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!
March 23, 2017 by John Swords
I 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.
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.
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.
December 20, 2016 by John Swords
Whether you are exploring your first user-generated content strategies or looking for ways to expand your current UGC offerings, it can be a challenge to figure out which tools and methodologies are going to connect with your shoppers.
Many marketers may simply add ratings and reviews to product pages and think they have launched enough of a UGC program that will boost sales and engagement. Rarely will that “just flip a switch” strategy be enough to truly impact the customer experience or your bottom line.
Imagine throwing a dinner party where you invite friends, family and co-workers. When the first guests arrive, you run upstairs and hide hoping everyone will get along, converse, find the food and have an enjoyable evening. A few guests will make the most of the situation, but most will probably feel a bit confused and may just leave.
The evening would be much more enjoyable if you are a good host. You must consider how the various groups will interact and foster an environment that will bring everyone together. Guide the conversation. Serve the main course. Delight with a dessert.
Make these same considerations when you are planning your UGC implementations. Your shoppers and customers are showing up to your site, what are you doing to bring them together? Analyze your customer segments to identify behaviors that could encourage content submissions, spark conversations and educate first-time shoppers.
Check out these 3 common customer behaviors and how they can be translated into a powerful UGC strategy.
You know your shoppers are using mobile devices to research products and to check the status of their orders. You have probably invested in mobile-friendly product pages and checkout processes. Augment these efforts by including a mobile-optimized UGC submission flow. Give customers the power to take and submit photos on their mobile phones when they are reviewing a product. Ensure that this UGC is easily found on your mobile site and viewable on a variety of devices by shoppers considering their next purchase.
Pride and Projects
Brand advocates are rarely bashful. From unboxings to shopping hauls, completing a project or completely taking a product apart, your most active customers have a lot to say and a lot to show off. Help your most enthusiastic customers to share their stories by prominently featuring customer-created video reviews of your products. Build awareness that videos can be included on your site and then actively share their hard work to spread their message as well as your own!
An informed shopper can become a valuable customer. They may just need to have a few questions answered before they can confidently make their first purchase. Think about conversations your customer service reps and store employees have with customers. Identify the topics that happen organically in your product reviews and Q&A sections. Certain products or product categories could benefit from having these themes prominently featured on product pages or in search results. For tough to answer questions or overly complex products, consider developing videos or written guides that can be an additional resource for shoppers. UGC comments and Q&A can supplement and complement these efforts and motivate shoppers to move further along the customer journey toward completing a purchase.
Using existing consumer behaviors to build a UGC strategy can help you to develop meaningful site interactions, motivate shoppers to buy and give customers a reason to come back and share thoughts on purchases. As you plan to add UGC features to your site, think about how you can help to expand on these successes rather than just adding features to your product pages and hoping for the best.
Learn how TurnTo customer Sur La Table identified a UGC collection opportunity on their order confirmation page. Download the “The Power of the Customer Voice” white paper.
August 17, 2015 by John Swords
That’s exactly what Ian MacDonald, Director of eCommerce for Silver Star Brands has experienced leveraging TurnTo’s Community Q&A. Ian was looking to improve SEO performance, increase website traffic and lift conversion rates. He thought he’d find an answer using customer-generated content, but he already had ratings and reviews. He needed more.
Ian implemented our Community Q&A and proprietary “Checkout Chatter” products which immediately began creating Customer-Generated Content.
Silver Star Brands’ customers can get quick answers to their questions right on the product detail page from fellow customers, staff experts, and the store’s FAQ content from the help center. To maximize the usefulness of this utility, Ian strategically used an “input teaser” on the product page, enabling shoppers to submit their questions without having to scroll.
Additionally, at the time of purchase, Silver Star Brands’ customers are asked the simple question “Why did you choose this?” TurnTo’s Checkout Chatter enables the company to collect short, positive sentiments from customers, equating to more Customer-Generated Content for their sites that is indexable for search engines.
Here are just a few results Silver Star Brands have realized thus far (a link to the full case study is below):
As a “bonus” – this incredible volume of Customer-Generated Content from both Q&A and Checkout Chatter is indexed by search engines, which has greatly improved Silver Star Brands’ SEO.
September 24, 2012 by George Eberstadt
If you know customer reviews, you know that half of the value – maybe more – is in the insights you can extract. So you might think the same is true for Social Q&A, since these are the two main sources of user-generated content on product detail pages. But you’d be mistaken. For Social Q&A, engagement is the key, which means that if your Social Q&A system isn’t delivering massive customer interaction, it’s falling short.
In a recent talk I gave to a gathering of e-commerce execs from major brands and retailers, I asked the audience for a show of hands on this: if they were forced to turn off part of their customer review system, which part would they chose? The options were:
- Turn off the back end. Visitors to their sites and storefronts could see all the reviews, as could search engines, but all the analytics would be gone.
- Turn off the front end. All the analytics would be available, but none of the content would be visible to shoppers or search engines.
The room split exactly in half.
At the Shop.org Summit last week in Denver, the CMO of a fashion brand told me he had just run a rigorous A/B test on their customer reviews. He was new to the brand, and even though they’d had reviews for a while, he didn’t want to just assume it was working. He tested the overall, site-wide effect on conversion (not just whether items with reviews did better than items without, or whether high-scoring items sold better than low scoring items). His discovery: negative lift! Overall, sales dropped a bit when reviews were turned on. So I asked if he was going to turn reviews off. He said that hadn’t been decided; the insight value they got from reviews was important enough that they would probably keep them after all. (There’s neat recent story on how stores are using the insights from customer reviews to steer their businesses in the Wall Street Journal.) n.b. Fashion brands seem to have a stormier relationship with customer reviews than many other retail segments. Your mileage may differ…
If you have had this sort of experience with customer reviews, you might think that the value equation is about the same for Social Q&A. But it’s not. While Social Q&A can also deliver valuable insights, it is first-and-foremost an engagement tool. You are not going to make up for poor Q&A engagement with analytics.
To put it simply: an unanswered question is a real downer, whereas no one ever knows about the review that was never written. Unanswered questions on your product detail page scream “nobody home”. First, there are the disappointed shoppers who asked questions and never heard back. Then there are the shoppers who come later and see all the unanswered questions stacked up. Sure, you can hide unanswered questions, but that makes it even less likely they get answered, and it doesn’t help the person who asked. You can have your staff answer all the questions, but then you’re probably better off with a live chat approach, and you’re missing out on all the benefits of getting your real customers to interact with your shoppers. In short, if your Social Q&A system doesn’t quickly and reliably get lots of customer answers to shopper questions, you’re probably better off not inviting shoppers to ask. It’s better not to create expectations if you’re not going to be able to fulfill them.
On the other hand, if you get Social Q&A right, the massive customer engagement it generates effectively drives top-line growth. One fashion merchant that uses TurnTo for Social Q&A sees 1100% conversion lift from those who ask questions or read dialog from others. And it’s not an isolated effect – about 25% of their orders come from shoppers who interact with Q&A before purchasing.
Further, there are the SEO benefits; Social Q&A done right produces 2-4 times as much user-generated content (UGC) as customer reviews, which is great for driving organic search traffic. If your Social Q&A system is not delivering enough customer engagement to produce UGC at scale, it’s under-performing.
So the next time someone tells you that engagement isn’t important for Social Q&A – that it’s the analytics that matter, just like for customer reviews – start by asking what sort of customer engagement their Q&A system produces.
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.
December 2, 2008 by George Eberstadt
Rubicon Consulting just published a great study about on-line influencers. But the most striking thing about the study: for all the importance of user-generated online content, personal advice is still by far the most influential factor in purchasing decisions. Here’s the chart of their data:
In a nutshell, they showed: “Advice from friends is better than advice from strangers.” For sure, companies should be thinking hard about how to influence the people that generate all that anonymous online content. But the data shows that the biggest leverage still comes from activating the personal advice network.