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Here’s How Smart Brands Are Surviving Retail’s Sea Change

June 19, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

It’s no secret that the retail industry is in the midst of a massive sea change spurred by the rise of eCommerce.

That’s created some new challenges for brands, who can no longer bank on getting adequate shelf space at brick-and-mortar retailer locations to drive sales at the same level as in the pre-internet world.

Consequently, it’s become even more important for brands to make sure they’re getting adequate digital shelf space—for some brands a digital presence is even more important than a physical one.

Smart Brands Are Doubling Down on Ecommerce

The strategy appears to be working for brands that have prioritized their eCommerce efforts, and are now seeing some solid gains as a result.

In May 2019, Internet Retailer reported that 127 of the top 500 North American online retailers were consumer brand manufacturers. This group has seen their web sales increase by an average of 17.9%. That’s a growth rate that outpaces all other merchant groups, with the sole exception of digitally native pure play retailers.1

Internet Retailer cited sneaker icon Nike as one the larger brands that’s seen success with its online efforts—the company reported a 25% spike in ecommerce sales in 2018, for a total of $2.75 billion. Nike also set an ambitious goal for itself, hoping that web sales will reach $20 billion by 2020.

Some brands have improved their direct sales by embracing an omnichannel approach to retail that includes eCommerce, brand-owned physical stores and the store-within-a-store model.

Nike, however, hopes to achieve its goal largely by doubling down on its online footprint. Part of that strategy includes forming stronger relationships with multibrand retailers. In one such initiative, Nike opened a branded storefront on the site of Walmart-owned retail site Jet.com.

How Syndication Can Help Brands Increase Online Sales

One key way that brands—even large ones like Nike—can improve their online sales on retailer sites is through the syndication of online reviews. Syndication is simply the sharing of Customer-Generated Content like ratings and reviews between brands’ online stores and online retailers.

Syndication makes it easier for a shopper to see all of the Customer-Generated Content for the same product, regardless of whether they’re on a brand or retailer site. It’s a highly effective way for brands to connect with more customers.

Not only that, but research shows that products with more reviews sell better. A product with a high number of reviews is a sign that a lot of other shoppers have already bought the item—it’s social proof that can help alleviate customer hesitation about making an online purchase.

Simply gathering more product reviews can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. A study from Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center found that a product with five reviews was 270% more likely to be purchased than a product that didn’t have any reviews.

Brands that syndicate their content also benefit with more exposure on digital channels, improved sell-through value, and search engine optimization (SEO) credit.

TurnTo’s Open Review Syndication Can Help

Unlike other platforms, TurnTo offers its Open Review Syndication service to all brands at absolutely no cost—even if they use a competing platform for their Customer-Generated Content.

TurnTo’s approach also requires no technical work on the part of brands. We scan brand sites for product reviews using a highly accurate web crawler, similar to the way Google’s web indexing search crawler does. These reviews can then be displayed on retailer sites within a day or two.

Brands are also given access to a dashboard that shows which retailer sites in TurnTo’s network are receiving the reviews. And control over syndication always remains in the hands of brands; TurnTo doesn’t require a term commitment for syndication.

To find out how to get started with TurnTo Syndication, get in touch.

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Source:

1 Consumer Brands Make Big Bets on Ecommerce; Internet Retailer, May 2019

 

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Here’s How Product Reviews Can Help Your Omnichannel Strategy

June 5, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Online reviews might seem a world removed from a shopper’s in-store experience. But new research suggests that product reviews play a key role in the path to purchase for shoppers at a physical store.

An April 2019 study from RetailMeNot found that nearly 70% of in-store customers were more likely to look to their smartphones for product reviews, instead of talking with a store associate.1

More than half of shoppers also preferred to use their smartphone to research similar products, or to get specifications about items they were considering purchasing.

An Omnichannel Retail Strategy FTW!

For retailers, these smartphone-centric findings should drive home the importance of omnichannel—the multichannel retail approach that lets shoppers switch between online, mobile and physical experiences seamlessly, based on their needs or personal preferences.

With omnichannel, a shopper might research a product on their phone, receive a coupon, and then make their purchase at a store. Or, they might go to a brick-and-mortar location, view a product in person, then convert on a mobile device.

In a perfect world, omnichannel eliminates friction, makes every touchpoint shoppable, adopts a customer-centric approach, and privileges a superior customer experience above all else.

Smartphones are increasingly a key part of that omnichannel journey, especially among younger demographics. A 2018 study from Salesforce found that 71% of shoppers used their mobile devices at a brick-and-mortar location. That figure was even higher—at 83%—for 18- to 44-year-olds.2

“Mobile browsing and research are standard for most shoppers,” said RetailMeNot CEO Marissa Tarleton in a statement accompanying the research. “A substantial number of consumers are comfortable converting on either that same smartphone device or in a physical store, based on what’s convenient to their needs at the time of their journey.”

How Product Reviews Can Aid Your Omnichannel Efforts

While the idea of omnichannel is simple, a well-executed omnichannel retail strategy is often anything but. RetailMeNot’s research underscores how important online product reviews can be, even when your shoppers are in-store but staring at their smartphones.

Here are a few ways retailers can ensure their Customer-Generated Content strategy also supports their omnichannel efforts:

1. Collect more reviews. Data shows that more reviews result in better conversions; that holds true for shoppers on smartphones as well. A study from Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center found that a product with just five reviews was 270% more likely to be purchased than a product with no reviews.3 TurnTo’s innovative features, like reviews that can be submitted directly from the body of an email, have been shown to increase content collection rates by as much as 200%.

2. Optimize displayed content for mobile. It’s not enough to have reviews if they’re difficult to read. Retailers should ensure their websites are optimized for mobile display. TurnTo uses a responsive design approach by default and allows ecommerce sites to configure custom breakpoints to match their site so things like Ratings & Reviews look their best, regardless of what device a shopper is on.

3. Make mobile submissions frictionless. Leaving a product review on your site should be easy, especially if your shoppers are on a mobile device. Smartphone users leave shorter reviews than people on desktops, so ask these shoppers questions that don’t require lengthy answers. TurnTo custom tailors its review collection user experience for shoppers on mobile to get the best answers out of them.

Want to learn more about how TurnTo can help?

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1 New RetailMeNot Data Shows Mobile Devices Play a Critical Role for Consumers While Shopping in Physical Retail Stores; RetailMeNot, April 2019

2 Shopper-First Retailing: New Research from 6,000 Consumers and 1.4 Billion Ecommerce Visits Reveals What Shoppers Actually Want; Salesforce, August 2018

3 How Online Reviews Influence Sales; Spiegel Research Center, June 2017

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Why Reviews Matter: Almost 70% of Shoppers Have Left a Product Page Because They Wanted More Info

April 4, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Is your eCommerce site failing to give your shoppers all of the information they want? Some recent data from Salsify1 suggests that might be the case.

In a survey of 1,000 US adults, Salsify discovered that nearly 70% of respondents abandoned a product detail page (PDP) because it didn’t offer enough product detail or other information.

To put those survey results in context: more people left a product page because they wanted more information than those that left because prices were too high, or because they were concerned about potentially buying a fake product.

Nearly 70% of respondents abandoned a product detail page (PDP) because it didn’t offer enough product detail or other information.

eCommerce sites that fail to do the simple work of including enough product information on their PDPs are basically leaving money on the table.

But the problem is also easily fixable. Here are some key takeaways from the report that eCommerce companies should take to heart:

1. The More Reviews, the Better

112 is the magic number. No, that’s not a typo. It’s the average number of reviews that shoppers want to see when they’re looking at a product online, according to Salsify. And that figure was even higher among younger demographic groups.

 

On average, shoppers ages 25- to 34-years old wanted to see 159 reviews per product; that figure jumped to an average of 203 reviews per product among those ages 18 to 24.

In short, your customers want reviews. Lots of them. Why? Because a high review count is social proof that a product is good, and that can alleviate shoppers’ hesitation about pulling the trigger on a purchase.

On average, shoppers want to see 112 reviews for each product

“Consumers are really looking for that extra degree of validation, and it’s not even necessarily the star rating,” Andrew Weber, Data Insights Manager at Salsify, told Retail TouchPoints in an interview. “Those ratings are pretty similar between the top performers and poor performers. The difference is the average review count.” 2

2. Images Are Also in High Demand

The desire for more content extends beyond just five-star ratings and written reviews. Customers want to see more visual content like photos and videos on the product page than they did just a few years ago. In fact, Salsify found that shoppers expect a baseline of six images for each product. But even top-selling items in the image-focused grocery and electronics verticals only had an average of four.

 

The same went for videos; shoppers indicated they wanted, on average, a minimum of two per product page. And some age groups wanted as many as four to five videos for each product.

3. Customers Trust Each Other

It’s not just numbers that matter—customers also want to see highly relevant reviews on product pages. Salsify found that 30% of respondents said it was a good sign that a brand or retailer understood them when product reviews came from people similar to them.

Today’s shoppers place a tremendous amount of faith in one another to share authentic and honest feedback about online goods. Product ratings and reviews written in a conversational tone resonate better with shoppers, rather than marketing copy, which might read as inauthentic.

4. Shoppers Have Questions—Give Them Answers

Unfortunately for online shoppers, there’s usually no sales associate standing by to respond to questions. But your customers still want answers.

In fact, Salsify found that most shoppers wanted answers for anywhere from eight to 13 questions about a particular product to appear right on the product detail page.

“One option is to put in more textual descriptions that reveal what a specific product feature actually does, or have common Q&A questions literally right on the product page that can be interactively displayed,” Weber said in his interview with Retail TouchPoints.

Salsify also noted that commonly asked questions sometimes reveal shortcomings in product descriptions. Brands and retailers can respond to this valuable feedback by updating their product detail pages.

How TurnTo Can Help

Salsify’s research attests to the need for eCommerce sites to provide their customers with more written reviews, better visual content, and answers to their questions. TurnTo’s industry-leading innovations can help with that:

  • More reviews – Our Ratings & Review product is designed to increase review collection rates right off the bat. We do that with features like Inbox Submission, which lets customers submit reviews directly from the body of an email, increasing content collection rates by as much as 200%. Our review solicitations are optimized for mobile, so it’s really easy for customers to submit content on their smartphones. All of that adds up to more Ratings & Reviews for your products.
  • Better Visual Content –TurnTo’s Visual Reviews product is the easiest way for eCommerce sites to collect even more photos and videos. Our review collection flow is designed to collect photos and videos first from smartphone users—and submit reviews without any typing. These customer-created images can help improve sales at every step of the customer journey.
  • Give Shoppers Answers – With our Community Q&A product you can supply answers to customer questions right on the product page. Believe it or not, most customers are happy to share their knowledge—we’ve found that about 90% of questions sent to previous shoppers get answers. But Community Q&A can also draw on information from places like existing product descriptions, previously asked questions, and even a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to deliver near-instant responses to questions.

Want to learn more?

Get In Touch

Sources:

1 5 New Rules to Tackle Shoppers’ Rising Expectations of Your Brand; Salsify, March 2019

2 Study: 69% of Shoppers Leave a Site if Product Info is Subpar; Retail TouchPoints, March 2019

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TurnTo is the Fastest-Growing UGC Solution Provider to the IR500

May 28, 2015 by John Swords

[Updated October 11, 2015 to reflect changes Internet Retailer made to their 2015 Top 500 database since the date this was first published.]

According to the newest data from the leading trade publication, Internet Retailer, TurnTo Networks Inc. is the fastest-growing user-generated content (UGC) solution provider to the “IR500” – the top 500 online retailers in North America.

Of the top 3 solution providers in Internet Retailer’s “Customer Reviews and Forums” category – TurnTo, Bazaarvoice, and PowerReviews – only TurnTo showed significant growth from the 2014 tally to 2015. The number of top 500 retailers using TurnTo grew by 53% during the period, while the number using Bazaarvoice declined 3% and the number using PowerReviews declined 12%.

Measured by the annual web sales of the retailers served, the results were even more dramatic. TurnTo grew 198% during the period, while Bazaarvoice grew 2% and PowerReviews declined 1%. Additionally, the Internet Retailer 2015 research shows that 50% of the annual web sales of the PowerReviews customer base is represented by a single customer. Excepting this, the total annual web sales of TurnTo’s IR500 customers would be ahead of PowerReviews and second only to Bazaarvoice overall.

 

I had a quick chat with our CEO, George Eberstadt, to get his thoughts on the reasons for this growth.

Me:  George, the first thing people are going to ask on seeing these numbers is what’s driving them.  So, what’s driving them?

George:  First let me say – and I don’t want to be too saccharine about this – it’s  humbling and gratifying to get this kind of trust from these businesses.  The alternatives have been around a while, so we recognize that the retailers adopting us are making a bold move rather than the safe choice.

And I think that’s the short answer to your question.  The customer-generated content space hasn’t seen much bold innovation for a while, and retailers that are tired of the same-old haven’t had alternatives – especially at the enterprise level. We bring the fresh perspective, smart innovation, and fanatical commitment that a lot of retailers are looking for.

Me:  Can you put your finger on any particular TurnTo innovations that the market has been responding to?

George:  I think it’s a mix – some big, some subtle.  For example, we were the first to introduce the “active outreach” mechanism for getting fast community answers to shopper questions.  That was really the breakthrough that makes community answering work.  Then, we expanded our vision of Q&A to include answering an ever broader range of shopper questions even faster, so we added instant answers and knowledge base features.  Q&A is still a new frontier with lots more opportunities for major innovations, and we’re pursuing those.

Checkout Chatter is another example.  It’s simple and highly effective.  And it’s a TurnTo exclusive.

Ratings & Reviews, on the other had, is a more mature area, so our innovations have been less revolutionary, though they still have a big impact on ROI.  For example, our ready-to-wear UI is exceptionally clean, elegant, and mobile-friendly while still providing easy customizability either through CSS or our comprehensive API.  Our review-solicitation email answer flow automatically authenticates the user, leading to more reviews from verified buyers – especially on mobile devices.  Our transaction history integration enables the system to ask for reviews on previously purchased items immediately after a user writes a review or answers a question, which increases total review volume by 20-30%.

Me: Are there any other reasons you think retailers are switching?

George:  I think our customer success process and the great team behind it is another reason.  By focusing on the business as well as the technical aspects of integrating our tools, we ensure customers get the most value from them.  And we don’t just move on to the next customer as soon as the last one is set up; no one is fully optimized on the day they go live, and we are pretty relentless in follow-through over time.  That’s a hard thing for retailers to get a sense of during an evaluation, but it comes into play in our high customer retention and referral rates, which is a big part of our growth.

Data from the IR500 survey by Internet Retailer are available at www.top500guide.com.

What Bazaarvoice-acquires-PowerReviews means for retailers

June 12, 2012 by George Eberstadt

I spent last week at IRCE 2012 in Chicago, and the #1 question I got asked was “what do you think of the acquisition of PowerReviews by Bazaarvoice?”  Now that I have a quiet moment, I thought I’d set down an answer.

For the merging companies: this is a smart move for Bazaarvoice, and while it’s the end of the road for the PowerReviews team and their products as we know them, it’s the best possible outcome for the PowerReviews shareholders.  The $152 million purchase amount, about 13 times PowerReviews 2011 revenues of $11.5m, is a steep price to pay for a unprofitable business that’s a distant second in their segment.  So why did Bazaarvoice pay up?  Because even though Bazaarvoice won most of the larger accounts in the market, PowerReviews was in every deal competing on price.  The downward pressure this put on Bazaarvoice pricing didn’t just kick in on new deals; every time a Bazaarvoice contract came up for renewal, the customer always had the credible threat of switching to PowerReviews to keep a lid on Bazaarvoice prices.  What’s the value to Bazaarvoice of eliminating price competition from PowerReviews?  Here’s a sample calculation.  Bazaarvoice is currently at a $120m revenue run rate.  If they are able to increase their price realization by 20%, that’s another $24m in revenue, with no associated cost – ie it’s all profit.  The present value of an incremental $24m a year in profit, at a nominal 10% discount rate, is $240m, making $155m a tolerable price to pay.  If the PowerReviews business turns out to be worth something, after their team has been shrunk and their prices raised, then that’s all gravy to Bazaarvoice.  So that’s what you call a win-win, right?

Well, not if you are a customer.  If you are already a Bazaarvoice customer, the effects will be straightforward enough: when your contract comes up for renewal, expect to pay what you’re quoted.  Your alternatives just got a lot narrower.

If you are a PowerReviews customer, it’s a bit more complicated.  Yes, you should expect to pay more when you renew.  But you should also be thinking about what this means to the support your product is going to be getting over time.  Here’s my bet on what’s going to happen.  Bazaarvoice will keep the PowerReviews Express product.  It won’t get a lot of new investment, but it wasn’t before either, since PowerReviews has been focused on their enterprise offering the last few years.  It costs little to sell and service this offering, so there’s no need for Bazaarvoice to cut back to maintain the business.  On the other hand, Bazaarvoice is likely to cut back heavily on investment in the PowerReviews Enterprise product.  This is the offering that’s driving the PowerReviews sales, marketing, and R&D costs, and it competes directly with the Bazaarvoice product line.  It’s hard to see Bazaarvoice carrying the R&D cost of two overlapping products or training their soon-to-be-integrated sales team to sell both.  On the other hand, they won’t want to alienate their newly acquired customers by forcing a rapid change-over.  So I expect they’ll keep the PowerReviews Enterprise product around with minimal investment, and they’ll convert the stores using it over to the Bazaarvoice platform little by little as the PowerReviews platform falls further and further behind.  For those who use the core PowerReviews reviews product, no immediate action will be needed, since that’s already a mature, full-featured platform.  But for those using or considering the new tools in PowerReviews’ recently-announced “Essential Social Suite” – analytics, loyalty, social sharing, Q&A – the picture is different.  All of these new tools are raw, and some are explicitly still in Beta.  Without the significant R&D investment needed to bring these products quickly from their current state to even a modest level of maturity, adopting them may cause real pain.