When you think of transparency, it’s typical to think of how a company communicates with it’s users. What may come as a surprise is the impact the actual users can have on transparency, and how the consumer can be the actual tipping point for your next sale.
We’re talking of course about User Reviews: Systems that allow peers to share their personal experiences, likes and dislikes over particular products and services. These user created reviews are unbiased, uncensored, and build a new layer of trust and transparency that couldn’t exist if it weren’t for the user.
In the digital age, marketing and communication is much more than well-crafted messages for the consumer to digest. User Interaction is vital, and user reviews are key components to building trust and the success of some companies.
According to a recent report from the Nielsen Company, 90% of users trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trust consumer opinions posted online. In comparison, 61% of participants agreed that they trusted ads on tv, while online 33% reported that they trust online banner advertisements.
It’s clear that before there is a connection between a user and a brand, the best way to build trust may be through other users. What better way to start building that trust than letting your users prove your authenticity and commitment to transparency for you?
It’s been shown that user reviews increase sales, increase the average value of each order, improve customer loyalty, and even increase traffic.
One big concern that slows companies from employing user review systems is the fear of negative things people may say about their products. It’s true that by integrating peer reviews you have very little control over what people actually say about your product. On the other hand, even negative reviews don’t seem to be harming sales elsewhere online.
Actually, according to Jim Hobart, Co-Founder of AlpacaDirect.com, suggests the opposite happens. After hiring PowerReviews to handle user reviews, AlpacaDirect saw a 23% increase in sales for items with customer reviews (even items with lower ratings).
The truth is, users tend to be much quicker in trusting other users over brands. Once trust has been established between a brand and a user, the situation changes, but prior to that a user review is a stepping stone that many people have come to expect in new purchases.
For Jim Hobart, “Reviews help build that initial trust … They are key to the long-term success of our company.”
If that’s not enough to ease the mind, it is also worth noting that most consumers are compelled to leave reviews by a sense of goodwill. In fact, according to a market research from Keller Fay Group 87% of consumers tend to write reviews when they have something positive to say.
Peer reviews enable another positive effect for online shops: Extra traffic from search engines. While users probably never consider how their reviews may boost traffic, content they leave behind in a review might be the answer to another users question.
For example, someone in the market for a new HDTV might be concerned if a particular model they heard of has excessive glare. Asking the search engine about possible glare issues may actually result in a product listing from Amazon or another online shop. If the user is satisfied with the answer there, they may choose not to leave the site and simply make the purchase then and there.
A consumer may also simply search for “—– reviews”, which in many cases will bring up product listings that have user contributed reviews.
The point here is that user reviews help users communicate useful information between each other, and as a result have a more fulfilling experience. Their needs are addressed by other users (with an online shop acting as an enabler), and they can find unbiased information quicker than reading several scattered reviews around the web.
Another deterrent from using peer reviews is the price tag for some review services… some starting for around $2,000 per month. There are also hundreds of free scripts that are easy to install for cheap and easy solutions.
There are affordable alternatives however, such as PowerReviews which enable smaller merchants to build experiences with peer reviews.
Savvy developers of course can always work on crafting their own clever experiences for users.
Reviews Create a Conversation
Allowing people to speak their mind on particular products does more than communicate with other consumers… it creates a silent dialogue between the user and the company selling the product. If there are lots of negative reviews on a product, the owner of an online shop can respond more effectively by addressing the problem, or even remove products that are unwanted.
Bazaarblog shows that reviews give another venue for brands to listen to their consumers, showing that for products rated 2/5 stars or below, 70% of the products are pulled from the site. Listening to your users is important, and responding to feedback like user reviews is a fantastic way to show your users you care.
Companies that don’t adopt to the new standards in the consumer realm will be swallowed by the new digital experience. Users no longer rely on 30-second tv spots and ads in magazines to tell them what to buy: They’ve grown up, and have a higher degree of control in the marketplace.
Consumers don’t just buy products anymore… they sell them too. A company that humbles itself and patiently listens to users complaints will have the upper hand in addressing problems, and providing better solutions (and a better experience) for it’s users.