JUNE 30, 2020 CHICAGO, ILLINOIS— PowerReviews today announces the release of UGC Analytics, the market-leading user-generated content reporting and text analytics suite powered by AI and Natural Language Processing.

The new platform enables brands and retailers to understand, benchmark and improve consumer sentiment through deep analysis of customer-submitted content (ratings, reviews, imagery, video, Q&A and consumer consumption of and interaction with this) on product pages. 

“Our team is thrilled to launch what we can say with confidence is the number one UGC-dedicated analytics platform on the planet. This is a powerful suite of products we’ve been perfecting for over a year now,” said Brandon Matthies, head of Product at PowerReviews. 

“We’ve been working closely with our customers to build products that drive insights that help ecommerce brands and retailers achieve what they are most focused on – selling more products online. The feedback we’ve received so far is exceptional and we are so excited to offer this new suite of analytics products more broadly. We are thrilled that our customers will now be able to back major product, merchandising and marketing decisions with data, as well as understand how they are performing against their competitors.”

Amanda Everse, SEO Manager, Gardener’s Supply Company, comments:
“UGC Analytics enables me to aggregate our customers’ opinion. This has armed me with critical evidence to go to our merchant and say “look at what our customers are saying, you need to fix this”. This insight is such a time saver for us.”

Jessica Donoghue, VP Marketing, PROFOOT, says:
[With UGC Analytics], we discovered that we have more reviews—and generally longer, more interesting, and higher- quality reviews—than our competitors. It was reaffirming to see how much our customers love our products.”

For more information and further customer endorsements, visit the PowerReviews website.

Contact Andrew Smith, Director of Product Marketing at PowerReviews, for further comment at andrew.smith@powerreviews.com.

ABOUT POWERREVIEWS UGC ANALYTICS

UGC Analytics – our market-leading reporting and text analytics suite powered by AI and Natural Language Processing –  is designed to enable brands and retailers to understand and improve consumer sentiment.

UGC Analytics is a collection of real-time reporting solutions combined:

  • Product Sentiment Analytics: Enables brands and retailers to analyze the performance of individual products and their entire catalog to understand where to make improvements that drive the biggest impact.
  • Benchmarking Sentiment Analytics: Enables brands and retailers to benchmark against competitors by product, brand, and product category by scraping all UGC data from across the entire internet to understand and improve product sales performance.
  • PDP Site Analytics: Enables brands and retailers to gain visibility into exactly how consumers interact with their product pages and their path to purchase to drive more conversions.
  • Operational Reporting: Everything brands and retailers need to understand and optimize the performance of their UGC program.

UGC Analytics draws on analysis of more than 53M consumer reviews from across the internet. It has uncovered over 2M unique discussion topics through consumer feedback and 150K unique adjectives to ensure effective and accurate benchmarking.

ABOUT POWERREVIEWS

PowerReviews (PowerReviews.com) is a software and data company that works with 1000+ leading brands and retailers to bring authenticity and transparency to commerce.  The PowerReviews Customer Content Platform has three solutions that help our customers collect and manage customer-generated content to improve the product and customer experience across the customer journey. We help clients meet the evolving need for social proof, accelerating the path to purchase and brand advocacy.

PowerReviews is known for innovation, consultative partnership, and actionable insights, supported by our open platform and approach. Our dedicated team of experts provides thoughtful analysis and turn-key service. PowerReviews is headquartered in Chicago, IL, USA.

Introducing the Number 1 UGC-Dedicated Analytics Platform on the Planet

By now the value of User-Generated Content (or UGC for short) on website product pages is well known. Ratings, reviews and consumer imagery/video are all highly valued social proof points for shoppers as they progress through the customer journey on the path to purchase.

But despite the extensive positive impact the UGC they capture has on sales and traffic, and even the more qualitative benefits like shopper confidence, few brands and retailers analyze UGC on a deeper level. Either as insight to drive product portfolio improvements or enhance their customer experience.

Why?

They haven’t had access to an intelligence engine powerful enough to take all of the rich sentiment data (from the thousands of UGC they’ve collected across the web) and turn it into clear, actionable insights.

Well, we at PowerReviews can very confidently say: all that has changed now.

The High-Potential Analytics Power of UGC

UGC offers a ton of context-rich and actionable insight voluntarily provided by your customers. The sort of information organizations otherwise have to go to great lengths to capture through surveys or other methods. What makes UGC so powerful?

  1. You can easily map consumer feedback to specific products. Think about that for a second: most brands and retailers have extensive catalogs of hundreds or even thousands of products. Monitoring customer sentiment accurately across this sheer volume of items is literally impossible via any other methodology.
  2. Reviewers often provide demographic information (be this age, location, gender and – in some cases – use case). Being able to factor this insight in provides a highly valuable extra layer of context. No other type of customer feedback data captured digitally provides that level of specificity. With UGC, you can very precisely map product feedback and information about those who bought it to the actual product itself.
  3. Unlike other forms of customer feedback, UGC is almost always constructive and meaningful in its focus – whether it’s related to a specific product or your entire customer experience. Whether positive or negative, it typically includes extremely powerful, actionable and context-rich recommendations and suggestions for improvements.

UGC is a datasource with incredible potential but has up to now been completely underutilized. It’s time to unleash it.

What makes UGC Analytics a big deal?

We built UGC Analytics with input from today’s top brands and retailers. Over the past year, as we were building and improving upon this suite of analytics products, we asked for feedback from our customers — who also knew their review data was a goldmine of incredible insights just waiting to be discovered.

In fact, we did a thorough analysis of what other vendors in the space are able to offer. UGC Analytics is superior for a number of reasons. Check out our capability comparison chart for a deeper dive.

Here are a three things UGC Analytics does that no other UGC vendor does:

  • Benchmarking: Enables consumer sentiment comparison at the product, product category and brand level. Any product, any product category and any brand.
  • Product-Level Sentiment: Understand sentiment at the individual product level. Analysis of your entire product catalog in granular detail.
  • Potential Syndication Partners Insight: Provides exceptional guidance on who you should partner with to ensure you maximize the reach, value and impact of your UGC content.

Keep reading for more on that.

What does UGC Analytics allow you to do?

UGC Analytics is a reporting and text analytics suite powered by AI and Natural Language Processing that enables you to drive positive change across your business. These include:

Optimize your overall product catalog and drive individual product improvements

Brands and retailers typically have extensive product portfolios. Knowing exactly where and how to make adjustments – both to individual products and at a more holistic level – to drive meaningful business impact is a huge challenge.

More specifically: how do you know how each product resonates with shoppers? What exactly do they like about each of your products? What don’t they like? Is the information provided at point of sale both accurate and detailed enough to generate realistic expectations?

UGC Analytics enables you to mine all the insight-rich customer feedback captured via your UGC program for the most actionable and impactful improvement opportunities. Our pilot customers used it to build specific evidence for their merchants about modifications they needed to make, make adjustments to product descriptions on their site and considered dropping entire product lines.

Benchmark product and website performance against competitors

To become a market leader, you need to know what you’re up against. How exactly do you compare to your competition?

But most brands and retailers are unable to compare product and brand performance in the detail they need and with the precision required to make the desired impact.

This information – in the form of UGC – is all over the internet. It’s on your site, your competitors’ sites and a whole host of big box retailer and ecommerce marketplace sites. And trying to combine all of this data (which is usually structured differently depending on its source) gets overwhelming very quickly.

UGC Analytics enables you to analyze all this UGC data from your site, your competitor’s sites and any other third-party site this information exists on. It then enables you to compare consumer sentiment at the product, product category and brand level.

For example, say you make razors and Gillette is your main competitor. UGC Analytics enables you to see how your brand stacks up against the overall Gillette brand, as well as compare any of your models to any Gillette model. Extremely powerful stuff.

Understand, dissect and improve consumer path to purchase

As we mention above, User-Generated Content (ratings, reviews and visual media from customers) is proven to have a huge impact on the online shopping journey. Often, it’s the driving factor in converting browsers to buyers along the path to purchase.

But most are unable to size or even define this impact. They have no way of knowing the extent of consumer interactions with UGC content and the precise nature of it.

What type of UGC content results in better outcomes? Does consumer imagery or video make purchasing a product more likely? What about product Q&A content? How big an impact do different star ratings have on purchase decisions?

UGC Analytics enables you to answer all these questions and more. How? By capturing very precise insight about how consumers interact with this content, along with their subsequent actions (i.e. do they go on to purchase or not).

For example, across all our data, we have established that online shoppers that interact with some form of UGC are 103% more likely to convert. Q&A is the most impactful content (153% increase in conversion), followed by reviews (115% increase in conversion) and imagery (81% increase in conversion). UGC Analytics enables you to understand UGC’s tangible impact on your specific buyer journey.

Understand how your customers talk about your products so you can ensure your messaging and branding is on point

UGC Analytics analyzes every single piece of ratings and reviews content submitted about each of your products anywhere on the internet.

Due to its NLP-powered text analytics capabilities, it’s therefore able to take all this data and then surface very specific trends and insights to the forefront.

As a result, you can very quickly understand how your product and brand messaging is resonating with shoppers. Are there expectations of your products accurate? Or do your products end up disappointing more often than not? What exactly is it that doesn’t hit the mark?

UGC Analytics enables you to establish answers to all these questions and more. In doing so, it delivers highly actionable insights that drive informed and strategic improvements – whether for an individual product or on a broader basis.

How can you credibly say it’s “the best UGC-dedicated analytics platform on the planet”?

Put simply, because it is. We knew this was a huge gap in the UGC marketplace. As we talk about above, UGC is an incredible datasource that most brands and retailers are simply not leveraging as they could for maximum benefits. But there’s no other vendor in the space that is enabling them to fully realize this incredible potential.

UGC Analytics stacks up favorably to all other analytics platforms offered by our direct competitors. Here are the main reasons why:

Today is a proud day for us at PowerReviews. We are excited to offer brands and retailers the opportunity to maximize the huge potential impact of their UGC data to drive broad and meaningful business change.

For more information on UGC Analytics, check out the dedicated section on our website, or see it in action by requesting a demo.

Alison Krakowiak

In her role as Product Marketing Manager at PowerReviews, Alison leads new product launches by focusing on communicating the value of our technology to our clients and partners. Alison is excited to bring the voice of our PowerReviews clients into everything she creates.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the US, consumers shifted nearly all of their buying online. According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, U.S. ecommerce jumped 49% in April, compared to the baseline period in early March prior to shelter-in-place restrictions. 

User-generated content around ecommerce has also exploded. This includes consumer reviews, responses to those reviews by other consumers and brands, along with a marked increase in the posting of Questions and Answers and other content, to help inform consumers and support browser-to-purchaser conversion. 

Proactive management of the reviews process is an essential element of both ecommerce and – more broadly – brand reputation management. In today’s digital world, it only takes one consumer and one negative review to bring down a brand’s reputation and inject fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the collective digital consumer consciousness. 

In a recent webinar with my co-host Sri Rajagopalan, I had the opportunity to discuss the heightened need for proactive customer engagement with Jon Jessup, CEO of Reputation Studios. I have formulated a list of key takeaways and best practices for proactive reputation management. 

Brands’ Responses to Reviews are Nearly as Impactful as Consumer Reviews.

Many organizations understand the importance of landing great customer reviews to influence sales. But a best practice reviews management program necessitates monitoring and responding to reviews and the brand’s response can influence buyer behavior as well. 

In fact, a Consumer Review Survey conducted in December 2019 shows that 73% of consumers say they “always” or “regularly” read brands responses to reviews. And 71% said they are more likely to do business with brands that have responded to existing reviews. 

Customers Expect Timely Responses from Brands.

How long is too long to respond to a customer online? A timely response should come in a day, but theoretically a customer will accept a slower response if a review is posted over the weekend or on a holiday. There’s also a bit more leeway if a customer posts a 5-star review saying they loved the product. 

The response time window is dictated, in part, by the platform used for the review (i.e., Google reviews or Twitter). 

Additionally, the exact response time depends on the product, category and the type of review – positive or negative.

If a consumer has an adverse reaction to a product applied to the body or ingested, there are FDA requirements dictating the timeliness of the response and specific process to be followed. 

Negative Reviews Require More Urgency. 

There’s more urgency to respond to negative reviews 1) to satisfy the customer and 2) to protect the brand reputation.

Typically, a customer expects a response on a negative review in three to five business hours or less. But even this timeframe can be too long if a customer posts something negative on Twitter or via Facebook Messenger. 

If brands don’t respond to a negative review in a timely manner, the reviewer can become even more vocal, alerting other followers to the brand’s lack of response. However, brands that respond quickly and address a customer’s needs can reap rewards – as a detractor can become a strong brand advocate.

Q&A Forums Augment Product Details.

Q&A forums have become a common feature on most ecommerce sites. The Q&A section of a site can be exceptionally strategic in helping to fill the gaps in customer product knowledge. 

However, the content must be accurate, and this requires monitoring. A consumer who thinks he or she knows the answer may offer an answer, but the details may be wrong. The brand can – and should – comment on another person’s answer, and especially so if it is incorrect. 

In this respect, it’s vital to give this responsibility to individuals who actually know the right answers and who are well-versed in customer and consumer engagement. 

The need for timely response applies for Q&As as well. If a question posed remains unanswered, customers can question the brand’s lack of a response. 

According to one research study, 82% of consumers look for an immediate response from brands on marketing or sales questions. This near immediate need for response was deemed “important” or “very important.” And overall, nearly two-thirds of buyers expect a response within 10 minutes to any marketing, sales, or customer service inquiry.

Staying abreast of Q&A content can also help brands understand the customer experience and opportunities for improvement. 

Embrace automation. But not too much.

Automation can help brands manage an influx of customer reviews. But authenticity is key. So the role of technology should be to assist humans so they can respond to the customer quickly and efficiently. For example, populating reference and phone number information for reviews. 

The first step is to consolidate everything from all channels into a single response platform. You can then provide automated responses for the simplest reviews. More complex issues can be filtered and routed to the right people internally for response.

If, for example, a customer leaves a 1-star or 5-star review on Google, but with no explanation, an automated response asking for further details is acceptable. 

Similarly, if a customer leaves a 1-star or 5-star review of a product citing a particular feature, automation can filter those responses based on context and sentiment intent. They can then be forwarded to the right customer care agent to formulate a response in the brand’s “voice.” Rating-specific and channel-specific response templates can help customer care agents answer customers quickly and efficiently.

Having the Right Data and Analytics to Uncover Insights Pays Big Dividends

Brands typically capture a ton of data about their customers. But few leverage UGC insight in the same way they do survey or CRM data. The truth is it represents fantastic information to drive key product and organizational improvement.

How can companies use the data to make their products better? How can they use the data to better target customers?

Even analysis of your UGC program can have big impact. Which products need more reviews? How does interaction with your UGC drive purchase activity? And beyond that, you can analyze response volume and quality to ensure your reputation management processes are as effective as possible.

Liberate Customer Sentiment to Inform Your Business.

The best way to gain 5-star reviews is to have a 5-star product. The next best thing is to listen and respond to customer feedback to create a 5-star product and/or a 5-star experience. Too often, customer engagement is siloed and the Voice of the Customer isn’t flowed throughout the organization. This is a mistake, as insights from reviews can be invaluable in informing and guiding business improvements from product development to customer service to site content. 

Brands should collaborate often to review feedback from customer reviews to respond to trends. Some brands discuss customer sentiment monthly, which isn’t nearly enough. Consider meeting a few times a week to enable a more proactive means to understand and respond to any shifts in consumer sentiment and proactively manage the customer experience and brand reputation.

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.

In the latest guide from PowerReviews...

Learn How to Grow Sales by Showcasing Your Ratings & Review Content to More Shoppers

UGC offers compelling validation and social proof during the buying journey. Generating this content in plentiful volumes across your portfolio is tough. But – once you’ve done this – how do you ensure you then get it in front of shoppers in a way that will generate the most sales?

Read our Guide to learn:

How to build a genuine omnichannel UGC marketing strategy
The many different ways leading brands and retailers use UGC to drive more business
Practical tips you can start using today to better leverage consumer review content throughout the buying journey

At the start of the month, we released our Market Trends Snapshot – an overview of what’s going on in ecommerce right now. As we all know, these are unprecedented times and the data continues to very vividly speak to that.

We hosted a webinar last week presenting a deeper dive into the findings. During this, we provided in-depth analysis of the overall sales, web traffic and review engagement/submission trends highlighted in the original snapshot data. We also looked at what has happened to consumer review length over the past few months – and provided some tips on how you can encourage longer 5-star content.

You can check out the recording of the webinar here. Otherwise, read on for an in-depth overview of all we covered plus the answers to questions posed by webinar participants.

Contents

What is the PowerReviews Market Trends Snapshot?

These insights come from analysis of consumer behavior across more than 1.5m product pages on more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites throughout between February 24 and April 24 2020. So they can be considered highly representative of existing market trends. It is published on the first of every month at PowerReviews.com/Insights.

Summary recap

Traffic up, while order volumes hit a “new normal”?

As a reminder, we started this series to measure the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior. All growth rates are therefore pegged relative to levels recorded at the end of February (pre-pandemic timing). 

After seeing skyrocketing ecommerce order volumes at first in March and then continuing through April, things started to level off through May. We haven’t surpassed the 212% increase we saw in mid-April, although we did cross the 200% increase threshold once in May (around Memorial Day).

For the most part, ecommerce orders were up between 150%-200% throughout the month. Of course the big question on everyone’s mind is will it last as stores reopen? It’s difficult to predict. We know that many regions in the US began to reopen at some point during May, particularly in the back half of the month. And yet it was then we saw the highest increases. This could potentially be explained by the fact this is typically a popular time for start-of-summer promotional activity. So one to watch for sure.

As for site traffic, that is slightly higher in May than previous months – but overall also appears to be pretty steady.As we have already mentioned in previous months’ reports, shoppers were doing a lot of buying rather than browsing at the beginning of the COVID era. We put this increase down to the return of more typical shopping habits.

Review submission volumes up 2.3x in May

Review submission volumes are a lagging indicator (because they aren’t usually solicited until a few weeks after orders are placed). So the increases we see above are in line with our expectations.

However, the extent of the increase is significant and worthy of note. The movement from 36% (in April) to 81% above late-February levels represented a 2.3x jump in review submission volumes in a month.

Next month, we may see this stabilize a bit more. However, this still highlights what a major opportunity this existing period represents for brands and retailers to continue to solicit customer content.

Review engagement increases

The above chart highlights consumer engagement with review content. Not only are customers writing reviews at an increased rate, they are reading them in greater volumes too.

For clarity, we define engagement as any sort of interaction with the review display (clicking a filter, sorting, etc). As you can see, engagement peaked at 89% (above late February levels) in late May. This took them way above what we saw prior to the pandemic.

It seems that as browsing becomes more prevalent in the shopping journey, review engagement is playing an increasingly more important role in the purchasing decision.

Review content continues to have big impact

To underscore this point, we isolated review engagement among purchasers only. Among this group, you can see that the increase in engagement has been huge. It doubled early in March, in line with increased order volumes. This engagement then remained consistently high, up 60% relative to pre-Covid times throughout May.

Again, this just underscores the importance of offering review content on your site. It provides exceptional validation and social proof to enable shoppers to make the best purchasing decisions possible.

Spotlight: Product Ratings, Customer Sentiment, and Review Length

Given that reviews continue to be a huge factor in the digital customer journey – whether shoppers end up purchasing or are just browsing – we wanted to take a deeper look. So for the rest of this blog, we focus primarily on review length.

How are existing market conditions affecting review length? Has it gone up or down as folks have flooded online? Do review ratings correlate to review length and in what way? And most, importantly, what can you do to create better review content that will convert browsers to buyers?

Review length stabilizes, ratings unchanged

With consumers at home with a ton of time on their hands, you may think they may be investing more time in creating review content. But that’s not actually proving to be the case.

Since our analysis began three months ago, we’ve found that the star ratings have remained stable but review comments are getting shorter. When we first saw that 24% dip in commentary length in March we said we’d keep an eye on it. In April, we saw a slight rebound. However, in May, this upward trajectory did not continue. So we thought it was time to dig a little deeper and also offer some tips about what you can do to reverse this trend in your business.

Review length in real terms...

This chart is the same as the one above but converted to looking at review length by character count. A character count that has decreased 20% may seem a pretty drastic change. As we reported in last month’s webinar, we know that the average review length of all the data ever captured by all PowerReviews clients comes in 154 characters. The average for the last three months: 133 characters.

When we dig a little deeper, you see the peak of 159 characters at the start of the tracking period. This figure falls to 117 in mid-March, a 42 character drop. But this then rebounds to around 140 characters before stabilizing in the 130 range.

These differences are fairly miniscule in real terms. 40 characters typically works out at 4-6 words. This may not seem like a lot but let’s take a closer look.

Low ratings correlate to long reviews, and vice versa

What happens when we start cross-referencing rating with character count? Note: we call any 4-5 star rating a promoter, 3 star rating neutral and 1-2 star rating a detractor.

Based on the above, positive-rated reviews clearly tend to be shorter than negative reviews. Intuitively, this makes sense. You’ve probably seen a lot of review comments out there that say simply “exactly as described”, “this thing is great” or similar. Negative reviews – on the other hand – tend to have more detailed explanations of why the reviewer didn’t like the product.

Negative reviews actually average more than 200 characters pretty consistently. But positive reviews track more closely to what we described across all our data. Why? Most reviews are positive. In fact, the bottom chart here highlights that a whopping 85% of product reviews are 4 and 5 star rated.

Now let’s look more closely at the context of these character counts and how they’re being impacted.

If we go a little deeper, here you can see the distribution of review commentary length (at 30 character) intervals by positive, neutral and negative ratings (as per the definitions outlined in the previous section).

You can see that the peak of the positive review curve in green is narrower and shifted more to the left than the other two lines. Nearly 10% of positive reviews are 60-90 characters in length.

But what does this actually mean? Here is a real review from one of our customers that would fall into this bucket. It states: “Love this jacket! Super comfortable and flattering. Fit was perfect too!” That three sentence review is just 72 characters and probably sounds pretty typical of the review content you analyze day to day.

As a shopper, this may well be helpful. You know that this person thought the product was comfortable and flattering, and the fit was good. But there really isn’t much underlying context (particularly obvious: what size are they?). If the reviewer had added just a few more words about why the fit was great or it was comfortable, then readers might have a better sense for whether they want the jacket.

When it comes down to it, the point of reviews is to help shoppers make the best purchasing decision possible. There needs to be meaningful information in that commentary in order to help your shoppers do that. Does review length automatically correspond to helpfulness? Let’s see what the data says.

Impact of Review Length

Here we look at the distribution of review comment length. However, instead of sorting by rating, we examine the number of helpful votes each review received from other shoppers.

Reviews that were 80-100 characters long received 2.5 helpful votes on average. This gradually increases to 500+ characters, which receives more than double the number of helpful votes (5.3). So a huge difference.

While we don’t have the data to vividly and tangibly track helpfulness to sales and conversions, it’s hardly a giant leap to assume this relationship. Why? As we mentioned, reviews exist to help consumers make purchase decisions. Period. The more helpful the review, the more likely it is to do that.

So how do you help your customers write longer reviews? How do you motivate customers writing positive reviews to say more? We know that negative reviewers already have more to say, so how can you encourage customers that are happy to elaborate?

How to get longer 5-star reviews

Structure Review Form With This Goal in Mind

In this example, you can see Room & Board’s (which happens to be a PowerReviews customer) “write a review” form. As you can see, there are a series of prompts that a customer goes through before they are asked for their open-ended commentary.

These questions serve a few purposes: 

    1. They help populate Pro/Con lists at the top of the review display that summarizes information contained in the reviews.
    2. They gather information about the customer that might be helpful to readers, like what type of home do you live in? Shoppers can then filter review responses that are most relevant.
    3. They plant seeds for the verbatim review commentary, which comes later in the form. Let’s look at this in a little more detail…

I specifically love the best uses option here. One of the most helpful topics to address in commentary is how consumers are using the product. By prompting customers to think about that by answering the question up top, you are helping them remember to include it in their free-text submission below.

Essentially, what Room and Board is doing here is guiding customers to provide better-quality reviews. Reviewers are not typically copywriters, product experts or even know the information other customers want. However, they are typically passionate about the product and motivated to provide content. So planting these ideas in their head before they get to the comment helps ensure they develop reviews that will actually help those consuming them.

Review Meter

We’ve been talking about review length a lot lately with our customers. We and they know how important it is. So we thought how can we help them generate the more detailed content that will drive more conversions?

In response, we developed our latest product innovation: the review meter.

As you can see in this interactive example, a little green bar grows as the customer types. Some explainer text beneath gently reminds customers to keep writing until they reach the minimum number of characters (this length can be customized to your own specification). Nothing stops the customer from submitting at that shorter length. But this provides some encouragement to provide just a little more detail – particularly if that customer has just been primed by you to talk about best uses or where they are using a product and why.

Once the customer hits that minimum character count, the meter lights up excitedly. The text also converts over to a “keep it up” message, further reinforcing positive behavior.

It’s very simple. But that small visual can go a long way in helping to encourage customers to talk just a little more about their experiences and/or why they like something.

Here’s what McKenna Rowe from DRINKS (featured in the image above) thinks.

"I love it! It’s elegant AND I don’t have to bug my engineers to enable it on my side! Since we implemented this, we’re already seeing much better quality reviews."

McKenna Rowe, Product Design Lead at DRINKS

Now, wine is HIGHLY subjective. So our sample reviewer (in the image) is providing context around how they usually like red blends, and they don’t usually like dry wine. Others reading then gain a sense for this reviewers’ palate. Really critical context.

If you’re a PowerReviews customer, this is super easy to enable. Your Customer Success Manager would be delighted to talk you through it so please reach out if you’re interested.

Your Questions Answered: Webinar Q&A

During the webinar, we got asked a handful of questions from our live audience. Thanks if you did ask us a question, we had some good ones. Here are my responses:

Is there data about where buyers are coming from (ie. ads, google searches, affiliate links)?

Great question. Unfortunately, we don’t have the data to go into how a reviewer ends up leaving a review if they organically visit a product page to do so. This is not the sort of thing we see our customers use digital advertising for though. They focus all that spend on converting consumers to buyers and driving product sales. Also, if you think about the dynamics of product reviews, a customer needs to buy an item in order to leave authentic and credible content. They can’t review a product without experiencing it.

For this reason, the most common method for soliciting product reviews is email. Between April 3 and June 7 2020, 60% of reviews were generated this way across all our customers (although at some ecommerce businesses, this can be as high as 90%). By comparison, 39% came in via organically navigating to the product page. A further 1% was solicited as a result of an SMS invitation. Why? The most common methodology for asking for reviews is following up a purchase with a request email.

Any idea why length is decreasing? Too much work to type?

Very difficult to say. If I had to venture a guess, you could perhaps put it down to the higher review submission levels. Perhaps individuals are providing multiple reviews as their ecommerce purchase volumes have risen. We also may be seeing more reviews coming from customers who aren’t used to buying online, and therefore aren’t used to sharing their experiences. But we don’t have the data to back that up, unfortunately.

As we say above, the change in real terms is not significant. You are talking a matter of a handful of words. So, in that sense, it’s not a big deal. But the reality is only a handful of words can make a huge difference. With review volumes up, we think this is a great opportunity to encourage better quality content, especially for your shoppers that might be new to providing this feedback.

How long is the minimum recommended review length?

It’s not black and white. This again is hard to say. It’s about finding the right length for your own business. Shoppers of higher consideration items are of course going to have more questions. So, in these cases, longer reviews will be of incrementally more value.

More generally, short reviews can still be valuable if they provide good information to convert browsers to buyers. But it’s just that longer reviews are more likely to be more valuable because they are more likely to provide this good information.

The data says 500+ character reviews are the most helpful. It’s not realistic for every review to be this detailed but this should be the aspiration.

I think if you look at where we are now as an industry (we have average review lengths of 130-140 characters), an increase of say 60ish characters to around 200 characters overall would make a big difference to conversion levels.

Is % change a comparison of YoY?

As mentioned above, the data we present starts at the end of February. We wanted to see the impact of the pandemic on ecommerce sales and review trends. Given when this was when the effects really started to kick in, this seemed a logical place to start.

With that being said, you are right we haven’t accounted for seasonality in these numbers so this may be an impacting factor. But we will try to call it out where we can - for example, the increase in volumes around Memorial Day, which tends to be a highly promotional time for retail.

For your totals and results are you using gross number of reviews or a truer number of reviews that removes duplicate and non-product related reviews?

All the reviews we analyze are product reviews. This is where our expertise is. Our analysis is on ratings and reviews content across an extensive and highly representative volume of product pages (1.5m+ product pages across 1,200+ brands).

We do help companies share the same content the same reviews across multiple sites (e.g. their own brand site, Amazon, Target etc.). In these instances, each review is only counted once in our analysis.

We support our customers with extensive human moderation resources primarily to ensure authenticity. This is actually a key difference between us and our main competitors. We exist to drive fully informed consumer purchase decisions and create transparency levels.

Our human moderators ensure no duplicate reviews are published as part of their checks.


 

Check out the recording of our webinar here or come back to PowerReviews.com/Insights next month for our July Market Trends Monthly Snapshot.

Carol Krakowski

As Director of Insights, Carol Krakowski partners with the Customer Success and Analytics teams at PowerReviews to maximize client value using PowerReviews data. With a passion for telling stories with data, she has more than eight years of experience analyzing ecommerce companies and datasets to power insights for internal and external audiences.

Webinar Speakers

Andrew Smith, Director of Product Marketing at PowerReviews

Andrew is an experienced ecommerce technology marketer. Passionate about all things internet shopping, he is excited to share the latest PowerReviews consumer trend data with the ecommerce community.


Carol Krakowski, Director of Insights at PowerReviews

Carol Krakowski headshot

Carol Krakowski partners with the Customer Success and Analytics teams at PowerReviews to maximize client value using PowerReviews data. With a passion for telling stories with data, she has more than eight years of experience analyzing ecommerce companies and datasets to power insights for internal and external audiences.

Today, nearly all consumers rely on user-generated content such as ratings and reviews, Q&A, and customer-submitted photos and videos to make informed purchase decisions. In fact, our research found that a whopping 97% of consumers consult product reviews prior to making a purchase. And 88% seek out photos and videos from other shoppers before buying.

Consumers purchasing food and beverages are no exception. 

In this post, we’ll explore why leading food and beverage brands are making user-generated content a priority and how your food and beverage brand can leverage UGC to attract and convert more shoppers, boost loyalty and improve products.

Why Food and Beverage Brands are Prioritizing User-Generated Content 

Traditionally, food and beverage purchases took place within the four walls of a brick-and-mortar store. And today, the majority of these purchases still happen in physical stores.

But food and beverage ecommerce is certainly growing. A study from TABS found that in 2019, 56% of US consumers made at least one grocery purchase online, compared to 38% in the prior year. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only sped up this growth. A report from Fabric predicts that online share of grocery sales will approach (or even exceed) 10% this year. That’s four years sooner than previously forecasted.

Online shoppers are actively seeking out user-generated content for various food and beverage products. And this content is positively impacting their purchase behavior. Our own research found that 72% of online grocery shoppers are more likely to purchase a grocery item they’ve never bought before if there are reviews for that product.

Food and beverage shoppers are also turning to user-generated content when they’re making purchases in a brick-and-mortar store — especially when they’re considering an unfamiliar product. Our research found that 52% of in-store shoppers are more likely to purchase a grocery item they’ve never purchased before if there are reviews for that product.

User-generated content gives both online and in-store food and beverage shoppers the confidence they need to try new (or new to them) products. And collecting and displaying this content has a positive impact on the brands that sell these products, too.

UGC Increases Traffic to Food and Beverage Product Pages 

In an ideal world, a shopper would navigate right to your website when they were in the market for a food or beverage product you sell. But the reality is, 70% of shoppers start the purchase journey on Google or Amazon.

The good news is, user-generated content like reviews and Q&A makes it easier for shoppers to find your product pages, even when they’re not starting their search on your website. By continuously collecting user-generated content, your site’s content remains fresh and relevant with keyword-rich, permanent assets on your product pages. Search engines can crawl this content, which helps more shoppers find it. At PowerReviews, we’ve found that brands experience a 20% traffic lift from organic search when displaying user-generated content. 

UGC Boosts Sales of Food and Beverage Products

Once a shopper lands on a food or beverage product page, user-generated content (or the lack thereof) helps determine what happens next. If there’s user-generated content on the page, the shopper is more likely to purchase the product in question.

At PowerReviews, we’ve found that brands can experience a 65% increase in conversion when reviews are displayed on a product page. And they can expect a 6X sales lift when a customer’s question is answered via Q&A.

UGC Enables you to Better Serve Customers  

The content your shoppers submit is full of insights that can help you improve not only your products, but the overall experiences your shoppers have with your brand. This, in turn, will boost loyalty — and sales. 

For example, perhaps you notice many shoppers rave about the taste of an energy drink, but many complain about the cap being difficult to open. This could be an opportunity to work with your supplier to improve the packaging. You can also respond to reviews mentioning the tricky cap to let shoppers know you care about their feedback and are taking action to resolve the issue.

How Food and Beverage Brands can Leverage UGC to Boost the Bottom Line

User-generated content helps food and beverage shoppers make confident purchase decisions. And it helps food and beverage brands attract and convert more shoppers. 

Let’s explore a few ways you can leverage UGC to boost your business results.

Collect and Display Reviews

Reviews are important at the best of times. But in the wake of COVID-19, consumers rely on reviews even more. Our recent analysis found that consumer interaction with online reviews (think sorting, filtering, etc.) has almost doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels.

If you’re not already, now’s the time to start collecting product reviews from your shoppers. The most effective way to do this is to send a follow-up email to your shoppers asking them to submit reviews. Also, be sure the entire collection process is easy for your shoppers to compete on any device. 

Once you’ve started collecting reviews, display this content in a way that’s easy for shoppers to find and consume. Make reviews front and center on your product pages and throughout your website.

Collect and Display Customers’ Photos and Videos

Professional photos and videos of your products are important. But for many shoppers, they’re not enough. As mentioned earlier, our research found that 88% of shoppers specifically seek out visual content like photos and videos submitted by other customers before making a purchase.

Food and beverage shoppers use customer-submitted visual content to better understand product characteristics like size and texture — and to discover new ways to use a product. For example, Canyon Bakehouse collects customer-photos and videos, many of which show unique ways shoppers are using their gluten-free bread products. 

Start collecting visual content both natively and through Instagram. Then, display this content on your product pages and throughout your website to engage and inspire your shoppers. 

Empower Food and Beverage Shoppers to Ask Questions

No matter how comprehensive your product descriptions, shoppers will still have questions. Consider adding a Q&A tool to your website so shoppers can get answers to their purchase-blocking questions right on your product pages.

Make sure your Q&A is searchable so future shoppers can see if their question has already been asked and answered. 

Syndicate Content to Your Retail Partners

If you’re like most food and beverage brands, you sell your products through a variety of different channels. If so, be sure you’re syndicating your user-generated content, including ratings and reviews, Q&A, and consumer-submitted photos and videos. That way, content submitted on your own website will also appear on product pages on your retail partners’ websites.

For example, this review for Hormel’s real crumbled bacon was originally submitted on the brand’s website. But thanks to content sharing, it also appears on the product page on Target.com.

By sharing your review content, consumers can find the content they’re looking for, regardless of where they’re shopping for your products.

Highlight User-Generated Content on Amazon

Today, many shoppers start their purchase journey on Amazon. Ensure they can find all of the information they’re looking for — including social proof in the form of user-generated content.

Of course, it’s important to collect user-generated content natively on Amazon. But to maximize review coverage, you’ll also want to ask your ratings and reviews provider if they make it easy for those who write reviews to share that content on Amazon.

In addition, look for unique ways to highlight user-generated content on your Amazon product pages. For example, you can create an image that includes text from a positive review and add it to your image carousel to entice shoppers to learn more.

Showcase UGC in Your Other Marketing Channels

Food and beverage shoppers trust the opinions of others like them. So look for ways to enhance your marketing initiatives — including emails, organic and paid Instagram and Facebook posts, and retargeting ads — with user-generated content like star ratings, excerpts from reviews, and photos taken by your shoppers.

For example, Brew Dr. Kombucha regularly showcases photos taken by shoppers on their own Instagram page.

And Silk uses the text of a customer review in one of their Instagram posts.

Make User-Generated Content Accessible In-Store  

A PowerReviews survey found that 70% of consumers are interested in accessing product ratings and reviews in-store. And as mentioned earlier, the presence of this content makes a shopper more likely to try a new food or beverage product.

Ensure the reviews, Q&A, photos and videos on your website are easy to consume on a mobile device. And look for opportunities to enhance in-store displays, product signage and product packaging with star ratings, excerpts from reviews or even photos submitted by your customers.

Leverage Insights to Improve Your Business

User-generated content is chock full of valuable insights that can fuel better business decisions for food and beverage brands. But far too often, these insights remain untouched.

Start leveraging the insights from your user-generated content to identify ways to improve your food and beverage products and your customers’ overall experience with your company.

You can start by monitoring the overall sentiment for a specific product, or example, a new iced tea you just released. If you notice it’s mostly negative, you can dig into the content more to identify specific ways to improve the product — or even pull it altogether. 

You can also acknowledge negative feedback from shoppers, which can help you turn negative situations around and show shoppers you are a brand that cares about its customers. This builds loyalty, which then drives sales.

Start Leveraging User-Generated Content to Drive Food and Beverage Sales

Today, food and beverage shoppers depend on user-generated content to make informed business decisions and gain the confidence they need to try new products. This is true regardless of whether a consumer opts to purchase food and beverages online or within the four walls of a brick-and-mortar store.

Food and beverage brands that effectively leverage user-generated content have a big opportunity to drive traffic and sales, uncover actionable insights, and build a reputation as a customer-centric business.

Allen Neal

Allen is a Corporate Account Executive at PowerReviews, where he has been helping drive ecommerce growth and awareness for brands and retailers for 2 years. He is fascinated by digital technology and its impact on consumer behavior and our daily lives.

JUNE 2, 2020 CHICAGO, ILLINOIS— PowerReviews reveals the staggering changes in consumer behavior and interaction with online ratings and reviews over the past three months in its research published today.

The June edition of the PowerReviews Market Trends Snapshot is based on analysis of consumer activity across more than 1.5MM review product pages from the websites of more than 1,200 brands over the past three months. It reveals:

  • Digital sales volumes increased 206% from February 2020 to May 2020, but stable over past month
  • Review submission volumes up 2.3x from April to May
  • Consumer review engagement has increased steadily over the past three months; hits high of 89% above pre-pandemic levels in May.

Carol Krakowski – Director, Insights at PowerReviews, states:

“Review submission volumes increased significantly in May, which was the biggest change in all the metrics we analyze. We actually predicted this in last month’s snapshot because we know review submissions lags behind time of purchase. With sales levels showing no signs of declining, we would expect this figure to either climb further still or at the very least remain at its currently high level.”

“Purchase volumes continue to consistently be at around three times pre-pandemic levels. They did not significantly decrease or increase since last month’s snapshot report. This implies normalization in the market. It’ll be very interesting to see how much of this holds once stores reopen.”

“Consumers continue to rely on ratings and review content to justify purchase decisions, providing the validation and social proof necessary to drive sales. Review engagement among purchasers is now at around 70% higher than more typical times and total review engagement has steadily increased in the last three months.”

Online shopping volumes stabilize at 3x pre-pandemic levels

eCommerce web traffic also begins to rise in April after staying steady through March.

Page visits climb slightly, orders remain at same high level

Consumer review submission volumes up 2.3x from April to May

Review volumes climb steadily over last three months and reached 81% above end of February levels

Review submission volumes rise significantly after starting to climb in April

PowerReviews will be hosting a webinar on Thursday June 11th offering a deepdive into these findings.

Read the full research findings on the PowerReviews blog.

Research Methodology

PowerReviews research is based on analysis of activity across more than 1.5MM product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites between February 24, 2020 and May 24, 2020.

FURTHER INQUIRIES

Andrew Smith

Marketing Director

andrew.smith@powerreviews.com

ABOUT POWERREVIEWS

PowerReviews (PowerReviews.com) is a software and data company that works with 1000+ leading brands and retailers to bring authenticity and transparency to commerce.  The PowerReviews Customer Content Platform has four solutions that help our customers collect and manage customer-generated content to improve the product and customer experience across the customer journey. We help clients meet the evolving need for social proof, accelerating the path to purchase and brand advocacy.

PowerReviews is known for innovation, consultative partnership, and actionable insights, supported by our open platform and approach.  Our dedicated team of experts provides thoughtful analysis and turn-key service. PowerReviews is headquartered in Chicago, IL, USA.

On June 1, we published our monthly ecommerce trends snapshot – an analysis of consumer activity across 1.5MM+ online product pages from 1,200+ retail/brand sites from February to May 2020. It revealed that the ecommerce landscape has settled into a “new normal”.

In this webinar, we dig deeper into the data and provide an in-depth analysis from our experts.

We explore:

  • The huge increase in sales volumes over the past three months, which have stabilized at a “new normal” level
  • A 2.3x increase in review submission levels over the past month alone and reasons for that
  • Review ratings and length trends, and some practical tips for encouraging longer 5-star reviews
  • And much more

Webinar Speakers

Andrew Smith, Director of Product Marketing at PowerReviews

Andrew is an experienced ecommerce technology marketer. Passionate about all things internet shopping, he is excited to share the latest PowerReviews consumer trend data with the ecommerce community.


Carol Krakowski, Director of Insights at PowerReviews

Carol Krakowski headshot

Carol Krakowski partners with the Customer Success and Analytics teams at PowerReviews to maximize client value using PowerReviews data. With a passion for telling stories with data, she has more than eight years of experience analyzing ecommerce companies and datasets to power insights for internal and external audiences.

This is the third edition of our monthly snapshot (previous versions here and here). This is our June version of the same report, analyzing consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

This time, we focused on a three-month period (starting February 24 2020 and ending May 24 2020). Each report, we specifically analyse review submission levels, review length and sentiment, overall conversions/sales and review consumption.

We are seeing stabilization in most of the data we capture, as the market seemingly adapts to a new “normal”. Ecommerce sales volumes are still at around three times pre-pandemic levels, although there was a small increase in web traffic since our last snapshot report. The biggest change we saw was an increase in reviews submitted, which more than doubled in May alone. 

Key ecommerce market trends

01

Digital sales increase 206% between February and May, stabilizing at new high levels after climbing through April

02

Review submission levels up 2.3x from April to May, while overall consumer sentiment remains steady

03

Review content continues to be critical to converting browsers to buyers

Order transaction volumes stabilize at new high level but page visits climb

In last month’s snapshot, we reported two months of continuous and significant growth in digital consumer transactions. It was unsurprising that these surged given broader social and political conditions driven by the pandemic. But the extent of the growth (up 212% in less than two months) really underlined the huge shift that occurred.

Based on what we’ve seen throughout the month of May, it seems that ecommerce is now operating in a “new normal” environment. Our data peaks towards the end of our analysis period (up 206% on May 22 in comparison to the end of February) highlighting no let-up in demand.

However, we did see a slight climb in traffic. Baselining our data at the end of February, page visits hit a peak increase of 63% in late April. This same number rose to a 79% increase on May 17. We had noted that consumers were buying rather than shopping before. This change indicates that they are becoming slightly less decisive as the pandemic continues.

We talked about channel shifting last time as consumers used to shopping in-store were forced to transition online. This slight increase in page traffic is also potentially part of this shift to a “new normal” as shoppers become more familiar with browsing online. Uncertainty around job security and income is also most likely playing a role in consumers becoming less decisive.

Traffic up, while order volumes hit a “new normal”?
Page-visits-climb-slightly-orders-remain-at-same-high-level.png

Review submission levels more than double, while review content and sentiment remains consistent

The big story when it comes to review content is that review volumes have risen significantly, up 2.3x from April to May. At the beginning of the month, review submission volumes were 81% higher than they were at the end of February. In late April, the same comparative figure was 36% – which was the peak we saw in that month.

This is to be expected to a certain extent: review submission volumes always lag behind purchases for obvious reasons (typically, consumers like to try the product a little before reviewing it). It is perhaps also a reflection of consumers not used to shopping online becoming more accustomed to doing so and adopting more typical ecommerce-driven behaviors.

In terms of the actual content of reviews, there were not any huge shifts. Sentiment – in the form of average rating – remains flat, which makes sense given the products themselves are unlikely to have changed significantly in this period. Review length is down slightly on pre-pandemic levels but, given the average review length is 154 characters, a decrease of 10-20% is not particularly significant or meaningful.

Review volumes up 2.3x in May
Review-submission-volumes-rise-significantly-after-starting-to-climb-in-April.png
Review length stabilizes, ratings unchanged
Review-length-still-down-very-slightly-on-pre-pandemic-levels.png

Review content continues to be critical to driving purchase decisions

As we reported previously, reviews have become even more important in the COVID-19 era. Consumers that convert were engaging with review content (sorting, filtering etc) at as much as double the rate they were before the epidemic fully hit the U.S in April.

Mirroring how sales volumes have leveled off over the past month, typical review engagement was consistently 70%+ up on “typical” levels. Shoppers are still heavily relying on review content to assess product quality and make purchase decisions, as evidenced in total review interaction levels – which have increased steadily since we started capturing this data at the end of February. In May, this hit a high of 89% above end of February levels.

As we theorized last month, we believe this is most likely because low inventory levels are forcing consumers to buy products they hadn’t previously before.

Review content continues to have big impact
Consumers-still-relying-on-reviews-to-make-purchase-sessions-at-higher-rate-than-before-pandemic.png
Review engagement increases
Consumer-interactions-with-online-reviews-almost-doubles-compared-to-pre-pandemic-levels.png

Summary

Review submission volumes increased significantly in May, which was the biggest change in all the metrics we analyze. We actually predicted this in last month’s snapshot because we know review submissions lag behind the time of purchase. With sales levels showing no signs of declining, we would expect this figure to either climb further still or at the very least remain at its currently high level. With this being the case, this period represents an excellent opportunity to generate deep and impactful review content from your customers.

Speaking of sales volumes, they continue to consistently be at around three times pre-pandemic levels. They did not significantly decrease or increase since last month’s snapshot report. This implies normalization in the market. It’ll be very interesting to see how much of this holds once stores reopen.

Consumers continue to rely on ratings and review content to justify purchase decisions, providing the validation and social proof necessary to drive sales. Review engagement among purchasers is now at around 70% higher than more typical times and total review engagement has steadily increased in the last three months.

For a deep dive into these findings, register for our webinar on June 11.

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