When it comes to e-commerce, it seems to be Amazon.com vs. everyone else. Amazon’s dominance is well documented; it has more than 300 million active users who rely on the site for everything from everyday essentials to TVs. In addition to changing the shopping experience, Amazon has changed shopper expectations. Amazon’s customers have come to expect free and fast shipping, detailed product descriptions and thorough customer reviews. Traditional e-commerce sites are struggling to compete and match the high bar Amazon has set. While traditional retailers have an uphill battle, there are several ways that brands can entice shoppers and gain an edge. PowerReviews provides six tips to not only compete, but win against Amazon.
- Fill the product page with details. Poor product information topped consumer irritations both pre- and post-purchase. More than 43 percent of shoppers were irritated by poor product descriptions when researching products. A product not meeting expectations was cited by 21 percent of shoppers as a top post-purchase irritation, tied with size and fit. Retailers and brands must comprehensively describe the product and/or service. If selling apparel, improve product descriptions by including fit and size information as part of the review form.
- Use reviews and Q&As to improve products and product data. Reviews and Q&As give brands and retailers a direct line of feedback with customers. Allowing shoppers to ask questions helps to be sure you're meeting their expectations and they're getting exactly what they signed up for, taking some of the risk out of online shopping. Reviews can also alert the brand or retailer to flaws in a product that can be fixed to satisfy consumers.
- Add consumer-submitted videos and images to product pages. Ask for images and videos and display them on the product and category pages. Eighty-eight percent of consumers specifically look for visuals such as photos or videos submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase. Allow purchasers the opportunity to submit their own images to create content from real customers, meeting customer demands for more information and managing purchase expectations.
- Welcome negative feedback. Shoppers are suspicious of a squeaky clean rating and want to be trusted to make their own judgments on others’ poor experiences. Of consumers, 82 percent specifically seek out negative reviews, and are most likely to purchase a product when its average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. Accept negative feedback and take steps to correct it publicly when it makes sense. Use negative reviews to improve product descriptions and poor-performing products.
- Redefine loyalty and reward advocates. Customers who are passionate about your brand and/or product are highly valuable. Ease and loyalty top the list of reasons why consumers choose to start shopping on a retailer or brand website, with 48 percent stating it as the top reason. These loyalists will not only purchase on the site, they will be brand advocates willing to answer Q&A and provide detailed product reviews. Thirty-three percent of consumers want free products as a reward for loyalty. Retailers and brands should offer samples to generate reviews, photos and images, and identify content from verified buyers or associated with free samples, which shoppers cite as the most important factor in building trust.
- Leverage physical stores. Many retailers have assets that Amazon is only starting to build: physical stores. Retailers and brands should leverage physical stores not only as a revenue channel, but also as a way to display and drive content. In its Seattle bookstore, Amazon displays star ratings and review excerpts for books using simple shelf tags. Brands can also include reviews in their mobile apps to influence the in-store experience. Retailers can generate reviews from in-store purchases by emailing loyalty program members after a purchase, asking them to contribute reviews, photos and videos.
Theresa O’Neil is the senior vice president of marketing at PowerReviews, a ratings and reviews software provider.