Simple truth: Consumer reviews and answers to questions on shopping sites help sell products. Across our network, when consumers engage with either reviews or Q&A, conversion lift increases, on average by 98%.

That’s why hundreds of retailers around the world enable this on their sites, and why shoppers have come to expect word of mouth content to support buying decisions. But there’s some risk that comes with the greater reward of user-generated content for both retailers and brands. That risk happens when brands ignore the conversations they’ve invited — missing opportunities to fix problems and correct product misuse.

Did you know

  • ~20% of questions about products on retail sites go unanswered?
  • And ~20% of reviews are three-star are below – presenting opportunities for brands to respond?

When retailers can ensure all questions on their sites receive quality answers and negative feedback receives an apology, a solution that fixes the problem, or a correction for a misperception…. everyone wins. Both the retailer and brand sell more, brands protect their reputation, and the shopper receives the content and service they seek.

But no retailer can scale to do this alone. The path to making this kind of shopping experience possible is through their supplier brands. Here are the top three tips for brands that embrace the new responsiveness imperative:

1. Prioritize responding to negative feedback.

When you consider that 43% of shoppers are deterred from buying a product with a negative review and 86% of consumers may stop doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience– those low stars should be a marketer or customer engagement team’s top priority.

Your focus will pay off.  According to our study with Wakefield Research this year, The Conversation Index Vol. 6, when consumers see a response to a negative product review with a brand’s response to it, versus seeing the negative review by itself, intent to purchase DOUBLES.

2. Respond to the individual customer while considering all the readers of your response.

The customer is always right in other consumers’ eyes. According to chatmeter.com, 97% of review readers find the review they read to be accurate. But the truth is, many negative reviews contain misperceptions about the product that can be quickly corrected, and helping readers recognize it was a user error versus a true product flaw changes that misperception. In our test, when shoppers saw a response to a negative review that corrected misuse, shopper intent to purchase nearly TRIPLED.

Take advantage of the always-on focus group poor reviews provide – and again, craft responses that serve future customers as well. Three in four (74%) of consumers post negative feedback to help a company improve its products or services. By reading the problems some customers have with a product, marketers gain a gold mine of information on how to better design products. For those reviews that help you identify issues with the product, you can post how the problem was solved so that others see that your brand is responsive; 41% of shoppers who see a brand response to a review think the brand “really cares about customers.”

3. Be authentic, and respond to each individual. 

A number of scripted responses on a product page will become obvious quickly and worsen brand reputation rather than improve it. If your responses seem automated or ingenuous, you might as well not respond. Upset consumers will not appreciate a canned corporate response or the same response cut and pasted across similar questions or reviews. If they were unhappy before, an excerpt from your policy terms – or worse, the fine print – will only make them unhappier.

Ultimately, responding to questions and negative reviews acts as a critical insurance policy for brand reputation management. Your communication with the consumer shows potential customers and onlookers that you care about customer service and stand by your product – and as the stats show, can turn a detractor into an advocate.

For a quick snapshot on the risks that come with ignoring retail shoppers and the rewards of responding, check out our infographic – Money Talks: How Shopper Conversations About Your Brand Affect Your Bottom-Line.