3 ways to harness the ROI of customer reviews
Columnist Jordan Garner discusses the power of reviews and other user-generated content in fostering transparent two-way relationships between brands and customers.
Cut the marketing fluff — your customers aren’t buying it.
In recent years, there’s been a seismic shift in the marketing landscape on a global scale. Shopping habits have changed, with more people turning to online channels and mobile devices when making purchases.
And before they buy, most customers have conducted research, read reviews and identified the best deals — sometimes from the screen of their mobile phones while standing in a brick-and-mortar store.
After a purchase, customers are looking to get social — they’re sharing their thoughts and opinions and warning others about potentially negative shopping experiences.
Thus, brands have been called upon to deliver more authentic marketing content that comes directly from the consumer. Branded advertising is dead; sales-heavy messages won’t resonate with today’s audiences, and instead, a sense of transparency is dominating successful marketing and sales.
Customers are looking for a two-way street where they can engage with brands and form lasting relationships. In turn, brands need to demonstrate that they’re hearing customer voices and catering individually to them.
Finding a platform for customer voices
As a result of this industry shift, online reviews have become a primary marketing tool. Between January and November 2015, Trustpilot (my employer) measured a 25-percent increase in customer content posted to its online review community — 5.8 million reviews in total. In 2016, if this trend continues as expected, more than eight million reviews will be published, and millions of new brand impressions will be made.
With these numbers in mind, below are three ways your brand can harness the voice of its customers and start interactive conversations with its audience:
1. Treat reviews like you would any other piece of user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) — such as blogs, videos, social media posts, podcasts, discussion forums and other media created by users — is proven to improve search engine optimization and drive sales when leveraged effectively. Before that happens, however, brands need to encourage their customers to create UGC. Customer reviews are an ideal way to fuel this process.
After a customer purchases a product or service from your brand, you likely thank them for doing business with your company — but as weeks go on, do you follow up to ensure that the customer remained satisfied with her experience or to prompt her to share feedback that can help your team improve its operations?
Doing so in a friendly manner can help your brand engage in conversations with users, foster loyalty and collect reviews filled with content that can eventually be leveraged in your own social media posts, email marketing campaigns and blog.
2. Prepare for mobile sales
Mobile is the primary platform for many shoppers — last summer, 55 percent of all online retail time was spent on a mobile device, with 80 percent of those shoppers using a smartphone.
You can provide your customers with a heightened mobile shopping experience in a few different ways:
- Create an app that offers useful functionalities, such as educational content or coupon offers.
- Optimize your website with responsive design, images prepared to load quickly and a web host that can support any activity that comes its way.
- Protect customers’ personal security by simplifying payments and verifying the safety of mobile sales.
- Get active on social media — more than 70 percent of social activity takes place on a mobile device, making social channels an ideal way to promote deals, coupons, customer case studies and UGC.
3. Understand your audience
Customers are looking for personalized shopping experiences, meaning it’s up to your brand to get to know your prospects and cater to their preferences. For example, the Millennial population has been a catalyst in driving transparent, mobile and personalized marketing trends.
Although the Millennial age bracket often shows distrust in standard advertising campaigns, its members have a significant amount of influence on the retail industry — Millennials had an estimated global spending power of $2.45 trillion in 2015, according to CNBC. As this number increases, brands targeting Millennial customers need to find new ways to keep up.
Analyzing shopping times and habits, connecting with customers on an individual level, cultivating positive brand reputations and leveraging UGC, such as customer reviews, to instill trust in the buyer’s journey can help your company meet its customers on their home turf — and win them over with straightforward messages, two-way communication and relationships based on integrity.