PowerReviews, a provider of ratings, reviews and question-and-answer technology to more than 1,000 global brands and retailers, provides seven recommendations on how brands and retailers can compete with Amazon.
"The holiday shopping season showed that retail sales are shifting. Online and mobile sales continue to gain market share as consumers move from stores to devices," said Matt Moog, CEO, PowerReviews. "Brands and retailers have the opportunity to become the first source for information on their products. There are a few easy and fundamental steps brands and retailers can take to compete in e-commerce."
Based on its findings from its recent study, PowerReviews provides seven recommendations to compete with Amazon:
1. Fill the product page with details: Poor product information topped consumer irritations both pre- and post-purchase. More than 43 percent of shoppers were irritated by poor product descriptions when researching products. A product not meeting expectations was cited by 21 percent of shoppers as a top post-purchase irritation, tied with size and fit. Retailers and brands must comprehensively describe the product and service. If selling apparel, improve product descriptions by including fit and size information as part of a review form.
2. Cultivate trust through authentic and transparent reviews: Customers won't typically be swayed by any one review, positive or negative. Average star ratings allow shoppers to get a sense of the overall customer experience, with nearly two-thirds of shoppers citing they are "very important" or "important" aspects of their purchase decisions. Shoppers will go to Amazon if they don't find enough reviews for the products they are considering.
3. Use reviews and Q&A to improve products and information: Reviews and Q&A give brands and retailers a direct line of feedback with their customers. Allowing customers to ask questions helps to be sure you are meeting their expectations and they are getting exactly what they signed up for, taking some of the risk out of online shopping. Reviews can also alert the brand or retailer to flaws in a product that can be fixed to satisfy consumers.
4. Add consumer submitted videos and images to product pages: Ask for images and videos and display them on the product and category pages: 88 percent of consumers specifically look for visuals such as photos or videos submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase. Allow purchasers the opportunity to submit their own images to create content from real customers; meeting customer demands for more information and managing purchase expectations.
5. Welcome negative feedback: Shoppers are suspicious of a squeaky clean rating and want to be trusted to make their own judgments on others' bad experiences. Of consumers, 82 percent specifically seek out negative reviews, and consumers are most likely to purchase a product when its average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. Accept the negative feedback and take steps to correct it publicly when it makes sense. Use negative reviews to improve product descriptions and to improve poorly performing products.
6. Redefine loyalty and reward advocates: Consumers who are passionate about a brand or product are highly valuable. Ease and loyalty top the list of reasons why consumers choose to start shopping on a retailer or brand website, with 48 percent stating it as the top reason. These loyalists will not only purchase on the site, they will be brand advocates willing to answer Q&A and provide detailed product reviews. Amazon's Vine program identifies loyalists not by spend, but by content generation, offering free samples to members to write reviews. Identify advocates through both content generation and by spend. Of consumers, 33 percent want free products as a reward for loyalty. Retailers and brands should offer samples to generate reviews, photos, and images and identify content from verified buyers or associated with free samples, which shoppers cite as the most important factor in building trust.
7. Leverage physical stores: Many retailers have assets that Amazon is only starting to build: physical stores. Retailers and brands should leverage physical stores not only as a revenue channel, but also as a way to display and drive content. In its Seattle area bookstore, Amazon displays star ratings and review excerpts for books using simple shelf tags. Brands can also include reviews in their mobile app to influence the in-store experience. Retailers can generate reviews from in-store purchases by emailing loyalty program members after a purchase, asking them to contribute reviews, photos and videos.