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They Said What?! How to Manage User Reviews

Posted on 4.30.2014

By Michelle Wicmandy

Customer reviews have significantly changed the way consumers obtain product information and make purchase decisions.

Previously, consumers would have sought company literature, called sales personnel directly or asked friends or family their opinions face-to-face. Thanks to the Internet, customers can now read online consumer reviews (OCRs) without actually talking to anyone — and 71 percent of U.S. consumers leverage this resource more than any other content, according to a Bazaarvoice and Newlio consumer survey.

Peer reviews are a highly trusted and influential form of information when researching and making purchases online, but brands have to manage the process for increased effectiveness.


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Understanding the Weight of a Review

According to an online survey from Weber Shandwick & KRC Research, “Buy It, Try It, Rate It,” consumers read approximately 11 user-generated reviews before deciding on a product. From that statistic, it’s safe to assume that buyers are being persuaded one way or the other (buy, don’t buy) 11 different times. Don’t panic.

Consumers seek descriptive reviews that are not only viewed as being independent of the marketer, but also act as a proxy for the real-world experience. Whatever reviewers are saying about a brand’s product is important. Online shoppers don’t have the luxury of touching and feeling products or physically trying them, but they can read about products and the user experience from a variety of like-minded people, which makes sensible shoppers out of Web users. And informed and sensible shoppers likely take less customer service resources (less questions) and likely return fewer items.


Fight Back!

Don't respond to another bad review until you read this wsm.co/5ptchecklist


Taking the Good with the Bad

Conscientious consumers write reviews to help others make better purchase decisions. According to Yelp! and Bazaarvoice, 80 percent of all product reviews receive four or five-star ratings.

Even the remaining 20 percent (the four-stars or lower ratings) can help increase conversion. Quality is relative to each user and a negative review may be trivial to one shopper but important to another. One consumer may give a laptop a two-star rating because the display produces a glare in the sunlight. However, this comment may be insignificant to an office worker, explains Matt Krebsbach, director of global public and analyst relations for Bazaarvoice.

Negative reviews can even improve company operations. Analyzing the authentic feedback and using it to make improvements is important to deliver the products that customers demand. OCRs inform brands of their shortcomings, which helps the companies improve processes and product offerings. Customer reviews can also tip off the company to potential business opportunities. Companies that address negative reviews to customers’ satisfaction send the message that they genuinely care about their customers, which often leads to increased sales and brand loyalty. In fact, Bazaarvoice reports that shoppers are 186 percent more likely to purchase from a brand that responded to a review where the product’s owner misused or provided deceptive information over a company that did nothing.


The Anatomy of a Good Testimonal

Frank Sphor of Clicked Studios breaks down what brands can do to get more detailed reviews (the best kind) at wsm.co/reviewanatomy


In the word of online reviews, however, not all shopping experiences are treated equally.

Customer reviews are less likely to influence a decision-making process when a consumer is adamant about obtaining a specific brand, such as a Rolex. However, the OCR would have more impact on conversions when the consumer’s wish list includes multiple brands such as Rolex, Omega and Tag Heuer.


Generating More Reviews

Finally, the greater the perceived risk involved in a purchase decision (like buying from a smaller brand), the greater the need for information from trustworthy, reliable sources.

“Placing customer reviews prominently on my website, brochures and menus have helped me compete against the large, commercial catering companies for over 25 years,” said Chef Beatrice Keller, owner of Bella Compagni. “When considering who to hire for a personal chef and/or catering company, I have learned that my customers place more emphasis on reviews and recommendations from trusted sources than anything else.”

So, how do businesses generate more reviews? Some ways to encourage product reviews include giving samples to expert reviewers in exchange for commentary, creating brand communities where members try products and give feedback before launch and giving incentives for customer reviews.

All reviews whether positive or negative add value to the consumer’s experience, as well as his or her perception of an organization. The idea is to drive both positive and negative reviews so the consumer can make the best possible purchase decision.

Morgan Remmers, manager of local business outreach for Yelp! reminds business owners that they can’t please everyone all the time. They should expect some negative reviews as posting only good or excellent ratings may appear suspect. The merchant should evaluate their performance by listening to the customer and looking at the overall “big” picture.

It should be noted, when offering users incentives in exchange for reviews and any form of user-submitted, marketing-related content, companies must adhere to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. Per the FTC, the statements must be clear and conspicuous. Disclosing information can be as simple as acknowledging partnerships, sponsored posts and affiliate links that generate revenue.

Brands still struggling with obtaining authentic customer feedback, should check out, “10 Terrific Ways to Generate User Reviews” at wsm.co/10ureviews.

Michelle Wicmandy is a regular contributor to Website Magazine, a lecturer at the University of Houston Downtown and an executive-level marketing and business development professional.

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