E-Mail Applied: Creating Customer Communities
Catalog marketers are a pragmatic group. They stick with tried-and-true methods. New techniques must demonstrate practicality before implementation. Customer reviews and blogs are Web 2.0 techniques, and they’ve demonstrated the ability to build community and stimulate sales.
Web 2.0 is focused on interactivity, collaboration and social networking. Marketing becomes more dynamic as customers and prospects are empowered with tools that encourage engagement. Here’s how to harness that crowd-sourced power to provide consumer-generated content that will be influential in the purchasing process.
Some catalogers experiment with letting customers post product reviews on their sites. Typically they’ll use a form with a five-star rating system, product questions and an area for customers to enter their own comments. Customers love this!
The e-tailing group conducted consumer research earlier this year on whether site visitors turn to reviews prior to or during the shopping process. The results speak for themselves:
How often do customers read reviews prior to making a purchasing decision?
Most of the time 43%
Some of the time 24%
Once in a while 9%
The majority of consumers polled said they regularly pay attention to customer reviews. And many said they pay particular attention to reviews when they’re trying to narrow down choices between two or three products. These choices may be on one site, but often the potential customer is comparing products on several sites. So a favorable review just might sway a purchase decision.
Ah, but what about those negative reviews and how they reflect on the company? From a customer’s perspective, that content is more believable and real. A study conducted by Bazaarvoice found that 51 percent of consumers leave positive reviews most times, and 36 percent are positive every time. This encouraging news should make marketers more comfortable with letting customers share their product experiences online.
In addition, you’ll benefit since search engines have more content to crawl, and reviews will improve your rankings and traffic.
Where E-Mail Comes Into Play
Here are four ways to capitalize on customer reviews in your e-mail marketing efforts.
1. Promote customer reviews in some of your e-mails. Let readers know reviews are available on your site.
2. Showcase products with their star ratings in your e-mails. Bath & Body Works tested this and found e-mails that included such reviews had higher conversions and resulted in 12 percent higher sales.
3. Send a triggered message after a product purchase asking the recipient to rate the product. It’s a good idea to wait three weeks to four weeks after the item has been shipped so the customer has a chance to use the product and form an opinion.
4. DYMO, known for its popular label printers, employs an unusual e-mail technique in soliciting reviews. The e-mail features the headline, “Thumbs up or thumbs down? Tell us what you think.” The body of the message asks customers if they’re satisfied, and there are prominent “yes” and “no” buttons. Those who click yes are brought directly to the product review page. Those who click no are brought to a customer support page where they can find help in using the product and, of course, a link to product reviews.
Blogs function as a sort of online journal where the owner can post points of view, ideas and other types of “quick-hit” information. Most blogs only allow the owner to post, but that owner can also open the blog to contributions by designated readers, building a sense of community.
The Wine Enthusiast has a blog where it says, “Where Our Passion for Wine & Accessories Is Shared.” The experts share knowledge and answer some of the most common wine-related questions. Visitors can post comments. It’s taken a soft-sell approach, so there's no direct merchandising in the blog.
Despair, a cataloger of demotivational posters and products, has a blog that’s more focused on merchandising. It’s an irreverent, tongue-in-cheek look at the inner workings of the company. One recent post offered 25 percent off everything in the store for a two-day period. The writer explained the reason for the sale was that the company had neglected to send out regular e-mails for the previous three weeks, and now it wanted to placate the customers.
Motherwear, a cataloger of products for breast-feeding mothers, has a blog that also allows comments. It’s found that one-quarter of all new site visitors come from the blog. Orders from these visitors are 15 percent higher than other site visitors.
Blogs and customer reviews should only be implemented if they fit your long-term marketing goals. They take effort to execute, but there could be a big payoff in higher online visibility and sales.
Reggie Brady is president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, a direct and e-mail marketing consultancy in Norwalk, Conn. Reach her at (203) 838-8138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.