Why customer content is better than your own

Looking to boost sales and increase awareness of your brand? Chances are you have an invaluable – and better still, free – marketing tool at your disposal that you aren’t using to its full potential.

This tool, which SMEs are being urged to tap into, is customer-generated content.

During a discussion panel at the Online Retailing Expo, Talia Shani – of US-based customer review automation service Yotpo – said customer-generated content is far more valuable than anything businesses create for themselves, because it is real, honest and contextual.

“People … in the digital age don’t want to hear from brands anymore – they are over it. What is really, really effective is word of mouth,” she said.

“People are really happy to contribute, if you just ask.”

Despite concerns among business owners about the risk of negative reviews putting off prospective customers, Ms Shani said the reverse is actually true.

“Negative reviews are really good for your business. If they are all five-star, it looks dodgy. When you mess up, it’s not a mistake, it’s an opportunity,” she said, explaining that if a waiter at a restaurant spilt wine on you, you would provide a bad review, but if he did so and then showered you with apologies and offered to help make amends, such as by waiving the cost of your meal or providing complimentary wine and dessert, you would more than likely provide a positive review.

According to Ms Shani, Yotpo processes around 18 million reviews for 165,000 businesses worldwide, and just 14 per cent of those reviews are in any way negative.

“A lot of people love to give their opinion and be heard, which has given rise to sites such as TripAdvisor,” she said.

As well as providing legitimate customer feedback on your goods and services, Ms Shani also pointed out that reviews on your business’ website are picked up by Google and other search engines, increasing your SEO.

6 tips for encouraging customer reviews:
Ms Shani has this advice for any business owner seeking to attract more customer reviews:

  • Make it simple: Make it easy for people to write reviews, e.g. a series of multiple-choice questions in email format.
  • Price counts: The more expensive a product is, the more likely people are to write a review.
  • Target your reviews: If you are a wine shipper, for example, don’t request reviews for all 12 bottles – go for the more expensive ones, or the ones you don’t have many reviews for.
  • Consider the timing of your request: There is an optimal time to ask for a review for each type of product. For fashion, do so immediately. For wine and electronics, it is best to wait.
  • Ask leading questions: A review that just says ‘cool’ is not helpful – you want your customers to elaborate on their experience with your business and product/service.
  • Collect content, not just reviews: GoPro, for instance, is great at doing this – they could take photos of the camera, but no one wants to see that, so they use really interesting images that GoPro users (i.e. their customers) have taken, to demonstrate what can be done with the camera. This new form of advertising is not a business talking about its product or service, but using customers talking about the product or service. This is four times more effective.
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