Loyalty With a Little Help from Some Friends

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Apr 25, 2006
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By John Hennessy, Vice President, Concept Shopping, Inc.

(www.conceptshopping.com)


If your definition of loyalty includes shoppers selecting you over the competition, then you should make sure your online store includes product ratings and reviews.


Customer experience consulting firm eVOC Insights conducted a survey where shoppers were 63 percent more like to purchase from a site if it offers ratings and reviews. The sites used for the survey were Amazon.com, Best Buy.com, CircuitCity.com and Walmart.com. Of these, Amazon.com and CircuitCity.com offer product ratings and reviews.


Other factors shoppers used to determine which site to purchase from include (in order of importance):


  • Competitive Prices

  • Detailed Product Descriptions

  • Ease of Use

  • Good Customer Service

Moderator’s Comment: What services can online and other consumer-direct retailers offer to increase the likelihood that shoppers will purchase from their
business?


I was amazed that Walmart.com and BestBuy.com don’t offer product ratings and reviews, which I confirmed by visiting both their sites. I guess I’ve gotten
spoiled relying on and purchasing from sites that do.


Ratings and reviews help shoppers make a final purchase decision. Risk is reduced. Encouragement from advocates is rampant. The decision to buy gets a lot
easier. The reviews may cause shoppers to change their final choice from one brand to another but, for a retailer, the reviews move shoppers from cautious researchers to confident
buyers. That’s powerful.


Not covered in this survey but well known to direct mailers is the benefit of giving someone something for free. Ratings and reviews are not calendars or
mailing labels but they are something of value that is free to prospective customers. That those prospects choose to buy more often from sites offering ratings and reviews should
surprise no one.
– John Hennessy – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Loyalty With a Little Help from Some Friends"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

I agree with Warren and Dan. ‘Nuff said.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

If you’ve ever sold or bought anything on eBay, you know how critical the buyer and seller feedback ratings can be. The ratings are so critical that eBay has rules governing various situations relating to the feedback ratings. No transaction occurs without reminders asking people to provide this feedback. Many major retailers and suppliers would be mortified by the feedback given if they used a system similar to eBay. They are well aware of their customer dissatisfaction, so they try to hide public evidence of it.

On another note, it’s clear that many sites are designed by and for people with broadband using computers that are less than 18 months old. But there are millions of people who don’t have broadband and millions who use computers that aren’t the latest generation. This audience isn’t willing to wait and wait for slow downloads of animation that provides minimal information or entertainment. They just go to sites that load quickly.

Dan Raftery
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

It would be nice to know if the research included more information about the way people used the sites. Online shopping is still in its formative years, in spite of several years of healthy growth. The research function of the Internet is clearly more well developed. My expectation is that online shoppers do two things – compare prices and research unfamiliar products. As the survey reported, price is number one. Sites with product information must still offer an acceptable price to ring the purchase. It’s only a mouse click to save bucks.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Mr. Raftery is quite correct, as usual. I like to check the ratings of the vendor itself, to see what other buyers have thought of dealing with the company, as you can do on Amazon or eBay. If approval rating is under 95%, I go elsewhere. Been burned by enough people/companies with ratings of, say, 88%. With the lack of such a rating, I’ll Google the company and see what I can find on them before making a purchase of any size. Natch, you want that little padlock down at the bottom of the screen, before inputting credit card info, to show it’s a safe transaction, but I’m even a little suspicious of that, thinking it would probably be easy to put a bogus one there and nobody would be the wiser.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
14 years 10 months ago

I have spent enough of my life in stores to know that the key to success in retail is knowing what customers want before they do and understanding how they shop better than they do. Focus groups and surveys mean very little in regards people really shop because most don’t know and won’t say…please read Paco Underhill and Art Turock. My point is that consumers saying that they like something typically has little or no correlation to what they do and this is validated every day by companies like Paco Underhill’s Envirosell. Personally, I think most consumers do not trust the validity of consumer feedback on products and do not have the time (except when book shopping/browsing or if your are in the world of software and electronics geeks). Wal-Mart is not going to sell more toilet paper or toothpaste by having such reviews and fashion stores are about customers who do not share.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

The key to great online retailing lies in customer feedback, customer shipping, customer service and a no-questions return policy. These components make it easy to find, evaluate, try and return products, which is what the online experience (and post purchase experience) is all about. The sites which embrace these concepts include Amazon and Newegg. It is no longer good enough to just have the best price. Customers want ease of use, ease of return, and want to read unedited comments from other customers prior to buying their goods. Doing this gives the online customer a sense of importance, a source of good information and the ability to easily return products which are not up to their expectations.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 10 months ago

Note that consumers do not trust equally all product reviews and ratings. Our data shows that consumers trust ratings based on expert evaluation and on large-sample buying patterns (e.g., Consumer Reports methodologies) four times more than ratings based on individual critics (e.g., epinions, Amazon’s editorial reviews, etc.).

What services can direct retailers offer to increase purchases? If you meet your target market’s core expectations, you will increase your sales, because very few retailers do so. On the other hand, if you offer services your target market doesn’t care about, it won’t make any difference.

What we are really asking is: what are your target market’s core expectations? There is already a lot of data on that. And also a lot of data that shows the retail world meets core expectations weakly. This raises the question again: we have reliable data that shows what customers want, and we have reliable data that shows that the retail world doesn’t meet those needs: WHY NOT?

Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

While I can certainly understand that some like reviews, I have found them to be rarely trustworthy. They are usually hugely biased – either to the positive or the negative.

Take for example Consumer Reports. I gave up on the magazine and reviews related to it or recommended by it. It is as biased as many other sources. Reviews are as they have to be – they are, by nature, opinion!

Recently, I read that consumers make their decision about a website in a few seconds. I would like to understand the factors that determine what can be a decision that takes place that fast. Knowing those might make all the others null and void.

Ryan Bass
Guest
Ryan Bass
14 years 10 months ago
The discussion about consumer expectations is particularly interesting to me. As a former consultant with a startup market research company utilizing an innovation in consumer research, the answer to Race’s question is twofold. First, traditional market research methods (i.e. focus groups and quantitative analysis) contain fundamental flaws that are all too evident to my former firm and our clients. When consumers participate in the traditional market research process, usually beginning with focus groups, respondents face an inevitable social bias in framing their responses. Because the research methodology is not truly confidential and free of influence, respondents use a “social filter” to limit their responses to what they feel are “socially acceptable” or politically correct responses in reference to the focus group moderator. Even the best moderator cannot fully limit their use of body language or even more overt actions to “prod” the respondent towards or away from a certain response. Its simply human nature, and no matter how good a given moderator thinks he or she is at eliminating all bias from the focus group,… Read more »
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