Strategies to tune your customer-generated content program during COVID-19

As shopper behavior and store operations have dramatically changed in response to the coronavirus, our customers have been adjusting their customer-generated content programs to match.  We thought we’d share some of these ideas in hopes they might be useful to you, as well.

Respond to new out-of-stock patterns by triggering request-for-review emails based on ship date rather than order date.  Whether because of supply chain disruption, hoarding, or simply changing needs as consumers operate fully from their homes, many retailers are facing out-of-stock-conditions on larger parts of their catalogs than ever before.  Shoppers don’t like to be asked to write product reviews about items they haven’t received yet.  So if a delivery is on back order, it’s better to wait to send that request.  If you have been triggering your review requests based on order date, consider switching to ship date.

Use idle store staff to answer shopper questions through Q&A.  In normal times, few retailers that use Q&A dedicate staff to answer all shopper questions.  Most rely on their community of real product owners as the front line of answering and save their staff to backstop where the community is unavailable or where the question isn’t suitable for community answering.  However, if you now find that you have store staff with time on their hands who are spending their days in front of computers (where they used to be out on floor), you can put their expertise to use by setting them up as “experts” to answer shopper questions.  You’ll be delivering more, faster answers, and you’ll be creating great content that will help with SEO and will continue to support your sales through “instant answers” after things go back to normal.

Maximize product review coverage in categories where purchase is changing most from in-store to online.  In many categories where online purchase has been secondary to in-store sales, retailers are facing a particular challenge: shoppers are considering on-line purchase for the first time, but the social proof that would give those shoppers the confidence to buy online is thin – ie there aren’t enough product reviews about these items.  This depresses conversion rates at the very moment when the opportunity is greatest.  To address this, consider a range of strategies to increase review volumes targeted at those parts of your catalog where purchase is shifting the most to online: follow up review requests, incentives to write reviews, sampling programs, review syndication from key brands, having your store staff contribute “staff reviews” (especially if they have extra time on their hands), and aggressively using SKU families to maximize sharing of relevant reviews within those categories.  Also, of course, be sure you are following best practices to maximize content across your whole catalog, like embedding the review form in the request e-mail, ensuring you are requesting reviews for all purchases, using “Checkout Comments” to supplement reviews, and employing soft authentication to streamline purchase verification (especially for guest buyers and not-logged-in reviewers).

Double-check the impact of your customer content system on page load speed.  As huge numbers of people have shifted to working and schooling from home, and with that streaming video has exploded, residential networks in some areas are slowing down.  This means your site load speed is more important than ever.  As customer-content widgets are one of the heaviest elements on many product detail pages, this is the time to see what speed optimizations you can make.  For TurnTo customers, we encourage those who haven’t already done so to prioritize the move to our new SpeedFlex widget architecture.  And if a near-term move to a modern, light-weight widget isn’t in the cards for you, evaluate whether strategies like lazy-loading these components might make sense.

We hope these ideas are helpful.  If you have others, please let your TurnTo Solution Manager know, and we’ll share more in a follow up.