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.
Brands and retailers continually look for new and inventive ways to get the most out of their user-generated content, whether it’s from social media or ratings and reviews. And to provide clarity and inspire some “outside the box” ideas, PowerReviews hosted four separate hackathon groups of roughly 20 industry experts in retail, CPG and ecommerce.
What was the goal?
We simply wanted to understand the biggest pain points for brands and retailers in terms of review and UGC collection in 2019. Industry leaders don’t require nearly as much convincing when it comes to the power of the voice of the customer, but instead, these experts want more effective ways to collect consumer feedback.
Through the different sessions, there were a lot of similar themes and challenges for brands and retailers to successfully collect content. To help with this, PowerReviews provided insights into the future of review collection and how businesses can get smarter with their technology without spending a fortune.
To break down the commonalities, we’re providing the three biggest takeaways coming from the nearly 80 brand and retailer experts at this year’s hackathon:
1. Use On-Pack Solicitation for Review Collection
There’s one piece of real estate brands own when it comes to the shopping experience–your product packaging and labels. Because there’s such a limit to what brands can do with improving shopping experiences, it’s essential to take advantage of what goes on your product packaging.
Brands are constantly looking for new and inventive ways to spark interest or drive an action through product labeling. One common theme we addressed in each session was the power of asking for reviews specifically on the label.
Through the help of QR codes, the process of collecting reviews is much easier for brands. Additionally, you’re providing customers with an even easier way to write a review with a simple scan of the QR code with a smartphone.
Pew Research estimates 81% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone in 2018, which is drastically higher than the estimated 35% just eight years prior. What used to be a multi-step approach to get people to download a QR code app and then scan has changed. Now it’s practically a universal feature included on new smartphones.
Shoppers only have to open their smartphone camera, scan the code and get sent directly to a review collection page. Making this process easier improves the chances of content collection, especially if the code sends them to a form instead of the product page, which requires further scrolling to get to the “submit a review” section.
When looking at brands selling perishable products, one of the biggest challenges is collecting ratings and reviews in the first place. But these brands have an opportunity to use QR codes on its packaging to encourage consumers to quickly leave a review while in the moment.
2. Continually Keep Review Content Fresh & Organic
While it sounds like we’re describing the produce aisle of a Whole Foods, there’s no question in the power of fresh and organic review content. One of the bigger challenges of brands running product sampling campaigns is they generate a ton of review content during the initiative, but don’t see reviews to continue to flow in once it ends.
This is why PowerReviews works hard to ensure that our clients don’t just collect content, but generate the most possible ratings and reviews on a regular basis. Even though products with several reviews is a good thing, that sentiment can come to a screeching halt if the last review was from 3 years ago.
That might not seem like a long time, but for consumers, it’s an eternity. Remove the doubt by constantly running campaigns to keep content fresh. One campaign is not enough to plug and forget.
Brands have to keep their review content fresh and one way to do this is through a sweepstakes campaign. By running a sweepstakes for your customers, you increase their interest by monetizing their efforts to leave feedback.
Some of the attending brands and retailers explained that event marketing campaigns are also a great (and unique) avenue to generate more reviews. It’s smart to get feedback directly from product samples at various events to have fresh, relevant content.
At the end of the day, your customers have a natural inclination to talk about your products. So why not provide them with the easiest ways possible to leave reviews or submit user-generated content?
3. Tailor Social Collection to Your Own Needs
We heard you–social collection is essential to your user-generated content campaigns. This type of content helps solidify and build trust in other shoppers’ purchasing decisions.
The challenge is user-generated content collection has a lot of nuances and special needs for each brand. And the problem is many review syndication companies don’t let you tailor social collection capabilities to your specific needs.
PowerReviews believes social collection is not a “one size fits all” solution, which is why we let brands and retailers restructure their collection capabilities to meet the needs of their own processes. Having the ability to put images where you want on your product or category pages is essential to many businesses.
Another common challenge brands and retailers discussed was fitting some of their products into the budget to generate more review content. In fact, several brands have problems getting the budget to get more reviews. This is especially true for the tail-end list of their product portfolio.
This means brands have to get strategic with the way they collect more content and make use of it. One avenue brands forget about is SMS for review collection. We’ve found that brands using SMS review collection see up to 4 times more reviews.
We know that SMS is a great collection capability that delivers more conversation-driving content. Additionally, these features help you keep review content fresh and relevant. It’s all about finding new and unique ways to get more content to your product pages.
We hope everyone who attended the Hoboken Hackathon walked away with some inspiration. It’s time to get strategic about UGC and review collection. For those who didn’t attend, our team felt it was a great opportunity to showcase our knowledge of the industry. We wanted to provide quick ways to win at content collection.
Our next session will be at the London Hackathon October 22 to 23, 2019. So book your spot today to hear our industry experts provide amazing insights into simpler and more effective review collection.
Last year we wrote about what a transformative trade conference the inaugural GroceryShop event had been. Few of the attendees–even among the event creators who developed the wildly-successful Shoptalk event–understood the magnitude with which the GroceryShop experience would resonate with brands, retailers and solutions providers.
Originally planned for 1,000 attendees, the rolls swelled to over 2,000 by the time the show opened. This year, attendance is expected to exceed 3,000 grocery-focused industry professionals.
GroceryShop is able to draw such a crowd because the gravitas of their speakers eclipse those of any other similar food and beverage show. A veritable who’s who of retail and brand ecommerce and marketing luminaries, GroceryShop is poised to define the omnichannel customer experience direction of the industry for the year to come.
Here are seven major themes that we expect to play out in the presentations and discussions next week in Las Vegas:
1. Content Is King
Shoppers expect product content to be accessible online, in-store and in-between. This includes pricing, availability, visual content, product descriptions, in-store aisle location, ratings, reviews, questions, answers, coupons, recipes, nutritional information and health lifestyle compliance (Vegan, Paleo, Non-GMO, etc.).
If a retailer isn’t able to make the content available to its shoppers, expect them to turn to Amazon, even if they are walking your aisles or browsing your site. Amazon now displays product ratings and review count on digital shelf tags in their physical stores. Other retailers need to wake up and take notice.
2. Shoppers Seek Trust & Demand Authenticity
It should not surprise anyone that shoppers are more willing to trust product opinions of other shoppers they have never met more than the brand or the retailer that sold them an item. With all the talk of fake reviews, and government regulators seeking to identify and punish companies that do not deliver authenticity, expect success to be driven by how a brand communicates the underlying trust factors that go into the collection and display of shopper-generated content.
3. Digital Must Reach Brick & Mortar
If “click and mortar” retailers think digital is only meaningful for shopping outside of the store, think again. You cannot win shoppers in one channel only to lose them in another. Digital must be a complement to the physical shopping experience, informing and directing the customer as they traverse the store.
4. Native & Traditional Brands Blurring the Line
Remember digitally-native and micro brands like Dollar Shave Club? Now, these brands are entering physical stores. Check out Target with Harry’s, Quip and other brands that originally started online. Then look at Nike’s efforts to shift its business model to focus on direct to consumer. It isn’t just one or the other, and omnichannel retailers are competing to find the right model for growth.
5. Measuring the Customer Journey
Whether offline or online, retailers need to start benchmarking the shopper journey over time and against competitors. This is the only way they improve and grow their businesses. It’s important that retailers measure the customer journey, reduce costs and improve customer experience.
6. Retailers Must Own Their Customer Experience
Several years ago, grocery retailers of all sizes were faced with the challenge that Peapod, Amazon Fresh and Walmart mounted in establishing formidable ecommerce beachheads in their industry. Anyone who works in retail understands the resource constraints, both technical and financial, that inhibit them from moving quickly and decisively.
Along comes Instacart with a model that involves little to no capital or resource investment in exchange for a digital presence. But the price paid by the retailers who joined the Instacart family was a homogeneous customer experience that they can no longer afford to tolerate, especially if Instacart is poised to be a direct competitor.
Expect grocers small and large to seek ways to customize or even configure the customer experience to be more unique.
7. Data Will Define Success
This week Target announced it would launch a new loyalty program in October. Getting customers to willingly identify themselves in transactions helps build rich longitudinal sales data. This in turn can be used to profile shoppers and build propensity models for communications targeting.
Club stores already attribute 100% of item sales to individual households. Major grocers like Kroger are close and in the 95%+ range, which allows them to drive measurable sales lift through precision marketing (just ask Kroger’s 84.51 division).
Retailers need to use AI-driven Natural Language Processing to make sense of all the shopper sentiment they collect that informs brands about what themes and words are most closely associated with positive and negative product perceptions.
Expectations are set high and Groceryshop is sure to please.
The world of private label products, especially in the grocery industry, has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Around half-a-decade ago, Consumer Reports said 93% of U.S. women shoppers chose private label brands to save money. But as the market shifts, consumers are opening their pocket books a bit more, but only if they trust the quality of the products.
And how are shoppers gaining trust on private label brands? It’s all about trust and marketers are continuing to see the power of positive shopper reviews influence these decisions.
We know that every major grocery retailer is focused on improving their margins through marketing their owned brands or private label. So when a shopper chooses to purchase a private label item, the price they pay (and the sales revenue the retailer realizes) is typically much lower than what would be generated by a comparable national brand.
However, the profit the retailer generates is often 5 to 10 times more (and sometimes even higher) than what the national brand produces. It’s no wonder retailers always look for ways to get their shoppers to purchase private label items.
Why Trust is Changing the Private Label Sector
The primary mechanisms for promoting private label revolve around lower prices, advertising in their weekly circular, featuring products on their website and providing placement adjacent to comparable national brands on their physical and digital shelves.
There’s just one problem with these tactics.
None of these approaches address the central obstacle to shoppers trying private label products: trust. Shoppers want to know if the private label product quality is as good as the national brand.
And there’s something to say about the big products ringing in consumers’ ears–people recognize more popular items, are assured of the quality and ultimately, know what they’re getting.
In a study released by the Magid market research firm, data shows that brand trust is more important in grocery than in any other major industry. That’s a 17% jump from the next highest major industry demanding brand trust, appliances and furniture.
So what should grocers be doing to improve their shoppers’ confidence?
How Grocers Drive Trust in Private Label Products
Fortunately, there are solutions that get to the heart of the consumer confidence. In the same Magid marketing report, data further identified the greatest driver of private label penetration as positive shopper reviews.
More than trust in the retailer, the associated savings or good experiences with other similar private label products, shoppers simply trust one another. The opinions of other shoppers who previously purchased the products have a major influence on whether new shoppers are willing to give the private label product a try.
The issue is many retailers who display product reviews actually do not assign any significant resources toward collecting reviews and promoting them for their private label items.
If we take a cursory look at five of the top CPG retailers displaying product reviews, the data illustrates the issue:
- About half of private label items have 0 reviews
- Nearly 20% of private label items have 1 review
- Almost 30% of private label items have 2-49 reviews
- Roughly 1% of private label items have 50+ reviews
Positive Shopper Reviews Add Credence to Private Label Products
We know that private label products depend on trust from consumers, and that the best way to increase assurance is through positive shopper reviews. But how do you implement a review strategy that can reshape your grocery commerce in the private label sector?
Whether or not you’re using a reviews syndication software, it’s important to ask these important questions about your provider. Are they able to collect, display, and moderate grocery product reviews that makes it not only an easy solution for retailers, but also have the ability to accelerate the purchases?
It’s a tall order, but here at PowerReviews, we work with major CPG retailers to do just that. We help these retailers collect, moderate and display meaningful, trustworthy and positive shopper reviews to increase brand trust in private label products.
Even if it’s something as small as diced tomatoes, these reviews help buyers know the quality of products so they don’t hesitate to buy. That’s why we believe informed shopping experience truly help accelerate the path to purchase.
Getting More Authentic & Valuable Reviews
You may already be sold on the value of positive shopper reviews, but you might not know how to increase the content. And it’s important to know the more reviews, the higher trust from consumers with your products.
In fact, the PowerReviews report Beyond the Supermarket Shelves found the threshold for securing shopper trust at the product level is to collect at least 50 reviews. With the average private label product collecting 50 or more reviews at a dismal 1%, CPG Retailers have a long way to go to in order for reviews to have a material impact on their private label sales.
There’s definitely a demand for these grocery reviews as well. PowerReviews data found 39% of consumers would like to have reviews for non-perishable packaged foods. Additionally, 31% said they wanted reviews for fresh food products such as meat, produce and dairy.
This is where we help. PowerReviews is no stranger toward teaming up with CPG retailers to build trust in their private label brands and the national brands they carry. Our core methods for collecting reviews content include:
- Purchase Data: Use loyalty purchase data to identify verified shoppers and solicit reviews via email to collect more information for retailers and their products.
- Product Sampling: Distribute samples to shoppers prior to introducing new products and help ensure review content exists, especially when products reach digital and physical shelves.
- In-store Transactions: Identify targeted products in physical transactions and solicit reviews on register receipts to generate more authentic content from verified purchasers.
- Printed CTAs for Reviews: Promote web product pages through printed call to actions on the physical product packaging and help direct shoppers to the web for review submission.
Retailers that work to achieve sufficient review coverage for their items can use the content as a marketing tool. This helps draw shoppers to their products through use of the trust factor.
Some retailers have even begun to display shopper ratings and reviews on their physical shelf labels in addition to the digital product pages on their websites and mobile apps. For private label products, you have to easily show shoppers that others not only enjoy your products, but trust you the same way as a national brand.
A concerted focus on collecting and promoting positive product reviews will help retailers expand their private label penetration, improving overall margins. Want to see PowerReviews in action? Reach out to us and request a demo to see how we can help!
A recent article in Supermarket News questioned whether online grocery sales are really positioned to explode in the coming five years. Although the current share of grocery volume through online sales is estimated at only 2%, skeptical grocery retailers who ignore the growth projections and digital consumer shift run the risk not properly supporting physical shopping experiences and ultimately losing volume in their core selling channel.
Increasingly, shoppers planning or executing physical store trips are turning to mobile and digital solutions to guide purchase decisions. 78% of millennials rely on the internet to inform real-world purchases, according to The Center for Generational Kinetics. A survey of nearly 3,000 affluent US shoppers reported that 37% read ratings and reviews on their mobile devices while they are shopping in-store. Many categories carried in grocery retail are driven by experience and content, rather than promotional activity. Ever tried to move the needle promotionally on vitamins outside of January? How much mascara are beauty shoppers willing to stockpile due to a BOGO event?
Shopper-generated content is increasingly the coin in the retail realm. It is one arrow in the mobile-digital quiver of omnichannel retailers. Home and garden shoppers are regularly turning to their mobile devices to help identify in-store product locations and product ratings to speed their store visits. And the friction in accessing shopper-generated content is decreasing at a rapid rate. Many retail mobile apps include product scanning capabilities to access pricing, nutritional information, usage videos, question and answer submission portals and shopper generated reviews. As shoppers grow accustomed to these features in other channels, they will begin to expect them from the retailers they visit most often: grocers.
At PowerReviews, we are dedicated to enabling the consumer packaged good manufacturer and retailer ecosystem with the ability to collect and distribute shopper-generated content from physical and digital shopping trips across all categories. These include center store and perimeter categories like the floral department, the deli and the custom-order bakery. These insights help shoppers make informed decisions about new product trials while assisting retailers and manufacturers with insights to improve product and service offerings. Our cloud-based platform easily integrates into retailer and manufacturer websites and mobile apps to capture and share the opinions of shoppers. The PowerReviews Open Network matches reviews to the UPC or manufacturer level and enables the reviews collected at one touchpoint to be shared through other channels selling the same product.
Don’t think that eCommerce is the only reason you might need to connect with your shopping community through mobile digital platforms. Doing so could jeopardize in-store trips already underway. Do you really want to risk shoppers turning to Amazon to learn about the products you carry while in your store? That sounds like a recipe for disaster!
Amazon just opened a physical store in New York where all of the products are either highly rated (4+ stars) or top sellers in their eCommerce channel. Brick and mortar competitors should take note of this strategy that is being made possible by the hundreds of millions of shopper-generated ratings and reviews that Amazon customers have come to expect to help them to make informed purchasing decisions. Amazon deduced rather easily that shopper-generated ratings and reviews provide the confidence and context necessary for shoppers to make purchase decisions faster and more effectively than ever before.
Major grocery retailers have all the ingredients necessary to deliver a similar confident shopping experience to their customers. And they don’t even need to be fully invested in eCommerce to enable this capability. Here are a few ways grocery retailers are beating Amazon at their own game:
Mobile Apps with Product Content
Most major grocery retailers have mobile apps that typically promote weekly circular ads and distribute digital coupons. Many of these apps have the ability to scan product UPCs in order to access product pages with images, pricing and nutritional information. Adding ratings and reviews is a simple widget or API call away.
Content-Rich Shelf Tags
Retailers are already leveraging shelf tags to communicate content beyond price. Many grocery retailers now include nutritional value scores, healthy lifestyle identifiers (gluten-free, non-GMO, etc) or available digital coupons on product shelf tags. Grocery retailers can now follow the lead of beauty retailers like Ulta by including ratings so shoppers can see how others have evaluated product performance.
If retailers are disciplined, they can leverage these strategies to further engage even more with shoppers:
New Products Should Come with Content
All new products that grocery retailers list should come with ratings and reviews ready to include in their product pages. At PowerReviews, we work with many manufacturers to launch influencer campaigns via our BzzAgent platform prior to product launch to generate content that can be shared with retailers as their products reach physical stores. The ratings can be easily included on physical displays and on mobile/web product pages.
eCommerce Not Needed to Collect Content
Retailers with active frequent shopper programs don’t need eCommerce to collect ratings and reviews. They already know what their shoppers are purchasing. At PowerReviews, we work with brick and mortar retailers to leverage their loyalty data, targeting shoppers purchasing specific products for which content is needed. We then execute email campaigns to solicit reviews shortly after the store trip has occurred.
Drive Private Label Conversion
One of the biggest obstacles to shopper adoption of store brands is consumer confidence over product quality. Actively soliciting ratings and reviews via targeted FSP campaigns as noted above, coupled with shelf tags and product page placement will accelerate a retailer’s private label penetration efforts.
Maintain an Open Network for Content
Retailers like Walmart, BJ’s, Sam’s Club and Dollar General all participate in an open network of syndicated shopper-generated content in the form of ratings and reviews. Since the content is matched at a UPC or brand level, it ensures that shoppers are exposed to relevant content regardless of where the product was reviewed. In this way, all retailers benefit from a network of content that is related to the products they are selling through their omnichannel mechanisms.
Don’t Be Afraid of Amazon
Amazon is showing its physical competitors how to leverage shopper-generated content to reduce friction on the path to purchase. Grocery retailers have the ability to compete without the need for a fully-scaled eCommerce platform. If they work with the assets already in place, they can mount a credible competitive approach to engage their shoppers and protect market share from Amazon.