Consumer Reviews Gain Influence; Learn To Manage Them

by , Jan 7, 2013, 5:24 PM
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Laptop-emailMarketers of consumer electronics (and virtually every other product) may want to watch consumer reviews of their products more closely than they have been in the past. 

According to a newly released study from Weber Shandwick, a majority of consumer electronics purchasers (65%) said that a consumer review inspired them to select a brand that had not been in their original consideration. Consumer electronics buyers also pay more attention to consumer-generated reviews than professional reviews (by a three-to-one margin), and 80% of consumers are concerned about the authenticity of those reviews. The result: the average buyer consults 11 consumer reviews on their path to purchase. 

“It’s part of the broader fragmentation of media,” Bradford Williams, president of Weber Shandwick’s North American Technology Practice, tells Marketing Daily. “User-generated content has shifted the influence from a relatively small number of influential critics to a much more distributed model. What we found in our study is that consumers are still using editorial reviewers, but they’re using them in tandem with and more of consumer reviews.”

The growing influence of consumer reviews, particularly in the consumer electronics arena, means marketers have to understand how to manage (although they can’t control, Williams notes) consumer-generated reviews. For instance, the most influential consumer reviews share certain qualities such as being well-written, measured and balanced, Williams says. Consumers also trust the reviews they find on popular Web sites.

“The top three things that matter in a consumer review is that it’s fair and reasonable, the extent to which it is well-written, and the inclusion of the specs an technical data,” Williams says. “On the professional reviewer side, readers are most interested in a review that has use cases that are relevant to them.”

Accordingly, Williams offered five tips for marketers in the world of understanding and utilizing consumer reviews for their business.

First, companies should make it easy for consumers to find reviews of their products, incorporating a sampling of reviews on their product Web site (remembering, of course, to showcase a representative sampling of positive and negative reviews). The site should also include a publicly announced policy of restricting employees from commenting or contributing to consumer reviews. 

“Consumers will find [negative reviews] anyway, and the brand will get credit for sharing it,” Williams says. 

Second, product marketing pages should adopt the format of reviews sites, presenting the information consumers seek clearly and plainly.

Third, marketers should engage an online community manager that encourages people to review their products while disseminating positive consumer and professional reviews through the brand’s social channels and working with customer service to respond to customer feedback quickly. “When people are sharing their gripes they need to be responded to, and when they’re sharing raves, a community manager can help amplify that,” Williams says. 

Along those same lines, the fourth recommendation is that marketers, while unable to directly influence consumer reviews, should be prepared to identify those reviews with the most potential impact, and promote and amplify them.

Finally, marketers need to understand that consumers visit online shopping sites for reviews and insights and various points in their purchase process, not just when they’re ready to buy. Therefore, the information on online shopping sites should be as helpful and engaging as possible. 

“They don’t just visit a retailer’s site when they’re going to buy,” Williams says. “If that were true, Amazon wouldn’t be the most popular reviews site.”

Williams also notes that while the research conduct was specific to the consumer electronics world, many of the same lessons can be applied across all consumer products, since virtually all of them are reviewed somewhere on the Web. 

“These are really best practice for consumer brands of all kinds,” he says. “Consumer opinion has become currency, and it’s really being used online.”

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