May 23, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Are your shoppers leaving fundamentally different reviews on their smartphones than they would on PCs? Some new research from a few business professors suggests that’s exactly what’s happening.
In their paper, “Selectively Emotional: How Smartphone Use Changes User-Generated Content,” authors Shiri Melumad of the Wharton School, J. Jeffrey Inman of Pitt Business, and Michel Tuan Pham of Columbia Business School found that reviews written on smartphones were shorter than those composed on PCs—no surprise there.1
But the researchers also found that smartphone reviews had a higher amount of emotional content when compared with reviews from PCs.
Smartphone Reviews Tend Toward Positivity
Even more interestingly, the study revealed that user-generated content (UGC) written on smartphones tended to be largely positive in nature.
The researchers suggested that the trends they discovered were likely to be seen across a number of platforms and topics, and not just the ones they examined in their study.
In addition, they noted that previous research had shown that an increase in positive sentiment in Amazon reviews led to higher customer conversion rates.
They also offered a simple recommendation for companies: use a content collection strategy that encourages customers to submit reviews from their smartphones.
“Research shows that content that’s more emotional is more likely to go viral, or be shared and discussed by others,” lead author Melumad said in an interview on the Knowledge@Wharton podcast. “From the firm’s perspective, knowing that reviews have been written on phones–and thus more likely to be emotional—can help the firm identify which customer-generated content may be the most influential.”2
Key Takeaways from the Research:
- Reviews written on smartphones, are shorter, have more emotional content, and are more positive than those written on PCs.
- Other data shows an increase in positive sentiment in Amazon reviews led to a higher conversion rate.
- Reviews with more emotional content are more likely to go viral or be shared.
- eCommerce sites should consider encouraging shoppers to submit Customer-Generated Content (CGC) on a smartphone to take advantage of its more positive nature.
How to Capture Positive Sentiment
One key insight from the paper: eCommerce sites should ensure their Customer-Generated Content (CGC) collection strategy is optimized for mobile if they want to capture as much positive sentiment as possible.
One way online stores can do that is by making sure they use responsive web design—essentially ensuring that their web pages are being displayed correctly regardless of what device a shopper is on.
TurnTo, for example, gives users the ability to set configurable breakpoints in the widgets for our four products—Ratings & Reviews, Community Q&A, Visual Reviews, and Checkout Comments. That ensures product detail pages always look their best on smartphones, tablets, desktops, and laptops.
Not only that, but TurnTo’s review collection process identifies customers on smartphones and offers them a tailored user experience designed to make it as easy as possible to get content.
Another way TurnTo eliminates friction points is with our Inbox Submission feature that lets your customers submit reviews directly from the body of an email, instead of being sent to a browser.
That simple change has resulted in some significant gains for our clients; with the less intrusive approach, content collection rates can increase by as much as 200%.
Measurement matters too. That’s why TurnTo’s reporting tools include breakdowns by device. Say, for example, the word counts of your reviews drop, but overall positive sentiment spikes. With TurnTo reporting, you can analyze the data to see if the change resulted from an increase of reviews coming from mobile devices.
Want to learn more?
1 Selectively Emotional: How Smartphone Use Changes User-Generated Content; Journal of Marketing Research, January 2019
2 User-Generated Content: The Medium Impacts the Message; Knowledge@Wharton, May 2019
April 11, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Tired of reading clickbait about Millennials’ love of avocado toast? Here’s some good news: GenZ is the next new generation, and over the next few years, people are going to be working hard to figure out this vibrant and dynamic group—the first truly digital native generation.
The boundaries of the US’s youngest generation are still somewhat fuzzy, but the Pew Research Center defines Gen Z as those born in 1997 or later.1
What sets Gen Z apart from its predecessors? For starters, it’s the most racially and ethnically diverse generation the US has ever seen—a group with even greater diversity than Millennials, according to Pew.
Gen Z Has Truly Digital-First Media Habits
It also consumes media in a fundamentally different way than any of its forebears. The oldest Gen Zers were only 10 years old when Apple released the first iPhone; smartphones are likely their default method for heading online.
The Center for Generational Kinetics reports that 95% of Gen Zers had a smartphone in 2018. Their survey also revealed that 61% of Gen Zers spent at least five hours on their smartphone per day, and that more than one-quarter spent a daily average of 10 hours or more with the devices.2
With so much of their time spent on smartphones, legacy media channels like TV hold significantly less sway over them than older generations. That means marketers can have a tough time reaching them at scale through more traditional advertising methods.
Teens and the Power of Recommendations and Reviews
Those media habits could make Gen Z a tough nut for online merchants to crack. But some new research from Social Media Link found that there are still some things that do exert a lot of influence over their purchase decisions: recommendations and reviews.3
According to the company’s survey, nearly all Gen Zers (96%) said they often read recommendations or reviews for products they were thinking about buying.
These young shoppers also relied heavily on their personal networks for guidance on purchase decisions. 80% of teens looked to friends and family for recommendations about new products and brands, making it their No. 1 source for those types of endorsements.
But online reviews were almost as popular with Gen Zers, with nearly eight in 10 accessing them for insights on potential purchases and brands. In fact, reviews were a bigger influence on their purchase decisions than social media, influencers, and even ads.
Social Media Link also found that these young shoppers aren’t just likely to read product reviews. They’re also highly predisposed to writing them as well. More than 90% of Gen Zers wrote product reviews at least some of the time, and more than a quarter wrote one for every product or service they used.
To sum up the research:
- 96% of Gen Zers often read ratings and reviews about things they’re thinking about buying.
- Members of the generation tend to look first to friends and family for product recommendations, but online reviews are a close second.
- Gen Zers are not just reading reviews; more than 9 in 10 also write them for at least some purchases
- Gen Z spends substantially more time on smartphones than with older media platforms like TV
To Reach Gen Z, Think Mobile-First
Just like our entire product suite, Ratings & Reviews is mobile-first and uses responsive design principles to make reviews submitted on a smartphone frictionless. To be clear, we’re not just making things look pretty on mobile devices. We’re changing the way content is collected based on smartphone users’ behavior.
It’s an approach that makes things as easy as possible for Gen Zers on smartphones—who, remember, are already primed to write reviews—to submit more content about their purchases to eCommerce sites.
TurnTo’s Visual Reviews™ takes this mobile-first approach a step further. Its visual-first collection flow lets shoppers send photos and videos to eCommerce sites with just a few taps. As a result, eCommerce sites get to bank even more content on their product pages, and customers don’t even have to type anything out.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo’s innovative products can help you connect with Gen Z?
1 Defining Generations: Where Millennials End and Generation Z Begins; Pew Research Center, January 2019
2 How Obsessed is Gen Z with Mobile Technology?; The Center for Generational Kinetics, 2018
3 Infographic: 27% of Gen Zers Say They Always Write a Product Review After Making a Purchase; Adweek, April 2018
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.
July 17, 2015 by John Swords
Collecting great customer-generated content (CGC) is only half the game. Figuring out how to use it for maximum impact is the other half. Here’s an example of a brand using a particular type of CGC – what we call “Checkout Chatter” – to power a great email campaign. Tip-of-the-hat to Sur La Table for their creativity. We think you’ll find this inspiring.
Here, Sur La Table is building the email around a selection of the checkout comments from their “Cart Talk” pinboard. They are not only introducing the Cart Talk function of the site, they are making a range of their products look super attractive by augmenting the product images with this particular type of CGC, providing endorsement and social validation. While customer reviews can be difficult to work into outbound messaging without undermining their authenticity, checkout comments have a different feeling – an immediacy – that makes them well-suited for promotional uses.
Sur La Table’s “Cart Talk” captures customer sentiments at the time of purchase with the simple question, “Why did you choose this?” and turns it into a social share on the site for those still browsing. Because it is captured at the point of purchase, the sentiment is consistently positive and it is a great asset to build enthusiasm around products – not to mention SEO.
It’s just one piece of the ongoing strategy Kevin Ertell, SVP of Digital at Sur La Table has for building community with customers leveraging product insights contributed by the customers themselves. You can read and hear more about that in our previous blog entry.
Our clients using Checkout Chatter capture these checkout comments from shoppers on up to 15% of all orders. What brand wouldn’t benefit from massive amounts of positive-sentiment user-generated comments about their products that could be easily sprinkled throughout their site? Empowering customers with the ability to share their thoughts or experience with purchased products helps reassure their fellow shoppers that they will be making a wise decision. And that leads to increased conversion rates.
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.
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…)
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.