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.
December 16, 2015 by George Eberstadt
Each year at this time, CIO Review Magazine picks 20 technology solutions for the retail business that stood out during the previous year. TurnTo was selected as one of them in their just-published 2015 list. Here’s a link to their official citation. Their explanation did a very nice job summarizing the changes that are taking place in shopper behavior and the resulting challenges and opportunities for online sellers. Reprinting it here:
Product ratings and reviews have been a staple of eCommerce since Amazon introduced them in the mid-90s. But the basic model hasn’t evolved much, while the online environment has changed dramatically. Phones have passed computers as the primary means through which many people access the internet. Visual content has become far more important in the online product discovery and selection process. Social media has trained people to value 2-way interactivity over passive content consumption. Messaging has taught people to prefer their text shorter and shorter.
Set against this backdrop is New York-based TurnTo Networks, the fastest-growing provider of so-called “customer- generated content” (CGC) tools for top eCommerce businesses and brands. TurnTo’s mission has been to update the basic ideas of traditional ratings and reviews to address the changes in the ways people shop online and how they create and use CGC in the process. To accomplish this, TurnTo has developed an innovative suite of customer-content applications for eCommerce built around this new environment: mobile-first, highly visual, 2-way interactive, and short-form text.
TurnTo’s line-up includes an up-to-date take on traditional Ratings and Reviews, a Community Q&A product that enables shoppers to get their product questions answered by peers who already own the items, a “micro-review” gathered at the point of purchase called a Checkout Comment, and a Visual Reviews product built around the reality that many people would rather use their phones to take pictures and video than to fill in forms and type. Together, these products fulfill the basic promise of customer ratings and reviews while taking the value delivered by customer content to a new level
Not only do these new and updated tools better meet the needs of today’s shopper, they also help online sellers address important challenges that traditional ratings and reviews don’t solve well. For example, stores with “fast-turn” catalogs, such as fashion, often have trouble building up customer reviews before items go out of stock or out of season. But TurnTo’s Checkout Comments start generating content from the first moment an item is available for sale. Or consider highly complex products like cameras and electronics. It’s impossible for reviews or standard product information to anticipate all the questions a shopper might have before purchasing. For that, Community Q&A is an effective way to quickly get prospective buyers the information they need. Or how about the whole category of do-it-yourself–from home improvement to cooking to crafts? Stores often want to call attention to the results of the products they sell–the projects made with their tools and supplies. Text reviews of product features can never highlight these outcomes the way proud photos taken by real customers can.
“Traditional ratings and reviews remain very important, and it’s crucial for stores and brands to use a platform that collects the greatest volume while ensuring authenticity,” says George Eberstadt, CEO, TurnTo Networks. “But it’s no longer enough to stop there. Customer behavior has moved on, which has created great opportunities for sellers to use these new types of customer-content to create better experiences for shoppers while addressing some of their most important merchandising challenges.”
December 3, 2014 by John Swords
To provide some more context, I sat down with our CEO to discuss how this new product came about.
Heather: TurnTo is well known for providing the top-performing community-powered Q&A solution for eCommerce. Why branch out to Ratings & Reviews?
George: Well, we resisted for a long time! One reason we’ve been able to build up such a lead on the Q&A side is focus. But 4 things changed our minds. I’ll go through them:
- First, some businesses wanted to adopt our Q&A without increasing their vendor count. Our Q&A has always been targeted at businesses that take a best-of-breed approach to vendors; but with integrated Ratings & Reviews we can meet the needs of those who prefer suite providers, too.
- Second, we identified some very exciting ways to integrate the two products to deliver more value than either can alone.
- Third, we realized that all of the enterprise-grade infrastructure we built for Q&A could be leveraged by our Ratings & Reviews product, enabling us to rapidly build out the application and launch with a full enterprise-ready feature set.
- And finally, our customer research revealed some pretty wide-spread dissatisfaction with the existing choices and a strong demand for a better option.
Heather: What was the overall philosophy behind the design of TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews product?
George: We spent a lot of time talking with both current customers and prospects to understand what they wanted in a Ratings & Reviews product, and the feedback was very consistent: all the important functions that have been proven to work, beautifully executed, on an enterprise-grade platform, at an affordable price. We also heard consistent requests to stay away from bells and whistles that don’t add value and clutter up the user experience or make the system management difficult just to appear different. The architect Mies van der Rohe was famous for saying “God is in the details”, by which he meant creativity doesn’t necessarily require wild gestures – there’s plenty of opportunity for innovation in just honing an idea until it’s really right. I’d say that was the philosophy guiding us here.
Heather: OK, so there’s nothing radically different about TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews product, but are there still some innovations you’d like to point out?
George: At the application level, one nice touch is that the “purchaser credential” (like the Verified Buyer badge) provides an approximate date of purchase. That increases the credibility of the review and also enables the shopper to see how much experience the reviewer has had with the product. We also offer state-of-the-art mobile capabilities – responsive design right out of the box and phone-optimized UX for review collection. Plus, as I mentioned, we’ve found some very valuable new ways to integrate Ratings & Reviews with Q&A. For example, when a shopper enters a question, our Instant Answers feature now searches the Ratings & Reviews for relevant information (as well as the existing Q&A dialog and the store’s knowledge base). Also, the please-review-your-purchase email can now include an offer for customers to get help with their recent purchase from others who already own the item. That turns Q&A into a post-purchase support tool; and by coupling it to the review solicitation, stores can head off potential negative reviews and turn them into positive ones.
Heather: How has the market received TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews so far?
George: The reception has been great. Many of our existing Q&A customers have already or are in the process of switching their reviews over to us, too. Many of our new customers are signing up for both reviews and Q&A together. And we’ve even got a some new customers who are starting with our Ratings & Reviews and planning to add Q&A later. And that’s all before we’ve really started to market this new product.
Heather: Does this mean TurnTo is no longer a “Q&A first” company?
George: No, we’re still Q&A-first. We expect that online business who are satisfied with the current reviews providers will still come to us for best-of-breed community-powered Q&A. It’s already the industry leader, and we have many big enhancements coming in 2015. But when you look the whole package of our Ratings & Reviews offering – the product itself, TurnTo’s outstanding support, affordability, integration with our industry-leading Q&A, and our extraordinary roadmap – it compares very favorably to the existing alternatives.
June 2, 2009 by George Eberstadt
Here’s the full article: http://bit.ly/14Wl0n
And here’s what they have to say about us: New York-based TurnTo Networks Inc., for example, which was launched in September, helps retailers link their customer accounts with social-networking accounts and email accounts using Facebook Connect and other tools. TurnTo charges retailers a percentage of the revenue from sales attributed to the system.
Tea retailer Teavana Corp. is a TurnTo client. Jay Allen, Teavana’s vice president of e-commerce, says the conversion rate—a measure of how many shoppers make purchases—for people who use the application is 20% higher than the rate for others, and their average orders are slightly more expensive.
TurnTo founder George Eberstadt says preliminary data for the company’s first 20 clients show that using TurnTo tends to increase conversion rates 20% to 50% and builds traffic to retailers’ sites. Some 700,000 new users, for instance, have come to computer retailer CompSource Inc.’s site through its TurnTo application since July. TurnTo is “a lot better than average” in terms of price per new customer compared with pay-per-click advertising, says Dean Bellone, CompSource’s president.
February 4, 2009 by George Eberstadt
Here’s our second presentation from day 2 at the OnMedia conference. This one is a straight-up product demo and company backgrounder without the “theory” from yesterday. The TurnTo part runs from min. 36-46. (As with yesterday’s, we’ll swap in the individual video once we get it from the conference.)
February 3, 2009 by George Eberstadt
Here’s the TurnTo presentation from the OnMedia conference today. This talk focuses on the whole idea of “Trusted References”. The TurnTo part goes from roughly minute 1 to minute 10. (I’m hoping the conference will provide a version of this without the side-bar. I’ll upgrade if we get one…)
January 23, 2009 by George Eberstadt
I just got back from the Social Networking Conference in Miami. Here’s the presentation I gave, titled “Ecommerce Meets Social Networks: A Different Approach to Driving Online Referrals”. The usual caveats about slides-without-accompanying-commentary apply.