Today’s consumers have near-limitless options when it comes to researching and purchasing products. E-commerce giants like Amazon.com — equipped with a variety of products, ratings and reviews, and competitive shipping rates matched by few — have wide appeal for information-hungry consumers.
However, smaller merchants shouldn’t give up hope. By leveraging user-generated content (UGC), including ratings and reviews and Q&A technology, brands and retailers can differentiate themselves by offering a superior shopping experience that attracts consumers, drives conversion and increases advocacy.
Here are a few ways that brands and retailers can go toe-to-toe with Amazon:
1. Put reviews front and center. Access to product information can make or break the customer shopping experience. Nearly half (45 percent) of shoppers say they will turn to a search engine if there aren’t enough reviews for a product on a brand or retailer's site. A quarter of those shoppers said they would head to Amazon, and the other 20 percent will leave for another brand or retailer’s website. By prominently featuring ratings and reviews on product, category and home pages, brands and retailers not only attract shoppers, but can increase conversion by building customer confidence.
2. Optimize your presence on Google. More than a third of consumers prefer to start their shopping journey at a search engine. Search engines value sites with frequently updated content, so consider leveraging ratings and reviews to keep your product pages fresh and chock full of unique, relevant content.
Merchants can also leverage ratings and reviews to drive traffic to their websites through rich snippets. In 2011, search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo came together to produce Schema.org, a single standard for structuring data on websites. When merchants structure their product pages according to Schema standards, search engines will modify their search results to include star ratings as part of the results display. These previews are aptly called rich snippets and can increase clickthrough rates by up to 30 percent, creating more opportunities for conversion.
3. Marry the online and offline experience. Despite the growing popularity of online shopping, many consumers still prefer to make their purchases in-store. In fact, PowerReviews found that nearly half (48 percent) of all consumers who start shopping on a brand or retailer site prefer to make their final purchase in-store.
However, many consumers are using their phones to find product information while shopping in-store. In a previous study, we found that 54 percent of consumers use their mobile device to look for product reviews while shopping in-store. Make sure shoppers can easily find the information they’re looking for, regardless of whether they’re shopping from their computers, mobile devices or in a physical store location.
4. Create a memorable customer experience. Amazon has become an e-commerce behemoth largely because of its competitive prices and low-cost shipping options. Most brands and retailers can no longer compete with Amazon on price and shipping, so instead, they should focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience. After all, an Oracle study found that 81 percent of shoppers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Brands and retailers that provide a unique, tailored experience for their customers will cultivate loyalists who are willing to pay more to receive superior service.
Theresa O’Neil is the senior vice president of marketing at PowerReviews, a provider of customer review technology for brands and retailers.
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