A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking about the impact of merchandising messaging at the EzRez Thought Leadership Summit, held in the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. With budgets being scrutinized today more than ever, it’s important that you not only measure your programs (your hypothesis), but continuously analyze and broadcast your results to help defend your budget (you don’t want to be the manager in the room that cannot defend your projects).

The focus of my presentation was on user-generated content (UGC), and how to measure social initiatives. As you are aware, Bazaarvoice provides social commerce solutions to a variety of organizations across many different industries. The hypothesis for engaging in social commerce is to get more visitors to the site, have them convert at a higher rate, spend more money, increase brand engagement, and return their products less frequently. But don’t stop there. It’s important to look beyond your hypothesis to determine the total impact of your assumptions (allowing you to both secure and defend your budget).

So where are the other areas of impact for UGC? Customer satisfaction is one. During his keynote at eTail in Phoenix last week, Larry Freed, President and CEO of Foresee Results, discussed the importance of measuring customer satisfaction. His hypothesis was that satisfaction drives conversion. This makes sense. Happy customers are more likely to buy your products. So how do you create a happy customer? By providing them the information they want, when they want it, and where they want it. According to Neilson Online, shoppers are demanding UGC as part of their shopping experience; 81 percent of online shoppers read online customer reviews over the holidays. If you give them the chance to read peer reviews, you have met their expectations. They will be happy. And, as Larry points out, if they are happy, they will be more likely to buy your products.

Let’s expand the hypothesis further. Are consumers in the store just as hungry for UGC as online shoppers? The answer is yes. The Web is a great mechanism for research and has a direct impact on in-store sales. According to BIGresearch, 92.5 percent of adults said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in the store. Furthermore, eMarketer reports that for every $1 in online sales, the Internet influenced $3.45 of store sales.

So how do you marry the ease of research online and the demand for peer reviews with the comfort of purchasing in the store? Through mobile applications. Though in its infancy (according to ForeSee, only 29 percent of consumers have used their mobile device as part of their shopping experience), consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile phones to research products online while shopping in the store. ForeSee reports that 15 percent of surveyed shoppers used their mobile devices to go online to check product reviews. This is not insignificant, seeing that the number of smart phones is growing exponentially, and demand for UGC is over 80 percent. This is why Bazaarvoice recently launched MobileVoice; a solution that allows consumers to read peer reviews through their mobile devices.

But MobileVoice isn’t solely for the benefit of the consumer. As Joyce Hrinya, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Customer Service at Helzberg shared with me, Helzberg is excited to have their associates use MobileVoice in the store. The associate can share their expertise of a product and inject UGC from their mobile device to drive more sales for a better shopping experience, without the infrastructure costs associated with many POS terminals.

Helzberg is a great example of the proper way to continuously collect, measure, and analyze visitor behavioral data for the purpose of optimizing their business and their brand.

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