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.

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.

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.

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.

With stores not open to the public, our shopping behaviors have been completely disrupted. As widely reported, ecommerce has become the core channel for consumption. For many brands, it’s the one key aspect of their business that’s going well. 

Many are looking to pivot on this COVID-19 ecommerce phenomenon to pave a path for growth. Read on to learn why building on your ecommerce success via a targeted customer engagement strategy can sow the seeds for long-term revenue growth.

A new Global Shopping Index report published by Salesforce cites some pretty unprecedented digital commerce statistics. But then again, these are completely unprecedented times. 

The number of unique digital shoppers rose 40% year-over-year, caused by this dramatic shift we’ve all experienced in consumer behavior from physical to digital browsing and buying. Digital shoppers drove a 20% revenue growth in Q1 2020, compared to 12% in Q1 2019.

Many brands are reporting increased order volumes in line with what they only usually only see during the holiday shopping season. Our own research backs this up conclusively, and shows brands are experiencing increased page view and purchase volumes. 

As some States begin to reopen, most Americans remain uneasy about venturing out, with one study showing 67% are uncomfortable going into a retail store. Given this ambivalence, expect ecommerce to remain robust for the foreseeable future. 

‘Don’t Rest on Your Laurels’ 

Brands have an incredible opportunity to continue this momentum by driving even more digital engagement – both in acquiring  new customers and nurturing their existing/loyal customer base. 

Matt Powell, Vice President and Senior Industry Advisor at the NPD Group underscores this opportunity, “Ecommerce has been a lifeline for many brands and retailers. More and more customers are shopping online, and for products they likely would have never bought pre-pandemic. I believe we can expect consumers to continue moving online as we ease our way out of the crisis. Now is the time for brands and retailers to double down on their online business. ‘Digital first’ must be the mantra of retail now. Don’t rest on your laurels, as there is always room for improvement. Make your website the best it can be.”

During this time when consumers desperately need to feel connected and assured that a brand can be trusted with their business, some are leveraging customer content to deliver the improvements Powell talks about. Customer stories offer powerful validation that build trust and authenticity by highlighting how consumers are engaging with your brand and the products you offer.

Most importantly, they are proven to help drive increased site traffic and purchases. Even a single product review can make a big difference to your bottom line.

According to our extensive ratings and review data (we analyzed 168k product pages, 28 million orders and 321 million page views), we found that the more reviews displayed for a product, the higher the conversion rate. But, even a small volume of reviews has an impact. To illustrate this point, a jump from zero to one customer review results in a 7% increase in conversion levels for that product on average. This increases steadily until you hit 50 reviews, which we consider the sweet spot. At this point, the lift in conversion rate is 21% on average… Pretty impactful numbers!

Pro Tip: Focus Your Customer Content Strategy on Mitigating Returns 

Brands experiencing a high volume of ecommerce orders can typically expect at least some returns. Product returns have always been the achilles heel for retailers, and even more so now in the COVID-19 wake of shuttered storefronts and economic uncertainty. 

Returns seriously erode revenues. In one study, Boston University researchers found returns cost manufacturers and retailers as much as $100 billion annually or 3.8% of revenue.

But the same study found that customer content – or more specifically, product reviews – help consumers make better purchase decisions and lead to fewer product returns. Bottom line: online product reviews are critical to enhancing strategic competitiveness, boosting revenue and reducing costs.

Why? Customer content answers questions upfront, supporting consumers’ efforts to select a product that fits their specific need. Think about it: if – as a browser – you’re faced with a product page that includes product images submitted by customers and maybe even Q&A-type content, you are far more likely to obtain the answers to any questions you have (i.e. around issues ranging from size/fit to color and plug any unconsidered gaps in the product description), while also demonstrating relatability – all in a uniquely scalable and authentic way.

This does more than sell merchandise, it can help ensure the product – once it leaves the distribution center – doesn’t come back via the returns channel. 

Steal These Customer Engagement Best Practices

Over the years, PowerReviews has worked with leading brands to help them formulate killer customer engagement strategies to drive high-octane ecommerce growth. I’ve taken the liberty of making a list of these — in some cases, noting particular COVID-19 implications that make these especially relevant right now. 

1. Send a follow-up email after an order is placed urging shoppers to review their purchases.

This proactive strategy generates up to 90% of review collection. Formulating your email is important. Think short and simple and be clear and concise in stating your review ask.  

2. Be purposeful to collect content that is specific and actionable.

By asking for specifics, you can gather vital user information to help answer real buyer needs, such as what is the size and fit of this item? (60% of all returns can be attributed to fit issues), and, what are the best uses of this item? You should be aiming to extract existing thoughts rather than influence the content. Your typical reviewer is not a professional writer and may not even know what average customers look for. So make the writing a review process quick and easy with prepopulated tabs.

3. Focus on images.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to reviews, it could be worth a thousand orders. Images are particularly critical for product segments such as fashion and beauty as consumers don’t have ready access to stores where they can try things on and test things out. Consumers are scanning images to assess questions such as: Will this Perfect Passion Pink lipstick look good on me? Seeing the image of another individual with the same hair and skin color wearing this shade of lipstick (and demonstrating this shade of pink is on point) – for example – is seriously impactful. Formulate your review to ask for an image first and keep in mind the opportunity to repurpose or cross-post images by curating from social media platforms such as Instagram. These offer a treasure trove of visual content that can be collected and integrated into product pages to provide scale, plug any product description gaps and establish the buyer confidence necessary for customers to hit the “buy” button.

4. Spend extra time connecting with your followers and posting on your social media outlets.

In the post-COVID-19 era, consumers are online more than ever. Reports are flooding in regarding skyrocketing screen time in light of social distancing measures, with individuals reporting increases in screen time ranging from 35 to 68%. Take advantage of this opportunity by engaging with the community you’ve built to ask for reviews.

5. Provide the ability for users to ask questions and provide answers on your site.

Satisfy your site visitors by giving them the information they want and need without having to navigate to other pages on your site. Providing answers to consumers’ questions builds trust and removes barriers to purchase while improving SEO. On average, when a product goes from displaying no answers to at least one answer, brands and retailers see an 88% lift in traffic and an 82% lift in conversion for that product. Anecdotal evidence from many of our customers indicates that Q&A content is playing an important role during the shifting COVID-19 ecommerce landscape. For example, Tim Lakin, ecommerce Merchandising Manager at Skechers, told us: “I am definitely seeing an increase in customer reviews and questions indicating a lot of customers are shopping online who would not normally be doing so – even to the point where a customer may not know their own shoe size and would rely heavily on review information. Naturally, we want to accommodate those customers since our website is now taking the place of our retail stores in many states, and the store associates and in-store experience as well.”

6. Identify and close review sharing gaps.

Sharing the customer content you collect on your brand with retailers makes it easier for them to sell your product. This also helps with SEO, making your products easier to find thereby increasing impressions and traffic. To assess the best opportunities, look at key categories that are receiving a high volume of traffic but which are not deemed “essential” items. So think self-care, home improvement, etc., These represent “killer COVID-19 categories” where reviews and content can enhance sales and SEO.

7. Consider a sampling strategy.

One ultra-effective way to solicit customer feedback is by giving consumers the opportunity to experience a product in exchange for their input, whether through a review or on social media. PowerReviews clients typically experience an 85% response rate to sampling campaigns. Recently, however, brands have experienced issues with sample product availability, fulfillment issues, and shipping delays. So be sure to understand what, if any, COVID-19 constraints could impact your sampling campaign execution. But I can’t stress enough how the conditions caused by the pandemic are uniquely suited to sampling campaigns. Although times are rough, people are looking for things to do. Experimenting with a new (free) product may provide some welcome escapism.

8. Show empathy.

We are living in unprecedented times and now more than ever, we appreciate the connections with others – precisely because we can’t physically interact with one another. Brands have an opportunity to step up. As RSR Research Industry Analyst Paula Rosenblum has said, “It’s time to show the world what we are made of,” noting, “consumers won’t forget.” Responding to reviews or via social media to build and nurture your customer community can have a very strong and positive impact. As well, ask yourself what you can offer to help your customers at this time. Maybe that’s offering free shipping, maybe it’s a virtual try-on utility or double loyalty points. 

Is your ecommerce/digital team employing any of the above customer engagement strategies? If you are a PowerReviews customer, reach out to your Customer Success Manager to discuss the best strategies to leverage our solution to achieve your objectives. If you’re not a PowerReviews customer, we’d love to hear from you.

Dominique Divito

Dominique is a Senior Client Success Manager at PowerReviews, where she has been helping drive ecommerce growth at some of the biggest brands in the world for 2.5 years. She (genuinely) prefers shopping online than in-store and prides herself on being pretty good at it. It is perhaps therefore no surprise that she is on first name terms with her UPS driver. (Hi Mike!)

The Perfect Review:
At a Glance

When thinking about the concept of “the perfect review,” always remember the purpose of any customer-generated content. Reviews are simply a vehicle for building trust with customers by delivering an authentic depiction of your products.

But what exactly makes a “perfect review?“

See the perfect review below, or

Informative Title

Titles need to grab shopper attention quickly.

Verified Buyer

Ensures content is 100% reliable, and more valued by consumers.

Relatable Stories

Real-life accounts of use cases add value and color that is critical to the buying decision.

Length

Reviews longer than 500 characters are proven to generate a greater number of conversions.

Better than shirts double the price, super happy with fit for my long arms

I’m 6”1’ and was looking for a slim fit shirt that looks great for work at a good price. I have especially long arms (35 inches) and most shirts come up short. But this shirt fit like it was tailored for me. The quality is also fantastic, I have bought shirts for double the price that have not felt as good to wear.

 

I work in a “business casual” office, but my coworkers definitely dress to impress so looking good is important. I was super happy to get a number of compliments the first couple of times I wore it from my work friends.

 

I was looking for a good fit and durability. I will be wearing it probably once every week so it needs to hold up. It has been through the laundry five times and the quality is as it was when I bought it. I certainly have not noticed any worsening in the fabric. Durability is as good as any item of clothing I’ve ever owned; only thing that seems iffy is the buttons on one cuff, but that’s not a huge deal.

 

Although I originally bought it for work, I would definitely wear it socially – it would work just as well for a nice dinner or drinks. Overall I’m super pleased with the purchase. I will definitely be buying more of these shirts in different colors.

Pros

Cons

5/5
Customer Image
Uploaded 2.19.2020

Rating

Five star reviews are ideal but consumers value authenticity above all. An artificially-inflated rating will only lead to distrust of your brand.

Contextual Media

Authentic imagery and video “out in the wild” adds unrivalled credibility.

Profile Info

Specific demographic detail to make content relatable and relevant.

I’m 6”1’ and was looking for a slim fit shirt that looks great for work at a good price. I have especially long arms (35 inches) and most shirts come up short. But this shirt fit like it was tailored for me. The quality is also fantastic, I have bought shirts for double the price that have not felt as good to wear.

 

(Read More…)

Pros

Cons

5/5

Better than shirts double the price, super happy with fit for my long arms

Customer Image
Uploaded 2.19.2020

Get more insights in the latest PowerReviews guide:

The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Review
and how to cultivate more of them

Impact of Reviews on Conversions

Reviews convert browsers into buyers. Learn how to leverage the best ones, and see why you’re leaving dollars on the table with inadequate reviews.

The Anatomy of a perfect review

A perfect review has a number of elements. Understand exactly what these are (including the data that proves it) by downloading this Guide.

6 Strategies to collect better reviews

Learn six strategies you can start leveraging right now to generate the best-quality reviews for any product or campaign.

Get all these insights and more...

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Reviews are one of the top factors influencing a shopper’s decision to make a purchase. And as it turns out, consumers have started to depend on reviews even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our own analysis found that throughout March and April, consumers engaged with reviews prior to making a purchase at double the rate they were previously. 

Thanks to widespread stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures, more consumers are shopping online. And clearly, reviews help them make informed purchase decisions. 

Of course, reviews benefit brands, too. Reviews are proven to boost traffic and conversion, while providing actionable insights that can help a brand improve its products and the customer experience.

Reviews also give brands the opportunity to engage with shoppers and resolve customer service issues, which foster loyalty and contributes to a strong reputation.  

In order to reap these benefits, though, brands must closely monitor their review content. All too often, this is a time-consuming process — and one that’s inherently flawed. Content slips through the cracks, which can tarnish trust. And because data is often siloed, a brand never gets a complete, accurate picture of how they are (or aren’t) meeting consumers’ needs. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Review consolidation — the process of aggregating all review content across channels into one dashboard — can ease the burden and make it easier to manage your brand’s online reputation. 

Let’s take a closer look at where shoppers are reading and writing reviews, how review consolidation works and how it can positively impact your business. 

Where Shoppers Write Reviews

Before exploring the mechanics of review consolidation, it’s important to understand the burden of manually managing reviews. And the best place to start is to take a look at where shoppers are writing and reading reviews. 

Most brands sell their products through a number of different channels. For example, a health and beauty brand might sell a moisturizer directly through its own eCommerce website, through a network of retail partners (e.g. Target, Walmart etc.) and on eCommerce marketplaces, such as Amazon. Of course, shoppers can write products reviews on any of the sites where the item is sold.

To further complicate things, shoppers can also write reviews about a store location, website, mobile app or the business itself on other platforms and channels.

For some brands, managing this content means someone logging into a dozen or more dashboards each day, determining which content needs action and manually assigning it to the appropriate person or team to handle. In order to respond to a review, they have to log back in to the appropriate dashboard.

This process is inefficient and leaves a lot of room for error.

How Review Consolidation Works 

Recently, however, a growing number of brands have started to use review consolidation technology. Review consolidation technology centralizes reviews written across all of the channels mentioned above into a single dashboard. That means a brand uses one dashboard to see reviews, engage with and respond to them and escalate them to the right team — regardless of where the review was written. 

Some review consolidation tools connect with a CRM like Salesforce to automatically create services cases and alerts, based on keywords or the star rating. Brands that also use Salesforce Service Cloud can see and manage all customer service issues in one spot, regardless of whether the issue originates from chat, email, social media, phone or a review.

5 Ways Review Consolidation Benefits Brands

Before investing in review consolidation technology, it’s important to understand how it can help your brand foster authentic engagement and boost your bottom line.

Let’s take a look at five key ways review consolidation positively impacts brands. 

1. Saves Time

The most obvious benefit of review consolidation is that it saves time. Your customer care or marketing teams are no longer required to comb through various sites each day in order to effectively manage reviews. 

Instead, these teams can focus their time and energy on activities that will build your brand’s online reputation and drive revenue growth. Customer service teams can focus on engaging with shoppers. And marketing teams can spend their time developing strategies and campaigns to attract and retain customers.

2. Provides a Holistic Picture of Performance  

Reviews are a gold mine of insights that can be used to help your brand better serve its customers. But if you’re managing reviews from several different platforms, it can be difficult to garner those insights. Each platform reports on different metrics, and data is siloed. 

Let’s go back to the moisturizer example we used earlier. You notice the average star rating for the moisturizer is high on your own eCommerce website. But the average star rating is significantly lower on Amazon. You’re getting little bits and pieces of data here — but what’s the full story? 

When you consolidate your reviews into a single platform, you get a more comprehensive look at how a particular product — and your brand as a whole — are performing across all channels. You’re better able to identify strengths and weaknesses and understand overall sentiment for each product. And you can see how this performance changes over time. 

With comprehensive insights, you’re better equipped to make smart, data-based decisions for your business. For example, if that moisturizer generates one- and two-star reviews across all channels, you can dig deeper to identify ways to improve it — or pull the product altogether. 

3. Allows for Quick Resolution of Customer Service Issues

Many times, a negative review simply reflects the tastes and preferences of a specific consumer. For example, a reviewer might indicate they don’t like the taste or texture of a protein bar. But in other cases, a negative review can be indicative of a larger issue that needs to be addressed and resolved. For example, if a review indicated a shopper got violently ill after eating the protein bar.

If you manually manage your reviews, it’s likely some of this negative content will slip through the cracks. And this can carry some big consequences for your brand’s reputation. For starters, you’ll have an angry customer with an unresolved issue that’s likely to ditch your brand altogether. A survey from Gladly found that half of people will switch brands after just one or two bad experiences.

And future shoppers will see the unresolved issue, which is likely to deter them from purchasing your products. What’s more, highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals must follow FDA guidelines on handling complaints in reviews. If they don’t, they risk fines and a damaged reputation. 

With review consolidation technology, all of your content is in one place so you don’t have to worry about missing a critical review. What’s more, if you also use review consolidation technology and Salesforce Service Cloud, all of your customer service cases are available in one location, regardless of whether they were initiated through a review or another channel like email or chat.

Plus, issues get automatically routed to the right person based on factors like keyword or star rating, so they can be resolved quickly. Shoppers will see that you care about their concerns, and you’ll build a reputation as a compliant brand that listens to its customers.

4. Uncovers Opportunities for Authentic Engagement with Shoppers

Of course, it’s important to resolve issues that come up in negative reviews. But positive reviews also offer opportunities for brands to authentically engage with shoppers. Even a simple “Thanks for your feedback. We love having you as a customer!” can go a long way in fostering loyalty.

Review consolidation makes it easier to identify these opportunities for engagement. Your teams can see all reviews — and respond to them — through one platform. And because they’re not spending their time manually routing reviews, they can focus on building authentic connections with shoppers. 

5. Facilitates Strong Partnerships with Retail Partners

If you’re like most brands, you sell your products through a network of retail partners. If so, you’re well aware that good brand/retailer relationships are key to mutual success.

Of course, retailers want to partner with brands that manufacture quality products. But they also want to work with brands that take good care of their customers — even when something goes wrong. One key way retailers measure this is by how quickly a brand responds to customer service issues. If you habitually fail to respond quickly (or at all) to issues that are raised in reviews, a retailer may opt to partner with a different brand…and you may lose an important channel for revenue.

With review consolidation technology, you don’t have to worry about missing a review and failing to respond per your agreed upon service level agreement (SLA). Instead, retailers will see that you’re a dependable brand that cares about its customers. 

Consolidate Reviews to Grow Your Brand

Ratings and reviews are beneficial to consumers and brands alike. But brands must effectively manage their reviews in order to experience the benefits. Consolidating all reviews into one platform makes it easier for brands to engage with shoppers, build trust, and grow revenue. 


This blog was originally published by our partner, Reputation Studio, which offers review consolidation capabilities to PowerReviews customers. Visit the dedicated section of our website to find out more about the complementary technologies our solutions integrate with. Alternatively, reach out to us direct.

We are relentless in our pursuit to make our PowerReviews platform easier-to-use. We are focused on this objective day-in and day-out. And this is why we’ve recently made significant upgrades to our API technologies while building a number of new exciting third-party integration partnerships. Now realize even more value from your PowerReviews solution. Read on to find out more. 

Table of Contents

What’s new at PowerReviews on the integration front?

Our team just launched new API capabilities, which is really exciting. Our API enables us to integrate our platform with other third-party systems, which in turn, enables our clients to:

  • Integrate the customer content they collect with other important partner systems
  • Send the data they collect anywhere in their tech stacks
  • Build custom web and mobile applications

The PowerReviews API supports bulk imports and exports of data while still providing clients with quicker data transfers — all while keeping sensitive data safe. Plus, we’ve added brand new, competitive endpoints for managing everything from orders to products to moderation.

We also just launched a brand new API documentation site. We built this site with developers in mind, to help our clients and their teams through the integration process. 

What is an API and how does it help PowerReviews clients?

Technically, an API is an Application Programming Interface. Non-technically, APIs allow our system to communicate with other systems. 

What does this mean if you’re a PowerReviews customer?

For one, our API allows us to build powerful and valuable integrations with complementary third-party technologies. We are realistic enough to know that we’re not the only third-party vendor our customers typically work with on a day-to-day basis, so our API allows our technology to talk to the other technologies — creating significant usability improvements and driving exponentially greater value.

For example:

A handful of brands use both PowerReviews and Sprinklr on a day-to-day basis. They collect and manage customer-generated content with our platform, then use the Sprinklr platform to manage their customers’ experience. 

Through our integration with Sprinklr, brands and retailers can now seamlessly share customer content to their Sprinklr platform – from which they can now manage their Ratings & Reviews and Q&A content. These organizations can interact with their customers by responding to reviews and answering any questions directly from the Sprinklr platform. In addition, they can now also use their Sprinklr platform to amplify their customer content across important social media channels.

Second, these updates give brands and retailers another way to implement our solution. Building custom applications leveraging our new Enterprise API is best for larger organizations that may not want to implement our Javascript on their site. As an alternative, they can instead use our API to collect and display customer-generated content.

What is the benefit of having these integrations?

The PowerReviews platform offers a ton of value. And these other technologies also offer a ton of value. Combined, they add up to more than the sum of their parts.

These integrations allow organizations to seamlessly extend the reach and impact of the customer-generated content they collect through the PowerReviews platform by connecting it with the other important technology systems they use.

What third-party systems do PowerReviews integrate with?

We have integrations with the following partners, which means no development work is required to pair our technologies together. If you are already a PowerReviews customer and would like to explore activating one of these integrations, your Customer Success Manager will be able to provide more details.

Integrate PowerReviews with:

  • Sprinklr: Amplify your PowerReviews review content across social media with Sprinklr. 
  • Zendesk: Manage and respond to customer issues left in reviews, alongside any others received through the Zendesk platform.
  • Astute: Blend human and artificial intelligence to enhance consumer review engagement, through our integration with Astute.
  • Reputation Studio: Improved reputation management with in-the-moment response to customer review content from within Salesforce

We also have partnerships in place with all the main ecommerce platforms. Integrate our ratings and reviews platforms into stores hosted on Shopify, Shopify Plus, Magento, and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

And we’re just getting started. We’re working with a number of other technology vendors to integrate our platforms with theirs to deliver even greater value. If you are interested in finding out more – or indeed are a vendor which would like to establish an integration with our solution(s) – reach out to us today!

Cristian Pina

As a Product Manager at PowerReviews, Cristian focuses on solving customer challenges with innovative technical solutions to deliver easy to use and engaging products. With over ten years of technology experience, Cristian helps guide the vision for our products and rallies cross-functional teams to deliver innovative solutions.

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 really spoke 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 some super interesting health and beauty-specific trends, including sales volumes and review insights in this vertical.

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

As I mentioned, we originally released this information here. But we explain in more detail in the webinar. Here are some highlights we discussed:

Sales volumes increase 210%

We tracked growth rates from Feb 24 to demonstrate how consumer behavior has shifted during the pandemic. In March, we saw a massive spike in order volumes but page visits remained relatively flat. The massive 101% growth in sales volumes seemingly coincided with the timing of many states implementing “stay at home” orders. Our hypothesis back then was that shoppers were “stocking up” on lower-consideration items. People were buying, not shopping. 

But growth has continued at the same rapid rate. Orders peaked at a 210% increase on April 15. By the end of the month, sales were still up 150% on pre-pandemic levels.

We also are now seeing a more meaningful increase in page visits as well. These are up 63% above pre-pandemic levels in late April. This can be attributed to channel shifting, as customers who would never shopped online before are now starting to do so. But given that order increases still outpace traffic increases significantly, shoppers are doing far more buying than browsing.

Volume of reviews submitted starts to rise

We know purchase levels are increasing. But throughout March, review submissions had actually remained fairly steady. As we moved into April, however, these began to climb too – peaking at up 36% in late April.

This obviously pales in comparison to the rise in order volumes. But it’s super important to note that this is a percentage figure based on a much larger denominator of larger order volumes generally. So, total volumes of  customer generated content are at much higher levels than two months ago.

To put it in context, our moderation team is working on review submissions levels close to those they would typically expect in peak Holiday season. This is obviously the busiest time of the year in ecommerce bar none. So quite the statement.

Review length up around 10% since low at end of March

In terms of review submissions, ratings have been stable. This is no real surprise because the products themselves have not changed in the short period we are analyzing.

In our last snapshot, we reported that review length had seemingly cratered after stay at home orders came into effect. In April, this rebounded and increased around 10%. But you should keep this in perspective: the average review length is 154 characters. A decrease of 10-20% therefore isn’t particularly meaningful in terms of impact on consumer behavior.

Regardless of what’s driving this trend, we’re hearing a lot about review length these days from our customers. It’s proven that longer reviews generate more sales. Our product team is actively working on some cool features to encourage customers to write longer reviews. More on that within the next month.

Review content has doubled in importance in driving purchases during pandemic

Now let’s look at review engagement among purchasers (we define review engagement as someone clicking on a filter, sorting, clicking a key word etc.). These numbers are staggering as well. Among consumers who purchase, engagement has doubled – peaking at 105% right at the turn of the month. 

Keep in mind that this is review engagement as a percentage of purchasers. Purchasers are up 210% the last two months. This is important when considering the dip that occured around April 10. Remember, it was around this time when purchases shot up to that peak of 200%+. So this still represents a hugely meaningful level of interaction with review content.

This really reinforces just how important this review content is when it comes to driving purchasing decisions. Even with shoppers behaving more decisively online than we’ve ever seen before, they are still relying on product reviews to inform their decision making.

Spotlight: Health and Beauty

Why did we focus on health and beauty? Well, we saw some pretty marked trends among these brands when crunching the data. When we dug a little deeper into specific product categories, we found some super interesting storylines – particularly revealing and indicative of different consumer buying patterns in this period.

Pandemic has huge impact on health and beauty consumer shopping levels

Above, we talk about a vast surge in overall sales volumes of 210%. This is merely amplified in health and beauty, where order volumes peaked up 450% in April. Traffic, too, increased significantly across these brands and doubled compared to February. Again, consumer decisiveness is clearly in evidence with a far higher proportion of visits converting to purchase than we would typically expect.

Extreme and fluctuating demand for specific products

Let’s look a little deeper at different types of health and beauty product groups. Here, we specifically focus on three: Bath and shower (light green), hair color (dark green) and makeup (in gold). The thick gray line highlights the health and beauty vertical average.

Although clearly not the only product categories in this industry, they all tell a very distinct story that’s indicative of broader consumer trends. Buying behaviors clearly vary depending on product, with peaks and troughs at various times. Now we’ll look at each in detail.

Bath & Shower product demand peaks in Mid-March after staggering 2200% increase

The bath and shower product category includes hand soap so this accounts for this insane jump in sales volumes in mid-March (2200%+). This is a clear story of stocking up. Back in early/mid-March, CDC guidance urged the population to wash hands for 20 seconds or more multiple times per day. So, in this context, perhaps this is unsurprising to some extent. But the number is still mind-boggling.

After that, orders level off as the population settles into those “stay at home” orders. A somewhat more consistent increase of around 300-500% in orders. Still very high, but a little more steady. 

And similar to every other trend highlighted above, jumps in page visits are not nearly as meaningful as the order volumes. Certainly, there are increases (600% in mid-March) but these are dwarfed by purchase increases. 

Although these numbers come down, you should remember you’re looking at a scale going up to 2000% here. However, increases in traffic throughout April can likely be attributed to increased browsing once preferred products sold out or were subject to delivery delays.

Demand for hair color products grew to astonishing levels

While increases in demand for hair color products never quite reach the same level of intensity as bath and shower, order volumes remained consistently high throughout April. But the jump from early March is what’s interesting. Overall, it’s an increase of way over 1000% (or 11x) over the course of about 20 days.

So, what’s going on here? Here are a few suggestions:

  • People thinking they could ride it out for a couple weeks and would get back into the salon sooner than expected
  • Strong loyalty to salon colorists and/or hesitancy to try DIY products
  • After a couple of weeks, this went out the window and panic set in – hence the surge.

Again, as we’ve seen with pretty much every category so far, the increase in page visits simply does not keep pace with the increase in order volumes.

Makeup spikes later and increase not as pronounced as other health and beauty products

Makeup is the last product category we explore. Interestingly, there is a minor spike caused by some normal stocking up in late March. And then there’s a second wave as presumably people begin to run low. These increases are still significant but just nowhere near as vast as trends we see for other product categories.

Review submission volumes rise significantly in bath and shower and hair color

But what about consumer review content? Is this important in the health and beauty vertical?

This chart explores review submission levels across these three same product categories (we don’t ask for reviews until a week or two after the order was placed, which explains the lag).

For the two product categories with those huge surges, review submissions are also trending way up (100-200% in late April for both bath and shower and hair color). For makeup products, review levels actually fell compared to before the pandemic.

Most likely, consumers are focused on assessing products that have the biggest immediate emotional impact. Given how all-consuming the coronavirus has been on everyone’s way of life, it seems that mental toll has affected how they approach providing review content.

Huge review engagement in health and beauty

As explained, the above highlights the percentage of interactions with reviews (i.e. filters, sorting, etc.) for purchasers. We already know health and beauty product order volumes are way up. But the percentage of these purchases that involve a review interaction has also jumped massively.

The peak hits in late March at 313% above the end of February. This is on top of a giant 300% increase in orders during this period. When it comes to health and beauty, review content is simply critical to shoppers’ decision-making. The engagement levels remain super high, well over 100% throughout the rest of April (this was when the industry-wide order volumes shot up 450%).

This makes a lot of sense: the in-store health and beauty product experience tends to be extremely tactile. Shoppers can typically touch, smell or test prior to buying. In lieu of that capability, consumers are relying on the experience of other customers to inform their online purchases.

What does all this mean?

The numbers are pretty clear both across the board, and especially within health and beauty:

  1. Order volumes are up, 
  2. Review submissions are up
  3. Review engagement is up

As a ratings and reviews company, we are particularly interested in the fact that customer-generated content has become even more important during the Covid-19 era.

Given this combined with increased order volumes, brands and retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that their shoppers are more informed than ever.

How? By leaning into existing market trends to generate better quality reviews in higher volumes. While we can’t go into huge detail here (check out this blog post for more), here are three quick cost-effective tips:

  1. 80% of reviews originate from a review solicitation email. So think really carefully about what goes into that messaging. As a best practice, don’t dilute your request. Instead, use standalone emails that only ask for reviews
  2. Send at least two emails. Consumers have enough on their minds, don’t expect them to read every email you send them. Check out this blog for some tips on how to ask for more review content.

Consider incentivizing customers either with loyalty points or a sweepstakes entries. Just be sure that if you do incentivize, you badge the reviews accordingly to ensure maximum transparency.

Your Questions Answered: Webinar Q&A

During the webinar, we got asked a handful of questions from our live audience. We answer those here:

Are these all written reviews— or video submissions as well?

Our analysis is based completely on written reviews. That is our speciality. However, we are huge proponents in the power of imagery to tell a story. We know for a fact that review content with customer-generated photographs drives more conversions. We go into detail on how to solicit more customer imagery in our blog on the topic.

Did you see any interesting trends in nutrition (i.e. within the health category)?

In the webinar, we focused on products that we thought highlighted the biggest impact of current market trends. We did not see as big an impact for nutrition products.

Do you have any predictions for future months?

Honestly, no. We have been surprised at the figures. We could’ve predicted the increases, but the extent has been beyond anything we would’ve predicted. We are happy that we will be able to continue to tell you what we’re seeing on a month-by-month basis. Check back at PowerReviews.com/insights on the first of every month for our latest report.

How do you help brands and retailers generate more effective reviews in higher volumes in these times?

Mainly through advising and consulting them. We obviously have a lot of experience in this area so feel we offer valuable perspective and expertise. As we mention, with so much focus on ecommerce, this is a great opportunity to create a bigger and more impactful review footprint.

There are many things that brands and retailers can be doing that don’t cost anything and we talk about some of these above. We also provide some links to further information there too. In addition, we have extensive sampling services.

How do you feel consumer behavior will change post pandemic and what impact will this have on customer-generated content?

All the data indicates that the pandemic has massively accelerated the transition online. We talked a lot in the webinar and above about how some of the data was indicative of consumers who typically shop offline engaging with ecommerce for the first time. The smart money is on at least some of this sticking. The store will never die. It might need to reinvent itself but there are certain things the online experience will just never be able to imitate.

But increasingly, and particularly for specific low consideration product items, consumers are appreciating the convenience and ease of online shopping. Once they’ve got a taste, they might never go back.

In terms of impact on Customer-Generated Content, our data would indicate more shoppers = more review submissions and more interactions with those reviews. So, essentially, we see ratings and reviews content growing in importance. It’s difficult to see how this trend would not play out given everything we see above.

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.

Product sampling is one of the fastest ways to receive customer-generated reviews.

But it’s not just about the volume of your reviews; it’s also about the quality

Let’s look a little deeper at why product sampling campaigns are so effective. Along the way, you’ll learn how you can leverage this knowledge to make sure your campaigns are more effective than the competition’s.

Why Product Sampling is So Powerful

When someone begins a search for your product online, they’re not always looking for the product. They might be looking for product reviews

63% of people now say that they seek out websites for the purpose of researching customer reviews.

If your product doesn’t have great reviews, you’re already lagging behind the competition. How can you catch up? 

Product sampling offers some of the most efficient and cost-effective marketing to incentivize high-quality product reviews. It works by employing several psychological principles to drive response:

Reciprocity

Reciprocity is a foundational element of persuasion featured in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence. Cialdini cited one study in which waiters and waitresses provided customers complimentary mints along with the check. Customers reciprocated with higher tips: They gave 3% higher tips when one mint was provided and 14% for two.

Social proof

We’re social creatures, and our search patterns reflect this. Social proof means we look to other people to “prove” a concept before we try it. That’s why data shows one-quarter of search results for the biggest brands are links to customer-generated content. Customers trust the wisdom of the crowd.

Outreach and discovery

According to Pew Research, half of adults under age 50 search out online reviews before making new purchases. If you don’t have product reviews in place, these users may not even find your product in their research

Here’s the catch: Your competitors also know that product sampling is a great formula for generating these results. 

So how do you leverage product sampling to beat the competition that’s already engaged in proper sampling? And can you do it on a budget?

What’s Missing from Ordinary Product Sampling Campaigns?

Most ordinary product sampling campaigns focus solely on generating reciprocity. They don’t focus on creating a product sampling campaign that functions like a sophisticated marketing program. 

Here’s what they’re lacking:

Word-of-mouth

In the digital era–especially when so many of us are working remotely or practicing social distancing–word-of-mouth happens online. 92% of people find this effective in marketing campaigns. Does your product sampling campaign make it easier for users to share word-of-mouth, or are you just hoping it will?

Data

Don’t perform your product sampling in a vacuum. Your product sampling campaign should include data collecting. You want insightful, user-driven data that can assist a product sampling program in the future. That’s what happened in Vornado’s case, who leveraged these insights with PowerReviews. They saw their sampling campaigns move from an 83% completion rate to 97%.

Trust

Genuine user feedback hits key psychological triggers, which makes potential customers trust that your product is high-quality. Consider that in the health & beauty market, consumer feedback has more influence over buying decisions than price. Any product sampling campaign aimed at the quantity, not quality, of reviews will likely lag behind.

How to Make Better Use of Product Sampling

Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, but how can we implement a superior product sampling campaign in practice?”

Even if you don’t have a big-time budget, you’ll still be able to generate a higher volume of authentic reviews than other providers if you approach your product sampling program the right way. 

Here’s how.

Customer-Generated Visual Content

You don’t just want words. Customer-generated visual content is extraordinarily powerful. 

This is especially true for millennials, for whom customer-generated content is 20% more influential than other types of media. Overall, 88% of customers look for visual content in product reviews prior to making a purchase.

Long story short: If your product sampling campaign can collect more customer-generated visual content, you can put it to work across marketing campaigns and social media. You’ll have an instant advantage in establishing credibility for your product

Trust for Customer-Generated Content is Higher

This is social proof in action: The more customer-generated content you use, the more your potential customers can trust you. Ads generated from user content can have click-through rates as much as four times higher, with a 50% lower cost-per-click. 

With an effective marketing campaign that reduces your cost-per-click, you can generate more types of trusted customer-generated content without spending big-budget dollars.

Quality of Reviews

Want your product sampling campaign to outperform the competition? Focus on the quality of your reviews. 

One way to measure quality is to look for more engagement. For example, we’ve found that longer reviews tend to perform better. Marketing efforts focused on a product sampling campaign also tend to generate longer reviews. As Vornado found, their reviews from product sampling resulted in longer reviews.

0 %
Reviews collected from sampling campaigns are 44% longer than those collected organically.
0 %
Response rate for samples sent vs. reviews written for Vornado's latest product sampling campaign.
50000
Number of reviews syndicated to retail partners.

Product sampling alone isn’t enough; the quality of your product sampling campaign matters, too. That’s how you go beyond the power of ordinary product sampling and beat the competition’s product sampling campaigns.

How to Get Strategic with Product Sampling

Brands do best with a strategic approach to product sampling campaigns. 

It starts with driving a higher response rate. If you can send out fewer product samples than the competition and still drive more responses, you’re onto something. 

That requires advanced targeting (targeting based on purchase behavior, demographics, affinity groups, geographics, and more) to make sure that you’re sending the product samples to the right people. 

PowerReviews’ network of 500,000+ everyday influencers and brand advocates help extend this reach, and as a result, PowerReviews sampling clients see the industry’s highest review submission rates (85%+). That means brands spend less on samples, but still generate a higher volume of authentic reviews than with other providers.

The sampling program with PowerReviews is an instrumental part of our [Customer-Generated Content] collection strategy. What's really phenomenal is that we see a 90% response rate from our sampling campaigns.

Chris Oh, Head of Digital and Social at Maesa

What else makes for strategic product sampling with PowerReviews? 

Here’s what Alison Krakowiak, our Product Marketing Manager, shared from her perspective:

Community

Our PowerReviews community drives the success of our campaigns and includes about 800,000 consumers from diverse backgrounds. They are highly engaged and genuinely love engaging with new products/brands and sharing their experiences with others in the form of honest reviews.

Consumer Targeting

Having this large community enables us to work with brands to target very specific consumer groups, and we can make sure brands are engaging with the right people for their products. Working with the right people helps drive more relevant and reviews and also converts samples to reviews at a higher rate, meaning brands send fewer samples.

Sampling Process

Our clients have enough going on in their day-to-day, so we work hard to make sure our sampling process is easy and fits in seamlessly with their current systems and plans. We include dedicated product managers and optional shipping and fulfillment services so clients can focus on other things while we generate reviews for them.

Reporting

In addition to helping consumers drive stronger review coverage across their brands/product catalogue, we also help them learn. Reviews contain a huge amount of consumer insights and sentiment, so we analyze and organize those into digestible reports to help brands learn more about their products and their consumer base.

Customer Service

We assign dedicated project teams to each sampling campaign we run, which ensures clients are supported throughout the execution of their program. We handle all questions and issues in real-time before, during, and after a campaign.

How many reviews should you expect per product sampling campaign?

Many brands considering product sampling campaigns worry they’ll send out a bunch of product samples (which can be expensive) but that the campaign won’t generate very many reviews.

The good news: PowerReviews has been able to deliver 85-90% submission rates for clients due to strong targeting capabilities and consistency in campaigns execution.

“Targeting is key, so making sure we engage with the right customer for the right product will ensure higher submission rates and more reviews,” Krakowiak said. 

“We can target over 300 different data points–everything from age, gender, and location to where consumers shop, what products they currently use, what their hair/skin type is, and other things like interests, lifestyle, and household income range. Having this data at our disposal allows us to connect clients to customers that matter to them the most and who will deliver the most authentic and relevant reviews.”

In conclusion

Product sampling is a powerful way to build credibility and trust with your potential audience because it lets your audience speak to the features and benefits of your offerings (without you having to do it yourself.)

With the social proof generated through high-quality reviews from your product sampling campaigns, you can build trust with your audience, drive more sales, and make data-informed decisions.

Plus: By using a strategic approach, you can generate a higher volume of authentic, high-value reviews than the competition–even if you aren’t spending as much on your campaigns.

The bottom line: The impact of product sampling campaigns reaches far and wide, so be sure you’re putting it to good use for your brand.

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer specializing in e-commerce.

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