Effectively Managing Online Ratings & Reviews is a Critical Competency for Brands Right Now

The shift towards e-commerce was underway long before the COVID-19 crisis – but has greatly accelerated, particularly for categories that had seen limited online penetration (such as everyday consumer products). This rapid growth in online shopping means that effective management of online Ratings and Reviews has become even more critical. Brands that adapt quickly will succeed in this new reality and be better prepared for the changes in shopper behaviour that are likely to endure.

The lack of curation on major e-commerce sites creates a need for the shopper voice

The key underlying reason online ratings & reviews are so critical is related to the differing roles of traditional retailers versus online marketplaces like Amazon. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores play an important curation role, limiting the brands and products available. While physical space limitations are part of the reason, this curation is also valuable from the shopper perspective – even while allowing retailers to charge listing fees, and enabling brands with large budgets to effectively squeeze out smaller ones.

In contrast, many major online retailers pride themselves on almost unlimited choice. This is of course true for Amazon, but also Walmart and other major retailers that have adopted a marketplace model online.  This naturally allows a wider array of brands to compete, but can also overwhelm the shopper. With so many choices available, shoppers need a meaningful and trustworthy way to narrow down their options and identify their best choice. This is particularly important when a shopper is exploring a category in earnest online for the first time.

Online Ratings & Reviews help shoppers fill the curation void

Online ratings and reviews from other customers fulfill this need for the majority of shoppers. Behind only personal recommendations from friends and family, online Ratings and Reviews are shoppers’ most trusted way to determine whether a product is right for them. Our BrandSpark Shopper Study showed that consumer reviews have steadily grown in influence for several years, and our first post-COVID-19 Shopper Study update has confirmed they continue to rank ahead of recommendations from experts, retailers, media, bloggers /influencers, and other sources.

Even in categories in which most in-store shoppers would not feel compelled to check reviews, when shopping online the ratings are often so prominent that shoppers can’t help but be influenced by them.

While e-commerce is growing rapidly, the reality is that North Americans will continue to be omnichannel shoppers and physical retail will have an important role again after this crisis.  For those investing to generate online feedback now, the good news is that once things re-normalize for physical retail, your online Ratings and Reviews can also be expected to positively impact your in-store sales; In fact 3 in 4 online shoppers in both the United States and Canada said they research in-store purchases on e-commerce sites (2020 BrandSpark E-commerce Shopper Study).

Now is the time for Brand marketers to ensure they are optimizing their online Ratings & Reviews 

If you are feeling behind about Ratings & Reviews – don’t! In the 2019 BrandSpark/ACA Marketers Survey just 27% of brands had their e-commerce strategy in place.

Here is a summary of what marketers need to do to succeed in this environment:

Make sure that each of your product SKUs has a sufficient quantity of Ratings & Reviews that are detailed, authentic, helpful, recent, and positive but balanced (and Canadian brands should ensure they have reviews from Canadian consumers in English and French. This can be a challenge for brands with multiple product lines in multiple formats, and particularly for new product launches where generating content quickly is imperative.

It is worth repeating that it is about quality even more than quantity.

Ratings and Reviews

When managing a review program, it is crucial to find engaged consumers who represent the in-market target for your product.  These consumers are most likely to be receptive to the benefits of your product and provide the authentic high-quality reviews that will be helpful to prospective buyers.

How Shopper Army Can Help

Through BrandSpark’s sister company Shopper Army, brands can quickly support all their products online with authentic Ratings & Reviews, facilitated via an exclusive rebate and cash back rewards system with superior targeting capabilities. They can be obtained on purchases from almost any retailer, and seamlessly syndicated via the BazaarVoice network and directly to brand or retailer sites where possible. And our expertise in this area means we can help guide the optimal allocation of your resources to maximize impact.

For brands that also want to learn more about their shoppers and/or product reactions, BrandSpark® Insights can also help integrate pre and post purchase surveys in the Shopper Army Ratings & Reviews process, compare performance to BrandSpark product and brand benchmark databases, and a variety of other syndicated data and BrandSpark Shopper research.

Right now is a challenging time and everyone’s main focus is on ensuring each other’s health and safety. But it is also a time of great shift in online shopping behaviour that will likely lead to enduring changes that marketers will need to adapt to in real-time. Those that effectively optimize their online digital shelf presence today will not only perform better during these trying times – they’ll be better positioned to succeed in the competitive retail environment that follows.

For more information, contact us at insights@brandspark.com

Robert Levy – Rlevy@BrandSpark.com

Philip Scrutton- PScrutton@BrandSpark.com