This post is a summary of a session I sat in on at last week’s Shop.org Annual Summit.
The first slide states that “shoppers are turning to each other” — meaning that faced with limitless choices for where to buy and what to buy which can cause “decision paralysis” and a general distrust of marketing messaging, people turn to each other for product testimonials and recommendations to make a purchase decision. And now this can be done on the Web instantly and on a larger scale than offline.
Enter the plethora of social networking (I’m avoiding the term Web 2.0 here) sites that users trust. Want some stats to support this idea?
Trust in “a person like me” has tripled from 20% to 68% in the last 24 months (Edelman) 95% of consumers trust their friends’ recommendations above other sources of information (Forrester) 77% of online shoppers consider reviews and ratings in their purchase decision (Jupiter) 80% of online shoppers trust brands that offer ratings and reviews more than brands that don’t (Vizu / Bazaarvoice)
My definition of “User-Generated Content” is that it refers to anything produced by an unsolicited voice. This could be a response to a call-to-contribution – like a product page with an “Add a Review” link, a video submission to a contest or a forum or blog post with comments enabled. OR it could appear as someone takes it upon themselves to start a forum thread, write a blog post or even create a fan site (or hate-this-company / product / service / brand site) or a parody video.
In terms of product ratings and reviews, what kind of results can you expect from user-generated content? (From the Shop.org session:)
Increased sales, satisfaction and loyalty Reduction in returns Analytical insight for marketers and merchandisers Feedback for product improvements
The presenters also gave some killer examples of applying ratings and reviews to other channels:
Email Marketing – Golfsmith and PETCO experienced a 42% and 500% jump in click through to their websites respectively by including ratings and reviews in email messages. This was done by featuring products as “top-rated” complete with star (or paw) ratings. Offline Ads and Flyers – Loblaw (grocery chain) will show a “rated by you” product with a testimonial, the item’s sale price and photo. Catalogs – Cabela’s incorporates ratings and reviews in print catalogs. In Store – Loblaw uses the “rated by you” messaging in POP signage, and other stores like Sears may use it on in-store product labels. Television – Golfsmith ran ads on The Golf Channel highlighting customer reviews available on their web site.
It has been said that “Trust is the currency of the Web.” Incorporating user-contributed product feedback is effective and establishes trust because it communicates that “real people love these items, just thought you should know what people like best” rather than “these are our high margin items that we prefer you purchase.” We’re at the point right now where some marketers are applying this knowledge, others are beginning to understand it and explore using user-generated content in online and offline channels, and others are missing the opportunity completely. Which one are you?