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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