Next Gen ways to reflect reviews across your storefronts

Amazon may set the gold standard in online product reviews, but their advantage ends where brick-and-mortar begins. Retailers have the potential to take the edge over Amazon by overhauling the in-store experience based on reviews.

If you can show customers that their reviews have a direct impact on product development and store inventory, you can empower them to feel like their feedback brings results. And that, in turn, will bring sales. A Bazaarvoice study shows that the power of consumer-generated content to influence offline sales jumped from 39% in 2016 to 45% in 2017.

In a sense, your store can become a living collection of product reviews.

What are brick-and-mortar and legacy retailers doing to capture customer reviews?

Many retailers just echo Amazon’s approach, syndicating customer reviews for overall volume and exposure. They blast out nudge emails to encourage reviews, often as a product is in transit or after it’s been delivered.

It’s a way to boost online sales, but it misses the opportunity to fully integrate with brick-and-mortar. And users often don’t know that their reviews are being cascaded out to varying sites. There’s no transparency, even if they’re just missing the fine print.

How can retailers be doing, harness data for closer online-offline integration?

Customer data is a powerful review in itself. What if retailers shared point-of-sale figures directly with customers, both online and in-store? If a customer hears that 74% of people who bought a certain item purchased more than one (or returned to buy another), they get a strong endorsement for that item.

Brick-and-mortar stores could even feature this data in-aisle alongside product reviews from loyal customers. Could this be a chance for dedicated customers to become influencers in-store? It’s basically the opposite of syndication, as reviews can be tied directly to the store at hand and the local buying habits of customers’ peers.

Retailers are also venturing into more immersive review content, and here lies the potential for true online-offline integration. Quiddity is a new product review site that goes heavy on video, lending an emotional and inspirational element through both user reviews and brand stories. Customers are using smartphones more and more while in-store to do their research, and deep, visual content can make the aisle-to-aisle experience all the richer.

Reviews should be seen as a key part of the single customer view. The more retailers think about reviews from a technology standpoint, the sharper that view becomes.

How can retailers empower customers to make decisions using tech?

Clearly, reviews should be integrated into brand apps, allowing customers to not only give feedback but have quick access to it as a utility in-store. Again, there’s huge potential here to turn loyal customers into driving forces behind product sales and development, giving them a “preferred status” that adds to their credibility.

Reviews should also be used for cross-selling and cross-merchandising. Imagine customers having access to the following, whether through signage or store associates:

  • “How do you complete the look? Well, 65% of customers also purchased these complementary items. Also, this preferred-status customer has developed their own lookbook for you to refer to.” FINDMINE is a technology that helps customers complete an outfit. As this kind of tech evolves there’s room to fuse with user reviews and buying behavior.
  • Sephora (among others) uses AI-assisted chatbots to serve up product reviews. But chatbots could also be used in a real-time feedback loop.

Consider letting customers simply text their reviews. With a quick and easy process, they might be more inclined to participate. SMS is second nature!

Feedback is never closed for business.

Quality and authenticity is just as important as quantity in reviews. But retailers shouldn’t view them as the final step in the feedback sequence. Feedback needs to visibly generate a response from the retailer in product availability, improvement, and inspiration.

For that matter, could user-generated content be used ahead of product development to inform retailer strategy before items even go to market?

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Updated Jan 10, 2019 | Originally published August 2018