Harnessing the power of customer feedback to drive brand trust and sales online

By Suzin Wold, SVP Marketing at Bazaarvoice

Undoubtedly accelerated by COVID-19, consumer reliance on ecommerce has never been higher. Though physical retail has and continues to gradually re-open, the effects of lockdown including the increase in online shopping, will continue. At its peak, April order count increased 96% year-over-year across the Bazaarvoice network. Our latest figures show that online retail remains a powerful platform, with May seeing a year-on-year growth rate of 83% and significant increases across key metrics including page views (+90%), review submissions (+38%) and question submissions (+62%).

In contrast, but not surprisingly, high street footfall experienced its biggest ever drop. With businesses forced to remain closed, consumers adapted and quickly shifted shopping habits from stores to online. In fact during this time, 79% of our Influenster community members felt their shopping behaviour had changed due to the pandemic, with 41% shopping online for items they would normally buy in-store. Though stores are now opening their doors to customers, it will be a long time before we see footfall return to pre-lockdown levels.

Shifting online engagement strategies 40% of customers say they will return to their normal shopping habits, but a third of consumers feel they will continue to shop as they did under lockdown. With online shopping already on the rise pre-lockdown and a significant acceleration online over the past few months, there is onus on retailers to think differently about how they build trust and engagement. Brands have had to switch up their strategy to focus on delivering a seamless online experience.

Other customers’ opinions have become increasingly important to people’s purchase decisions, with over three quarters of shoppers (78%) saying they trust reviews. Brands can inform shoppers by empowering their existing customer community to share authentic opinions of products and brands. As online reliance has increased, looking to other people’s experiences and how retailers are communicating product information is vital in purchase decisions. Retailers that take this more community-focused approach to building reputation and maintaining excellent customer relations will excel in this time of uncertainty.

Building trust through the shopping community

Increasingly, consumers are also making purchase decisions based on brand values. For example, data from our Influenster community shows 70% of customers feel that a brand’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis would impact loyalty or future likelihood of purchases from that brand. In addition, 57% indicated that they would lose trust in brands that fail to protect the wellbeing and financial security of their employees, while 40% say brands that are not tailoring their business to help customers would lose their trust.

As social distancing, supply chain and financial considerations have impacted consumers, many will be exploring new retailers, or considering new products to replace brands they cannot find or would usually buy in-store. While a brand may have a fantastic product, customers need more than that company’s assurance in order to purchase the first time. Retailers need to ensure customers feel confident in what they’re buying and trust who they are buying from.

In order to build trust, retailers can make what other customers have experienced visible and use rich media to bring their products to life. Shoppers don’t just want to read about experiences, they need to see pictures and videos from real customers, and witness how questions have been responded to by other shoppers. Reviews which go beyond star ratings, and contain genuine information are crucial to winning trust.

Beyond the pandemic

The retail environment has undergone a significant shift and the effects will be long lasting. Although physical retail will likely continue to gain in popularity as lockdown measures are eased further, online retail will continue to provide significant opportunities as shoppers maintain social distancing and look online for products.

To maximise the online experience, a robust reviews and ratings system which helps customers understand what others have experienced has never been more important. It is vital customers can see authentic and trusted information from the customer community so they can be confident they are making the right purchase. If retailers get this right, the rewards will soon follow.

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