No Shopper Left Behind: Drive E-commerce Growth by Listening to Your Customers’ Reviews
With nearly all shoppers – 97% to be exact – actively consulting online reviews when making purchase decisions, it should be no surprise how crucial ratings and reviews have become across the path to purchase. In fact, 70% of shoppers will not buy online without reading online reviews first, and 39% of shoppers will not buy in-store without reading online reviews first.
Ironically, while 80% of companies consider reviews at least somewhat important to their brand development, only 16% of them have an active strategy in place for generating, improving and extracting the full value from their reviews for brand acceleration.
Without a formal reviews strategy, many brands may be unintentionally overlooking or unable to operationalize the following three capabilities that would allow them to a) improve their overall value proposition, from their marketing campaigns to their digital shelf engagement as well as to their physical product offering and b) realize better shopper experiences, higher sales conversion and even more and better reviews for a virtuous cycle of growth.
Reviews for Marketing Communication
Fortunately for brands, many retailers’ media units across display and paid search automatically integrate ratings and reviews for the targeted products, making this capability much easier to activate.
However, the opportunity to leverage customer reviews in brand marketing efforts goes above and beyond such retail media units. Brands should also consider leveraging reviews across other media, including:
Other Digital Display Ads
Whether directing to a brand’s website, social media profile or product pages on a retailer’s site, national digital display media campaigns that weave in customer reviews and star ratings can be an effective way to socially validate the featured brand and product, dimensionalize the target customer by elevating feedback from a fellow representative of the intended audience, as well as highlight and/or reinforce specific features, benefits or applications of the product critical to the core message of the campaign.
Enhanced Product Content
What better place to feature ratings and reviews than on the very product detail page where the brand is driving the shopper to convert? On most retailers’ sites, brands have the ability to add gallery images, videos and enhanced product content in addition to the primary hero product shot on their product detail pages, providing them much more real estate than the physical shelf to educate, engage, sell and, in this case, socially validate their brand and products.
For brand leaders in lower-involvement categories who may feel they have less to say about their products, reviews offer up another alternative for helping them maximize their real estate and optimize their digital shelf presence.
And while we live in an ever-digital world, why should we forget about the media that got us here? Ratings and reviews have been, and should continue to be, integrated into other more traditional media, including TV spots, print advertising, direct mail, OOH, email, in-store display and shelf merchandising to help accelerate shoppers through the sales funnel toward brands’ ultimate objective: trial and repeat.
Reviews for Content Insights
One of the richest sources of “free” market research for consumer goods lies in the consumer-generated feedback in both the ratings and reviews and the Q&A sections of brand and retailer websites. It just comes down to brand leaders both manually and technologically sifting through the content to identify strategic insights, gaps and opportunities.
A brand should periodically “walk the aisles” of their e-commerce and omnichannel retailer partner websites, looking at both their product pages, as well as those of other players in and outside of their category in order to identify what shoppers are saying and/or asking most frequently that perhaps isn’t being communicated effectively in the current product detail page content available.
It can be quite eye-opening to see a) the unintended purchase results shoppers may experience due to lack of proper product education and b) what simple questions remain from shoppers even after reading a product detail page that then keeps them from making the purchase.
When it comes to pet food, transitioning a furry companion to new nutrition is not something a pet owner should do overnight but gradually over the course of two weeks. Many of the category’s worst customer reviews come from pet owners whose pets didn’t respond well to the new brand or recipe of food, but that’s more likely because of the fast transition in diet. Blue Buffalo does a nice job providing simple but effective transition education on their product detail pages to aid with healthy and smooth transition and happier end-consumers and reviewers as a result.
When it comes to OTC medications, vitamins and supplements, one of the most commonly unaddressed questions shoppers have revolves around pill size, because many people have issues with swallowing pills whole, especially larger tablets common in the supplements category.
Interestingly, few brands do a great job conveying pill size in an easily understandable way on the digital shelf.
By walking the aisles, the few brands who do shine in this area become evident, offering up an opportunity for other brands to take their own content to the next level. SmartyPants Vitamins do an exceptional job of communicating visually comparable and metric size in one single image while also making the image work even harder with recommended usage directions.
This shopper listening process should be built into either the initial or ongoing digital shelf management and optimization work in progress within a brand’s organization. Brand partners like OneSpace who specialize in digital shelf mastery and management can help systemize and integrate this effort for companies without dedicated resources.
Reviews for Product Insights
In addition to content and communication insights, customer reviews can also inform brand leaders of new product innovation opportunities, as well as packaging improvement and renovation opportunities for both a better product experience overall and more positive reviews for the brand in the long term.
Clean & Clear has a top-rated deep action exfoliating scrub product with reviews that often mention positive results for shoppers with sensitive skin. This could be used by the brand’s marketing team to update the packaging and marketing to call out this untapped benefit, or it could inform the innovation team of an unaddressed audience to pursue with future NPD pipeline opportunities.
3M Command strips and hooks strategically shifted to e-commerce-friendly, Ships-In-Own-Container (SIOC) packaging on Amazon.com to achieve more efficient, profitable fulfillment of its products to consumers; however, this renovation also undoubtedly helped improve overall product experience by removing the hard plastic shell containers used by these products and many others in-store that have been known (and reviewed) to be both less convenient and occasionally harmful to shoppers due to the sharp edges and difficulty to open.
Naturally, these types of changes or launches have a longer lead time than more simple digital shelf content edits; however, they may also be worth the investment considering the growth and retention potential at stake.
Ratings and reviews clearly matter to the consumer and directly influence their purchase decisions. While 68% of companies monitor ratings and use them as a KPI for performance, it will be the brands who don’t simply measure but also activate the untapped potential of these ratings and reviews to dynamically inform and influence their value proposition who will be the market leaders of tomorrow online and offline.
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Unlike the physical shelf at retail which remains fixed between annual line reviews and planogram resets, the digital shelf is a living, breathing, constantly evolving curation which must be mastered and remastered with constant vigilance and dedication.
But don’t worry. You don’t have to do this alone. We’re here to help.