The Psychological Impact of Your Ratings and Reviews Platform

by Sean Ogino |

The Psychological Impact of Your Ratings and Reviews Platform

ratings and reviews platform

The traces of collective choice go back to the ancient Greeks. They used to decide on important matters based on the opinions of other people. Of course, they discussed everything that one can imagine. But, its core was to use the collective wisdom to come to some final decision. Ratings and reviews work on the same principle: if so many people like some product or some restaurant, then it must have something appealing in it. This concept–known as social proof–has made the ratings and reviews platform a crucial part of any website. Of course, there is a strong reason why this progression has happened.

Higher star reviews have a much higher volume of purchases. What this means is that the positive nature of ratings and reviews is directly proportional to a positive purchase decision by customers. But why it is the case? What makes people buy when they see positive ratings and reviews? Just like every other business activity’s motive, the answer is hidden in the psychology.

Your Ratings and Reviews Platform Fosters Comparison

The human mind is conditioned to think in terms of comparison. I like this actor than the other one, I prefer black over red and so on. The same happens when a shopper is browsing e-commerce sites.

The choice on the internet comes down to two basic principles: is product or item A better than product or item B? As online shoppers don’t have the luxury of touching and feeling the product like the shoppers in a physical store, they need a system to foster comparison. Ratings and reviews fill that void by allowing individuals to share their opinions and criticism on websites.

Besides, the five-star rating system makes the comparison much sharper and easier. The viewers don’t just see five stars as a mere visual entity. The scale is also mentally thought of as really bad, bad, neutral, good, and great. This puts the shopper in a better place to put distinctive labels on each star without any effort. It gives an even more granular nature to the comparative analysis of the customers. And once he is convinced about the particular product being “better” than other ones, he is much more likely to decide about purchasing it.

The Lingering Impact of Positive Reviews 

Though the human mind is highly fickle, and what we had liked two years ago may easily become the least favorite thing in the world today, studies suggest otherwise when it comes to reviews. They point out the fact that the impact of the positive reviews would still linger on the minds of customers even if negative reviews are hurled upon them afterward. It somehow adheres to the old adage: the first impression is the last impression.

Brent Coker conducted a study and his main finding proposes that we remain captivated after reading early positive reviews, even if negative reviews come later. He conveyed all the positive facts about one fictional coffee brand and all negative facts about another to the group of seventy-six undergrads. For the former, he informed the group that the company has put green policies in place and for later he said that the company has tried to cover up exploitation of its workers. He also made use of pictures to illustrate the facts.

After some time, he said to the group that unknowingly fact sheets had been wrongly labelled. The positive statements actually applied to other coffee brand and vice versa. But he found that it really didn’t make any difference to the group. The impact of the early positive facts lingered, which led to the enhanced ratings for the brand that was originally misdescribed in glowing terms. The negative communication that was supplied purposely vanished quickly from their minds.

Coker’s study is of tremendous importance as it proved how you can create an indestructibly favorable mindset of customers by supplying positive reviews. It also accentuated the fact that how much trust people keep on reviews. It was an unquestionable testimony to the power of reviews in manipulating the psychological state of the customer.

Customers Seek Out the Negative

Various psychologists and behavior scientists have constantly suggested about the human tendency to cling to safety. According to Kahneman & Tversky, people are risk averse in conditions where they expect to gain something, and risk seeking in conditions where they stand to lose something. When people are considering purchases, they are looking to gain something in terms of finding a good product that will deliver multidimensional value and satisfy their needs. That’s precisely why they are equally attentive to the negative information, which they may find in ratings and reviews. It’s an effort to stay away from possible dangers.

Customers try to see how the company measures up before deciding to proceed any further. Through a ratings and reviews platform, they try to understand your strengths and weakness. They also seek answers to questions, like whether there any recurring issues with the brand or its products, how quickly the online retailer responds in case something goes wrong during the buying process or after the buying process, how the seller ships their products, and so on. In short, shoppers want to see the dark side of things too…and hence negative reviews are also important. It’s not at all surprising that eConsultancy reports that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see anything negative at all.

This negative review of a concealer provides helpful information for prospective shoppers.
This negative review of a concealer provides helpful information for prospective shoppers.

What one can read from this is that negative feedback on your ratings and reviews platform makes your website more genuine, real and authentic. And that’s the beauty of ratings and reviews…that even negative reviews are helpful! For more about the benefits of negative reviews, don’t miss this post. 

In a Nutshell…

Whether it’s the comparison that your ratings and reviews platform fosters or the authenticity that negative reviews bring to the table, you gain trust. That’s perhaps the most difficult psychological mental block to overcome while acquiring or retaining customers. More or less, your ratings and reviews platform is a collective testimony of various people…and that’s why it has become crucial social proof.

The Changing Contours of Customer Service: Nordstrom Cuts 106 Jobs

nordstrom coffee

Until a few years ago, a phone was the strongest link that connected customers with the customer service executive of the company. Even though that link is still very much prevalent today, its significance is on the decline. A survey by Desk.com, which took a look at service preferences across three demographics—Millennials (aged 18-35), Generation Xers (36-55), and Baby Boomers (56-65), confirmed that 80% considered phone-based customer service inconvenient. The below-listed stats bring us closer to the affirmation that the phone-based way of interacting with customers is a phased out instrument.

  • 71% of those surveyed said they were “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a live customer service rep over the phone.
  • 56% were just as aggravated when they had to place multiple phone calls in order to get the right person (or any person) on the line.
  • 67% hung up the phone after a customer service rep failed to resolve a problem.

The prominent reasons for this apparent moving away from the phone can be traced to the increasing tech savviness of customers and the basic change in the customer behavior. Customers now shop from 3 to 4 devices. They want service which will assist them throughout their buying journeys. Furthermore, shoppers now expect other conveniences outside the realm of support, like free shipping and returns, extensive product information, and more. Note that in 2016, 60% of consumers reported having higher expectations in terms of customer service than they did the previous year. And that’s why the role of customer service as a whole needs to be rethought and restructured. Nordstrom is one company that’s reacting strongly to this environment.

Nordstrom Cuts 106 Customer Service Jobs

Nordstrom just eliminated 106 customer service positions that supported shoppers via email, online chat, and phone. It’s not at all surprising that phone support is considered less necessary, but email and chat are popular customer service options. One factor that explains these overall cuts is Nordstrom’s continuing emphasis on convenience and quality customer experience.

In terms of in-store customer experience, Shopify notes several of Nordstrom’s signature moves that keep shopper complaints to a minimum:

  • Nordstrom’s employee handbook has one rule–“Use good judgement in all situations.” This reveals how they empower their employees, reducing red tape and shopper frustrations.
  • When customers ask where something is located in a store, Nordstrom’s salespeople are taught to walk the shopper to the location of the item instead of just pointing at it.
  • Salespeople can offer to ring up purchases without shoppers ever needing to stand in line.
  • There are stories of Nordstrom employees going far above and beyond the usual standards for customer service, like searching inside vacuum cleaner bags for a lost wedding ring.

When it comes to Nordstrom’s online ecosystem, they also prioritize convenience.

  • The company uses a single sign-on to unify customer accounts across its web properties, ranging from discount sites like HauteLook and NordstromRack.com to its high end Trunk Club and Nordstrom.com.
  • Customers can get online purchases in-store with curbside pickup, or have their in-store purchases shipped to their homes if they don’t want to carry bags around with them.
  • Nordstrom uses a POS system with personal book software that tracks individual customer requests and needs online and in-store.

With innovations like these, it seems more natural that shoppers wouldn’t rely as much on customer service. Indeed, in a statement sent to Retail Dive, a company representative noted:

We’ve made a number of investments across our business to make shopping easier and more convenient for our customers. One of the results of that has been a decrease in the number of customers who reach out to Customer Care for support, which has put us in the position of being overstaffed on that team. We’ve tried different solutions to address the problem, but ultimately decided to reduce roles. Though these kinds of decisions are never easy, we believe this change will position us to best meet the long-term needs of our business.

While cutting jobs is never fun, Nordstrom and other customer experience leaders provide some illuminating lessons about slimming down while keeping customers happy. Let’s take a closer look at some of the principles that make for outstanding customer service and experience.

The Shape of Modern Customer Service 

A) A Proactive View:

AI has enabled companies to map customers’ expectations and provide a solution before the arrival of the problem. We are not far away from a scenario where a device will be put into the fridge to warn customers and reorder food before they run out. Though it’s not for all the products, Amazon’s Dash Button works on a similar principle. And this trend will see a steep rise with more use of the internet of things. This is the approach that customer service executives need to consider if they want to survive and add a competitive advantage to their customer service.

B) The Need to Empower Customers:

The ideal customer service center is one whose existence is hard to feel. In short, it should empower customers in such a way that customers never have to call the customer service center. Remember that up to 75% of users claim that they do not want to talk to a support representative. Instead, they want to be empowered to help themselves and have an easy path to a support agent if needed. Of course, AI, VR, and other new age technologies can help the companies in coming up with this self- service ecosystem. As put across by McKinsey, “such channels are poised to become the gateway and triage medium for all of today’s live telephone contacts”.

C) A Dash of Human Interaction:

The wheel of tech revolution is moving with such speed that it can easily eliminate the need for any sort of human interaction. The downside of this tech-consumption is that it can jeopardize person-to-person bonds and leave relationship building with the customer in the lurch.

But a simple use of video technology in customer support scenarios can provide the best of both worlds. Customer service teams can enable customers with video and screen recordings to quickly communicate the problem they are having with software and products. It’s easily doable by embedding clips directly into support tickets. It’s in the mutual interest of customers as well as the customer service team, as it saves customers from describing a complex issue in written form, and it gives the customer service team an opportunity to respond with a video or screen recording of their own. Clearly, it’s a more personalized approach. Moreover, it’s a humanization of the whole process, as it gives the sense of the human being behind the support.

D) UGC Should be Woven In:

Up to 80% of the questions that customer service reps get each day are repetitive. It forces them to spend 80% of their time reading, organizing, and responding to questions and problems that they really shouldn’t have to face. Naturally, it is reducing their effectiveness almost to zero.

Now, such a waste of workforce can be curtailed down by using user generated content, or UGC. Ratings and reviews, questions and answers, and visual commerce all help give shoppers more information. Detailed reviews submitted by buyers clarify most of the doubts that customers may have about a product. Reviews’ direct impact can be felt on the reduced inquiries that the customer service team receives, and reduced returns. Visual commerce achieves a similar effect by showing products from a variety of angles and in different settings. Even after this, if some shoppers have doubts they can ask questions on the Q&A platform. These queries can be answered by other customers or the company’s product experts. It will allow companies to go through the heap of questions and save the 80% of the customer service team’s time that goes in answering the same questions. This saved time can be utilized in better observation of customer behavior, or in sending targeted and relevant communication to customers. Consequently, UGC doesn’t just improve the customer experience–it also heightens operational efficiency.

Even though customer service has often been viewed as an essential element of any business, the power that digitalization and social media have given to the people has made it even more vital. One bad customer service experience can take the form of a tiny tweet or long FB post and amplify its negativity by becoming visible to thousands. Along with this detrimental power of being viral, as much as 82% of consumers surveyed by Zendesk said they stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service. Looking at the sheer gigantic cost of bad customer service, adapting to its changing dimensions should undoubtedly be a high priority.

6 Critical Pros and Cons Of User Generated Content

Pros And Cons Of User Generated Content

As of March 2016, an estimated 298 million people are actively using mobile adblocking browsers. Click through rates for marketing emails are reaching new lows. This glaringly shows customers’ emotional as well as intellectual delinking with the communication that they receive from companies. Ads and regular marketing messages are often non-participative and monotonous, so customers’ lack of engagement makes sense. But the biggest reason for their disinterest is that such communication doesn’t come across through the impartial source. People view it as a marketing gimmick. This need for an honest and trustworthy source explains the popularity of user generated content. As it comes directly from customers, it’s seen as much more authentic than professional marketing content. But before diving into pros and cons of user generated content, first, try to understand the exact meaning of the term.

UGC is the term used to describe any form of content such as video, blogs, discussion posts, digital images, audio files, and other forms of media that were created by consumers or end-users of an online system or service and is publicly available to others consumers and end-users. User-generated content is also called consumer-generated media (CGM) or consumer generated content (CGC). It’s important to understand that almost all the advantages that UGC scores are mainly due to the unmatchable trust factor that it brings with it. Note that 70% of US consumers trust user-generated content more than other information on a company website!  In order to properly implement and use these valuable assets, though, it’s important to know the pros and cons of user generated content.

An example of user generated content on CoverFX's product page.
An example of user generated content on CoverFX’s product page.

Pros of User Generated Content

Increasing Engagement and Conversion 

The most obvious benefit on the list of the pros and cons of user generated content is the authenticity that it generates. As noted above, shoppers trust images, videos, and reviews that come from other consumers much more than content produced by marketers.

  • 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust word-of-mouth more than advertising.
  • According to a report by Forrester, 70% of consumers consider product and brand recommendations from their social circles trustworthy and 46% trust online reviews posted by other customers. In comparison, only 10% trust banner ads on websites.

This trust produces concrete results in terms of conversion and engagement.

  • 82% of shoppers say that user-generated content is extremely important when deciding on purchases.
  • Brand engagement rises by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product video.
  • Brands see 25% increase in conversions when user-generated photos are used instead of professionally made product shots by brands.
  • When UGC is included in advertising, online stores see 4x higher click-through rates and 50% drop in cost-per-click.
  • UGC can improve conversion rates  6.4% for clothing, 2.4x for jewelry, 1.7x for footwear and 1.6x for products in beauty and consumer electronics verticals.

Solving the Content Crunch

A study done in 2014 revealed that the number one challenge that marketers face (36%) is producing compelling content. The next most common challenge (21%) is making enough content. The issue of content crunch has become much bigger due to the over-explosion of content. Coming up with outstanding content on a regular basis is becoming more and more of a challenge. But through the content that customers submit, the burden of daily content creation can be eased. Besides, most of the UGC content springs from the daily lives of people- like a summer vacation, birthday parties, or reviews written about a recently purchased product. All of these instances are extremely relatable, and they’re usually evergreen.

Aiding Discovery 

Discovery is a less common concept when it comes to the pros and cons of user generated content, but it’s important nonetheless. 

Obviously, going to the store is not the only way to find products nowadays. Consumers now connect with brands across a multitude of touchpoints throughout the customer life cycle (CLC) from discovery through purchase and engagement. With mobile phones and laptops, which are now empowered by much more robust and powerful internet connections, customers simply dive into online research to know if there is anything in the market which is close to their taste or need.

This is where UGC can be a huge influencer. And the reason is its shareability which makes it a viral element on the internet. If the customer comes face-to-face with UGC campaigns or photos of your product or ratings and reviews about your product during his discovery phase, they create imprints of your product in his mind. And considering the fact that the number of worldwide users of social media is expected to reach some 2.95 billion by 2020, it’s too important a benefit to overlook.

Another mode of discover is SEO. One study has found that more than 30% of shoppers prefer to start shopping at a search engine. Based on this data, marketers can calculate the importance of a solid SEO strategy in driving shoppers to their product pages. UGC in the form of ratings, reviews, Q&A and even user-submitted images can be a catalyst in boosting site’s search rankings, as customers use common terms that increase visibility around valuable keywords. Remember that search engine algorithms value fresh and unique content…and UGC constantly supplies that. Moreover, search engines understand the consumers’ need to go through ratings and reviews. They show preference to web pages that render review content by default, without a click.

Improving Efficiency 

UGC isn’t just about images and reviews. It includes interaction with customers through answering their questions also. Irrespective of the clear communication that you put on product packaging, people will have questions about that product. Through a questions and answers platform, if a company representative or other customers answer such questions, it can reduce calls to call centers; and thereby the service costs.

On this note, user generated content has also been shown to reduce returns by providing more information to shoppers.

Cons of User Generated Content

Fielding Negative Content

It’s way too easy to feel the burn of UGC, as it is controlled by the users. By allowing users to post content on their site, companies are letting them have more control in the sense that they can post a variety of things, that may or may not be good for the company and brand image.

While tools like ratings and reviews moderation, visual commerce moderation and curation, and questions and answers moderation–which should be a combination of automatic filtering as well as human intervention–help, there will still be negative reviews and comments that you should publish. There are many benefits of negative reviews, in fact, including increased authenticity, valuable feedback, and more. In actuality, then, this item on the list of pros and cons of user generated content can be turned into a positive outcome.

Tackling Unknown Sources

As explained in the above point, UGC gives control to the users. But the anonymities and fake profiles that sneak through the internet and social media create the risk of getting information from unreliable sources. Other customers may doubt the authenticity of the users who have been submitting content. The way out here is to send an invite to those within your database or email list, and provide “verified review” badges.

Understanding the Legal Tapestry

Contrary to what many believe, not everything that a user uploads on social media with your hashtag is usable. Because the sole owner of that content is the uploader. Therefore, companies have to get proper permission from the user. They can do that through implicit or explicit user generated content permissions, which you can learn about in full detail here. While these rights management issues can initially seem daunting, they can be managed in a simple fashion through your visual commerce dashboard.

An example of a permissions request for visual commerce.
An example of a permissions request for visual commerce.

Clearly, just like everything in life, there are pros and cons of user generated content. But those downsides are manageable with measures like new emerging software that reduces the need for intensive labor and authentication of profiles. Looking at the tremendous impact that UGC can have on the overall functioning and ROI of the company, such measures deserve a chance. But for its implementation, getting a fair idea of the pros and cons of user generated content is necessary. This necessity becomes, even more, sharper when you get to know that only 9% of top 250 consumer brands place user-generated content directly on their product pages.

Sporting Goods User Generated Content Lets Fans Speak for Themselves

sporting goods user generated content

As I have discussed in this blog, most sports brands and sporting goods manufacturers have to figure out a way to fight the various hurdles of stiff competition, reduced margins, and high production costs for certain types of goods. There’s considerable erosion into the budget done by marketing activities, other ways of reaching out to the masses, and in building a positive image of the brand. But the puzzle is, you have to perform such activities to generate a substantial buzz around the product; and they cost a lot. Sporting goods user generated content can be that piece that solves today’s complicated, and somehow rigid, marketing puzzle.

As the name suggests, user generated content, or UGC, is the term used to describe any form of content that was created by consumers or end-users and is publicly available to other users. The main point in this definition is the word any. It can be textual, visual, as well as in the aural form. That’s why its scope is too huge. We will look into some of the most effective forms of sporting goods user generated content.

Sporting Goods User Generated Content: Visuals

The most potent weapon of this century as far as generating engagement among customers is concerned is visual content–both images as well as videos. By now statistics like content with relevant images gets 94% more clicks than content without don’t really surprise us. 

The bonus points that sports brand have is that the sports or fitness is a matter of passion for many. If you observe, people often share their photos showcasing themselves in gyms, playing a game with friends, or celebrating a fitness milestone. A sports brand just has to channelize it in an organized way by filtering out better photos. A collection of innumerable photos is quite possible with the help of a unique hashtag. This strategy can be used during the product launch, or promotion of loyalty or referral programs. Even in the absence of such flagship events, this strategy is effective when brand sees that there is a reduction in customer engagement and something needs to be done.

Nike has used the power of images effectively with a simple idea. It knew that it is the most followed brand on Instagram with 65.7m followers. Nike decided to galvanize this huge pool of followers by letting them use Instagram photos to customize their trainers. The campaign was called Nike PHOTOiD.

nike-photo-id

It helped Nike in two ways. First, it helped it in advertising the Nike brand. Second, as there was a chance of creative self-promotion for people, the engagement touched the peak in no time. The campaign was a huge success. At least, results say so.

  • 100,000 shoes created within the first week– and at the peak of the campaign, Nike had 600 shoes being created every hour.
  • Click through rate of 8% to buy the designer shoes on their Nike ID website.

Clearly, Nike succeeded in turning Instagram followers into customers!

Adidas also came up with an idea to leverage the indisputable power of visuals. It joined hands with ESPN to launch a new interactive ad campaign, which gave sports fans the chance to have their skills showcased on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

https://youtu.be/QypkBliIEe4?t=27

It’s easy to use visual sporting goods user generated content without breaking the bank on a splashy ad campaign. Use visual commerce software to collect your customers’ photos via hashtag or on-site upload and use these assets–with the proper permissions–everywhere. Shoppable on-site galleries, marketing emails, social posts, and in-store displays are great places to start.

Visual commerce increases conversion by 5-7% on average. For sporting goods, it’s especially important as shoppers want to see the gear they might buy being used by other athletes, whether they’re playing a casual pickup game or in the World Cup.

eagle-creek-vc

 

Sporting Goods User Generated Content: Ratings and Reviews

The trust and authenticity that ratings and reviews bring makes them an important factor that affects the entire buying process of customers. 70% of shoppers trust this form of UGC over professionally-written marketing content. With sports gear, there is no dearth of people who feel passionately about such things. Customers need to know if your goods will hold up when they’re running, sweating, stretching, and more. If the product is genuinely good, these passionate people will throng your reviews platform with a plethora of positive reviews.

You can also become proactive when it comes to obtaining this sporting goods user generated content. As most of the ratings and reviews platforms come with the ability to give granular details, it’s very easy to know if there are people who constantly write well about your products or rate them highly. You can target these shoppers with tailored messages. Or, reward users for contributing with entries into contests, discounts, or loyalty points. Vivobarefoot, a British athletic footwear brand, uses their loyalty program–which works as a unified whole across all its sites–to incentivize review-writing, among other actions.

vivo-loyalty

Sporting Goods User Generated Content: Questions and Answers

Frankly speaking, a questions and answers platform has a two pronged impact. On the one hand it helps customers in getting important knowledge from their fellow customers as well as from product experts. This is crucial, as many types of sports gear have fairly technical specifications, and shoppers’ needs vary a lot.

Questions and Answers can also become an effective tool for online reputation management. Knowingly or unknowingly people write things which are far removed from reality. And in the abundance of social media and multiple consumer forums, it’s almost impossible to keep track on each and every written word that is against your brand. In such matters, people make their opinions quickly-often blindly. It can be a dangerous thing when look at it from the brand’s status point of view. One bad experience, which can be a complete exception, may propel someone to write, for example, that the tennis ball that you are manufacturing doesn’t last long. If that’s not the case, it’s easy to use Questions and Answers to clear up any misconceptions.

The most noticeable part among all the above discussed forms of the UGC is that apart from being cost savers, especially when compared with the cost that goes into ads, they work on the principle of consumer participation. Looking at the ready-made madness and passion that this industry generates among its customers, it should top the priority list of every sports brand!

Google Trusted Stores is Shutting Down: Here’s Why and How

google trusted stores is shutting down

Google just announced that Google Trusted Stores is shutting down. The search giant hasn’t provided a specific end date for the certification program for online sellers, which was rolled out in 2012. I’ll be replaced by a new program called Google Customer Reviews.  Let’s take a look at some of the specifics.

What is Google Trusted Stores?

Google Trusted Stores has been a program for online sellers to show that they provide a positive buying experience. Getting a certification has been a somewhat rigorous process. Some of the notable criteria include:

  • Your terms of service, privacy policy, and return and shipping policy are all transparent and easily accessible
  • You provide site security through https:// pages when sending financial and customer information
  • 90% of orders are shipped on time, and at least 50% of orders are trackable
  • Less than 10% of orders get backordered or pre-ordered (a problem for certain in-demand sites)
  • 99% of customer service queries get a response within 2 working days
  • You don’t cancel more than 2.5% of your orders

Provided sellers meet these and other standards, customers shopping at these stores get $1000 worth of purchase protection from Google, plus extra peace of mind. Sellers, meanwhile, generally get better positioning in both organic search through Google Shopping and in text ads.

Google Trusted Stores displays a check next to compliant merchants' search results and ads.
Google Trusted Stores displays a check next to compliant merchants’ search results and ads.

Indicators of trust and authenticity are always crucial in e-commerce. While it’s hard to find data on exactly how much having a Google Trusted Stores certificate helps sellers in terms of actual acquisition and conversion, the consensus has been that it’s particularly useful for smaller sellers or for large brands who are sometimes imitated. Recent plagues of fake shopping apps have shown how names like Michael Kors can be subject to fraud of this kind. We also know that other sorts of solutions that boost site trust, like ratings and reviews software and other user generated content, can increase revenue by 18%.

Why Google Trusted Stores is Shutting Down and What’s Next

We can glean why Google Trusted Stores is shutting down by looking at what we know about its replacement, Google Customer Reviews. In comparison, the latter looks more streamlined and less burdensome for merchants, especially as it’s not a formal certification program. The biggest difference is that Google Customer Reviews, as true to its name, will be reliant on shopper feedback.

There’s no indication that Google Customer Reviews would pertain to specific products in the way that most ratings and reviews platforms do. Rather than leaving feedback about individual items, shoppers would be surveyed about their overall experience.

Merchants will access the new feature through Google Merchant Center, and those who currently have Google Trusted Stores accounts will be migrated automatically to Google Customer Reviews. Merchants using the new tool will need to add a survey opt-in box to their sites. Customers who opt in to Google Customer Reviews will be contacted by Google and asked to rate their purchase once they’ve received it. In order to be in the program, sellers will have to give all customers this option.

After customers submit ratings, the seller can put a Google Customer Reviews badge on their site. It can be customized and show their Seller Ratings if applicable.

What does this mean for sellers?

The fact that Google Trusted Stores is shutting down in exchange for Google Customer Reviews looks largely beneficial for online sellers. It looks like they’ll have to devote fewer internal resources to making sure that they’re compliant, and won’t have to share data with Google about their shipping volume, delivery practices, and so on. This offers a distinct extra benefit to sellers whose time to shipment is slow due to unavoidable factors like stocking customized products.

Instead, by relying on customer feedback, sellers will get a more direct assessment of how they’re exceeding or not meeting expectations. Rather than getting a passing or failing grade based purely on Google’s definitions, they’ll have another avenue in which the ultimate judge’s voice–that of the customer–is clearly heard. This has always been a benefit of product reviews, but now it’ll be more widely applied to the overall customer experience.

The drawback is that if sellers don’t get good reviews, they’ll face challenges. While there are some benefits of negative reviews, it might be the case that merchants will be held to higher standards than they were before.

How Verified Reviews Affect Your Site’s Authenticity

verified reviews

There is a strange dichotomy in the realm of reviews. On the one hand, according to market research firm YouGov, approximately 4 in 5 American consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. And on the other hand, there are studies that suggest that only about 65% of consumers who “always or almost always read online ratings” believe that the reviews they turn to are consistently credible and accurate. But the most telling figure from these studies says that 48% of respondents find it difficult to tell if online reviews are truthful and unbiased. Furthermore, a recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder pointed out the potential for bias when a product is purchased at a deep discount or provided for free in exchange for a review. All these negative tones have made people more cautious- making them not to trust the reviews.

Clearly, fake, biased, and unauthentic reviews are taking away the sheen of trust from reviews- their unique selling point. The business world, especially the ecommerce world, has tried to address this. Amazon has been aggressively hunting down the fake reviewers and the sellers who have been giving tacit support to such unethical acts. Compared to legal action, though, verified reviews from real customers seem much simpler. That’s why they’ve become more valuable than ever.

The Meaning of Verified Reviews

Once customers have actually purchased a product, they will receive an email for a product review. It assures the company that they are reviewing the product that they have actually purchased. Such customers are called as “Verified Buyers”. When verified buyers write reviews on the website itself, they get an email to verify their reviews. Only after thorough verification and sound approval by the buyers’ end, reviews get a “Verified Reviewer” badge. In case buyers fail to verify their reviews, they are considered “Anonymous” reviewers. In short, the verification process of reviews is a process that assures that the person who has posted the review has actually purchased the product and the displayed review is written by him.

verified review
An example verified review.

The Impact of Verified Reviews

Verified reviews are tied to transactions that really happened. In case of anonymous or unprompted reviews, sometimes reviews are published under screen names that may or may not be their names in real life. Or names may be real, but there’s no way of telling whether the users actually purchased the product or service they reviewed. Naturally, there remains a difference in a way they both affect the psyche of the customer. A recent study by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center has explored the finer nuances of that difference, such as the difference in the sentiments that they both evoke, and impact on the company’s reputation. The key findings of the study revolve around following points:

A) Verified Reviews Tend to Have Higher Ratings Than Unprompted Reviews:

The study found that the average rating of verified reviews is 4.34 stars, which is right in the range of the ideal average star rating (4.2 to 4.5 stars) for purchase probability. They are also more likely to remain constant over time. Unprompted reviews, on an average, have a rating of 3.89 stars- that too with the possibility of a steady reduction in the future. It has been also observed that verified reviews also have a higher percentage of 5-star ratings, while unprompted reviews claim a larger share of 1-star ratings. And the direct proportionality between the higher number of stars and chances of conversion is a well established fact.

Moreover, this difference between the ratings can be attributed to the environment in which the verified or the unprompted reviewer writes the review. As we have seen earlier, verified reviewers receive a review request via email. Once they decide to write a review, they are taken to a landing page that doesn’t unveil what others have said about the given product or service. Due to this, at this stage their consciousness is like a clean slate- unadulterated and unbiased. They write freely what they really feel about the product. That’s why reviews from verified buyers have 6.5% more product “pros” and 50% fewer product “cons.”

But unprompted reviewers have to navigate through product pages or business listings where previous reviews can be seen and evaluated. On some reviews platforms, previous reviews are showcased alongside the actual review and rating form. It generally becomes impossible to write an honest review amidst the bombardment of reviews, as theory suggests that users who are self-motivated to write a review without being prompted are more likely to have extreme (often more negative) opinions. As a consequence, it brings the average star rating down.

B) Unprompted Reviews Are Much Longer:

The study also pointed out that unprompted reviews are 85% longer in character count than verified reviews. On an average, unprompted review is 376 characters, compared to 203 characters for verified reviews. One reason for this disparity could be due that fact that reviews from anonymous consumers often have more extreme and negative opinions. Expounding these opinions may take more words. It directly means rapid distribution of more negativity about your product. This is not a healthy scenario- especially in the era of social media where things become viral quickly.

It then explains why Amazon’s algorithm gives massive importance to the“verified” badge. It shows non-verified reviews for the product. But that product appears lower on a search than a similar product with more verified reviews. Apart from bringing the possibilities of more positive reviews, verified reviews help in restoring the trust deficit that the overall reviews structure is experiencing. That’s why a set of 10 verified 4-star reviews ultimately more powerful than a set of 10 anonymous 5-star reviews.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act: What You Need to Know

consumer review fairness act

Genuine ratings and reviews have always played a crucial role in shaping up positive mindsets, and thus, purchase decisions of customers. As 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, it’s not puzzling to see the fear of negative reviews, which dwells in every marketer’s heart. But in an attempt to curtail the spread of negative reviews, some companies have gone the extra mile…so much so that they didn’t realize that they are violating the right of free speech. That’s currently being addressed, though, by the new Consumer Review Fairness Act.

What is Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA)?

The reviews are valuable assets for any businesses as they have a huge impact on consumers’ buying decisions. These reviews have a great significance in the shopping experiences of millions of shoppers; they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from their family, friends or relatives. 95% of consumers look for others’ opinion online before making a purchase decision.. Reviews build a strong brand image, which significantly impact your sales. There are dedicated websites on the internet such as Yelp and TripAdvisor where customers can share their experience about products by writing positive or negative reviews.

Businesses took numerous steps to manage their customers’ after realizing its importance. Many businesses, unfortunately, in an attempt to control the spread of negative reviews have deployed contract provisions that prevent people from leaving negative reviews on any channel. If done so, businesses used to impose penalties to their customers who would leave negative reviews. .

In response to prohibit such clauses from businesses, Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 was passes into law by President Barack Obama on December 14, 2016. The act protects freedom of speech where customers have the right to express their opinions about any product or services on any online forum without companies’ interference.

According to the Consumer Review Act, customers have the right to online reviews, social media posts, upload photos and also give rating to companies depending on the quality of their services.

To put the history plainly, in an effort to keep their online reviews monotonously positive, some companies began to add “gag orders” or “non-disparagement” clauses in their contracts or terms of service agreements to silence dejected customers by punishing them if they leave negative online reviews or say bad things about them through social media channels. What was even shocking was that most of these consumers never even knew they agreed to such a policy. Many companies used to put such gag orders in the footer of a website or some vague place where you wouldn’t think to look. Naturally, almost every time, they went unnoticed and many customers became subject to a lawsuit or other fines. Some customers were even fined for just threatening to leave a bad review online. Though the list of such examples is too long, the following ones are just the templates-

  • A pet sitter sued a couple in Plano, TX, because they left a negative online Yelp review about the pet sitter’s pricing policy and how their fish bowl was cloudy (i.e., the fish were overfed) when they returned from their trip.

  • One apartment complex put a clause in their lease agreement stating that any photographs of the apartments are the property of the apartment management company and that renters would be fined/sued if they left negative reviews about the apartments online.

  • A Florida wedding vendor had a clause in their agreement that makes couples agree that they will never make or encourage any disparaging comments about their company in any form, verbal or written.

Yelp even started to post warnings on a business’s Yelp listing when they’re aware that the business owner could bring a lawsuit or fine a person if they leave a negative review about their business.

consumer alert reviews

The Consumer Review Fairness Act:

This injustice caught the attention of New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance, Vice Chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee. To protect the consumer’s basic right to post honest feedback online, on December 2, 2016, he and US House Speaker Paul Ryan signed Lance’s Consumer Review Fairness Act.

With unanimous bipartisan support, this consumer protection legislation passed both the US House and Senate. On December 15, 2016, the then president Obama signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act into law. You can view its snippet here. According to the Congressman’s Press Release:

“In the 21st century economy, it is easier than ever for consumers to make informed choices on which business or service to use by consulting websites and apps that publish crowdsourced reviews of local businesses and restaurants. Consumer reviews are a powerful informational tool because consumers place a high value on the truthful reviews of other consumers. Some businesses have become frustrated by online criticism and some have employed a questionable legal remedy known as a “non-disparagement” clause to retaliate against consumers. These [clauses] are often buried in fine print. The Consumer Review Fairness Act would void any non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts. It also would ensure companies are still able to remove false and defamatory reviews.”

The Future Impact Of The Consumer Review Fairness Act:

The Consumer Review Fairness Act voids any conditions in a form contract (like a website’s terms of use) that (1) restrict a party’s ability to leave reviews, (2) impose penalties for leaving negative reviews, or (3) transfer intellectual property rights in reviews or feedback content to the other party in the contract. The last provision is quite significant, as it disables businesses to take out any unwanted reviews without a court order by sending a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Apart from online reviews, the Consumer Review Fairness Act also takes care of photographs, videos, and offline reviews. Besides, after the enactment of this Act, state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be empowered to enforce the new law when required, but it cannot displace state law.

Even though this is a move that demands to be welcomed by everyone who cares about the consumer rights and the US Constitution, some concerns have already begun to erupt. The Consumer Review Fairness Act is applicable in the premise of form contracts. It will not affect the acts that take place after a substantive negotiation, and it does not cover contracts between employers and their employees and independent contractors.

Moreover, under the Consumer Review Fairness Act, companies can still legally prosecute the authors of false and defamatory online reviews and they are not prohibited from removing such reviews. They simply cannot preempt consumers publicizing their actual opinions by burying non-disparagement clauses in non-negotiated form contracts, but the act doesn’t stop them from putting non-disparagement clauses as they can negotiate to have them in the agreement.

In spite of these limitations, the Consumer Review Fairness Act is an epochal move toward safeguarding the consumers’ right to say freely what they feel about products. The collateral impact will be felt upon the enhanced possibility for customers to make more informed and studious buying decisions.

The unanimous passing of this bill in both the houses suggests that there was an urgency to get rid of ploys that stifle freedom of expression. However, if you’re already transparent with your customers and stand by your products, the Consumer Review Fairness Act won’t make a difference for you. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this law will impact the ratings and reviews policies of certain companies after  March 14, 2017, as it applies to non-disparagement clauses in effect on or after 90 days from its enactment.

How can Businesses Comply with Consumer Review Fairness Act?

The businesses should not take CRFA as a threat or view it negatively, in fact, they should capitalize on their customers’ reviews to improve their user experience, customer engagement and manage their online reputation. You can use the following workarounds to deal with false and malicious reviews, and comply with the CRFA.

Respond to Your Customers Immediately

Customers expect you to respond to their reviews within six hours of their posting. Your instant response to their reviews show that you care for them and their satisfaction is your priority. Respond to your customers politely as it is a public forum and everybody is watching you, your rude response can be detrimental to your business.

Issue a Cease and Desist Letter

If you find any of your customers review downright false and exaggerated, you can take a legal action to protect the image of your brand under expert’s guidance. This action can be taken by issuing a desist letter to your customers.

Enhance the Quality of Your Brand

Your hostile reaction to your clients’ negative reviews can be counterproductive. Take it as a feedback instead to make improvements to your products or services. Responding to their feedback will help you in the long run as it make your brand strong and curb future complaints. You can also organize surveys to discover your customers’ likings and disliking about your products. The more you improve you service; the less will be negative reviews.

How to Increase User Generated Content Submissions with Psychology

increase user generated content

It’s clear there’s been a surge in the use of user generated content, or UGC, by marketers–according to SEMRush, 86% of businesses use it in their marketing efforts! While most of us know that solutions like visual commerce, ratings and reviews, and questions and answers increase visibility and conversions by adding authentic customer voices to brand content, it’s not always easy to increase user generated content submissions. 

We’ve provided a wealth of best practices about UGC solicitation, including specific articles about Visual Commerce solicitation and in-mail and offline reviews, as well as a reviews FAQ white paper that addresses many ways to increase user generated content. Top it all off with Annex Cloud’s Smart Engagement Algorithm, which automatically finds the best time to send engagement solicitation emails, and you shouldn’t have a problem gathering photos, videos, reviews, and Q&A content. However, in order to thoroughly optimize your UGC experience, you should understand what motivates people to share content with the brands they use and love.

While thinking about UGC, which is a form of customer participation, the marketing focus has to shift from a mere purchase behavior to psychological undercurrents. And motivation has a deep link with psychology. Without understanding the latter, the former cannot get exhibited and expounded. Thus, it becomes imperative to understand the term motivation in order to increase user generated content participation.

In general, motivation can be defined as a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. It’s an internal mechanism that separates activity from inactivity. Motivations can be divided into two types, based on different goals to rise to an action. As suggested by Ryan & Deci, intrinsic motivation refers to doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable, and extrinsic motivations regard doing something to obtain a separable outcome. When it comes to user generated content participation, are some motivators which are intrinsic as well as altruistic, while some are predominantly extrinsic. Having a close encounter with them along with relevant examples will help you in deepening your understanding about how to increase user generated content submissions. 

UGC Motivator #1: A Chance to Be Validated

 I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show and all 30,000 had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.” This statement of Oprah Winfrey, which came when she was bidding adieu to her wildly popular TV show, highlighted the growing need of the public validation that everyone needs today. It’s part of a mental mechanism that stops at the moment when someone’s ego gets satisfied when they see that what they say or do matters to others. In a sense, the need for validation is a need to be in control and recognized. 

Tourism Australia wanted to increase user generated content involvement and used this validation aspect to their advantage. They changed their usual Facebook tactics and decided to hand the page over to the fans by inviting fans them take and post photos with the hashtag #seeaustralia.

After two years, fans are posting over 1,000 photos every day. People from all walks of life, like locals, tourists and professional and semi-professional photographers contributed with their photos that captured the scenic beauty of Australia. The participation from the people grew organically when they began to see that photos shared by them are being at the forefront of the company’s page. This ignited flame of importance converted Tourism Australia’s Facebook page is now one of the biggest destination pages in the world.

 

tourism australia facebook

UGC Motivator #2: A Drive for Fun

Remember that in UGC, people are generally sharing the experience that they have had with a particular brand. It’s clear, then, that in order to increase user generated content, it helps to make participation as fun as possible. 

Fanta, a beverage brand, definitely recognized this when its team took their billboard advertising to another level. They created a small photo printer in the billboard ad and ad instructed onlookers to take a selfie and publish their content to Instagram. After submitting the photos with the hashtag FantaTastesLike, they were rewarded with a printed and branded copy of their photo to take with them.

fanta

 

UGC Motivator #3: A Desire for the Spotlight

The need to flaunt is a primitive human emotion. The selfie just made it more visible than ever. At some point, everybody wants to tell the world that they are experiencing something great, thrilling and unforgettable. And with mobile phones, everyone is a photographer. That’s why users are twice as likely to share something if they want a friend to see it. Marketers, thus, can increase user generated content participation by catering even more to consumers’ love for the limelight.

GoPro has already moved in that direction. It began promoting #GoProMusic, which highlighted fan photos submitted from their GoPro cameras at the Bonnaroo music festival.

gopro
GoPro tapped into the early excitement that every concert goer feels. They increased user generated content submissions through a real-time marketing strategy, which was firmly designed around promoting  content as fans shared their favorite Bonaroo moments. The takeaway is, try to find out events or happenings related to your brand, and design a real time strategy around them.

UGC Motivator #4: Altruism and Community

While some consumers share UGC more for the aforementioned reasons, many write reviews, answer questions, and contribute photos or videos in order to help other shoppers or the company they’re reviewing.  Indeed, one survey about travel reviews in particular found that the largest motivator for contributors was a “need to reciprocate great experiences provided by travel and tourism companies,” while helping other consumers was second.

The tone of ‘helpful’ reviews may be negative, as users want to warn others by pinpointing the negative aspects of the product or service. It has also been observed that people want to help companies by giving honest feedback through reviews and suggestions. There are many additional benefits of negative reviews, too.

Alongside the desire to help comes the desire to belong. One study found that one of the strongest motivations to contribute UGC is one “to participate and belong to online communities.” In other words, some users contribute UGC in order to “meet new people and communicate with others.”

Marketers who want to increase user generated content on their site should take note of these findings and emphasize a sense of community.

Clif Bar & Company, an organic food and drink manufacturer, realized this and took it a step further. They began the #MeetTheMoment campaign to raise awareness about environmental concerns by donating to several non-profits for each hashtag mention that their Instagram account received.

clif-bar
Obviously, it is advantageous if you choose a cause that is related to your product segment. It makes your brand more desirable as for many people it’s an act of pride to be associated with a brand that believes in social responsibilities. Learn more about cause-based marketing in this post!

In Summary…

As I have put across earlier, even though many marketers have begun the use of UGC as the prime mover of their marketing schemes, not many know the actual motivators. The fact that more than 50% of consumers want some direction and guidelines for creating reviews or other content, but only 16% of brands provide any proves the gap between brands’ distance from the reality of customer psychology when it comes to UGC. That’s what creates a call for the thorough and in depth understanding of all the points that are being discussed here. The gravity of this need becomes even wider when you get to know that 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust word-of-mouth more than advertising!

6 Consumer Research Tools You’re Probably Not Using

Consumer Research Tools

The final buying decision of a customer is not usually straightforward. It gets shaped by various forces, be they cultural, social, psychological, and economical. Understanding how these factors prompt or repel people from buying is needed if marketers wish to succeed. The reason is that once you know the “actual” facts about the consumers, you can decide what consumer segment  needs to be on your marketing radar and, more importantly, how to get their attention. Consumer research, thus, is like a lighthouse for your marketing efforts. It gives direction to everything that marketers do.

Today’s marketers, especially ecommerce marketers, are lucky in a sense that they are living in a world where information about customers is never far away from them. Along with their own database, the market is flooded with tools which can further simplify their process of consumer research. Though there are plenty of such tools, I have listed down some of the most innovative consumer research tools.

1) Reddit

Reddit, a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website, reaches over 200 million unique visitors each month from over 208 countries. This means that the chances of the presence of your desired target audience are very high here. Apart from being free, it boasts a presence of multiple communities called subreddits, groups of people that discuss common topics. This is precisely where the possibility to peep into the consumers’ mindsets arrives for marketers.

With the help of Subreddit Search Tool, you can search your keywords to find your audience on reddit. Suppose that you are selling nutritional products. Then, you might type in “nutrition” to bring up a list of subreddits related to that topic.

reddit

After combing through the top results in the subreddit, you can see the popularity of the post.

reddit upvote

As you can see, two of those top spots are taken up by talk of energy and nutrition. Now, through this you can understand what they are thinking about the overall nutritional products and industry. If you think that you have a product which can meet their expectations, you can target them accordingly. Remember that Reddit isn’t called the front page of the internet for nothing!

2) Google Trends 

Google is regarded by many as one of the most powerful consumer research tools. Its Google Trends feature in particular gives you an unobscured picture of how often particular keywords or subjects have been searched over a certain time period. Of course, you can check the keyword related to your brand as well as the keywords of your competitors – that too in a real time. As it gives refined results by location, category and search history along with the cause of the sudden rise in interest for few keywords, it tells you what people find more interesting, what is on their mind for most of the time and what they love the most.

google trends

3) Ratings and Reviews

Ratings and reviews is one of the most direct consumer research tools, as it gives marketers valuable insight into what their own customers think of their products, service, and brand. While it’s illuminating to visit third-party review sites and read reviews about competitors, you’ll get the most data as efficiently as possible by mining your own product review platform.

Your review solution should be able to do sentiment alerts and/or analysis, merchandising reports, and segment reviews based on issues pertaining to categories like fit, defective product, and shipping.

Click here to learn more about optimizing your ratings and reviews!

4) Social Data

Facebook has already become much more than a mere social media platform where people connect. As of the third quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.79 billion monthly active users. Thus, Facebook’s massive repository of data makes it perhaps only second to Google in terms of the most powerful consumer research tools.

This data made it simple for the social media giant to come up with its own Facebook Audience Insights- a tool that is available to anyone through the Ad Manager interface. It’s an incredible way for marketers to gain access to data Facebook is gathering about its users. It is more useful to brands both that want to-

  • Use Facebook heavily for interacting with their audience.
  • Learn as much as possible about their core demographics.

The best part of this data is that Facebook provides it in a proper format of  graphs and other descriptive summaries by staying away from the irritating spreadsheets. It enables to provide you with the bird’s-eye view of your chosen group. And generally, this is what matter the most while making important marketing related decisions.

fb audience insights 2

You can also get valuable data from a social login solution. Social login lets your customers create an account and sign into your site using their existing profiles from platforms like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and more. It’s one of the most convenient consumer research tools, as it delivers social graph data about your customers and site users directly to you. Many social login clients use the solution to get data about the following:

  • Social network popularity: e.g., do your customers live on Facebook or do they choose Google?
  • Device use: See if shoppers are using desktops, tablets, or smartphones to order from you
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Region
  • Interests/likes

Read on below for more on consumer research tools…

5) Think with Google Marketer’s Almanac

Customers’ choices, and thus, trends change according to the seasons. Think With Google’s Marketer’s Almanac allows you to gather information on how people browse and buy according to seasonality. As it is able to tell  the slightest change in consumer behavior according to seasons, so you can catch the pulse of people by staying relevant. This, among all other consumer research tools, is especially valuable for those marketers whose businesses get severely affected by the seasonal fluctuations.

6) Customer Loyalty Data

A good customer loyalty program will act as a treasure trove of consumer information. In it, you’ll have your shoppers’ contact information, birthdays, and purchase history at the very least. You should also be able to pull in purchase data like recency, frequency, and average order value. With an optimized advocate loyalty program, you’ll be able to pull in advocate marketing data as well, including whether or not customers referred friends, submitted reviews, and so on. All in all, your customer loyalty program is one of the most comprehensive consumer research tools, as it can give you the following data to both analyze and segment:

  • Purchase recency, frequency, and average order value
  • Customer loyalty and advocate marketing data
  • Location of purchase or delivery
  • Type of product purchased
  • Interactions with your brand in-store, online, in-app, or on social
  • Any data imported from your CRM, ERP, ESP, or personalization engine

All of the aforementioned consumer research tools can show you vital insights, such as age group of consumers, their geographical location, their lifestyle, and more. What makes them even more desirable is that you can get hold of such valuable information without spending much. Many of these consumer research tools are free, and the ones that aren’t do double duty as acquisition, conversion, and retention solutions. The significance of this cost saving becomes startling when placed against the contradiction of paid consumer research.

Note: To learn more about all the information you can collect in your online or omni-channel customer loyalty program, don’t miss out on this post!. And this article will show you what to do with your advocate marketing data!

UGC for Electronics Manufacturers: A Vital Brand Voice

ugc for electronics

Different people have defined the term “brand” in different ways. For Cheryl Burgess, a brand is a reason to choose. Leo Burnett said that brand is anything that leaves a mental picture of its identity. But in essence, a brand is a promise to a consumer. A strong brand is one that keeps its promise through thick and thin, as that’s the only way to earn consumers’ trust.

These ideas clarify that a significant pursuit of the consumer electronics manufacturing industry, like many other industries, is to have a credible and authentic voice for its marketing. This pursuit has become even more intense, as traditional ads have suffered a severe trust deficit. Customers are rapidly moving away from them on social. According to managing director of brand communications agency Hard Edge, Andrew Hardwick, about $20 billion a year is wasted by marketers as social media users turn off advertising that simply doesn’t interest them. This setback has forced many marketers to look inside for that authentic voice. And inevitably, they have come across user generated content (UGC).

UGC for electronics is a sure bet. 92% of consumers trust online content from friends and family above all other forms of brand messages, 50% of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content, and 53% of millennials say that UGC has influenced their purchasing decisions. Even if you want to speak strictly in terms of electronics, 59% of millennials say they use UGC to inform their purchase decisions about major electronics. That number hovers around 46% when it comes to mobile phone purchase.

That’s precisely why consumer electronics manufacturers must look at UGC through a wider prism than that of a mere purchase driver. As it has the potential to build a brand, UGC for electronics should be elevated from an eCommerce tool to a brand building tool. But before going into the intricacies of how consumer electronics manufacturers can be profited by the wise use of UGC, it’s a must to understand its healing power when it comes to the financial malady of the sector.

UGC for Electronics: Profits are Being Squeezed

Almost every electronics manufacturing activity has been transferred to China with a view that Chinese manufacturing costs will remain the lowest available and that transport costs will stay within the boundaries of acceptability. But the profit margins have come under the threat due to rising labor costs and increasing competition from local brands who have become increasingly aware of the know-hows of international business standards.

Besides, due to rapid change in the customer taste and demands, electronics manufacturers have to cut short the product life cycle to come up with a new product. And to facilitate that, they need costly technological innovations. This has further eaten up their profit margins. Have a look at the following graph, which highlights the operating margins for most of the major companies in the consumer electronics business.

Clearly, consumer electronics manufacturers need to look at all the available options to reduce the cost at every level. And as we know, marketing and advertisements eat up lot of cost, the scissor should be used on them. The cost of running any UGC platform, like questions and answers, ratings and reviews, or visual galleries is negligible when placed in front of the traditional marketing and advertising expenditure. This should be the first reason for any consumer electronics manufacturer to incorporate UGC in all the marketing efforts at every stage of the product promulgation and customer life cycle. The following listings will show a way to put this theory into a practice.

UGC for Electronics: Product Launch

Customers can only be aware of the quality and innovation of your product if they actually know about it! The best phase to put that across to consumers is the launch phase. Therefore, the authentic customer voice that appears through ratings and reviews should come into the picture much earlier. The surest way to do it is to give certain consumers the product before the launch and get ratings and reviews from them. As 88% of consumers trust online reviews, this can be a potential supplier of the positive vibes that shove people to the “right” mindset, which can get transformed into a purchase decision. It’s always beneficial if the positive word of mouth takes its own course instead manufacturers pushing for it when they realize that the product is missing the goodwill that is necessary at the initial phase. It should snowball from the beginning.

The example of the iPhone is a case study here. Various market studies suggested that U.S. consumers were not yet ready for a device that combines the functionality of a cell phone, an MP3 player, and a camera. But in the end, iPhone proved to be the one of the most significant advancement in the world of electronics. As soon as people got that in hand, they were bowled over by its functionality and aesthetics. Word of mouth, through ratings and reviews and social media, spread across the length and breadth of the consumer community.

UGC for Electronics: Product Discovery

With almost innumerable touch points dancing on the horizon, the customer journey has become more and more complicated and non-linear. In the intricate web created by mobiles, tablets, NFC, social media, and consumer forums, it’s almost impossible to know through which door customer will enter into your business ecosystem. According to Google, shoppers consult 10.4 sources of information, on average, before making a purchase. What is more important here is to understand that 64% of US online consumers conducted online research before making a purchase in the past three months, and 54% have done so on a mobile phone.

Now, the above-mentioned stats suggest two things. First, thorough research before buying anything has become a distinguishable part of consumer behavior.  Second, digital devices, mainly mobile phones, are the mainstays of that research.

Naturally, this is the time and space to get your message in front of people who didn’t pay attention to you before. That should come somewhere to meet the customer in his journey. This is especially true for consumer electronics manufacturing, as its products are comparatively costly and carries a longer shelf value. This makes consumers more cautious of the public opinions about the product, as they want an absolute surety about the worth of the product. And when they are in this tumultuous frame of mind, positive reviews and a respectable presence on a questions and answers platform should cross the path of their discovery, so that all the qualms will drop then and there only. Take a note of the fact that 89% of consumers reported that reviews have an influence on their purchasing decision. UGC has this power to influence the purchase behavior during the discovery stage as it operates inside the premise of a digital world- the breathing valve of modern humans.

UGC for Electronics: Product Storytelling

The traditional way of communicating about products passé. The reason is that it has been done in an extremely monotonous way where consumers played the role of passive recipients. The communication of product promotion has been unidirectional from start to beginning. But new dynamics work differently, as consumers want to interact with the brand at all possible avenues and at all possible stages. This point gets an enormous weight when put under the reality that consumer electronics manufacturers have relied heavily on the layers of retailers, vendors, partners and distributers to achieve the sale. They never had the real and direct customer connect with the end user. But UGC can be a catalyst in pushing towards the change.

The scope of UGC includes photos and videos as well. That presents manufacturers to create a unique story around the product, as visuals are highly talkative. Manufacturers can ask their consumers to participate in this overall storytelling process. It can be propagated through product packaging. You can ask your retail partners to ship all of their deliveries in boxes, which will be adorned by the customer photos. Each box can carry a sticker directing them to take a photo with their boxes and post it to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with a dedicated hashtag. It will shift the paradigm of product communication from being coldly instructive to much needed vividly interactive.

All the aforementioned benefits look brightly plausible, as UGC for electronics allows consumers to see the product outside the confines of direct marketing. The outer layer of humanization that UGC brings inherently creates multiple possibilities for them to find their own reason for finding the product aspirational. Some may get swayed by the truthfulness of the reviews, or some may like the possibility of getting actively “engaged” in the branding process through submitting photos. And this swaying happens as there is nothing artificial about UGC. This unquestionable element of UGC  will make it the most quintessential channel of brand building for many consumer electronics manufacturers.

Note: To know exactly how UGC helps a business, you can have a look at this blog. Besides, don’t forget to go through this blog where we have placed The Ultimate List of User Generated Content Statistics. In this blog, we have captured the most recent UGC trends.

Cheer Up! The Benefits of Negative Reviews

Benefits of Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are expected side effects of the product review platforms that so many online and omni-channel companies have. But the preconditioned minds of business people have been looking at a negative review just like one looks at a death sentence. Of course, negative reviews are disappointing and they set up a fear that this bad publicity may drive off the sale. After all, who will want to buy a product that has failed to generate positive opinions among the buyers? But, if you look at all the aspects including the nature of negative reviews and what make people to write them, you will be able to understand the benefits of negative reviews. We will zoom in into much broader aspects.

The Benefits of Negative Reviews: Authenticity

In countless conversations, we hear the adage that something is “too good to be true.” Anything that has no touch of imperfection or possibility of vulnerability appears, frankly, unread. This also applies to product reviews. There cannot be a product which will get a thumbs up from each and every customer. That doesn’t mean that product cannot be great. What I am trying to amplify is that nobody can make a product which will meet each and every customer’s expectations in all conceivable ways.

There might be cases where the customer has liked everything about the product, but he is a little grumpy about the fact that he had received the delivery little late than the expected time. Or, check out the below review, which shows that the customer’s complaint has nothing to do with the product itself, only the minimum price at checkout.

minimum checkout review

Now, think about what a negative review like this doing to the customer psyche. First, it tells the customer that these are not fabricated reviews. People have genuinely purchased from the retailer and they have honest feedback about their purchases. This is where the checkbox of trust gets ticked.

If all the products are getting overwhelmingly positive reviews with 5 stars, it seems suspicious. It then hardly comes as a surprise that the chances of purchase are high when the average star rating of a product is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. Once the star rating exceeds 4.5 stars, the probability of purchase drops. It’s in complete accordance with the 2013 study by Harvard Business School, which found that the majority of consumers trust reviews more when they see a mix of good and bad feedback. It also said that if the feedback is entirely positive, 95% believe the reviews are fake or company generated.

The Benefits of Negative Reviews: The Contrast Effect

If a broken chair is placed near the perfectly fine chair, naturally people will look at  the latter in a more favorable light. Similarly, when negative reviews are sprinkled among glowing ones, customers consider the praise more seriously. And no purchase, unless and until its miscellaneous, can happen if a customer is not in a positive frame of mind.

Besides, this concept of making a product look good with more positive reviews is practically implementable as the majority of the reviews are positive. Only 14% of overall product reviews aren’t four or five stars. Thus, anyhow they are in the small minority. When they enter into the system, they get distributed on the platform sparsely…and that’s enough to accentuate the might of positive reviews.

The Benefits of Negative Reviews: Purchase Assistance

As I have mentioned in the beginning, a complete understanding of the nature of negative reviews reveals that bad review doesn’t mean that your business is bad or your product is bad. People may write negative reviews because they felt a disappointment about certain aspect of the product. And disappointment springs from the gap between expectation from the product and what actually that product delivered.

One survey that studied 1.3 million reviews found that the most commonly used negative word in reviews – by a tremendous margin – is “disappointment” or “disappointed”. On the contrary, “bad” was mentioned only about 7500 times. What you can read from this is that rather than the clear bad quality of product, lack of fulfillment of expectations prompted people to write a negative review. Another insight is while buying a product, people were not sure about what to expect from the product. And hence there is that gap between expectation and reality of the product. A negative review can be a quick fix to this recurrent pain point.

Let’s see how it assists in shopping. A lady with a height of 5 feet 8 inches writes that the shoe of size 7, which she has bought from your website, is a tad tight for her. Now, ladies with same height who read those reviews know that they need to order a larger size. The logical process that takes place here is worth to have a look at. The negative review, in this case, is telling their customers that there is no problem with the quality of the shoe. It’s just a slight mismatch on the grounds of size. It is explaining the reason behind that negative review. Naturally, this information will assist them in taking much informed and smarter purchase decision. Remember that it will also cut down the purchase returns- the ache of the modern retail world!

Some online sellers will have users rate products on a variety of sub-categories in order to better show what the particular issues, if any, are.
Some online sellers will have users rate products on a variety of sub-categories in order to better show what the particular issues, if any, are.

 

The Benefits of Negative Reviews: An Efficient Way to Better Yourself

The room for improvement is the biggest room as there is always a chance to outdo your previous best. To improve, you need to know what is pulling you back…and where you need to focus as a retailer. Negative reviews are a real rich repository of feedback about what’s keeping you from greater success.

If you can find a recurring point in most of the reviews, you can look at it as a common denominator. If all your negative reviews state there is a problem with your checkout system, then chances are this is an area you need to concentrate on. If people are saying that there is a delay in getting your products, then you need to improve your shipping service. In short, it will give you the exact idea of the elements that have been ailing your overall business.

Indeed, there are too many silver linings to the dark and gloomy cloud of negative reviews!

Note: As we know the indispensability of ratings and reviews too well, we always try to discuss it in detail. Here is a blog where we have described how to get more reviews for any product. Through this blog, you can get yourself acquainted with the ways to garner twice the industry average amount of feedback with in-email review forms and offline reviews. And to know how our ratings and reviews platform works, go through this blog.

Increasing Visibility with Product Reviews For Manufacturers

product reviews for manufacturers

When Jonney Shih, the chairman of Asus, put forward his idea of selling laptops under the company’s own name instead of through its contracted partners, not many gave him much chance. Practically speaking, the detractors of his vision were not outright wrong.

Compared to household names like Dell, HP, and Apple, the idea of getting consumers used to Asus seemed daunting. But just like every visionary and self-believing leader, he continued on. in 2007 an Asus-branded product, the Eee PC, got stellar reviews and became a smash hit. When 2012 arrived, Asus was the world’s fifth-best-selling brand of PC, and have since climbed to fourth place. Of course, it proved that Jonney Shih’s conviction was spot-on.

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A 2007 Ars Technica review sums up the reaction to Asus’s debut own-brand computer.

But there was much more to this story that manufacturers must read. First, it underlines that the term “brand” is overrated and people care more about the product itself rather than the brand. The importance of the brand name is on the verge of extinction. The decline of Nokia, once a classic case study of brand loyalty, can be easily looked through this prism.

Second, public opinions have an almost immeasurable impact in shaping a purchase choice of countless people. But, the real point is to understand how exactly product reviews for manufacturers help in reaching the highest peak of the sales funnel and what has made reviews the most powerful atom of the business nucleus.

Needs for Product Reviews for Manufacturers: Shoppers Crave Opinions

Until now, more or less, the buying choice of customers was heavily influenced by their past experiences, preferences and communication from retailers. Due to the latter part, ads were considered the de facto instruments in capturing customers’ attention.

But with the mushrooming of social media platforms, other review sites and discussion forums, the availability of expert as well as general opinions became a new normal. Clearly, it placed the buyer in a position where he can take a well informed buying decision after evaluating all the essential elements of the products. The simple reason behind this is that it clarifies the picture for customer about what he will get from the product.

This is the status quo that makes product reviews for manufacturers (as well as retailers) a necessity.

Needs for Product Reviews for Manufacturers: Lack of Trust in Traditional Communication

Studies commissioned by Google have found that shoppers consult 10.4 sources of information, on average, before making a purchase.  Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers. Now, these two data points paint the grim but real picture of the fact that people don’t take manufacturer’s product descriptions as the complete and total truth.

No manufacturer will bring to the surface the negative aspect of his product…but honest reviewers will. And that’s what makes reviews really addictive! Besides, the fakeness of ads is so unchallengeable that they have been dead for long, as far as evoking any amount of authenticity is concerned. They have no more significance than creating over-the-top-brand- awareness. Ads may get attention…but they can’t assure conversion. Because while buying, people enter into an analytical mode; especially if the purchase is costly and requires a long term commitment. That’s precisely why the weight of trusted reviews usually overrides any residual effect of fleeting exposure to an ad.

Needs for Product Reviews for Manufacturers: Staleness of Market Research

There is no doubt about the value and insight of market research. But that doesn’t take away the fact that it dwells in the past of customers. Each and every expensive survey hinges upon the past behavior of the customers and their past preferences. And more or less, manufactures decide their new product range based on that. But manufacturers are the creators of new things…and thus they must have a more nimble, forward-looking way of getting customer insights. If they believe that this is the product that is going to make this world a whole different place, they must pour everything into it.

Remember that a market research study conducted in early 2007—before the release of the first iPhone—concluded that U.S. consumers are not yet ready for a device that combines the functionality of a cell phone, an MP3 player, and a camera. But we know how big a game changer the iPhone proved in the end. The study had measured P, i.e, preference, but as soon as the iPhone hit the market and early adopters began gushing over it, people became influenced by the O factor- opinions of people.

I think this example is an ideal template to the thought that if your product has something in it, reviews can take it to unbelievable heights!

Benefits for Product Reviews for Manufacturers: Visibility

The worth of reviews grows when they reach out beyond just your website. Obviously, the single channel approach is helpful on its own, but you can also distribute your review content to your retail partners through syndication.

Apart from pure visibility through syndication, product reviews for manufacturers are also helpful in getting good SEO results. Through reviews, manufacturer’s website will get fresh content on a regular basis. If recent development of most of the search engine algorithms is concerned, it’s quite obvious that they value fresh and original content. It’s a simple part of this domino effect: More reviews? More visibility? More traffic? More chances of conversion.

When you have extremely positive reviews and shoppers are searching or asking around for certain types of products, your name will be more and more likely to come up–just as with the case of Asus.

Understand that 30% of U.S. consumers say they begin their online purchase research by going to Amazon for product information and reviews. Voracious research before buying any home appliance or commodity has become deeply ingrained in many consumers. For manufacturers, thus, it’s a must that favorable reviews of their products should meet retailers as well as end customers in their research and buying journey.

Note: For Ratings and Reviews best practices, don’t miss this white paperFor a beginner’s guide, this blog is a great help.

UGC: A Remedy for the Pain of Returns

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A survey conducted by Body Labs found that 23 percent of all clothing purchased online gets returned. Naturally, the losses retailers have to bear due to returns is high, but the real point here is: why do people return products they have chosen to buy?

A study conducted by Shorr Packaging, found that the top reason shoppers return merchandise is because the product wasn’t what they expected. Several studies and reports have said that the discrepancy between the expectations customers have about products and what they actually get when products arrive on their doorstep is one of the biggest motives for returns. And in this case, the real question is: why don’t people get a complete view about products while still in the process of buying? You cannot completely eliminate returns, but you sure can minimize them.

While online fitting rooms have been pretty successful in lowering return rates, they are unfortunately only helpful for things like apparels and beauty products. They can’t do much for products like soap and hardware gadgets. Besides, a significant amount of resources has to go into setting such rooms. Thus, the solution to this problem needs to be much broader, universal and cheaper.  After looking into many things that could potentially meet these criteria, the only solution that seems to meet them all is User Generated Content, aka UGC.

UGC comes in many forms–ratings and reviews, questions and answers, and consumer generated photos are a few to name. Now, let’s see why UGC seems to be the best remedy for the stinging pain of product returns.

A) Ratings & Reviews:

Here’s a fact: consumers no longer believe in what marketers have to say about their own products. They want to know what people like themselves, namely other consumers, have to say about those products. They know that however sophisticated or creative a brand’s communication may be, it’s all marketing. And they know that ordinary people have no hidden agendas in writing product reviews. 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Naturally, it’s much easier for people to have trust in such reviews instead of celebrity endorsements or glitzy ads. Besides the trust that they bring, ratings and reviews also allow people to focus on whatever they care the most. For example, if a customer is convinced about certain specific features of shoes like color and design, but is unsure about the size factor, he or she can look for reviews from people who wear the same size and figure out what specifically they have said about sizing.

 

This review adjusts shoppers' expectations about the product, a sandal. In this case, the shoe runs wide, so browsers should be careful if they have narrow feet.
This review adjusts shoppers’ expectations about the product, a sandal. In this case, the shoe runs wide, so browsers should be careful if they have narrow feet.

And the more reviews from past buyers they see, the more likely they are to not create wrong expectations about a product. It’s no coincidence that on average, a product will be ordered nearly 44% more often once it starts receiving and displaying customer reviews. In addition to reducing return rates, you’ll also reduce shipping costs which can’t be ignored considering that UPS and FedEx are increasing shipping rates by 4.9% at the beginning of 2017, and that the US Postal Service has already raised its rates an average of 9.5%.

B) Visual Commerce:

Unfortunately while shopping online, consumers can’t try things on and look at themselves in the mirror before making a purchase decision. This benefit belongs to physical stores. Thus, when purchasing online, your customers are always in the dark about how something will fit them or even how a product really looks like in real life. They might buy a piece of clothing because they like the way it looks, however, there are things like body posture, features, and skin tone to be considered as well, since they define the way a piece of clothing will actually fit.

User generated photos–which you can collect, curate, and display on your site with a visual commerce solution–come very handy in this catch-22 situation, because they show your products being used by real people. That gives your potential customers a realistic and trustworthy insight about what your products really look like in real life.   You can also ask your customers to share photos and videos using your products and display them on your product pages. That allows shoppers to look for photos and videos of people with body features similar to theirs and have a better idea about how a certain piece of clothing would fit them.

 

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88% of shoppers seek out visual content prior to making a purchase. Again, it comes back to the same enormous benefit: customers will have a much better idea of what to expect from a product before they make the decision to buy.

C)  Questions & Answers:

No matter how accurate and detailed your product descriptions are, your customers will always have questions. Questions & Answers can help you with that. When shoppers are not sure about the size of shoes, for example, instead of searching for ratings and reviews, they can directly ask about it to experts from your company, or even to existing customers who have bought that item.

The benefit here is that the doubt gets resolved fast. Plus, as the answers come from experts and people who already purchased that product, they bring extra credibility. And in the end, the customers don’t create unrealistic expectations about the product. In addition to all of that, Q&A also heightens up  your level of customer service and customer experience when you respond quickly to customers’ questions,. Customers definitely feel valued and wanted when they get quick replies from brands. Besides, it also helps in SEO as fresh content will be constantly fed into the website.

To Wrap It Up: UGC has always worked well in making contests, ads and brand promotions viral. Its core characteristics like cost and ease to use along with the stream of authenticity are at the helm of its success. And luckily, the same factors also work in reducing online returns.

Note: To know exactly how UGC helps a business, you can have a look at this blog. Besides, don’t forget to go through this blog where we have placed The Ultimate List of User Generated Content Statistics. In this blog, we have captured the most recent UGC trends.   

3 Pivotal UGC Trends for 2017

ugc trends

Irrespective of your training, incentive or marketing programs, you are not your company’s best salesperson. Nobody within your business is as good at selling as your customers. Shoppers want to hear what other consumers, who are like them and really use brand’s products, have to say. Maybe that’s what propelled Marty Neumeier to utter his famous quote that a brand “is not what you say it is. It’s what they [i.e. the customers] say it is.” This thought sowed the seed of UGC (User Generated Content).

UGC, whether it’s in the form of customer photos, product reviews, questions and answers, videos, or whatever else, adds an authentic perspective to a seller’s site. Consumers trust it twelve times more than content created by brands. While certain kinds of UGC, like reviews, are now a staple of a good site, smart marketers are using more recent UGC innovations like Visual Commerce too. Given that this landscape continually changes, let’s take a look at the most important UGC trends for 2017.

UGC Trends: New Content Formats

Right now, users as well as marketers have been creating/curating user photos or texts in traditional content formats like videos and images. But we may see a pervasive adoption of immersive media such as 360-degree video and virtual reality by customers as well as marketers.

The reason to believe in the possibility of this, despite it being one of the more outlandish UGC trends, is that both Facebook and YouTube now support these formats. When you couple it with the fact that 684,478 pieces of UGC get generated on Facebook per minute, immersive content formats will be more than formidable. Besides, apart from Facebook, there are other platforms like Instagram that are genetically visual. Clearly, two of the biggest platforms that produce UGC are ready to accept new content formats with a need of a little tweaking in their technical DNA.

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Click here to see an example of a Facebook 360-degree video by National Geographic.

UGC Trends: Beyond the Engagement Generator

Of course, UGC will keep fulfilling the basic expectations of higher customer engagement and it will keep acting as social proof. But its role will enlarge in the future. It will emerge as your most trusted data bank. The fact of the matter is the culture of your core audience becomes evident when you look at all of your customers’ photos and reviews in aggregate. The analysis of those photos or reviews, thus, will enable you to take a note of some of the most important insights which can be helpful to you in a long run. The insights may include…

  • The types of products about which they are writing favorable reviews
  • Type of people who are most likely to share content about your brand – moms, teens, Millennials, baby boomers or professionals.
  • The location of the customers when they share brand-oriented photos – in your stores, at the beach, on the run, with friends.
  • Their motivation behind tagging your brand and their way of doing it. Are they using your geo-tag? Your hashtags?

Once you get to know most of the aforementioned points, you can use them in building marketing or promotional policies. For example, if you know that most of the customers are using your geo-tag while tagging, it means that Instagram will be more appropriate for your all marketing campaigns. Thus, if you properly scrutinize the origins and the volumes of the collected UGC, it can serve as market or consumer research.

How are you clients or shoppers interacting with your business via UGC?
How are you clients or shoppers interacting with your business via UGC?

UGC Trends: Selfless Hashtags Will Be On the Rise

The first and the basic commandment of the UGC is that it’s not just about you. It’s about them: your customers. It’s about what they feel about your brand and how they want to relate to it. And remember that hashtags are some of the best ways to make your whole campaign a classic case of personalization…something which may not always be possible with #YourBrandName.

I understand that a UGC campaign is a golden chance to convert social media into a branding extravaganza. But in the era of social media and other means of communication, people get to know that the hashtag belongs to your brand. What is important is making the campaign as aspirational as possible so that people can’t resist participating in it. And as far as marketing ploys are concerned, nothing is more aspirational for a person than seeing the hashtag that deals with his deepest hidden desires or Utopian concepts of happiness, sadness, and joy.

Therefore, in the future, hashtags will become more personal and actionable. Clearly, UGC is going through a transformation and it will see more changes with the changing business ecosystem and society’s way of expressing itself. New content formats will come, new platforms may come to accept them…but what’s even clearer is even in its changed form, it will keep benefiting businesses immensely. For even more on UGC trends in 2017, don’t miss our white paper,

User Generated Content for Consumer Manufacturing: A Must-Have

User Generated Content for Consumer Manufacturing

When you consider the products consumers tend to be the most passionate about, home appliances and the like might not come to the top of your mind. But the fact of the matter is that products ranging from coffee makers to dishwashers and more are used daily, so people know what they like and what they don’t. Consequently, there’s both a huge potential and a huge need for user generated content for consumer manufacturing. User generated content, also known as UGC, consists of any sort of content created by consumers, most notably customer photos in the form of visual commerce, ratings and reviews, and questions and answers. It’s a subset of advocate marketing, which is the practice of identifying, targeting, and activating high-potential customers to advocate on behalf of your brand in the form of actions like referring friends, contributing content, connecting on social, and more.

User Generated Content for Consumer Manufacturing: The Basics

It’s clear that Ratings and Reviews and Questions and Answers are vital types of user generated content for consumer manufacturing. Ratings and Reviews are almost a default part of any omni-channel or e-commerce manufacturer’s (or retailer’s) site today, and the logic for having this type of content only increases with average order value. Shoppers look to reviews to make sure that they’re making the right purchase from a trustworthy company. If they’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on an appliance or two, they won’t buy without reading dozens of opinions from other shoppers. Ratings and reviews may seem straightforward, but it takes guidance and effort to make the most of them.

Similarly, a Q&A platform lets customers ask questions that aren’t already answered on your product pages. Sometimes such questions will necessitate an answer from a product expert, while other times they’ll require a subjective opinion from another consumer. Either way, a rapid response to the question always boosts conversion.

User Generated Content for Consumer Manufacturing: A Dedicated Channel

Until now marketers have used advocates as an ingredient in other main marketing activities like referral programs. There is nothing wrong in it, as their opinions and content do make a difference as far as purchase decisions of other shoppers are concerned. But to me, it just makes sense to give advocates a separate and dedicated channel or platform where they can talk about your brands freely and frequently. With the assistance of digital tools and social media, spreading them on digital platforms is perfectly feasible. That’s perfectly possible…and Walmart has told us how to do it!

Walmart came up with Walmart Moms. Originally called ElevenMoms, it was an online community of its passionate buyers created by Walmart to allow them to express themselves. 22 moms, who became brand advocates of the brand, began to write blogs and share information on raising kids, shopping, household chores and more. Not just that. The main Walmart YouTube channel frequently posted videos of Walmart Moms making it comprehensively integrated into the huge Walmart brand.

walmart moms The good thing about this blogging was that the topics were not always related to the Walmart’s core products. Those moms talked about recipes, cooking tips, how to save money and other subjects of concern to mothers and families. Readers of Walmart Moms’ blogs were allowed to share content on social media via share buttons of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

Indeed, it was an ideal example of how a company can use an advocate community to indirectly promote its products while also making its brand even stronger. Even though Walmart isn’t a manufacturer of consumer appliances, there is a clear lesson here in terms of UGC for consumer manufacturing. As Walmart caters largely to families, it understood that household shopping is still largely handled by mothers and women. It would be best to give voice to that larger group which possess the possibility to influence most of its target customers…and it did succeed.

You can do the same here. When collecting user-generated content for consumer manufacturing marketing, make sure to target shoppers who are representative of your key audience. Have them share different content along with talking about your products. Then topics of that content can be anything like tips about how to use a particular product, their favorite recipes, household cleaning or craft ideas, and so on. The idea is to make them talk, which will eventually enhance your online presence and buzz around you.

User Generated Content for Consumer Manufacturing: Contests

We have observed this many times that companies don’t take enough efforts to utilize the over- brimming enthusiasm of their loyal customers and advocates. Remember that if they love your product, they’ll usually be more than happy to publicly say so. Take advantage of that and gather more user-generated content for consumer manufacturing by having UGC contests. Ikea recently created a #JoyOfStorage campaign, where it asked its Facebook fans to post pictures of Ikea products in their homes to win a prize. Ikea created archives of all the photos to make them available after the campaign.

An example of an Ikea customer photo from the campaign.
An example of an Ikea customer photo from the campaign.

I think this sort of campaign can work perfectly well in the consumer manufacturing industry. You can ask your customers to share recipes along with the photos of the finished food item. You can reward the best among all the received recipes. For other sorts of appliances, you should similarly consider what experiences the appliance leads to and is a part of. Does your washing machine tackle the toughest dirt? Does it help your customers look their best? Do your dishwashers remove the most stressful part of meals–cleanup? Thinking along these lines should lead you to the most interesting types of visual user generated content for consumer manufacturing marketing with your brand.

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