REVIEWS I said one day slamming my open palm on a table. Granted my memory is more exciting than the creeping recognition of Internet marketing with realization usually rolling in like dense fog. As Director of Ecommerce reviews made the difference; the difference between sales and not, tribe and not, community and not, conversion and not, beating last year’s numbers or not, and so employment and not.
Reviews were so important we created a “Buzz Team” of uber-reviewers. Our Buzz Team trained on keyword writing, became hall monitors policing junk out of our system and teaching newbies how to write great reviews for spiders and people (read my Recent Ecommerce Copy writing Secrets post).
What is a customer review?
A customer review is any action that provides feedback to a website. Site heuristics such as time on site, pages viewed and bounce rate are forms of reviews. Conversion rates, and every site has them, are proxies for reviews. Customer service requests are mini reviews, reviews happening in real time. Reviews can happen on your site using your review tool, in comments in your blog, on forums (yours or others), on review sites (hope not), on social media marketing networks and email.
Your job, if you run a B2C ecommerce site (applies to B2B too) is curate reviews across an ever expanding sea of sites, content platforms and social media. Think hard about using an Online Reputation Management (ORM) tool such as Radian6 or social search from Topsy. ORM isn't free, but its uses such as semantic analysis, can tune your PPC campaigns with keywords directly from the mouths of people having conversations about your company, brand or product. Internet marketers just have to be smart enough to NOT FIGHT what you learn no matter how contrary it is to you marketing beliefs. I start with a handful of "marketing beliefs" and then let web analtyics and metrics take me where they take me.
“Most reviews are positive,” I remember hearing from a Bazaar Voice senior manager at a conference. Who would know better? Bazaar Voice was held and managed a large repository of reviews across key brands and verticals. I was worried about a product we’d received bad reviews on, a very profitable homegrown product that we knew was on its last legs. We held our breath and pushed forward.
Bazaar Voice was right. Most of our reviews were positive. There were a few negative reviews (read Turning Negative Reviews Into Money). After receiving a negative review we moved to appreciate the feedback, refund money and add comments to our growing list of “its too old” complaints. Does this interaction sound familiar? Sound social?
Facebook, done consistently and well, is just such an honest environment. Just like on our site Facebook is a place where fans have your back. If review went too far or got too out of line someone, a customer or a Buzz Team member, would respond with a strong and specific disagreement. You can’t seed this kind of open, honest interaction. When customers spring to your defense or sell for you then the magic 1% are in the house.
1:10:89 Rule states 1% of your traffic will contribute something, 10% will vote on content created by the 1% and 89% ride for free. Each group is important and should be treated as such, the the magic 1% contributing the most magical gold in Internet marketing - User Generated Content (UGC). You may think harshly about the 89% of free loaders. Don’t. Every play needs an audience and the Internet is audience participation, something that normally makes me cringe on Broadway, but at some point enough people will appreciate your efforts in a meaningful commercial way, in a way that will keep the wolf at bay. Ecommerce conversions will come from the 1:10 and 89 groups.
Every Director of Ecommerce knows reviews and testimonials are what sells product.
“Why,” another naive question I asked of Bazaar Voice, “would anyone write the 251st review.” My patient Bazaar Voice representative answered my question with a question. “Martin you are a brand guy right," I'd shared my P&G and M&M/Mars past, "Why do you think someone would write a review when there is nothing new to say?”
Faith Popcorn’s, “People don’t BUY brands they JOIN them,” came immediately to mind. “To form a tribe,” I said softly at first. “To form a tribe,” my wise Bazaar friend echoed. Tribe formation is nothing if not Facebook and Twitter-like and as social as we get these "death of disco" days :). We join Facebook or a brand's email newsletter or write the 251st review to compare, share and learn. We join to be social, engaged and alive.
The best ecommerce sites are prescient. Ecommerce Directors knew about social before Facebook and Twitter existed because, if you wanted to sell anything online social has always been the key. Now we have better, more completely scaled tools, but I still slam my open palm on a table dramatically exclaiming, "SOCIAL". My story and sticking to it.
Former Director E-Commerce
Current Director Marketing