product development strategy because they enable you to test the design and functionality of your concept. After all, an idea may seem possible in theory, but you won’t find out for sure until you have a physical representation of the product.

The specifics of this stage will vary from one product to the next, but here’s what’s typically involved in the prototyping process:

Sketching the Idea

It’s one thing to have an idea in your head, but bringing it to reality requires solidifying the concept on paper. Create a sketch of your idea so you and your team can better visualize what the prototype would look like. The sketch should communicate general details like the major components of the item and what the product will be used for.

Creating a Digital Prototype

Once you’ve nailed the sketch, you can proceed to create a digital prototype. This would be a 3-D rendering of the product that allows you to view it from multiple angles. Having a digital prototype will enable you to see the item in more detail, so you can refine it before creating the physical version.

Building a Physical Prototype

When you’re happy with the digital version of your product, you can move forward with your physical prototype. Get help from an engineer or prototype designer to create one that you can touch, feel and evaluate.

Note that you can build multiple prototypes for each of your ideas. It’s actually recommended that you do this, as it enables you to compare and test different variations to see what works best.

Take Spanx, as an example. When the brand developed the strap for its Bra-llelujah! Bra, Spanx tested hundreds of prototypes and construction trials to determine the best one.

Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. ⭐ When was the last time you tested something dozens of times to make sure it works? For us,…

Posted by SPANX on Thursday, June 20, 2019

4. Testing & Validation

Got your working prototypes? Test them out on your target customers and gather feedback. The key here is to find your actual customers and let them try the product themselves.

Using Spanx as an example, founder Sara Blakely said that during the prototyping phase of her first product, she was “blown away” by how the production mill tested the prototype.

As she recalled in her presentation at Inc Live:

They had these plastic forms in their mill, and they would put the product up on the plastic form and they’d all stand back with their clipboards and go, “Yep, that’s a medium.” I remember I leaned in, I’m like, “Ask her how she feels.”

Sara took a different approach. Rather than testing her prototypes on lifeless forms, she asked actual women to try her product.

“So, with Spanx, I started testing my prototypes on real women, my mom, my grandmother, all my friends,” she added in the video. “And to this day, all of the Spanx products are obviously tested and worn by me and all of my friends and family and I really appreciate that honest feedback, it’s what makes us better than what had existed out there.”

Follow Blakely’s playbook when testing your prototypes. Find real consumers to test them out and strive to get their honest feedback on how to improve.

5. Don’t Forget Your Product Creation

Once you’ve perfected your prototype, you can move on to production. Again, the specifics of this phase will depend on the product—the materials, complexity, etc. But generally speaking, one of the most important parts of the product creation process is selecting your manufacturer.

There are several websites and directories that you can use to find the right one. Here are a few that you can start with:

You can also check out trade publications and directories in your industry to find potential manufacturers.

Use the above resources to search and identify companies that can bring your product to life. Once you have a list of manufacturers, contact them to discuss:

  • Payment terms
  • Turnaround time
  • Minimum order sizes
  • Their facilities and production environment
  • What happens in the event of delays and special circumstances

Also, consider asking for examples of similar products that they’ve manufactured. References from companies in your space are also beneficial.

6. Launching the Product on the Right Foot

The key to a good product launch is to do it explosively. When your product goes live, you want to make a strong and memorable impression on your target market, so they’ll be compelled to check out it out.

Accomplishing this requires a well-coordinated marketing push. You should ensure that all your marketing initiatives (e.g., email marketing, Facebook ads, paid search ads, influencers, etc.) are in sync. Doing so maximizes the impact and visibility of your product.

Certain book authors are particularly good at this. Consider Marie Forleo, when she launched her book, Everything Is Figureoutable, Forleo had a well-timed and well-coordinated marketing campaign that covered multiple channels.

She drummed excitement on social media, leveraged email marketing, kicked off a live event and went on the TODAY Show to talk about her book.

Forleo made a huge splash on the day of her launch, which led to multiple online reviews, numerous mentions on social media and sold out book tour events in multiple cities.

Strive to market your new products in the same way. Create an explosive launch by leveraging various marketing tools and maximizing your impact on multiple channels.

7. Gathering Feedback (Hint: Look to Your Product Reviews)

Your product development strategy doesn’t end with a launch. You need to close the loop by gathering feedback from your customers. You can do this by:

Analyzing Product Ratings & Reviews

The product reviews section of your site is your most valuable source of feedback. Pay close attention to what people are saying about the item, the star rating that they’re giving the product and any common trends or themes that come up.

The insights that you gather at this stage will be incredibly useful when you decide to create a new product or improve an existing one.

product pulse carry-all backpack shapshot

For best results, automate this process using a tool like Product Pulse, which analyzes product review data for you and delivers actionable insights that you can put to good use.

Engaging in Social Listening

If you have an active social media presence, then sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be valuable sources of feedback. Look at what people are saying on these sites and take note of the photos that they’re posting. Social media content offer insights into how people are using the product and how it fits into their lives.

Listening to Your Customers Is a Must in Any Product Development Strategy

Product development magic can’t happen in a vacuum. Amazing ideas aren’t born in the boardroom. You get them by listening to your customers and making sure that they’re involved in every step of the development process.

Francesca Nicasio

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

Amazon’s Problem With Fake Reviews Doesn’t Just Hurt Them

It’s not secret–Amazon wins over ecommerce customers at nearly every step–from the initial product search to the repeat purchase. But even with it’s accolades, the ecommerce giant has its pitfalls. One area Amazon continues to feel pressure is with its rising number of fraudulent reviews.

Products flooded with fake reviews get pushed to the top of search, which has burner brands abusing consumer trust with flawless feedback. Unfortunately, Amazon’s fraudulent review content doesn’t just impact its own customers, but the entire ratings and reviews industry.

Download our eBook for insights into:

  • Amazon’s increasing number of fake reviews
  • The importance of trust and authentic customer feedback
  • How to spot fake reviews and moderate content
  • How PowerReviews moderates fake reviews and promotes authenticity

Last year we wrote about what a transformative trade conference the inaugural GroceryShop event had been. Few of the attendees–even among the event creators who developed the wildly-successful Shoptalk event–understood the magnitude with which the GroceryShop experience would resonate with brands, retailers and solutions providers.

Originally planned for 1,000 attendees, the rolls swelled to over 2,000 by the time the show opened. This year, attendance is expected to exceed 3,000 grocery-focused industry professionals. 

GroceryShop is able to draw such a crowd because the gravitas of their speakers eclipse those of any other similar food and beverage show. A veritable who’s who of retail and brand ecommerce and marketing luminaries, GroceryShop is poised to define the omnichannel customer experience direction of the industry for the year to come.

Here are seven major themes that we expect to play out in the presentations and discussions next week in Las Vegas:

1. Content Is King

Shoppers expect product content to be accessible online, in-store and in-between. This includes pricing, availability, visual content, product descriptions, in-store aisle location, ratings, reviews, questions, answers, coupons, recipes, nutritional information and health lifestyle compliance (Vegan, Paleo, Non-GMO, etc.).

If a retailer isn’t able to make the content available to its shoppers, expect them to turn to Amazon, even if they are walking your aisles or browsing your site. Amazon now displays product ratings and review count on digital shelf tags in their physical stores. Other retailers need to wake up and take notice.

2. Shoppers Seek Trust & Demand Authenticity

It should not surprise anyone that shoppers are more willing to trust product opinions of other shoppers they have never met more than the brand or the retailer that sold them an item. With all the talk of fake reviews, and government regulators seeking to identify and punish companies that do not deliver authenticity, expect success to be driven by how a brand communicates the underlying trust factors that go into the collection and display of shopper-generated content.

3. Digital Must Reach Brick & Mortar

If “click and mortar” retailers think digital is only meaningful for shopping outside of the store, think again. You cannot win shoppers in one channel only to lose them in another. Digital must be a complement to the physical shopping experience, informing and directing the customer as they traverse the store.

4. Native & Traditional Brands Blurring the Line

Remember digitally-native and micro brands like Dollar Shave Club? Now, these brands are entering physical stores. Check out Target with Harry’s, Quip and other brands that originally started online. Then look at Nike’s efforts to shift its business model to focus on direct to consumer. It isn’t just one or the other, and omnichannel retailers are competing to find the right model for growth.

5. Measuring the Customer Journey

Whether offline or online, retailers need to start benchmarking the shopper journey over time and against competitors. This is the only way they improve and grow their businesses. It’s important that retailers measure the customer journey, reduce costs and improve customer experience.

6. Retailers Must Own Their Customer Experience

Several years ago, grocery retailers of all sizes were faced with the challenge that Peapod, Amazon Fresh and Walmart mounted in establishing formidable ecommerce beachheads in their industry. Anyone who works in retail understands the resource constraints, both technical and financial, that inhibit them from moving quickly and decisively.

Along comes Instacart with a model that involves little to no capital or resource investment in exchange for a digital presence. But the price paid by the retailers who joined the Instacart family was a homogeneous customer experience that they can no longer afford to tolerate, especially if Instacart is poised to be a direct competitor.

Expect grocers small and large to seek ways to customize or even configure the customer experience to be more unique. 

7. Data Will Define Success

This week Target announced it would launch a new loyalty program in October. Getting customers to willingly identify themselves in transactions helps build rich longitudinal sales data. This in turn can be used to profile shoppers and build propensity models for communications targeting.

Club stores already attribute 100% of item sales to individual households. Major grocers like Kroger are close and in the 95%+ range, which allows them to drive measurable sales lift through precision marketing (just ask Kroger’s 84.51 division).

Retailers need to use AI-driven Natural Language Processing to make sense of all the shopper sentiment they collect that informs brands about what themes and words are most closely associated with positive and negative product perceptions.

Expectations are set high and Groceryshop is sure to please.

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.

As ecommerce spending explodes year-over-year, it’s clear that consumers today aren’t shy about buying from new brands online. And for those same consumers, the path to purchase is paved with visual content.

Heck, just do a quick Google search and see for yourself. What will you find?

Product photos.

Brand logos.

Star ratings and reviews.

Video thumbnails.

gopro hero google search results

Visual content is front-and-center in today’s search results before users even have time to think about sifting through a laundry list of links. That’s because seeing is believing.

Brands need to operate under the principle of “show, don’t tell” if they want to convert modern customers. Perhaps this is why creating and curating visual content remains a top priority for businesses in 2019.

The good news? Harnessing the power of visual content doesn’t require you to be a creative genius. In this guide, we’ll break down the fine details of visual content in the path to purchase. You’ll see firsthand the specific visual strategies top brands are using to convert customers and how to roll them out yourself.

With that, let’s dive right in.

What is the Path to Purchase?

The path to purchase represents the various channels that business rely on to transform leads and prospects into customers. From search engines and social media to email and paid ads, there is no “right” channel for converting customers.

Likewise, there is no single path to purchase in the customer journey. Visual content plays a vital role in the path to purchase for a couple of key reasons. For starters, visual content is easy to digest at a glance.

A video or image can show off a product in action in a fraction of the time that a blog post or lengthy email. This spells good news for appealing to today’s customers and their microscopic attention spans.

Consider also that people typically retain and recall visuals much better than the written word. Consumers today are hit with more marketing messages on a day-to-day basis than we can count. The more often someone sees your brand’s imagery including product photos and logos, the more likely you are to stand out over time.

Think about the marketing rule of seven that states people need to see what you’re offering at least seven times before they’re ready to buy. Paving your path to purchase with visual content means creating meaningful, memorable touch points that’ll result in sales.

And if nothing else, Brandwagon Digital Media wants you to bear in mind businesses boasting unique visuals see conversion rates seven times higher than those that don’t.

Ratings and reviews banner

What Does a Visual Path to Purchase Look Like in Action?

We’re glad you asked!

Let’s look at a real-world example of how visual content can impact the path to purchase. For example, say you’re taking a Disney vacation with your family and you’ve been tasked with one of life’s greatest challenges: picking a spot for dinner.

More than likely, you’ll start with a simple Google query–and in this case, you’d likely search “places to eat at Disney Springs.” While you’re obviously spoiled for choice, the Google ratings and restaurant snapshots help you narrow down your decision.

Google search for restaurants

As part of your journey through Google results, you find some listicles like this one that shows off pictures of the author’s favorite fare.

spare ribs search example from author

Or ever better, you come across a video or two that breaks down the best restaurants in the area.

Based on your research, you pick out a spot with some confidence. Scrolling through customer photos, you see your potential menu firsthand and get a better idea of the restaurant’s vibe. Customer reviews then clue you on what you should expect and which menu items to check out (or avoid).

Google scroll through menu items

And if you’re socially savvy, you might even take to social media to which local spots have customers buzzing in real time.

disney dining hashtag on instagram

See how that works?

We often hear the notion that effective selling online is all about creating a good customer experience. Through visual content, and especially through user-generated content, businesses create authentic experiences that eventually convert customers. This is just a snapshot of all the various avenues to make those experiences happen.

This is why we created Journey IQ, a completely scalable tool to provide you insights into what happens online and in store. This tools helps incentivize buyers who already love you to go on special missions to help you improve sales and understand the complete shopping experience.

SMS invite for journeyIQ

And on a related note, remember that the path to purchase isn’t a straight line. Any combination of these channels are fair game both before and after purchasing (specifically sharing hashtags or leaving reviews).

How to Pave Your Own Path to Purchase via Visual Content

No two paths of purchase are the same for two different businesses. And hey, that’s a good thing.

This gives your business a much-needed sense of freedom when it comes to the types of visual content necessary to make those meaningful touch points. Below are some tips for brands looking to to put their visual content on display regardless of your industry or budget:

Make Sure Your Product Pages Pack a Punch

Product pages are a prime place to step up your visual game. Chances are you couple each of your product listings with some form of imagery, right?

But why stop there?

vornado mini air circulator product page

Vornado includes some still photos as well as action shots of their products to help shoppers visualize them in-person. Additionally, Vornado integrates ratings and reviews to build trust with shoppers.

The star-ratings themselves work to catch the eye of potential buyers, encouraging them to spend longer on the page and eventually make a purchase. Given that Northwestern University data shows 95% of shoppers read online reviews before buying, providing a place for buyers to sound-off is a no-brainer.

vornado air circulator review exmaple

Star ratings and customer photos provide shoppers an authentic look at a product while also making the page more aesthetically pleasing. In fact, the PowerReviews Growing Power of Reviews report found 63% of shoppers look for user-generated content and visuals from real customers before making a purchase.

So why not put your biggest fans’ visual content front and center on your product pages? Well, you can do just that with the PowerReviews Visual and Social Suite.

We provide more avenues to collect and display user-generated content directly from your customers and their social channels. Whether your customers share an image from their phone or social media channel like Instagram, we provide the integration tools to make this easy on brands and retailers, but a quick and painless experience for your shoppers.

powerreviews write a review with visual content example

But what if your customers aren’t uploading visual content for your products? It’s not easy asking for content, but there’s definitely a great place to start looking.

Curate High-Converting Imagery from Social Media

To say that social media is a staple of the path to purchase would be a massive understatement.

Here’s some food for thought: over half of millennial consumers research products via social. Meanwhile, a staggering 85% of Gen Z customers are doing the same.

The beauty of user-generated content is that it’s, well, user-generated. Rather than worry about coming up with new imagery, you simply let your customers do the legwork for you.

Of course, that involves encouraging those customers to start creatin’.

ulta instagram bio

The first step to making that happen is by asking. For example, brands like Ulta encourage fans to use the hashtag #UltaBeauty for a chance to be featured on their feed.

This results in a slew of new content for that’s a far cry from a typical product photo. Hashtags and opportunities to create user-generated content are smart ways to encourage more engagement from your customers.

User-generated content is likewise great marketing firepower for your website or email list. For example, Ulta features its user-generated photos on-site in the form of a lookbook. Many brands likewise feature similar photos in their email campaigns to encourage more social shoppers.

ulta beauty hashtag example

And to bring the power of user-generated content full-circle with our first tip, customer photos are fantastic for product pages. Brands like Black Milk Clothing promote item-specific hashtags to share for individual products. This is yet another opportunity to build trust and convert buyers through visual content.

black milk clothing examples of ugc

Reel Customers in via Video Marketing

We can’t talk about visual content without talking about video.

As you might already know, video content is taking over the internet itself as the majority of all web traffic will be video-based in the coming years. To drive this point home, YouTube is now second only to Google in terms of today’s most-visited websites (recently passing Facebook).

And speaking o Facebook, video is often cited as the most popular type of content across the major social media platforms.

The specifics of why video works so well to reel in customers is no surprise.

Easy to digest? Check.

More entertaining than a traditional blog post or listicle? Most of the time, yes.

But most importantly, videos quite literally show off your products in action. There’s a reason why unboxings and video reviews are so popular: they’re unfiltered, and well, real.

From raising awareness to serving as an ad itself, video is a powerful medium on the path to purchase. For example, BeardBrand regularly publishes tutorials and how-to’s which subtly highlight their own products.

GoPro might be the best example of a brand killing it with video, mostly due to the fact that they’re, you know, a camera company that has heavily invested in action sports. Their eye-popping clips and user-generated content quite literally show what their products can do.

Some brands might shy away from video because they think they lack the budget or production value. That said, not everything you produce needs to be a mind-blowing production.

Brands like Blue Apron put together simple, 15-second clips to feature through their website and social media to give a glimpse of what they have to offer.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

Learn From What Your Customers Are Already Telling You

It might not surprise you, but there’s a lot to learn from your previous customers. And to take it one step further, there’s even more to learn from the review content they provide on your products.

Try to find the commonalities with your products and how consumers truly feel about them. What this means is brands have to pay attention to small details that might be causing some concern on a product.

For example, if a few customers are having problems with the zipper on your new coat–it might be time to take these product insights to the manufacturer. The only problem is you might have hundreds of products and even more reviews.

Intelligence Suite Product Insights

That’s why we created Product Pulse in our Intelligence Suite–so brands and retailers can find, analyze and uncover real product insights within review content. The hours it would take your team to review every single rating would take far too much time–and good luck finding someone to dig through the mess to find insights.

Instead, we do the heavy lifting and analyze sentiment through common adjectives and review analysis from more than 40 million consumer reviews already put through our Intelligence Engine. Your consumers are talking about your products and providing feedback, it’s just a matter if you’re listening to everything they’re saying.

Is Visual Content Part of Your Path to Purchase?

The final takeaway here is that visual content in any shape or form is integral to the path to purchase. Not just because it helps catch the eye of customers but because it builds the trust that results in conversions.

By supplementing your path to purchase with visual experiences for customers, you win more sales.

We want to hear from you, though. Which types of visual content do you find most compelling? Let us know on Twitter!

If you’re looking for a trusted partner to take your visual content to the next level, request a demo of PowerReviews today to see how we can integrate user-generated content onto your product pages.

Brent Barnhart

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.

Speaker: PowerReviews CEO Matt Moog

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Guest Speaker: Forrester VP/Principal Analyst of Digital Business Strategy Brendan Witcher

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