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One of the main reasons behind the early success of Amazon was its decision to make the voice of the customer front and center on product pages.
Being able to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of a product straight from other customers became an essential driver for buying decisions. Customer reviews have since been the vehicle for growth for other platforms, ranging from Yelp! and TripAdvisor to Glassdoor and others.
Like other commerce trends that were already in motion, it appears that the COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized the importance of customer reviews in buying decisions.
As a brand manufacturer, how can you ensure your teams are equipped to handle the influx of new reviews and able to turn the voice of the customer into a valuable source of data for your entire company?
The Digital Shelf Institute recently hosted Jon Jessup, founder and CEO of review management platform Reputation Studio, to answer these questions. Jessup discussed how brands could drive sales using insights from online review data and improve brand response rates and quality in the latest virtual session, “How to Leverage Ratings and Reviews to Build Trust.”
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online purchasing by nearly five years over the past two months, and online reviews are seeing similar step-function growth. According to recent insights from software and data company PowerReviews, review engagement has also increased by upwards of 105% since March 2020.
There are specific categories that are seeing even higher jumps. Here are the top five groups that have seen the most substantial engagement growth for online reviews, according to PowerReviews:
Reviews for hardware, sporting goods, and vehicle and auto parts categories have become drastically more essential since the start of the outbreak. Although there are some exceptions, it seems products that facilitate at-home, DIY projects now require an additional customer seal of approval before purchase.
Consumers notice the brands that take reviews more seriously than others. There are restaurants that encourage consumers to leave a review at every single touchpoint — or brands on Amazon that seem to respond to new reviews or questions almost instantly.
Jessup recommends two immediate steps for brands that aspire to this level of responsiveness and thoughtfulness when it comes to customer reviews.
A consumer care playbook formalizes how teams must respond to customer feedback and questions. It also highlights which teams are responsible for the different aspects of the response, how different channels may have different response protocols, and how organizations can measure success.
Jessup stressed that the playbook doesn’t need to be extremely detailed. Still, the act of formalizing one will help get critical stakeholders into place and will result in more productive conversations for future consumer care initiatives.
Jessup advocates for brands to put service level agreements (SLAs) into place. By establishing official response time limits, teams can be held accountable for what they need to do whenever a shopper posts a new review about one of their products. SLAs lead to more efficient processes and team coordination that genuinely put the voice of the customer front and center.
For teams that may be resource-strapped, Jessup also recommends that they focus on flagship products or products. Having a formal consumer care playbook in place for flagship products helps ensure popular products remain in good standing.
Having a formal consumer care playbook for new products, on the other hand, allows teams to quickly gather consumer data and make pivots in either the product itself or marketing messaging to better align with consumer needs.
The value of customer reviews shouldn't be limited to measuring brand or marketing effectiveness. There are areas of opportunity for other organizations as well.
Jessup highlighted that product teams could use customer review data to understand their product strengths and weaknesses better. This information also allows product teams to use consumer review improvement as a key performance indicator (KPI) to measure product success.
"The best way to have a five-star product is to have a five-star product," said Jessup.
Competitive analysis is another area where consumer reviews can be helpful. By measuring competing brand product reviews, organizations can have a better understanding of where they fit into the market — and how they could better position themselves to acquire new customers.
Reviews have become an essential part of the consumer journey. Brands can respond to this fact in one of two ways: 1. They can hope their products are good enough to generate decent reviews and leave it at that. 2. They can see consumer reviews as another way to gain control over their brand and messaging across channels.
As we can see with the rapid increase in reviews over the past couple of months, brands that take the latter approach stand to win on the digital shelf. In the eyes of the customer, reviews are essential for future commerce and brand success.
Listen to the full session, “How to Leverage Ratings and Reviews to Build Trust,” to learn more best practices on how you can begin to leverage ratings and reviews for digital shelf success.
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