These posts mark our most-read of the year – covering the top lessons to master before a successful 2014. Check the top 6-10 posts here, and 11-15 here.

Happy holidays from Bazaarvoice! See you next year.

5. Pay it forward: Why customers write reviews
by Summer Doaud

It’s no mystery why shoppers read reviews, but why do people write them? To show loyalty? To appear expert? Nope. As it turns out, people write reviews to help others – other consumers, or the company making the product. Writes Summer Doaud, Bazaarvoice Senior Product Marketing Manager:

“You’ll be pleased to know the world (wide web) is a good place. The majority of reasons respondents selected were altruistic. The most-selected reason for writing reviews was to “help others decide” (47%), followed by a sense of responsibility to return the favor because they were helped by reviews themselves (18%). Others hoped to “influence the product” (16%) and share “good insight and advice” (6.5%).”

4. Future retail stores will focus on experiences before products
by Tara DeMarco

The role of brick-and-mortar retail is changing every year, as online shopping gains ground and mobile makes the store omnichannel. In this post, I walk through a fictional future shopping trip, describing how technology might turn stores into theatrical showrooms:

“Imagine an apparel store that consists entirely of individual dressing rooms. You enter one, and the talking touchscreen mirror greets you by name and asks if you’ve gotten compliments yet on those purple skinny jeans you bought last time – pulling your personal information and purchase history wirelessly from your smartphone app.”

3. Regardless of marketing tools and channels, remember the customer
by Lisa Pearson

There’s always some shiny new trend in marketing – 2014 will be no different. Whether it’s content marketing, native advertising, mobile, omnichannel, social… at least one thing about marketing never changes: It’s all about the customer. Writes Lisa Pearson, our CMO:

“Even with all of the advancements in technology and evolution of strategies, the main goal of marketing remains unchanged. It’s important not to get caught up in the shiny newness of certain tactics, and remember your underlying goal… Channels and tools change. Remember to focus on what you say, and what you’re getting people to say, over any specific tactic.”

2. When will we notice the Google Hummingbird update?
by Michael DeHaven

Google shocked the SEO community in October when it announce that its biggest algorithm update in history had already been live for a month – and no one had noticed. Writes Michael DeHaven, Bazaarvoice SEO Project Manager:

“In the near-term, Hummingbird will be most noticeable to SEO industry professionals who play with contextual search technology. We will start to search for information by defining a topic, and will then iterate deeper into search with pronouns instead of explicit searches with all necessary keywords.”

For example, a user might search, “Who plays Katniss Everdeen?” and get the answer, “Jennifer Lawrence.” On the following search, they could ask, “How tall is she?” and without specifying the actress, Google Hummingbird would answer, “Five feet, 10 inches,” without the user needing to include the actress’s name in the search.

Read Michael’s post to learn how brands might use the Hummingbird update to their advantage in 2014.

1. Throw out best practices, double email conversion
by A. Litsa

About two in five emails are opened on mobile devices. Recognizing this, our user experience team decided to design for mobile opens – which meant going against email design best practices and simplifying down to smartphone-friendly design: Responsive, linear, text-based, and, well, a little boring. But the results were anything but boring, writes A. Litsa, our Lead User Experience Designer:

“Bam! Our best-performing template drove up the daily average [conversion] by 146%! We were blown away. This was success… When we pivoted, we learned who our audience really is, we realized that email is a mobile thing, and we figured out what practices are best now. In today’s era of rapidly evolving technology, now is all that matters.”

Read this post for the full case study and to learn the new email best practices.