The coronavirus pandemic is arguably the most unprecedented event around the globe since the Spanish flu.
With the virus spreading fast regardless of geography, consumers have avoided public places as much as possible, leading to a shift in shopping trends.
Many shoppers have gone online because they now see it as a necessity. The convenience of shopping in the comfort of home has always been a benefit of online shopping, but now it has become a vital facet of eCommerce.
With the rising concern about the pandemic, sales of consumer packaged goods (CPG) spiked to as much as $8.5 billion in the US, and approximately one-quarter of shoppers said they expected to shop online more frequently or for the first time.
eCommerce is now at a critical stage because the changes in customer behaviour point to a trend that will last in the long term. Online retailers have the responsibility to ensure consistent positive customer experiences by keeping communications lines open and aligning expectations, especially in this time of shipping delays and inventory management challenges.
Importance of Customer Reviews for eCommerce
Any online business looking to control its online reputation knows how important customer reviews are. People always prefer to buy products that have a good number of reviews. With more customers turning to online shopping, customer reviews have become increasingly important. They are a way to understand customer sentiment and help in creating positive customer interaction. In the coronavirus era, it may be the only way to promote your product or brand. Below are a few ways customer reviews help eCommerce.
It boosts sales.
Ultimately, this is the greatest benefit of customer reviews. Customer reviews arm customers with information that can help push them to make a purchase. People are more likely to purchase a product that has positive reviews from its users.
It increases engagement.
Customers who leave online reviews are often looking for responses to their reviews or want to see what others have to say about the same product or brand. This online exchange fosters a community atmosphere and creates a bond between customer and brand.
It improves ranking.
Customer reviews are commonly referred to in marketing as user-generated content (UGC), and it’s very useful in maintaining an online presence and building a reputation. The more people talk about you, the more your online search ranking improves.
It builds loyalty and trust.
Customers who take the time to write reviews are those that are really invested in your product or brand. It gives them a voice and an avenue where they can provide valuable feedback to other customers like them. A 2020 survey shows that customer reviews affected the decision of most consumers on whether they will use a business or not.
Changes in Customer Reviews in the Coronavirus Era
In times of crisis, building consumer trust is vital for all businesses both offline and online. It’s important to understand how customers feel about your product and how they experience it. To do this, you need to go beyond the reviews themselves and determine the sentiment behind them. Focusing on the analysis of customer sentiment allows you to craft an appropriate response.
Although customer reviews have long been an avenue for marketers, it’s of more importance now due to the changes brought about by the global pandemic. Customers have time to post and read reviews so more people are relying on them before they decide to purchase. People trust customer reviews, and this is evident in the 104 percent surge in review engagement in just a month’s time.
How can you leverage customer reviews for your eCommerce business? Below are a few tips.
Revamp your UGC tactics.
Always encourage customers to leave reviews—either on your website, social media channels, or third-party reviews sites. Provide incentives for those who actually leave reviews in the form of gift cards, coupons, or rewards points. Treat negative reviews as opportunities to improve your product; they may not always be objective or constructive but they are almost always honest. Respond to them accordingly and show customers that you care through a personalised message or solution that addresses their specific concern. Global marketplace Etsy sells review labels as a creative way to ask for customer reviews. The company also sends a follow-up email or text message requesting the same.
Create a Q&A page on your website.
Customers will have questions about your product or company, especially if they’re new. They want to feel confident about the product they’re about to purchase, and you should be ready to answer these questions. You can’t always be available to respond to customers, however, so the next best thing is a Q&A page on your website. Think of what your customers want to know about your company and product and provide detailed answers. Customers will appreciate this and take it as a sign that you care about them. Google My Business offers a Q&A feature together with its reviews to help businesses connect with their customers.
Re-evaluate your review collection methods.
The current situation is a sensitive time because of the global pandemic. Ask for reviews as much as possible but be sure that you ask with tact and compassion. Get creative with your copy and tactics and ensure that the message you’re sending is neither pushy nor insensitive.
Aside from incentivising customer reviews, you can also run campaigns that promote positivity and goodwill. American Eagle currently runs a campaign that encourages shoppers to post photos of themselves wearing branded apparel. This encourages users to buy from the site because they see real people, people they can relate to, who’ve already bought from the site.
Showcase existing reviews.
In these uncertain times, it’s vital to take stock and leverage what you already have, where your business is at, and what’s working for you right now. If you have existing customer reviews, find a way to showcase these to help promote your online reputation. These already existing ones will also help if you’re unable to get new ones during the crisis. Amazon is one of the best examples of this, showcasing product reviews on the product page itself. Online clothing shops would also do well with showcasing reviews just like Modcloth.
The change will be inevitable and unpredictable during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by the sudden changes in customer behaviour. If businesses are to thrive, they need to be nimble and be able to adapt quickly to the ever-changing business landscape.
Now more than ever, customer sentiment is vital and must be monitored so that businesses can respond accordingly and promptly. With no accurate way to predict what will happen in the near future, customer sentiment can mean the difference between making it through and succumbing to the pandemic that is COVID-19.