The series of postings on this site by Vandana Ahuja piqued my interest in customer generated media. She made the point that more and more buyers were turning to online peer reviews. Also, when asked for there most trusted source for information, 60% cited consumer reviews.
This promoted me to asked three questions:
- Were businesses trying to capitalize on peer reviews?
- If so, were their efforts profitable?
- And, if so why?
A little digging lead me to a study conducted by Forrester Research that said that just 26% of retailers were offering customer ratings and reviews on their web sites. But 96% of those who did thought the tactics was effective at increasing online conversion rates.
A little more digging lead to the website of BazaarVoice (www.bazaarvoice.com) that discussed two case studies.
CompUSA started putting customer rating and reviews on their site and within 6 weeks thousands of new visitors started visiting their website. That is, visitors who got there because of a web search for information on products. That is a good start.
BazaarVoice helped CompUSA compare the behavior of site visitors acquired by review-related searches to the average CompUSA.com visitor. The review related searchers:
- Browsed the site more actively prior to making an online purchase suggesting they were more engaged in making a purchase decision.
- Converted at a higher rate.
- Purchased higher priced items.
- Spent 50% more on the average order.
PETCO.com used a slightly different strategy. They aggregated customer product rating and then stamped highly rated products as Top Rated Products. Here’s a statement that accompanied the list for a top rated dog product, Our product rating and reviews provide customer feedback you can use to make informed purchasing decisions. Customers and their pets have given these products the highest ratings! Read the rave reviews of these favorites to help you select just what you need.
Visitors could choice to search only for Top Rated Products. These searchers converted at a rate of 49% compared to only 10% conversion of the average browser.
Why do customer reviews have such a big impact on purchase decisions? As Vandana pointed out in her posting, many customers trust online customer reviews. This is consistent with the results of the Edelman Trust Barometer that found peer-to-peer trust to be at the top of the scale.
In my opinion, peer reviews, even those of anonymous people, carry weight because: (1) they are based on experience with the product and (2) the reviewer defines value in a way that is directly relevant to the prospective customer. This is quite different from the product-centric marketing messages and hyperbole (every company’s product is the best).
In an era of abundance, customers increasingly judge value by the consumption experience.