How can physical stores tap user reviews?

Discussion
May 26, 2015

According to a PowerReviews, 70 percent of consumers are interested in accessing product ratings and reviews while in-store.

The findings follow other surveys pointing to consumers’ strong faith in online customer reviews, whether in evaluating hotels, restaurants or traditional retail products. Reviews from fellow customers are often trusted more than professional reviews.

At retail, physical signs, product tags, kiosks, digital displays and tablets in dressing rooms have all been recommended as possible paths to provide user-generated content to shoppers, but they haven’t taken off.

Nordstrom made an ambitious attempt to link user reviews to in-store shopping when it began in 2013 promoting its "Top Pinned Items" on its Pinterest website in select stores. However, notifications were tested last year but soon abandoned at a Nordstrom store in the Mall at Short Hills, NJ, we found on a visit. One footwear associate indicated that tags often fell off the items and "got lost," indicating that execution was part of the challenge.

The PowerReviews study based on a survey of more than 1,000 consumers claimed mobile should help. Ninety percent of respondents used mobile devices to help make in-store purchase decisions.

Nordstrom Top Pinned

Source: shop.nordstrom.com

"Technologies like wearables, near-field communication and beacons are creating more ways for retailers to deliver this hyper-relevant and authentic information to shoppers, which will enhance the shopping experience, driving sales and creating passionate brand advocates," said Matt Moog, CEO of PowerReviews, in a statement.

However, many consumers are apparently reluctant to use beacons that could help retailers "deliver context-driven, relevant information straight to a shopper’s phone." Only 21 percent would be open to being targeted by beacons and other micro-location technologies if it helps them make the right purchase decision, saves them money or helps with their overall shopping experience. In the study, PowerReviews said such acceptance is "likely to grow as retailers can prove the value in delivering hyper-relevant information in real time."

A larger challenge is the lack of mobile-friendly websites that make it easy for consumers to access reviews via text, website or app.

In a blog entry, Chris Lubkert, SVP strategy, PowerReviews, said beyond having mobile-friendly websites, reviews should be added to a store’s mobile app, including the ability for shoppers to write reviews. Another suggestion was making review content accessible in "any digital touchpoints you have in-store,"
including kiosks, tablets, or digital displays.

Are smartphones too limited in their ability to bring user reviews to physical retail? Why haven’t other in-store media gained traction at physical retail as sources of user reviews?

Braintrust
"Mobile devices are the ideal devices to get user reviews. Kiosks and digital displays are a good way to trigger the user of mobile but at the end, the mobile device has the unique ability to personalize the content. The issue is not with technology so much as the retailer’s adoption."
"Why don’t stores aggressively encourage shoppers to check out customer reviews before coming to the store? I just did this before going to Lowe’s to shop for a barbeque grill and it made me a smarter shopper."

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17 Comments on "How can physical stores tap user reviews?"

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Ken Lonyai
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Most in-store media in use today is still archaic and unimaginative. There’s a huge valley between common technologies (kiosks, digital signage) and beacons that both retailers and “technology” companies rarely explore. Of course, stores are happy to have consumers bring their own devices, saving infrastructure investment, so their willingness to be innovative is hampered even further.

A store in 2015 without a well-executed mobile-friendly site that includes intelligently sortable time/location-relevant customer product reviews deserves its fate. The same goes for their own app. Especially their own app. Really, this stuff is simple to execute well. Just care about customers and want to serve them. Sheesh.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

The challenge here is to manage the physical-digital convergence of retail. Also, how can CPG brands collaborate to infuse online content offline in the stores? To this day, physical stores are virtually 100 percent just that: Physical. With this in mind, why can we not leverage old-fashioned in-store signing/messaging to deliver online content, such as individual SKU shelf tags that highlight Yelp reviews? Or display signage highlighting similar information? I think the physical store still has a wealth of opportunity to capture online shopper sentiment and use it to drive profitable growth.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Rule number one of retailing: The consumer is always right.
Rule number two: It is hard (impossible) to change consumer’s preferred behavior.

Consumers are addicted to their smartphones. The smartphone is their number one portal that enables access anytime and everywhere.

The best way for physical stores to address consumer reviews is to tackle the ways to optimize mobile access on smartphones.

There are retailers who are starting to address their own mobile apps, which are a natural place to include consumer reviews. And some limited consumer reviews are possible via other social media platforms (such as Twitter).

And the final answer for physical stores is …

Amazon has found a very compelling way to enable readable consumer reviews on smartphones. So it is not the technology or screen size that is the gating factor.

What is missing for physical stores is the process and dynamics of engaging consumers in ways that will encourage them to contribute reviews, or even just talk about the products while they are standing right there in the aisle.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

It’s not the smartphones that are limited but rather the delivery infrastructure and content. Finding an acceptable balance between security and expected Internet access has shackled retailers and brands in delivering the experience that shoppers expect. Perhaps retailers are reluctant to deliver the message as it may not be what they want their shoppers to read. Other in-store media hasn’t filled the gap because it’s all about speed and trust. Shoppers are typically mistrustful of any message that appears to be filtered or edited by the retailer or brand. A seamless experience is perceived as trustworthy.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Mobile devices are the ideal devices to get user reviews. Kiosks and digital displays are a good way to trigger the user of mobile but at the end, the mobile device has the unique ability to personalize the content.

The issue is not with technology so much as the retailer’s adoption. Application of technology in brick-and-mortar is very low. This is true both at customer touch points and on the back end. Technically it is possible to connect online and in-store, but practically it seems to be like pulling teeth.

Ben Ball
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

The mobile device is definitely going to be the vehicle for a source of online reviews. The only questions are “which device?” and “what source?” As to the device, retailers can be agnostic. It’s user choice. But the source is a different matter.

This is only a hunch on my part, but I think mobile-savvy shoppers reject in-store beacons as their source of information for the same reason we suspect all information that comes from a seller — inherent bias. Open apps like search engines are considered agnostic and credible (never mind the source of the reviews posted there …) as compared to anything retailer-sponsored.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
2 years 6 months ago

When I’m serious about buying something I want the capability to “opt in” to receive the information, rather than having it just fired at me because I happen to be in the proximity. As with any evolution or disruptive innovation, which, in this case is happening unbelievably rapidly, retailers are trying their best to find solutions as fast as possible — but nobody has the magic key. I am confident that they will land on the best solutions, for themselves and for the customers, but give them time to figure it out and get it right.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Why don’t stores aggressively encourage shoppers to check out customer reviews before coming to the store? I just did this before going to Lowe’s to shop for a barbeque grill and it made me a smarter shopper.

Lee Kent
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Let’s think beyond our noses here, shall we? Picture walking into a dressing room and trying on an outfit. The mirror in front of you picks up what you have put on and displays a menu of things to check. User reviews, pins, things to go with it that are on sale. Get it?

The mobile device is too small and limited to personal knowledge. The retailer has a great shot at focusing on what the customer might want or need to know, not all biased toward them.

Let’s help our customers make buying decisions. What a great way to get more consumers thinking about trips to the store.

… And that’s my two cents.

Martina Olsen
Guest
Martina Olsen
2 years 6 months ago

Smartphones are not too limited—what adds limitation is how far the retailer goes in adopting technology as a part of the shopping experience for the customer. Having a feedback kiosk or your own app is pointless unless there is actual focus and drive from every single employer to inform the customers. Customers are busy and easily distracted—a single Facebook post or poster in store may not be enough to make the customer register the technology and engage with it.

I was recently at Heathrow, where after you go through security, they have placed a feedback “kiosk,” and the only thing you need to do is press one of four buttons depending on your experience. I noticed it because I have met with the company behind this kiosk at a tech expo, otherwise I am pretty sure I would have, as most other people, walked straight past it. It is simply not enough that the technology is there—it has to be talked about and explained to customers, again and again to make them engage.

James Tenser
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

For starters, why shouldn’t retailers ask shoppers to submit product reviews, via online or mobile app, shortly after purchase? Not everyone will respond, of course, but (as Amazon seems to have proven) some will and other users will reference their opinions while making decisions.

Past shopping/browsing history might even be used to present “most relevant” or like-minded reviewers who shop the same stores. That could reduce scrolling time on the small screen. Great potential for fashion, I suspect.

Amazon, by the way, seems poor at directing reviewer relevancy. When I consider a book, for example, I’d rather see reviews and ratings from people with similar taste in reading before the so-called “top reviewers.” Or at least offer me an option.

Smartphone real estate may be limited when it comes to conducting full-scale searches on the fly, but smart relevancy could help offset that limitation.

Vahe Katros
Guest
2 years 6 months ago
I am guessing that the source of the reviews is the retailer, or it could be a review site, or maybe Amazon, or maybe Google. Storyboard frame 1: The customer looks at reviews at home, has a few ideas, and heads off with a smile and with purpose. Frame 2: She is now having a change of heart due to her interaction at the shelf. If she were thinking aloud, she might say: “There is no way this is what was shown/explained on the web,” “I am so good not buying these things online, thank God I came to the store!” Frame 3: She is now looking at reviews on the smart phone; thinking aloud: “This is going to take too long.” “Wow, they have that at Bloomingdale’s, I’ll go there!” “This review is 5 years old!” Frame 4: The sales person who is witnessing again, this obvious behavior of someone engaged in looking at reviews at the shelf, in the department, engages…. Here’s the point: You own stores, that’s where you can do the… Read more »
Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

Make accessing reviews frictionless by adding tablets around the stores. Invite reviews. We live in an increasingly transparent world. Don’t fight the obvious trend. Make shopping easy.

Time is currency. Don’t play games with the customers you’ve sworn to serve.

Arie Shpanya
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

I think having reviews in-store would be very useful for shoppers, but I’m not sure if mobile is the best way to accomplish it. Many shoppers have mobile devices on them, but what about the ones that don’t? Why leave them out of the added information? If retailers provided tablets with reviews, etc. for their employees, it would make it a lot easier to answer customer questions and build relationships. It’s on retailers to upgrade the customer experience and I’m certain it will be beneficial.

Lee Peterson
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

We got the same kind of numbers in studies we did, especially from young people. Thing is, I don’t think you have to be so “tech” about how you do reviews in store. If you think creatively, there’s lots of ways to show reviews without having some sort of kiosk or iPad involved. Patagonia, Eddie Bauer and REI all do that effectively and none with overt technology.

In our studies, customer reviews ranked higher than actually touching product. Think about that. Obviously, having reviews available has been very slow to come around to our store environments—let’s get it going!

Phil Rubin
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

It’s not the smartphones that are limited but rather the imagination of retailers and their corresponding investment in creating a better experience for their customers. Customers are ahead of the traditional physical retailers and will continue to be so.

Geoff Ingall
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

This is all well and good for expensive consumer durables, which we all buy occasionally, but how much time do you think I want to spend shopping? And beacons may offer some first-mover opportunities, but when they’ve become the norm, how many messages do you think the shopper wants to be bombarded with on one shopping trip? And how much content do you think they have time to view—especially on low cost CPG products?

You want to sell something? Build a great product and advertise it.

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Braintrust
"Mobile devices are the ideal devices to get user reviews. Kiosks and digital displays are a good way to trigger the user of mobile but at the end, the mobile device has the unique ability to personalize the content. The issue is not with technology so much as the retailer’s adoption."
"Why don’t stores aggressively encourage shoppers to check out customer reviews before coming to the store? I just did this before going to Lowe’s to shop for a barbeque grill and it made me a smarter shopper."

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