Note: This was originally posted on ClickZ.
Consumers rarely buy a product without consulting customer reviews first. Before making just about any purchase – clothing, electronics, household items, anything – people go online to check out the reviews. A July 2009 study by Nielsen found the most trusted forms of media are “recommendations from people I know” (92 percent) and “consumer opinions posted online” (72 percent). I’d be willing to bet those numbers are even higher one year later.
What’s amazing, however, is that many retailers and brands have not done more with the wealth of online reviews about their products and services. They are not extending this valuable first-person, customer-contributed content across their entire marketing programs including e-mail, in-store signage, Facebook, Twitter, mobile, catalogs, direct mail, online advertising, TV commercials, and more.
Positive reviews are an extremely powerful marketing tool. By extending the customer voice across all marketing channels, brands and retailers can drive incredible value from their customers’ opinions. In other words, customer input creates great ad copy.
Here’s a look at how some innovative companies have extended customer content across marketing channels to drive a sustained increase in sales in their social commerce programs.
QVC featured top-rated products on its television broadcasts. The shopping channel labeled some products showcased on the program as “Customer Top Rated,” and also published excerpts from online reviews on air, unedited, to reinforce the Customer Top Rated label. Sharing customers’ opinions on air worked so well in driving sales of these products that QVC aired a standalone show called “Customer Choice” that showcased only products rated highly by its customers.
“Customer reviews have now become an important tool and resource in our programming and merchandising strategies. They reinforce the trust our customers have with QVC and help to take our customers one step closer to an experience of shopping with their friends,” said Alex Miller, director of programming at QVC.
There are many other examples of companies successfully leveraging customer review content across marketing channels. B2B marketer Treatment Abroad, which matches surgeons around the world to U.K. prospects, printed customer reviews in pamphlets and leaflets. Samsung, meanwhile, featured customer reviews in its pre-Super Bowl e-mail campaign. Intuit used customer review content in a far-reaching online display advertising campaign, and also used review content for its TurboTax product in in-store displays at Best Buy, Office Depot, and OfficeMax. These are just a few ways to use review content in multichannel marketing initiatives.
Including user-generated content in advertising campaigns works to boost sales. When Office Depot added top-rated review language to its paid search ads on Google, it recorded a 196 percent increase in revenues from paid search. When Rubbermaid included a positive customer review on a coupon, redemption rates for the coupon rose 10 percent, while Northern Tool boosted conversion by 10 percent on an e-mail campaign simply by including customer reviews in the e-mails.
These results show that customer-generated content does not only live online. The Internet is a convenient place for customers to share their credible opinions on products, but it’s up to you as a marketer to leverage this powerful content to drives sales in other channels.
When extending review content across marketing channels, remember five simple principles:
1. Work together: Marketers, merchandisers, and brand managers should work together to identify the top-rated products and the most compelling reviews of those products to be used in marketing materials. The use of review content in multichannel marketing materials should meet your overall marketing goals.
2. Choose wisely: Highlight the products that you really want to sell. People pay attention to products you promote with reviews, so make sure these are the items you want to move.
3. Don’t be shy: Highlight the product’s value in numbers. For example, “22 of 24 users would recommend this product to a friend,” or “4.8 of 5 stars.” Don’t be afraid to include prominent stars, bold graphics, or highlight the most glowing words from reviews.
4. Keep it short: Review snippets included in marketing materials should be short – no more than two lines.
5. Get personal: Give the name and location (and/or age) of the reviewer. Showing customers that the reviewer is “someone like them” is a great way to build trust in the authenticity of the review content.
But lest we not forget, successful social commerce lives and dies on the analysis of your content and campaigns. Find out which of your multichannel campaigns including positive reviews performed the best, and run A/B tests to see which specific review content had a bigger impact on sales and ROI (define). All positive reviews are not created equal – and sometimes a more neutral, even-handed review can deliver the best results because consumers trust authentic reviews more than glowing ones.
Disclosure: QVC, Treatment Abroad, Samsung, Intuit, and Office Depot are clients of Bazaarvoice.