Ratings and reviews – the new digital voice for customers

Ratings and reviews mean opinions can be captured easily, but customer feedback is just one aspect of the value equation, explains Pat Phelan of Bazaarvoice.

Pat Phelan

Bazaarvoice logo

Ratings and reviews have radically changed the way that we buy and sell, both online and offline. It’s a simple concept – you buy something, you use it and then you review it. But there’s a lot that needs to go on behind the scenes if the humble review is to fulfil its full potential: helping businesses to reconnect with their audiences, gain priceless customer feedback and ultimately build one of the most complex factors of all – trust.

A new voice

Ratings and reviews have radically changed the way that we buy and sell, both online and offline. It’s a simple concept – you buy something, you use it and then you review it. But there’s a lot that needs to go on behind the scenes if the humble review is to fulfil its full potential: helping businesses to reconnect with their audiences, gain priceless customer feedback and ultimately build one of the most complex factors of all – trust.

In a previous generation, before the introduction of e-commerce, kindly high-street shopkeepers engaged us as individuals. They listened to our interests, needs and concerns, and stocked the products we wanted. Customers had a clear voice in the business cycle, purchasing decisions were influenced by friends and family, and businesses got feedback directly from their customers.

Fast forward to the internet age, and with more people buying products online, consumers are increasingly engaging with search engines and digital shopping carts instead of shopkeepers. It might seem that the ability of businesses to engage their customers has diminished. However, customers have found a new way to be heard by creating online communities of people ‘just like them’ to ask and share opinions.

The average consumer now consults 10 information sources before purchasing and many of these sources will be peers, according to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth survey. A recent study by Nielsen suggests that 70 per cent of consumers trust peer reviews more than other advertising; 41 per cent of consumers believe the ability to see reviews on social networks adds to their feeling of trust in a brand, according to a survey by video review site EXPO published by eMarketer; and credibility in ‘a person like yourself’ grew 22 per cent between 2011 to 2012, Edelman’s 2012 Trust Barometer finds.

Consumers place such importance on reviews because they reflect the authentic voice of the marketplace, which helps people make better decisions. For businesses, though, ratings and reviews offer a valuable opportunity. They contain vital information about consumer demographics and behaviour, not to mention specific products. And, while every review is a powerful asset, the value is only amplified when businesses listen to the customer’s digital voice across channels and act on what they learn. This allows them to reach more shoppers at the right place at the right time and influence purchase decisions.

Added value

Reviews offer a simple and effective way for customers to tell businesses what they think about their products and services but, at Bazaarvoice, we also understand that this customer feedback contains added value. 

The wealth of social data within reviews can be analysed to generate a host of business benefits, which include:

  • Enhanced R&D: some of the most valuable feedback comes from ‘if’ and ‘but’ reviews, such as “this product is great, but…” or “this product would be even better if…” These reviews allow companies to see where they can improve to meet changing consumer demand. The key is to see trends in multiple reviews rather than as standalone one-offs.
  • Customer data: even simple demographic data such as age, gender and location can lead to greater insight that helps a business to understand its customers better and engage more effectively – from identifying regional trends that can impact supply chain activity, to better understanding how consumer profiles perceive a product’s value.
  • New marketing content: develop product brochures and packaging that speak the customer’s language. By analysing review content, businesses can pick out trends in the ways consumers use and describe products. This helps to make marketing and promotional messaging more effective. Review content can also be inserted into online advertising or in-store displays to create more impactful marketing campaigns that reach consumers at different stages of the consumer journey.
  • Brand and reputation management: mapping review content across a network enables businesses to measure the impact reviews have on the key dimensions of brand health – awareness, favourability, performance and loyalty – that drive increased market share.

Bazaarvoice webshot

A foundation of trust

An important issue around ratings and reviews is their authenticity; consumers must be confident that the opinions they read are real. It’s seldom the case that any product is universally lauded or scorned, meaning any site showing universally positive or negative reviews is likely to breed scepticism. Moreover, it’s important to remember that all reviews are valuable: a positive review tells a company where it’s working well, while a negative one brings insight into how to improve.

Because trustworthy content is the key to unlocking consumer confidence, safeguarding authenticity should be the highest priority for any business collecting product reviews. For example, Bazaarvoice has a strict policy in place to help protect against inauthentic content reaching our clients’ sites. Human and technology-based moderation screens every review – content that’s offensive or illegal is rejected but, otherwise, reviews are neither edited nor filtered or deleted because they are negative or are lower rated.

Negative reviews are posted and issues are flagged with our clients’ relevant internal departments, so a bad experience can be transformed into a good one. We also help ensure complete transparency by highlighting content from sources with potential conflicts of interest, such as if an incentive was offered.

The bottom line – amplified

As the web and customers’ lives change at a frantic pace, the fear is that we’ve lost the close and trusted engagement between company and consumer. But distance selling doesn’t have to mean a distant relationship.

The customer’s digital voice can build real business value, but only if a company can capture and amplify it. We’ve helped the likes of Dell to redesign products, increased web traffic for Evans Cycles and increased transactions for Argos. If businesses similarly harness ratings and reviews to listen, learn and engage, they too can become more customer-focused and create opportunities to sell more effectively. Taking part in word-of-mouth conversations offers a brighter future for customers, businesses – and kindly shopkeepers – everywhere.

Pat Phelan

Vice president of client services
Bazaarvoice
No.1 Butterwick
London
W6 8DL

Telephone: 020 8080 1100
Email: patphelan@bazaarvoice.com
Website: www.bazaarvoice.co.uk

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