Q&A: Using online reviews to stand out from the crowd

As we approach Cyber Monday, Black Friday and the holiday season, online retailers are keen to make the most of the opportunity to boost their business.

But what can they do to make themselves stand out? Reviews from customers are a crucial part of the process. We spoke to Jonathan Hinz, director of strategic partnerships and business development at online review community Trustpilot to find out how companies can use them to their advantage.

What can e-commerce brands do to attract customers during the holiday buying season?

In 2013, Nielsen reported that 84 per cent of consumers trusted recommendations from people they know and 68 per cent trusted the opinions of those online. These figures are up 6 per cent and 7 per cent respectively from 2007. What's clear from these figures is that brands need to change their traditional marketing approaches to ones that relate better to consumers. As social creatures, we have the need to act like others. We tend to weigh our regular decisions, and sometimes major decisions, on those around us. So why should making a decision about what to purchase and who to purchase from be any different?

Companies need to use pictures, reviews and feedback from their existing customers to entice new customers. Consumers need to hear and see from their peers, putting information into context in order to make a purchase decision. It’s the only way brands can stand out from competition.

What and where are the best places to display online reviews on an eCommerce site?

The reality is that it's not simply about conversion on the site any more. Consumers are bombarded by messages from brands across all kinds of media and devices these days. It's just not a linear path any longer as customers are interacting with brands an average of 4.3 times in two days before a purchase. No one location (like your website) is enough to encourage a consumer to buy a product or service. Committing yourself to being a consumer-focused company and understanding consumer behaviour is critical in addressing the encouragement of a purchase.

Once you understand who your consumers are, and how they purchase, you can then address where your brand needs support throughout the customer journey. This all depends on the consumer research you conducted. Do you need to increase your visibility in search? Convert better in search ads, landing pages or on your website? Does your website have drop-off points, or worse, shopping cart abandonment challenges? I know all the brands I’ve ever consulted with would simply say they need help with 'all of the above.' That's why it's critical to engage with a company like Trustpilot that provides a range of solutions, from free to enterprise, to promote the reviews and feedback of your existing customers to any sales prospects in your future.

How can social media help boost purchases and increase trust in a company?

Social media is a great outlet for companies to build trust and increase consumer consideration of purchase, and the proof is that 89 per cent of consumers say interaction with a brand on social media has an impact on their purchase. How brands use social media is what makes the difference. Social media platforms perform best in building trust and creating an environment where consumers can share experiences to spread awareness of brands.

Giving your existing consumers a platform to help inform your prospective consumers through posting authentic and verified consumer reviews is key here. Consumers need to know you're a credible place to buy from and that you can handle the inevitable negative situations that occur.

Other than price, what helps a buyer decide where to purchase a product?

'Where' is an interesting concept in our omnichannel world. Where can mean from whom they purchase, and also from which device they purchase. More consumers are on their mobile devices than any other device. The research and purchases they make on mobile are increasing as well. Brands need to ensure their sites and content are mobile optimised to ensure visibility on the devices consumers are using the most.

Additionally, 86 per cent of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, which means brands need to invest in a consumer review solution that can help them collect customer feedback and analyse the data to improve customer relations and service.

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