September 8, 2015 by John Swords
… And we mean LOOK different.
- 90% of reviews come in response to emails
- >60% of emails are opened on phones
- Phones are bad for long text (like reviews)
- Phones are great for photos!
The implications are clear:
- Your strategy for collecting customer reviews needs to work on phones
- On phones, the strategy should be “visual first.”
So what is a visual review? It’s a photo (or video) submitted by a customer in response to a request for a review – the proverbial picture that is worth a thousand words. Instead of text stating, “With my new cookware, I was finally able to perfectly brown the crust of my famous chicken-pot-pie,” it is a photo of that perfect chicken-pot-pie.
Instead of text stating, “The shirt fit perfectly, with no extra blousing around my waist,” it is a selfie of the customer looking great in her new shirt.
Instead of text stating, “The fabric on the sofa was gorgeous, but the cushions were way too saggy,” it is a photo of the sofa with its gorgeous fabric and saggy cushions.
Far from being yet another “gotta-keep-up-with-changing-platforms chore,” the shift to visual content that the rise of smart phones demands creates a huge opportunity. Simply put, visual content converts better. Few shoppers have the patience to read the full body of customer reviews, and those that read any rarely go past the first couple of entries. So while having lots of reviews is valuable for signaling that an item is popular, most of the text you are collecting has little impact on conversion. On the other hand, shoppers can scan an image gallery in a blink and come away with a powerful, visceral sense of the appeal of a product.
This is not to say that you should abandon collecting text reviews; there is plenty of information in text reviews that images can’t convey. If a customer is on a desktop when they get your request to write a review, you should lead with the request for a standard text review (with an option to attach an image). But when the customer is on a mobile device, don’t try to force a round peg into a square hole by asking for text. Instead, ask the customer to do what comes more naturally on these devices and submit an image.
The applications are broad and go way beyond selfies. Image subjects can vary such as:
- Things made with the product (cooking, crafts, do-it-yourself projects)
- The product in use (home furnishings, hobby items)
- Unboxing and explainers (electronics, fashion)
- Travel (Hotel rooms, attractions)
- And yes, selfies (fashion, beauty, sporting goods)
Visual reviews are a great complement to imagery you can gather from social media sites, if you’ve taken that approach. But visual reviews also have some important advantages over social media harvesting and may be all the visual content collection you need:
- Images are automatically connected to the relevant SKU (saving a lot of work)
- Usage rights are automatically acquired
- You can collect a lot more images, since there is a big portion of your customer base that is happy to write a review but isn’t going to post your product to their Instagram page.
- The image collection is continuous; there’s no need for special hashtag campaigns
So as we said, the next generation of product reviews is going to look very different.
March 27, 2012 by George Eberstadt
Dell just relaunched their community for IT professionals, rebranding it from AppDeploy to ITNinja, and changing the interaction model from forum to Q&A. This follows the Q&A models used in other IT communities like Spiceworks and StackOverflow. It’s a subtle but important change. A lot of forum discussion takes the form of Q&A anyway, but adding the formal structure of Q&A has advantages.
The core difference is this: a person asking a question is generally seeking answers, while a person making a comment is often seeking an audience. The person seeking an audience tends to have a more “selfish” set of motivations, like establishing a reputation or promoting an agenda. Those goals are often better served through vehicles like blogs where the commenter has more control over how their contributions are presented, and where their posts can be easily seen in aggregate. Hybrid community/blogs where a newsfeed spans across posters but individuals’ profiles are still prominent (like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) satisfy the goals of commenters particularly well (thus the success of these platforms – there are a lot of commenters out there!). On the other hand, commenters who participate in forums tend to be motivated more by the desire to be helpful than by the goal of self promotion, and if your goal is to be helpful, answering questions is a great way to do it! So, community forums tend to attract answer-seekers and answer-providers, making Q&A the natural framework.
Of course, the distinction isn’t black-and-white, but Dell’s decision to switch from a forum model to a Q&A model is further evidence that Q&A is gradually taking over from forums as the interaction model for communities.
July 9, 2011 by George Eberstadt
I just got an invitation to Google+. After a brief time with it, I’m making a prediction: the Circles thing isn’t going to work. With Circles, Google+ is making the play to become one network spanning many types of relationship and purpose by letting you restrict your sharing and filter your view of the global feed by sub-group. Work. Friends. People I follow. There are two reasons I doubt this will work.
Reason #1: I blogged a while ago about something we learned (the hard way) at TurnTo about granular privacy control. It doesn’t work. There are people who will use your system, and there are people who won’t use your system, but there are very few people who would-use-your-system-if-only-they-had-more-granular-privacy-control. Early on, we built a very similar privacy model to Google+: it provided groups to enable users to restrict what got shared with whom. Like Google+, we offered a set of starter groups and allowed user-customization. Later, we ripped the whole thing out. We came to understand that (most) people want to manage privacy at the level of the network, not sub-groups within the network. People do their work-related networking on LinkedIn and their personal sharing on Facebook. Twitter is great for following people you don’t know personally (and therefor also useful for businesses to promote themselves). People decide who to connect to on each network based on what they plan to share (or read) there, and then they share fully with all their connections. That’s as granular as it gets. An item that isn’t suitable for someone’s whole audience on a particular network doesn’t get restricted to a sub-group, it just doesn’t get shared at all (or it gets shared with everyone with whatever consequences…).
Reason #2: Different system services are optimal for different types of network; there’s no one-size-fits-all collection. As a professional network, LinkedIn provides a great structure for exhibiting your work history. As a personal network, Facebook has great photo sharing. As a network of mostly-nonpersonal-following, Twitter provides great link sharing. The network services and the community co-evolve and specialize over time. If Google+ members really do try to maintain many different types of relationships within the system, they’ll end up unhappy with the tools the system provides. Either the tools will be too sparse, or the tools to support one type of network will be clutter to the others. (Would an elaborate resume system be appropriate for your Facebook profile?) In order for a social network to provide relevant services, there needs to be some level of focus to the type of relationships the network supports. And once the network has that focus, groups become irrelevant.
If I’m right, someone buy me a beer. If Circles works out, the drinks on are me.
April 13, 2011 by George Eberstadt
I now count 6 start-ups offering tools that enable online stores to pay their customers for posting to Facebook about the things they’ve bought. The flavors and features vary, but pay-for-share is the core mechanism for all of them.
The model that seems to be getting most traction looks like this:
1. Offer the customer a discount for posting news of their purchase to Facebook (and Twitter).
2. Assure the customer that by posting they are also providing a discount to their friends. (With some of these tools, I’ve been unable to figure out how the friends actually get their discount, but that’s probably a failure of my research…)
It’s essential to provide both discounts to maximize sharing. If the store provides a discount only to the customer, she feels like a shill for promoting the store to her friends just to get a discount for herself. But if she feels like she is providing her friends with a discount, too, then she can share away to get her own discount guilt-free.
I get the appeal of this model to stores as a way to reach new customers through Facebook, but I don’t get the economics. Isn’t “paying” your customers to share discount offers with their friends an expensive way to get offer distribution? Presumably, the customers who sign up are those who plan to use the discount they get for sharing, so the incremental sales / new customer acquisition / many-coupons-expire-unused arguments don’t apply (at least not much). One store using this tool offers a customer 25% off on their next purchase of $65 or more to share about their purchase on Facebook – so a minimum cost to the store of $16 in lost margin on a future sale. Say we cut that in half for incremental sales / expired-unused effects. That’s still an $8 min cost per post. And the most aggressive estimates I’ve seen of the value of a purchaser-post on Facebook are $2-5. So that doesn’t work.
On the other hand, if my calcs are wrong, and the economics of pay-for-share really do work, and the model becomes wide-spread, what will this mean for Facebook et al? Will they have to enforce disclosure rules? Do paid-for posts harm the community, or only (if discovered) the reputation of the poster?
Hey, if this model proves out, we’ll probably add it as an option in our Social Commerce Suite, too. But what I’m really hoping is that, in the end, social commerce will be about people sharing with each other just because it’s helpful, not because they’re paid to.
March 17, 2011 by George Eberstadt
Last month, I wrote about the challenges of social commerce – in particular, why it’s so hard to get people to share purchase-related information. And I promised I’d follow up with a more optimistic post about an approach that’s working. We call this “contextual sharing”.
Try this: Ask a random sample of people how they feel about telling their friends about recent purchases. Most of the people you ask will probably give you an answer like this: once in a while they’ll tell some friends about some purchases, but the idea of mass-sharing their purchases is repulsive. Now ask them how they feel about answering questions about their purchases. You’ll probably get a very consistent response: sure, I’m happy to help; in fact, I enjoy sharing my experience. Now try a 3rd question. Ask these people if they’d be willing to let people who are shopping for items like ones they’ve already bought know that they are available for advice, if needed. The answer will probably sound like this: as long as I’m not broadcasting about my purchase in a spammy or self-promotional way, sure.
This is the big idea behind contextual sharing: people will share purchase-related information when they have confidence that it will be relevant to the audience.
If you sell online, this has huge implications for your sharing strategy. Don’t over-reach by trying to get your customers to mass-share. Instead, start by asking for contextual sharing. You’ll get a much higher sharing rate, and you can always put the request for a mass-share at then end, to catch that small % of customers who will participate.
Here’s some data from our experience running the TurnTo Purchase Sharing application, which uses a contextual model, on several dozen websites spanning a broad range of verticals for over a year. The system opens an overlay box on the order confirmation page (ie immediately after purchase) that looks like this:
15% of customers click “Sure” (!!). Then the system asks for an answer to the question “Why did you choose this?”
About 1/3 of the people who clicked “Sure” also add a comment. That means that about 5% of all items purchased are getting one of these check-out comments attached, along with permission to show that comment to other shoppers. Finally, the system offers shoppers the opportunity to post that comment to Facebook and Twitter. The rate there is much lower. But by having asked first for the contextual sharing permission, the store at least got that.
September 19, 2010 by John Swords
You’ve implemented Facebook “Like,” have a fanpage, post on Twitter, but haven’t seen a real return on using Social Networks?
Register now for TurnTo’s 45 minute Webinar taking place on Wednesday September 22nd at 2:30PM Eastern. We’ll take a look at how you can increase conversions 2-5X above your baseline by providing your shoppers with a way for them to connect with people they know and other shoppers directly in the shopping cycle. See why over 50 online stores have implemented TurnTo’s powerful and lightweight Social Commerce Suite.
Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org to register and we’ll send details on the upcoming webinar.
We look forward to seeing you at the webinar!
June 8, 2010 by George Eberstadt
It’s a big day at TurnTo: we’re introducing our Social Commerce Suite. (Yes, we know that it’s ambitious to call it a “Suite” with just 2 products – please humor us. Also, there’s more in the pipeline…) Official press release here.
So what’s new? 1. We’ve done a nearly complete overhaul of our current product, now branded “Social Merchandising” and 2. We’re introducing a new product called “Social Purchase Sharing”.
Social Merchandising. We’ve made improvements top to bottom.
- Shoppers who open the widget but don’t personalize it by checking for friends will now see a range of other customers and their purchases designed to give the site that buzzing busy-store feeling and to encourage consideration and purchase of more items. (The goal is to address one of the big limitations of the shopping online: lots of stuff in the stores, but no people.) We’ve built a ranking engine that selects which customers and which items to show, ensuring the greatest relevance given limited data.
- We’ve made the value and process of personalizing the widget a lot more transparent to the user, so many more of those who open the widget will go the next step and personalize it to see their own friends in place of those the system picks. Underlying this is a simplification of the sharing rules to a vanilla Twitter-style “follow” model. (See our last post about the importance of simplicity when it comes to privacy and sharing.) We’ve also switched to delegated login for most of the friend list sources we support, including the newest Facebook protocols. (The short explanation: it’s better.)
- The widget now shows big, attractive product images throughout, so not only are shoppers seeing which of their friends also shop at that store, the purchases those friends made look particularly inviting. Good for cross-sell and order size improvement.
- The comment mechanism has been redone to both capture more input from buyers and to show it more visibly to shoppers.
- We’ve made significant enhancements to the guts of the system to provide greater speed and reliability. These include use of a Content Delivery Network as well as a range of server-side caching and summarizing strategies. The design point was to be able to support the largest ecommerce sites out there.
- We’ve added new tools for optimizing the button that calls up the widget. It doesn’t do stores any good to have a fabulous social merchandising tool if only a few shoppers use it. We now provide a range of more interactive button designs as well as tools for doing rotation tests (randomized A/B/C tests) of alternatives. In its initial use, we’ve already seen large engagement rate improvements.
In a nutshell: you have to see it. So here’s the first screen shot we’ve released:
Social Purchase Sharing. Our partner merchants have been telling us how valuable it is when a customer posts to their social network (most often Facebook and Twitter) about their purchase. So we’ve added a simple tool to significantly increase the amount of purchase sharing online stores can generate. It’s an overlay that appears on the order confirmation page right after a purchase and makes a clear, persuasive appeal to share. The permission obtained from the buyer is also used to power the Social Merchandising widget, so the “sharing” appears both on the social networks and on the store site itself. Here’s an example of the overlay – just picture it on top of your order confirmation page. (See also our blog post on “Like” vs. “Bought”.
The TurnTo Social Commerce Suite will be generally available to online retailers at the beginning of Q3, 2010. If you are in Chicago this week for the Internet Retailer show (IRCE), please come by booth #431 and we’ll give you a full demo. If you’d like more information on the thinking that went into these products, please have a look at the white paper we just released: Onsite Social for Online Commerce.
January 22, 2009 by George Eberstadt
We just rolled out Rave. If you’ve had a particularly good experience with a product from a TurnTo network site – the sort of experience you’d normally tell your friends about – rave it. Your TurnTo friends will see your rave in their TurnTo news feed, and you can also push it out to your Facebook friends. (Coming soon: you’ll be able to push your raves out to other networks, Twitter, and the like…) Other people can see your raves, too, but we don’t push it to them, and they don’t see your name as the author.
How come only “rave” and not “pan”? The main idea behind rave is to make it easy for you to bring something to the attention of your friends that they might find valuable. Getting warned off of a bad product is useful mainly if you were already considering it. There’s no need to tell me not to get something I didn’t want anyway. But getting alerted to something really special can spark a brand new idea. Plus, we wanted to focus on the positive. And a lot of our partner sites already have tools for collecting ratings and reviews, so we felt it was more important to focus on the communicating-with-friends aspect than on collecting scores and feedback.
We’d love to hear what you think. Please drop us line.