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Online Holiday Shopping Continues to Outpace In-Store; CGC May Be the Trick to Stand Out

December 5, 2018 by Belinda Blakley

As online shopping continues to outpace in-store purchases, especially during the holiday shopping season, one tactic to stand out in the online marketplace is to increase the quality and visibility of your customer-generated content, or CGC.

This year, Reuters reported that on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, online sales were up 23%, while in-store sales were down 4-7% over last year. Shoppers continue to shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping for their holiday deals and gifts. A vast majority of those users will turn to CGC in order to make a purchase decision—whether it’s product ratings, reviews, customer-submitted photos or video, Q&A with previous customers, or a combination of any of these—and eCommerce sites without high-quality CGC will likely miss out on purchases as well as shopper loyalty.

In our recent research study, we found that CGC not only influences shoppers’ product decisions while on an eCommerce site, but that shoppers will choose one online store over another based on the quality of each store’s CGC. Moreover, 76% say they will likely decide not to shop at a store that doesn’t provide any customer-generated content.

To help eCommerce teams make the most out of their CGC, we’ve published a one-page guide detailing holiday shopping trends and CGC tips.

  • Learn what types of information shoppers are looking for in their CGC.
  • Discover what site features are most influential for shoppers choosing between online stores.
  • Get 5 actionable tips for effectively utilizing CGC during the holiday shopping season.

Download your free copy now.

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Want to learn more about shopper habits and their CGC preferences? Download The State of Customer-Generated Content eBook to discover research like:

  • One-quarter of shoppers seek out negative reviews to help make their purchase decision.
  • 41% of shoppers prefer to ask other customers about products over brand experts
  • 74% of shoppers will purchase more expensive products if they have higher ratings than similar less-expensive products

Get Your Free Copy →

Free Report: 2019 State of Customer-Generated Content

November 29, 2018 by Belinda Blakley

The TurnTo team has developed a free eBook about online shopper behavior as related to customer-generated content (also called CGC or UGC), such as ratings & reviews, customer images & video, and shopper Q&A.

The 2019 State of Customer-Generated Content is loaded with analysis and insights, as well as action items that you can implement immediately to improve your eCommerce store’s CGC, increase site traffic, lift conversion rates, and boost your repeat purchase rate.

Here’s a taste of the original research and insights contained within:

  • For many shoppers, high-quality CGC is as or more important than good shipping and returns policies.
  • Most are looking at CGC to understand product performance, purchaser satisfaction, and product quality.
  • 74% of shoppers say that the presence of CGC influences them to buy on one site over another.
  • Most shoppers can be swayed to purchase a more expensive item if it has a higher star rating than a similar, less expensive item.
  • Shoppers trust each other more than brand experts.

There’s plenty more data, trends, and best practices to discover.

Download Your Copy

Who’s shopping for what this Friday?

November 19, 2018 by Belinda Blakley

Curious what shoppers will be buying the most this Black Friday and Cyber Monday? TurnTo recently polled shoppers on which categories they shop for online. Using this data, we can make some predictions into where shoppers will be spending their money this holiday weekend.

Overall, clothing is the highest category shopped online by far amongst all demographics.

I guess the gifts of socks and itchy wool sweaters will always be popular choices.

After clothing, electronics comes in a close second for most shopped online items overall. We expect those people will certainly be shopping on Cyber Monday for extra deals!

Even though electronics comes in second overall, when broken down by gender, men will be the ones shopping more for electronics while women will spend their money on beauty including skincare and housewares.

Broken down by age groups, 25-39-year old’s will shop the most this holiday season online, while those 50 years old and over will shop the least online.

Hungry for more research? Look for more shopping trend reports from TurnTo, coming soon!

Find out about how our clients are using their customer-generated content in their eCommerce strategy this holiday season.

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Want to learn more about shopper habits and their CGC preferences? Download The State of Customer-Generated Content eBook to discover research like:

  • One-quarter of shoppers seek out negative reviews to help make their purchase decision.
  • 41% of shoppers prefer to ask other customers about products over brand experts
  • 74% of shoppers will purchase more expensive products if they have higher ratings than similar less-expensive products

Get Your Free Copy →

Milk, bread, eggs and a 5-star review…

November 8, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

Customer-generated content just makes sense for grocers and brands. While online grocers definitely have a niche market to conquer, brick and mortar stores and the brands that are sold there have an opportunity to embrace CGC.

By 2020, the online grocery spend is expected to increase to $100 billion—not only is there an opportunity for retailers, but brands can differentiate themselves by allowing shoppers to directly engage with customer–generated content.

What are people looking for when they engage with customer-generated content?

The most influential kind of CGC is one that initiates an emotional response for a shopper and gives them information about the value of a product. When the head of a home needs to decide what to feed their family or when someone is taking their budget into consideration while food shopping; customer-generated content is the perfect medium to convey information.

Ratings and Reviews and customer photos help retailers and brands establish a deeper, emotional connection with shoppers, and help educate them about products during the research stage of their shopping plan. This is crucial in order to disrupt the methodical shopper who makes the same weekly purchase time and again.

Where does customer-generated content fit in a brand or retailers’ marketing strategy?

Interrupting online shopping for groceries is a challenge. In brick and mortar stores, shoppers can engage with end-cap specials and exclusive in-store promotions, which boosts impulse buys. Enticing “free samples” are handed out left and right, encouraging purchase by trying the product. But with less engagement online, people can easily repurchase their previous week’s items in a simple click of a button, or quickly check off item on their list with no incentive to choose tempting extras or add-ons.

Chatting with other customers while waiting in line to pay for groceries, when it happens, is a great for exchanging pleasantries around favorite items and plans for future recipes. This simple interaction sparks interest in new foods or introduces new products to the shoppers from a trusted source. This doesn’t happen as much as it used to in person, but with the migration to online shopping, retailers can reintroduce this genuine interaction with CGC.

A solution such as Checkout Comments™ mimics this in-store engagement. When a shopper makes a purchase online, the retailer asks them what they plan on making with the item they bought. They’ll be excited to share, and it’s a great way to collect customer-generated content without having to wait for people to eat or cook with the item purchased.


Shoppers want to know about taste, quality and nutrition and less about the clinical jargon that brands and retailers provide. By including ratings & reviews on the same page shoppers go to purchase a product, they can read about how other customers used the item and what they thought of the results. A great way to further inspire a shopper to buy is by including uploaded recipes or pictures of the completed recipe alongside the products purchased to make it. These kinds of CGC help products stick out among other similar food items on varying grocery or brand sites.

Utilizing a technology that gets shoppers to interact the way they would—or better—inside a grocery store, make recommendations, and suggest new recipes to each other is the way to get ahead in the changing grocery landscape. Customer-generated content creates an enhanced online shopping experience that can be even more engaging than shopping in-person.


Want to learn more about the future of grocery and CGC?

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eCommerce Sites are adding Community Q&A to their Wish List this Holiday

November 1, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

Holidays are approaching and so is the buzz about the holidays approaching. Every year it seems like we’re talking about gift giving sooner than the year before. Shoppers start asking one another about what will be hot this season and how they can get their hands on it.

Toys are already selling out and that perfect gift for that special someone seems unattainable yet again this year.

What has TurnTo Found Popular Among Clients this Year?

By now, businesses have long buttoned up their plans for making this holiday season better, so brands and retailers that want to get ahead are gearing up for what’s to come post-holiday. A top priority on many of their lists is ramping up their current customer-generated content on their eCommerce sites.

Our suggestion? Let Community Q&A work for you!

41% of shoppers prefer to receive answers from a customer who has already purchased the product.

Shoppers feel more confident in their buying decisions after asking their peers for the answers. Customers provide more influential answers to shopper queries than brand experts ever can—they’ve spent their money purchasing a product and have a personal experience to relate, as opposed to someone who is perceived as “on the side of” the seller and can only tell you the facts. Although shoppers often have specific questions about a product, they’re more trusting of the subjective details that only a previous customer can provide.

The proof is in the numbers…

TurnTo’s current customers can attest that social answers using Community Q&A have yielded incredible conversion results.

Jeff Kitchen, Online Community Manager from Crutchfield says, “On average, 85% of questions sent to past customers received at least one social answer and most received 3 or more!”

Customers are happy to give their opinion on a product and shoppers are genuinely interested in the answers

People who ask questions are 25x more likely to purchase

Scott Ekman of Rockler Woodworking has found the most compelling part of using Community Q&A is not that “askers” are more likely to buy—these customers are already highly engaged—but it’s the data he’s found amongst the customers who answer shopper questions.

“People who answer questions for shoppers are 8 to 10 times more likely to purchase again. In fact, we generate nearly 100 orders per month from people who bought something after getting an email to answer a question,” Scott says.

Those customers that are willing to answer a question for a shopper are actively engaged with the site community. When they’re reminded of their good experience within that community, they’re encouraged to go back to the site and often make another purchase.

In Scott’s case, these customers are sharing their DIY projects and become inspired by the questions they’ve answered to keep creating—often using more supplies or tools from Rockler.

Regardless of the reason why the answerers end up buying something else, it’s remarkable that sending questions to previous buyers can make such a huge impact in turning them into repeat customers.

Active Outreach Model

Only TurnTo Q&A provides unmatched features to maximize the number and speed of answers, like language filtering and automatic routing to accelerate moderation. Advanced logic ensures questions are sent to the right people, and that a customer isn’t pestered by too many questions. Similar item groupings increase owner pools and distribute content accordingly. Clients can even send their customers multi-item questions then display the best answers on their site.

TurnTo retains content on clients’ sites which powers the search feature. Shoppers can use the search functionality in reviews with question, and if a similar question has already been asked, or if their question appears in a seller’s FAQ or knowledgebase, the answer is displayed instantly. This way they can discover their answers quicker and move on to their purchase with that hurdle removed. TurnTo is the only reviews platform that provides this unique ability inside of the review widget.

To start strategizing today about your post-holiday plans, give us a shout! We’ll walk you through it.

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TOP 5 WAYS to Effectively Utilize CGC in your eCommerce Strategy

October 23, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

During our most recent webinar, one of our loyal customers, Scott Ekman from Rockler Woodworking took us through how he uses the TurnTo platform in his eCommerce strategy; 3 Cs, customer-generated content, community, and commerce.

You can access the entire webinar below, but we’ve compiled the top 5 best practices for you to put to good use now!

1. Best practices for CGC on your product pages

Product description pages are the most crucial places to convince your shoppers to purchase. Customer-generated content should be immediately visible on the page and shoppers should be able to engage with it in multiple forms.

Making CGC as visible as possible reduces the need for shoppers to scroll and relieves shopper uncertainty by providing them with the information and confidence to support their buying decision. In fact, Rockler features their customer-generated content at the top of their product pages. And Scott has found that the most effective place for high-quality content, is next to the “Add to Cart” button.

Rockler allows shoppers to visualize the product in their own hands by displaying real customer photos below the product. Placing a scrolling gallery near the product image ensures it’s seen by your customers.

2. A/B Test the default review order

A third of shoppers recently polled reported being satisfied reviewing customer-generated content however a website displays it. But that leaves 2/3 of shoppers with a strong opinion of how they want to read reviews. Which sort feature makes them more likely to buy? A/B testing the sort order of your reviews will give you a good idea of who responds to what and if it makes a difference for your bottom line.

Scott decided to test the sort feature comparing “Most Helpful” review sort and “Highest Rated” review sort. Rockler chose to update their pages with the sort default using “Highest Rated” as the default view.

This simple update increased revenue per user by 19%!

3. Allow shoppers to ask their product questions to customers

TurnTo discovered 41% of online shoppers prefer to get their answers from other customers. Shoppers feel that other customers better understand the value of an item over the seller, considering they’re the ones spending their hard-earned money on it. Rockler had discovered the same sentiment and implemented TurnTo’s Community Q&A solution.

Rockler has a 94% answer rate on their site using TurnTo’s Community Q&A, and 95% of the questions are answered within the first 48 hours.

Shoppers should be able to ask a question directly on your product description page. Even better as they start to type, the system should pull up similarly asked questions. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, a customer can be emailed the question.

A bonus treat, Scott has found that not only does an answered question increase conversion for the askers, but the customers who answered the shoppers’ questions are 8–10 times more likely to go back to the site and make an additional purchase.

Giving your customers that option to ask on your site is always a good idea.

4. Include Checkout Comments™

Rockler was looking for a fast way to collect reviews for new releases and so Scott and his team started using TurnTo Checkout Comments™ for product pages that did not have many reviews. “Not having to wait for the customer to receive the item, use it and review it really helps to influence sales for new releases earlier,” says Scott.

A great time to ask for customer feedback is at the moment when a shopper becomes a customer. Checkout Comments™ are almost always positive and emotional—therefore highly convincing for shoppers who read them.

5. Include visual reviews everywhere you can

Rockler includes the option to upload photos in their review emails and on their website. Since offering the option to submit photos two years ago, Rockler has received 7,500 pictures. And as Scott mentioned previously, the ideal place to put these submitted photos is near the top of the product description pages. This integral piece of their marketing strategy has created an incredibly engaged digital community.

In fact, they have had so many photos submitted of completed customer projects, that they started using these pictures on many other pages outside of just the product description pages.

Rockler encourages shoppers to engage with these pictures anywhere on their site and allows them to purchase the items featured in a completed project by clicking the photo. “The photo shows the shopper the review caption and what product was associated with the images, so they can easily buy the product,” says Scott.

These visual reviews work much better than trying to tag content from Instagram or other social platforms. Because the image is submitted as part of the review process, there is no need to have to connect the dots. Plus, the review submission process handles user permissions automatically.

These were just a few examples of how Rockler incorporates CGC into their successful 3 C strategy, but we learned so much more. To view the presentation in its entirety, click here. And we hope you take these tips and put them to good use in your own eCommerce strategy!

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Completely Customizable Content Tagging

September 27, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

When it comes to TurnTo content tagging, the possibilities are endless.

The use of keyword taxonomies predates computers, but content tagging is best known today for its role in enabling easy informal search and classification for photo sharing, blogging, and social media (hashtags, anyone?). Behind the scenes, tags are used similarly in content management systems and in the expanding field of data sciences.

While TurnTo’s customer content collection suite isn’t built around cluttering up your social feeds with hashtags, we offer content tagging as a powerful moderation and reporting tool for brands and retailers.

Traditional Ratings & Reviews platforms offer a limited set of “rejection codes” that allow moderators to mark the reason why they acted to hide or publish a review for reporting purposes. We identified an opportunity to create something better, providing customers with a completely customizable tagging taxonomy that they can be tailored to automate their moderation workflows, create nuanced internal reporting and sentiment analysis, and curate the promotion of customer content.

TurnTo clients can still use tagging for routine moderation with more customized labels, but most inventive is the way our clients use tagging for flexible content curation to maximize the value of the content they are collecting in their marketing and merchandising strategies.

For example, Bob’s Red Mill moderates their Checkout Comments™ for “standout” content and tags them as such.  The tagged content is displayed on Bob’s homepage using a TurnTo widget. This shows shoppers trending products and allows them to read the most enthusiastic, detailed, or helpful comments.

In this instance, Bob’s Red Mill utilizes content tagging in conjunction with Checkout Comments. When shoppers make a purchase, they are asked to provide feedback about why they chose the products they did. They may say, “because it’s a gluten-free product”, or that they bought the product “to make a pizza crust”, or they may exclaim, it’s “The best tasting steel-cut oats I’ve ever had”. Comments like these are constantly rolling in as customers complete their purchases. Moderators review and selectively tag one or more with a content tag to indicate that the content is highly promotable for their product and brand. Once the tag is in place, TurnTo’s ‘Why did you choose this?’ widgets can be configured to only show content with that tag.

TurnTo clients can use content tagging to create campaign-specific promotions too.  And as the holidays are quickly approaching, gift giving is top of mind.  Our clients can use content tagging in seasonal campaigns, using tags like “holiday”, or automatically apply tags based on terms like “gift”, and “present”.  Then, the tagged holiday content can feed on-site TurnTo widgets, enhancing the shopping experience.  It can be used for a category specific photo gallery that features all of the tagged pictures.  Or the customer-generated content can be made into a landing page full of campaign-related items.  Shoppers can then purchase directly from the curated content.

Graph: Top 10 Tags by Number of Comments

Source: TurnTo reporting for Bob’s Red Mill

Not only are content tags great for marketing materials, but the tags also act as insightful metadata. Clients can compile reports of content that was tagged based on recurring keywords in reviews and find out what the average star rating was of the reviews with those tags.  The data can make the connection between how fond people are of a particular product (star rating) and who they are purchasing it for (e.g., tag “Mom”, tag “Holiday”).  This is again helpful to market to that audience better and to understand who is purchasing which products.

Tagging possibilities are limitless.  TurnTo is unique in giving clients full reign to create subjective tags that apply to both written AND visual reviews. With TurnTo tagging, eCommerce teams can quickly and easily automate, organize, and curate content to keep shoppers engaged and stay at the forefront of shopping experiences.

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Video: Case Study with Bob’s Red Mill

September 21, 2018 by Belinda Blakley

A presentation by Kevin Irish, Bob’s Red Mill at Shop.org 2018:

Kevin Irish explains how he developed a marketing strategy of customer-generated content through real accounts of how Bob’s Red Mill changed lives forever. Check out the video below to see what they learned about building an exceptional customer experience and how they more than tripled their customer-generated content in less than a year.

 

 

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Soon to Debut at TurnTo

August 15, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

We’re getting ready to release a new-and-improved platform packed full of fast, fresh features!  Our Version 5 software will be released in the next few weeks. We took feedback from our valued customers on what they want and need in order to gather and display the best customer-generated content.  Our product team has gone beyond finding easy solutions to common concerns and have created a platform that allows customers to re-imagine the future of ratings and reviews software.

We know ease of use for your customer and your team is a top priority when choosing eCommerce software, so our new platform will allow non-developers to create different designs for all of their product categories.  Additionally, customers have full transparency into how their customer content strategy is actually performing by testing alternate layouts.

The drag-and-drop functionality is simple, and our customers will love how fast it functions on their site.

Your customers don’t have time to spare, so neither do you.

We chose the lightest javascript framework to deliver the fastest user experience for our customers.  They pick the exact items they need for their page and we deliver only that code.  This eliminates any and all frustration with slow site performance.  Increasing the speed of performance leads to happier, loyal customers—and more revenue!

“Our previous platform provided the best performance among our peers, but with Version 5, we went even farther by reducing the footprint to a third of the size,” says John Swords, Chief Product Officer.

Stay tuned for more details about our new platform, we’ll be rolling them out soon!

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An oldie, but a goodie!

July 31, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

A spotlight on a great product, Community Q&A.

Community Q&A, which is one of our first products and a TurnTo original uses an ‘active outreach’ model that delivers fast answers to shoppers’ questions from peers and experts.

What is it?

Q&A tends to differ amongst companies, but TurnTo’s Community Q&A keeps in mind our customers’ customer. Which is a mouthful, but let’s go a little further.

Companies have limited space on their product description pages.  And it’s hard to include every piece of vital information.  But if the customer is looking for an answer to something that is not explicit, they should be able to find it.

What better way to secure a sale than to give customers every answer they’re looking for?

Q&A lives on the product description page and operates by using search-friendly content, which populates instant answers to questions as customers start typing them.

An interesting quirk that we’ve found is that customers type in questions as if they’re “googling” something.  The organic or natural searchability is something an SEO team could only ever dream of. Our clients are using these stored questions from their TurnTo platform and repurposing them in their marketing down the road. A true win for everyone!


The library is just one place where answers are pulled from when a customer has a question.  The answers are also taken from the product’s Ratings and Reviews and real customers who have already purchased the item.

If the answer is not found amongst these different sources, then it is either submitted to an “expert” of the company’s choosing or it is emailed to a group of customers who have already purchased the item.  Our software is completely customizable—so if you only want product experts to answer questions from your prospective customers—then the platform can function in a way to do just that.

And if the question is routed to a previous customer, advanced logic ensures the question is sent to the right person.   Through our automated moderation feature, these questions are routed in less than 30 seconds and are approved just as fast.  Typically, customers have an answer within an hour!

Here’s how it works:

Customer user experience is at the heart of our platform. Community Q&A generates a community of “fans,” and they wouldn’t be fans if it wasn’t so simple.  When your customer feels supported in their purchases – they’re more likely to return.

Keep your biggest fans happy!

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Video: Case Study with Tarte Cosmetics

July 9, 2018 by Belinda Blakley

Kellen Fitzgerald recently spoke at Salesforce Connections in Chicago about how Tarte Cosmetics used TurnTo to create a community of shoppers—or “tartelettes” as they’re called. These are Tarte cosmetic advocates who are passionate “fans”, but also act as their most powerful acquisition tool. Watch the video below to learn how over 625K orders were influenced by customer-generated content in the past eight months:

 

 

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Video: Case Study with Jenson USA

June 28, 2018 by Belinda Blakley

David Blades of Jenson USA makes the case for customer-generated content, and discusses how the TurnTo platform helped them achieve their goals of creating a customer community, increasing time on site, and, ultimately, elevating conversion rates. Hear how Jenson USA increased their review content by 500% and reached their goals in the video below:

 

 

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The End of an Open Road: Why Open Syndication Matters for eCommerce

June 21, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

As we are nearing July 3rd, multiple businesses are preparing themselves for the end of access to a syndication network they have relied on for years.

For many – this change means losing access to the network, syndication fees, and diminishing SEO performance site-wide.

We’d like to educate those businesses that will become the casualties of closed syndication networks through case studies that display the effects over the next 3, 6 and 9 months.

We can observe the juxtaposition between open and closed syndication as it effects two large beauty retailers whose merchandise overlaps.  Retailer A will keep their open syndication network while Retailer B will not.

Both retailers sell Waterproof Mascara #62.  Retailer A features Waterproof Mascara #62 with a 5-star rating based on 37 different reviews.  Retailer B features Waterproof Mascara #62 with a 3-star rating and has only received 9 reviews.

Due to Retailer B’s closed network restraints – they’re feeling the decline of ratings and reviews.   The limited number of submissions will also result in an overall lower rating per product.

The number of reviews that a product has on any given site is directly correlated to the likelihood of a customer converting and purchasing that product.    The more reviews, the better the rating, the likelier the customer is to convert or buy. TurnTo has found that even if the product has the same rating on both sites (Retailer A & B) – the customer is more likely to buy from the site that has generated a larger quantity of reviews, in this case, Retailer A.

“When asked, 81% of shoppers would pay more for a product that has ratings and reviews vs. another product that is cheaper or offers a promotion.”

—”Hearing the Voice of the Consumer”, 2017

Unfortunately for Retailer B – this is not an isolated occurrence.  In fact, it will impact their business going forward.  Retailer B will see a decline in overall commerce on their site because customers will flock towards Retailer A as they accumulate a greater number of reviews.  It’s a slippery slope for Retailer B to not amend their closed syndication network.

Wouldn’t you pick the item that has a 5-star rating with more reviews versus a 3-star rating with less?

We want to hear from you – what are your plans for open syndication?

 


Even though the clock is ticking – you’re not out of time just yet!  Eliminate syndication worry, and increase your number of reviews by exploring TurnTo’s open syndication network that does not stop at innovation…

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Spy Optic and CGC in the Spotlight at IRCE

June 15, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

We just wrapped up a great events season with IRCE and Salesforce Connections in Chicago. We were fortunate to have several partners speaking at the events and we’re happy to share their great presentations with you. The first comes from Ben Johnson of Spy Optic, who speaks about how they used CGC to boost their sales—at an even higher rate than discounts! Check out how in the 10-minute video below.

 

 

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Tombow Shares Tips on CGC at Magento Imagine

April 27, 2018 by Sven Tarantik

We just returned from a great week at Magento Imagine 2018! One of the highlights was hearing Brittany Graham of Tombow share her story on how they leverage customer generated content. We couldn’t be more thrilled about our relationship with Tombow, what a great story!

Check out the video below:

 

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TurnTo CEO George Eberstadt responds to Bazaarvoice CEO Gene Austin’s blog post on open syndication

January 9, 2018 by George Eberstadt

Last Wednesday, Gene Austin, CEO of Bazaarvoice, published a discussion of the coming end of the Justice Department-mandated syndication relationship between Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews, on July 2, 2018.  As he stated, “Unless something changes, as of July 3rd, Bazaarvoice will no longer be required to accept content from PowerReviews brands for syndication to retailers in the Bazaarvoice Network.”

What does this mean for brands? Review syndication is about to get a lot more expensive.

Bazaarvoice charges brands to syndicate their product reviews to merchant sites in the Bazaarvoice network, whether the brand uses the Bazaarvoice platform for review collection or a third-party platform.  For the last 2.5 years, PowerReviews brand customers have been able to get around these fees because of the Justice Department decree which gave them very low cost access to the Bazaarvoice syndication network.  Now, PowerReviews brand customers are going to have to start paying the network access fees that Bazaarvoice demands, at best, or will lose access to the Bazaarvoice network entirely, at worst.  And since brands using the Bazaarvoice platform will no longer be able to threaten a switch to PowerReviews to avoid the network access fees, they are likely to see their syndication fees rise, too.

Anticipating this, TurnTo built a partnership with Bazaarvoice based on a realistic view of their business model.  This partnership enables brands to choose the reviews platform that best meets their needs and know they can still access the Bazaarvoice syndication network even if their platform choice is TurnTo.  Our brand customers make their own deal with Bazaarvoice regarding the network access fee, and we work directly with Bazaarvoice to ensure the data transfers run smoothly.  It’s a truism that partnerships only work when everyone wins, and we recognized a year ago that meant letting Bazaarvoice control access to their merchant network.  As a result, as of today, TurnTo is the only 3rd party product reviews platform that can assure brands ongoing access to the Bazaarvoice syndication network.

For merchants, the implications are different.  The consequences are going to be about reach rather than cost.

As the cost to brands to syndicate their reviews goes up, or if cross-platform access between Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews is cut off entirely, the number of brands whose reviews are available for syndication on either platform will go down.  Even if cross-platform syndication remains available, rising network access fees will be bad for the relationships between merchants and their vendors.  After all, why should brands have to pay a “network access fee” to a merchant’s reviews platform at all?  The real estate on the merchant’s product pages belongs to the merchant!  If brands pay anything for syndication, it should be a co-op fee to the merchant, not an access fee to the reviews platform.

With this philosophy in mind, TurnTo has developed a radically different syndication offering for merchants.  It enables merchants to syndicate in product reviews from any brand, regardless of their technology platform.  That includes brands that use reviews platforms other than Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews.  And there are no charges (!) for this service to either the merchant or the brands.  By removing both the cost and the technology limitations to syndication, TurnTo enables merchants to access the largest possible network of brand sources.  In one case, a merchant’s syndication network more than doubled after they switched from the Bazaarvoice/PowerReviews network to TurnTo.  TurnTo’s approach also eliminates any risk to merchants that their syndication network will be compromised in the future by spats between the technology platforms.

Like Gene, I am thrilled with the strength of our syndication offerings as we enter 2018.  For brands, we are the only alternative to the Bazaarvoice platform that can offer access to the full Bazaarvoice syndication network without a cloud of uncertainty.  And for merchants, we offer unrivaled syndication reach and an unrivaled value.  I thank Bazaarvoice for their partnership and look forward to working with them in 2018 as the market returns to a more normal competitive environment.  And I invite brands and merchants that would like to learn more about the syndication alternatives available to them to contact us.

 

Ratings and Reviews and the Psychology of Popularity

November 13, 2017 by George Eberstadt

A version of this article was originally published by Total Retail on October 5, 2017.

The Association for Psychological Science recently published an interesting study on consumer shopping behavior, showing that when two comparable products have similar average ratings, shoppers are significantly more likely to choose the product with the larger number of ratings.

This finding won’t surprise e-commerce retailers, but in the psychology world, it’s an illustration of herd mentality leading to irrational decisions. When two comparable items have low ratings, it would be more logical for shoppers to pick the one with FEWER total reviews, as it’s possible that the poor average rating is a fluke — an unrepresentative sample of grumpy reviewers. An item which has a large number of low ratings, on the other hand, is very likely to actually be a dud. Yet even in these cases, where both choices are poorly rated, shoppers prefer the one with the larger number of reviews, because a high review count signals popularity, and people tend to buy what’s perceived as popular.

The e-commerce implications of this study are clear — retailers need to signal to shoppers that the items they sell are popular. Travel sites do this well by showing an indication of the recency and volume of bookings. Take Hotels.com for example:

And here’s another example from Orbitz:

On retail sites, product review volume is among the most powerful ways to signal popularity. While influencing review volume may feel difficult because it seems there are only so many people that want to write product reviews, there are actually many strategies to increase review collection.

For starters, it’s a mistake to think that the number of product reviews that can be collected has a hard limit based on the willingness of customers to write them. It’s more like drilling for oil — some comes out in a gusher, but there’s a lot more in the ground that you can get out by using clever techniques. To illustrate, we recently had a customer begin sending follow-up “please review your purchase” emails a few days after their first request. The retailer expected that the follow-up would get a much lower response rate than the initial email, believing that most customers motivated to write a review would respond to the first request. Surprisingly, the response rate to the follow-up email was 80 percent of that of the initial email — nearly the same. This showed that many of those customers that didn’t respond to the first email had no aversion to writing a review, they just happened to get the request at the wrong moment.

Since many customers ignore a request to write a review for reasons of convenience rather than intent, retailers can increase review collection simply by taking the friction out of the collection process. Strategies aimed at motivating review writing (e.g., incentives) can help, too, but they can also have side effects (e.g., reduced trust). Reducing friction is the low-hanging fruit. Technology that enables customers to write and submit reviews from inside an email rather than requiring a clickthrough to a web form can more than double submission rates. A simple change from a button that says “Click to write a review” to a display of five stars with the message, “Start by rating it” can add 50 percent to the response rate. Allowing users to write reviews before requiring authentication, rather than leading with a log-in demand, can double collection rates.

On mobile devices, allowing photos to be submitted without first requiring the user to author a review can multiply visual content collection up to four times. Asking a user who has just submitted a review to review other items they’ve purchased is five times more likely to produce an additional review than the initial email. It’s common for this “Do More” technique to increase total review volume by 50 percent to 100 percent.

The lessons are clear: Increasing review volume can have a major impact on sales by tapping into the popularity effect, and review volume can reliably be increased with the proper tools and techniques.

 

 

 

Consumer Confessions: How does UGC Impact and Influence the Shopping Experience?

July 6, 2017 by John Swords

I’m going to start this blog post with an assumption – you know that user-generated content helps you to build engaging shopping experiences and connects your shoppers and customers. You are, after all, reading a blog post on the site of a UGC provider.

While I may feel it’s safe to assume that you know the value of UGC, I wasn’t so sure what consumers thought. I wanted to know how UGC impacted purchase decisions and the shopping experience overall.

So, we went directly to consumers in the US and asked them how UGC shapes their buying habits and shopping experiences. We asked how the value proposition of UGC compares to incentives such as discounts and free shipping offers.

The results of this survey have been collected, analyzed and published in “Hearing the Voice of the Consumer: UGC and the Commerce Experience.”

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Most shoppers (81%) will pay more and wait longer to receive products that are paired with UGC.
  • Shoppers under 30 report a greater influence of UGC in purchasing decisions versus older respondents.
  • Of those aged 18-29, 97% report UGC has an extreme influence.
  • Nearly two-thirds of shoppers (63%) believe UGC creates a more authentic shopping experience.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) say UGC increases their purchasing confidence. Nearly two-thirds (61%) report UGC encourages them to engage with brands.

Download the full, data-packed 49-page report today!

Hearing the Voice of the Consumer
Hearing the Voice of the Consumer: UGC and the Commerce Experience”

 

 

5-Stars for Netflix’s Move to a Thumbs Up Rating System

March 23, 2017 by John Swords

5-Stars for Netflix’s Move to a Thumbs Up Rating SystemI have never been a fan of the Netflix rating system. I’ve found it to be one of the most frustrating elements of my daily Netflix experience. The plan to completely change the rating system for the platform is thrilling, overdue and very much welcomed by this movie fan and consumer content geek.

While much of the news about the change has focused on the switch from a star rating to a thumbs up/down rating, the details are much more interesting.

The star rating system at Netflix has always been confusing and misleading. For example, I may see the BBC docu-series “Planet Earth” in my Netflix menu with a 5-star rating. My sister, who is not a fan of such shows, could see the same title with a 1-star rating.

I may give a movie a 4-star rating but I’m never really told what benefit that has to me. Will the rating shape future recommendations? The answer is yes. Will it impact the movie’s rating? Kinda, but not really (Keep reading!).

Netflix was showing you a star rating of how much they thought you would enjoy a show rather than the more common aggregating and averaging of ratings by fellow viewers. This could often lead to the assumption that I wouldn’t like something based on previous viewing habits when a show, in fact, could be highly-rated by the majority of viewers. The VP of product at Netflix summed this up by saying, “What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

This tail-chasing dynamic of what marketers think is best vs, what consumers want stunts so many commerce marketing strategies. Is it segmentation and personalization or is it social proof?

To add another layer to the Netflix ratings wreck, there are longer format written reviews on the Netflix website that are not available in most apps and connected TV platforms. That star rating may not match as you move between site, app or device.

Specific to UGC, marketers should focus on providing a platform for customers and shoppers to have a dialog about products, service and brand interactions that can help them to discover new products, answer questions and buy with confidence. The experience should be consistent across devices and channels.

Marketers can help to shape these interactions, but making assumptions, forcing the conversation and/or trying to control the dynamics of consumer interaction can lead to failure and distrust by shoppers and customers.

So, yes, Netflix’s switch from a star rating to a thumbs up/down system is significant, but I look forward to how this move to a binary choice will impact the larger algorithms and how Netflix will feature ratings across their platform.

Hopefully the experience will be more consistent and representative of the ratings given by fellow Netflix viewers while still being peppered with the ever-evolving algorithms that power the Netflix experience.

 

Take this Exit: UGC and the Customer Journey

February 23, 2017 by John Swords

Organized. Structured. Logical. Predictable. None of these words describe your customer’s path to purchase. There is no grid system. No wide-lane expressway will guide your shopper from initial awareness to the ultimate destination of submitting an order.

Marketers struggle to steer shoppers down the purchase path when there are so many cost-cutting, channel-crossing competitors distracting the shopper along the way.

Rather than trying to dictate each move on the customer journey, marketers can shift strategies to support the consumer as they shop.

Your site and stores may be the roads that customers use, but tools such as user-generated content and email can help to keep them focused, engaged and on course to complete a purchase.

Driving the Customer Journey: User-Generated Content and the Purchase Path

 

TurnTo’s white paper series, “Driving the Customer Journey: User-Generated Content and the Purchase Path,” examines how this ecommerce evolution has impacted consumer behaviors, marketing strategies and the role of user-generated content in the customer journey.

Part one of the series, “The Journey Begins – Pre-Purchase,” details how thoughtfully featuring UGC throughout the purchase path can engage shoppers from initial product searches to product pages.

While the customer’s journey is an unpredictable, winding road, there are ways you can keep the shopper focused and moving toward a purchase. Download “Driving the Customer Journey: The Journey Begins” to learn more.