Managing Retail Reviews & Reputation [A Q&A with ConsumerAffairs]

Legacy enterprises can certainly profit from their name recognition, but they can also have a tough time getting the public to think of them in a new light. ConsumerAffairs is one company, which has kept up with consumer behaviors while maintaining its reputation as a trusted reviews source.


For those Web professionals who haven't checked out what ConsumerAffairs offers in awhile, it's time. Danica Jones provides some detailed insights about where the company stands today and what it may look like tomorrow. Jones is the marketing manager for ConsumerAffairs for Brands, a platform that empowers brands to generate new revenue by activating and leverage brand advocates. Check out what they're up to below:


What should those using your services/products know about the industry in which you operate?


Consumer behaviors have changed drastically in the past few years, and the brands using our SaaS product and participating in our accreditation program have discovered the value of a quality listing on credible third-party review websites. Third-party review websites with buyer's guides, expert reviews and customer reviews are growing in popularity, with our own site traffic increasing about 200% over the past year. Internal research conducted by our team has indicated 70% of our audience comes to research before a purchase, and 30% are visiting to find solutions to solve product issues on their own or reach out to brands to resolve issues.


With around 88% of consumers using search engines to research brands and their products, companies should take notice of the ways third-party review websites can help build brand visibility, consumer trust, and leverage consumer generated media from customers to more effectively market to prospects who are ready-to-buy and more likely to convert.


Review websites are often perceived as the enemy due to the large volume of negative feedback brands frequently encounter. Companies should understand this polarized feedback stems from something we call "feedback friction." Satisfied customers are less inclined to go out of their way to share their experience, but an unhappy customer who gets ignored will reach out across as many channels as possible to get their story heard by the brand and by other consumers.


Without an effective strategy to monitor, collect, and respond to feedback from a broader sampling of customers, brands miss out on tapping into the silent and frequently satisfied majority who are often more than happy to share their experience if the brand reaches out to ask about it.


The larger volume of customer feedback data collected by brands using our platform has helped our customers improve products and customer experience, with many brands reporting rapid company growth as a direct result. The more brands take advantage of working with, not against, review sites, the more impactful their marketing strategy will be - especially as ad blocking software usage increases (up 48% across the United States as of June 2015 based on one study, which is a significant decrease in paid advertising reach that will drive up CPA for those marketing tactics).


Reputation will be one of the most impactful ways to market to consumers this year, without a doubt.


How will your services/products change in the next 1, 5, or 10 years?


ConsumerAffairs is data-driven, and our products are improved on using the same approach our customers are encouraged to use: We analyze feedback from both our consumer audience and our accredited brands using our SaaS product.


We use this data and additional analytics data collected across our site and product to predict and evolve with our audience's changing needs. As a web-scale website, we have access to an incredibly rich array of data sets to better predict and understand consumer behaviors online, and this data helps us identify the ways consumers will continue to use the Web to inform purchase decisions.


This year alone, we've discovered mobile users are likely to purchase within 4-8 hours, while desktop users purchase within 24-72 hours. Knowing this, we will continue to find ways to offer quality resources to consumers relying on our site's brand profiles and buyer's guides to make smart decisions. With mobile users purchasing at a much faster rate, offering a mobile experience that helps consumers identify a trustworthy brand whose products are the right fit for their needs is a must.


We work constantly to use our predictions in consumer behaviors to exceed our audience's expectations and help consumers and brands continue to make smart decisions.


Where is there the most demand for your services/products?


Our accreditation program and SaaS product are best suited to mid-cap, national B2C brands looking for new ways to connect with more consumers and solve customer engagement.


While this is the type of brand that is considered the best fit, we have everything from more regionally located brands to B2B brands participating in our accreditation program and using our product to engage with customers and drive product improvements. We tailor our partnership to meet the unique needs of these diverse brands and their customer audiences, and this is a big part of why our customers see so much ROI from working with us.


Each industry performs differently when it comes to conversions from consumers who visit buyer's guides and brand profiles, but some of the verticals where our accredited brands see the most significant ROI include auto warranties, online education, solar energy services, pet care, home warranties, home security and automation, children's products and auto transporters.


These top performing verticals are high-impact purchases that impact consumers on a more emotional level than typical CPG type purchases like buying a soda, so consumers turn to third-party websites to research and ensure the selection of the best brand possible to fit their needs. No one wants to make a bad purchase that could cost thousands of dollars.


The brands who work with ConsumerAffairs choose to do so because we help improve on an array of needs had by any business looking to succeed: Reputation becomes a valuable marketing tool, search engine visibility is increased significantly and targets a consumer audience more likely to convert into customers, customer feedback helps back up paid marketing messages with authentic customer stories displayed without bias on a trusted third-party site, customer resolutions are quickly reached with a streamlined engagement tool including real-time alerts when brands receive feedback.


Every feature we've developed within our product is directly related to improving customer experience so our brands can offer consumers top-notch products and service. The brands we work with are always eager to improve customer experience, and those who value their customers are the ones who get the greatest value from partnering with ConsumerAffairs.


Who are your competitors?


Our partnership and platform are unique, but the brands closest to us in type include Trustpilot, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Top 10 Reviews, and ConsumerReports, to name a few. There are significant differences across all of those brands, from a different focus on types of businesses to differences in the level of complexity of consumer analytics offered to features that are proprietary to each brand. Several of the features we offer are proprietary and contribute largely to the efficacy of our platform.


What are current trends impacting your business?


Our business is impacted by shifts in efforts to protect consumers from unethical businesses and bad customer experiences. The more consumers turn to ad blocking software to avoid paid marketing, the more our traffic and the traffic across other top-ranked third-party sites populating organic search listings will continue to climb. Increased consumer need for buyers guides and self-qualification tools (for example, a quiz to see what type of home security system is best, or a tool to see the safest cities to buy a house in) has driven our content development efforts in new directions to better serve our audience and connect consumers with the best brands to fit their needs.


Anything else you'd like to add?


Online marketing will always be in constant motion. What doesn't change is the need for businesses to manage their reputation, as well as find new ways to generate high quality leads. No matter the technology, both of these needs are at the core of awareness and sales, which are the lifeblood for any company. Simply having a clear focus on these two goals will help any business succeed, no matter the competitive landscape.