User-generated content (UGC) — including reviews, Q&A, photos and videos — is proven to drive sales growth for brands and retailers. Our own data tells us that once a product starts displaying reviews, the conversion rate for that product increases by 65%, on average. The same goes for imagery: on average, a product experiences a 69% increase in conversion when just one customer-generated image is added to the product page.

While sales growth is certainly an important benefit of UGC, it’s far from the only one. In fact, there’s another huge plus of collecting this content. And it’s one that’s often overlooked by even most progressive brands and retailers.

UGC is full of rich data that — when leveraged — can drive positive change throughout your entire organization.

Of course, you probably use other tools — including surveys —  to capture feedback from your customers that you can then take action on. But the beauty of UGC is that you can easily map feedback to specific products. And that makes it a whole lot easier to take meaningful action on the data. 

Why eCommerce Managers Should Analyze UGC Data

Constant analysis of UGC data is key to uncovering impactful ways to improve the ROI of your UGC program. 

For starters, this data gives you a very clear picture of what types of content is driving sales. For example, you might discover that website visitors who engage with reviews convert at a much higher rate than those who don’t. Based on this data, you determine it’s important to have plenty of reviews for plenty of your products — including any offerings you’re launching in the future. So you decide to execute a series of pre-launch product sampling campaigns to generate reviews before your new products hit the shelves. 

Data can also help you understand how shoppers are interacting with the different components of your content display — and how it’s impacting sales. You can then use this information to optimize your display  — and drive even better results.

For example, our friends at Clinique might notice that a lot of shoppers filter reviews to see only the one-star content. Surprisingly, though, these folks go on to convert at a higher level than those that don’t. 

There might be an opportunity here for Clinique to make this filtering functionality even more prominent. That way, shoppers can easily identify the “worst case” scenario and determine if it’s something they can live with.

5 Other Teams that can Leverage UGC to Drive Positive Change 

So the data from your user-generated content can help you optimize your overall program. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

UGC is full of actionable insights that can drive meaningful change throughout your company. 

But data without action is pointless. The key is to get the right data into the right hands to put the data into action.

Who can benefit from the insights in UGC? Let’s take a closer look at how five of the likely key teams at your company can leverage the data from UGC to make impactful improvements — and boost your company’s bottom line. 

The Product Innovation Team

Innovation teams are constantly looking for opportunities to develop new products — or even entire product lines. The data from UGC is a great resource to uncover these. 

For example, let’s say there’s a CPG company that sells protein drinks. The company’s product innovation team is always on the hunt for new ideas. The team analyzes their UGC for existing products and discovers that shoppers frequently suggest a pumpkin pie flavored product. They also notice that a competitor offers a pumpkin spice protein drink, and it seems to perform well with shoppers. So the team starts putting together a proof of concept (POC).

The R&D Team

Coming up with a great product idea isn’t enough. Instead, it’s critical to iterate and improve on that product to ensure it’s in line with market demand. The data from UGC can help your research and development (R&D) team do that. In fact, UGC is full of actionable insights you can use to discover and fix problems with your products — or identify and implement ways to take your product to the next level.

Let’s take a look at an example of these insights in action.

Clif Bar & Company, a food and beverage brand, recently developed a new product formula. Before officially launching, the company conducted a sampling campaign. They found that the average rating on the new bar was 2, and sentiment around the word “taste” was particularly negative. After digging into the content, they found that one of the ingredients wasn’t mixing well with the others. They made a quick change to the formula and ran another product sampling campaign prior to launch. The result? The average star rating jumped to over 4. And the company launched a product they knew would resonate with their customers. 

The Merchandising Team

Merchandising teams are responsible for ensuring a retailer sells the right mix of products that meet the needs of its customers. Typically, a merchandise manager oversees buying for a specific category or set of categories. But in order to make informed buying decisions, they’ve got to understand why a product did (or didn’t) sell.

Your merchandising teams can analyze the UGC from your own eCommerce site — and benchmark this against your competitors — to uncover great insights. The result: better purchase decisions. For example, merchandisers might leverage data from UGC to eliminate products, add new offerings, negotiate better deals, and even work with merchants to improve products.

Let’s take a look at a couple real-life examples. 

Room&Board had a lounge chair that sold well but had the occasional poor review. Looking at those reviews as a whole, a criticism that kept coming up was that the fade-resistant chairs weren’t living up to those claims. After identifying the issue as a material defect and making exchanges for those customers, the merchandising team used this data to negotiate a major price break on a large new order they were placing.

Room&Board identified a manufacturing defect in one of its products.

Gardener’s Supply Company is another PowerReviews customer whose merchandising team depends on the data from UGC. Recently, this retailer found that one of their top-selling watering cans had several reviews that noted leaking. The merchandising team was able to share specific data with the merchant to make improvements to the watering can.

Gardener’s Supply Company uses UGC to improve products.

The Customer Insights Team

Customer Insights teams are focused on better understanding current and prospective customers. UGC can be a powerful source of data to enhance their analysis, and it can even lead to improvements of the overall customer experience.

For example, Discount Tires is a PowerReviews customer that collects ratings and reviews not only for products — but also for store experiences. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the company implemented some store-specific policy changes, including mask requirements and the option to self park in order to allow for social distancing. When analyzing the store reviews, Discount Tires determined these safety measures were well received by customers. Based on this data, they made the decision to make these company-wide policies. 

The Marketing Team

Marketing teams are tasked with developing messaging and campaigns that attract the right shoppers. The data from UGC can make their initiatives even more effective.

In fact, there are countless ways marketing teams can leverage the data from UGC to better position, differentiate and promote a product. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

One way marketers can leverage the insights from UGC is to get a better understanding of what matters to shoppers who have purchased a specific product. For example, a skincare company can determine whether shoppers care about an item being fragrance-free. If it’s a feature that’s frequently mentioned in reviews, the team may want to make this a more prominent message on the website and other marketing initiatives. 

Analyzing your UGC (and that of your competitors) is also a great way for your marketing team to understand what words your shoppers are actually using when describing products. Your marketing team can then use this information to improve campaign performance. For example, New Balance, a PowerReviews customer, analyzes UGC to understand how their customers are talking about their products. Then, they use the words and phrases they uncover to power SEO and paid search ads. 

Maximize the Impact of Your UGC

User-generated content — including reviews, Q&A, photos and videos — is full of powerful insights that can position your business to better serve its customers. But all too often, this rich data source isn’t used to its full potential. And its impact can stretch way beyond your ecommerce team alone.

Ensure you fully explore all the different insights it generates and make an active effort to get these into the hands of the different teams around your business which can take action on them. In doing so, you make yourself a hugely valuable resource. Why? Because doing so enables meaningful, data-driven changes to products and experiences — which can have a significant and measurable impact on your company’s bottom line.

Arend Henderson

Arend is the SVP, Analytics for PowerReviews. He is responsible for leading the analytics team, which develops behavioral insights and other optimization and measurement solutions for our clients.

An Analysis of 7.8 Million Reviews in the PowerReviews Open Network

There was once a time (in the not so distant past) when the idea of asking for feedback from customers — then displaying that feedback for the world to see — was a pretty radical concept. But now, the importance of ratings and reviews is largely understood by brands and retailers as a key part of the consumer’s purchase journey. In fact, nearly all consumers consult customer reviews, and 86% consider them an essential resource when making a purchase decision.

Clearly, consumers find reviews helpful when identifying the products that best fit their needs. But not all reviews are created equal. While one review may be full of great insights, another may fall short. At PowerReviews, we allow consumers to give individual reviews “helpful” or “not helpful” votes to indicate how useful a given review was during the shopping experience.

A helpful review example.

So what makes one review more helpful than another? To shed light on this question, we analyzed 7.8 million reviews from the past year in the PowerReviews Open Network to determine the common features of reviews that have been voted by consumers as helpful. We explored the impact of various review characteristics — including review length, sentiment and recency — as well as the types of products that are most likely to have reviews with helpful votes.

During the most recent PowerReviews webinar, I shared the results of this analysis. Read on for a summary of three key findings that I shared during the webinar, as well as some recommendations for brands and retailers to start generating and displaying the content that’s most helpful to consumers.

Longer Reviews Aid Consumers

We found that review length is the characteristic most correlated with helpful votes. The longer the character count of a review, the greater its average number of helpful votes. While a review that’s under 20 characters has an average of 2.3 helpful votes, a review with 500 or more characters has an average of 5.3 helpful votes.

Longer Reviews are More Helpful
Longer review helpfulness infographic

Recommendation for Brands and Retailers: Longer reviews provide greater detail, which make them more helpful to future shoppers. One way for brands and retailers to generate longer (and likely, more helpful) reviews is to tie in review generation to an existing rewards program and award points for longer reviews, regardless of the star rating. Then, once a consumer accrues a set number of points, they receive some type of award, such as a coupon or a code for free shipping.

One-Star Reviews Have the Most Helpful Votes

Our analysis also found that one-star reviews, on average, generate more “helpful” votes than any other star rating. Why? Because—in addition to adding a level of authenticity to your review content, negative reviews steer consumers towards products that best fit their needs.

Consumers want to hear the worst thing someone has to say about a product. In fact, 82% of consumers seek out negative reviews. Reading negative reviews helps a consumer determine if negative elements are relevant to their needs.

For example, let’s say you’re a brand that sells running shoes. One particular style of shoe has a one-star rating, with a review that notes that the shoe doesn’t work well for trail running. A future shopper finds this review helpful because she does all of her running on a treadmill. The previous consumer’s comment about trail running is irrelevant to her.

Average Helpful Votes By Star Rating
How helpful a review is based on star rating

Recommendation for Brands and Retailers: Though you certainly don’t want to aim for negative reviews, this content is a helpful tool that allows consumers to identify the products that best fit their needs. In addition, negative reviews provide a level of authenticity to your content. Previous research found that nearly half (44%) of Generation Z shoppers wouldn’t trust a product’s reviews if there were no negative reviews present. And finally, negative reviews allow you to identify insights to improve future iterations of your products, as well as the overall customer experience.

Visual Content Boosts Helpfulness

A growing number of consumers are seeking out reviews that include user-submitted visual content, such as photos and videos. In fact, recent research on the role of visual content found that 88% of consumers look for visual content—such as photos and videos—submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase. And a product experiences a 69% conversion rate lift, on average, when that product adds at least one user-generated image.

Since consumers are actively seeking out this content, it makes sense that reviews with helpful votes include more photos and videos than those without. Reviews with helpful votes have 16% more videos and 13.8% more photos than those without visual content.

Recommendation for Brands and Retailers: More and more consumers depend on user-generated visual content to inform their purchases. Ensure you’re making it easy for your shoppers to submit photos and videos as part of their reviews. This visual content makes product reviews even more helpful to future shoppers.

Curious what else I covered during this webinar? Watch the on-demand session now!

Arend Henderson

Arend is the SVP, Analytics for PowerReviews. He is responsible for leading the analytics team, which develops behavioral insights and other optimization and measurement solutions for our clients.

By now, it’s largely understood that reviews are a key part of the path to purchase. But what makes one review more helpful than another?

To shed light on this question, we analyzed 7.8 million reviews from the past year in the PowerReviews network to determine the common attributes of reviews that have been voted by consumers as “helpful.” Consumers can give individual reviews “helpful” or “not helpful” votes to indicate how useful the review was during the shopping experience.

During this webinar, Arend Henderson, Senior Vice President of Analytics at PowerReviews will share what we learned from this analysis. He’ll cover:

  • The common characteristics of reviews that are voted as helpful
  • What products are most likely to have helpful reviews
  • What businesses can do to make it easy for consumers to find helpful reviews
  • And more!

Arend Henderson

Arend is the SVP, Analytics for PowerReviews. He is responsible for leading the analytics team, which develops behavioral insights and other optimization and measurement solutions for our clients.

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