How Retailers Can Leverage Online Reviews
Consumers rely on ratings and reviews to provide them with the information they need to make purchase decisions. In fact, more than 86 percent of shoppers deem reviews an essential part of their purchase process. And while ratings and reviews influence purchases made across a variety of categories, their importance is growing in the apparel sector.
Unlike many other retail sectors, apparel has maintained its brick-and-mortar stronghold, with just 15 percent of clothing purchased online last year, according to Forrester. That’s a low number when you consider that 65 percent of computers were purchased online during that same time frame. Some purchases may not give online shoppers much pause, but apparel is highly personal. Many factors (e.g., fit, quality, color) play a role in determining whether a shopper will buy something, and up until recently that information was more easily obtained in-store, where a shopper can assess fit and feel — e.g., trying on a pair of slacks to see the cut or feeling the fabric of a dress.
However, the apparel industry can’t hold out for long. Consumers crave the convenience of shopping online, and as a result apparel brands and retailers are tasked with bringing the same product information consumers can find in-store to the online world. Even Amazon.com is taking notice and ramping up its apparel offerings. Now is the time for apparel brands and retailers to start leveraging reviews in order to attract online shoppers and avoid losing market share to Amazon.
Capture the Voice of the Consumer
Regardless of sector, there’s no denying that access to product information and feedback from other customers helps instill confidence in consumers. And the more reviews you can collect, the better.
Consider developing a post-purchase email strategy to collect reviews from your customers. We’ve found that about 70 percent of reviews originate from post-purchase emails. However, before you send an email to a customer, simplify the process of completing and submitting a review so that consumers don’t give up halfway through.
Attempts to collect ratings and reviews should extend to in-store shoppers as well. Consider leveraging an existing loyalty rewards program to connect in-store purchases with already collected customer contact information. By sending post-purchase emails to these in-store shoppers, you’re better poised to bridge the gap between the in-store and online experience for future customers.
Use Visual Content
Have you ever considered why YouTube reviewers have seen such great success? Multimedia reviews give consumers more product information than they can find elsewhere. Shoppers can see the product in someone’s hands and sometimes even see it in use. Multimedia reviews (e.g., those including user photos and videos) are becoming increasingly popular and sought after pieces of content for shoppers.
Start asking for photos and video as part of your request for reviews. When you pair customer photos with product information (e.g., an item’s size), shoppers get a better sense of fit and are more likely to purchase a piece of apparel that they would likely have waited to try on in-store. In fact, nearly one-third of U.S. consumers would be more likely to buy clothing online if the website features photos of real customers wearing the item.
Enable Consumer Questions
Another way to generate product information for shoppers is by allowing them to ask questions about the products they’re viewing. Consider enabling Q&A functionality where consumers can submit questions directly on a product page. This solution provides consumers with the relevant and timely information they need to make informed purchase decisions. Rather than searching for the same product on other sites, consumers on the hunt for more information can simply ask a question. The quicker the response, the better the chance the shopper will stay on the page and ultimately convert. Q&A not only benefits the consumer asking the question, but acts as a living, virtual FAQ that can help future shoppers make smart purchase decisions as well.
Leading footwear brand SKECHERS uses Q&A functionality on its product pages. Once a shopper submits a question, it’s routed to the most qualified source — be that a SKECHERS representative or a previous purchaser. In less than three hours, the questioner receives an email containing an answer and a link to the product page to complete their transaction. SKECHERS has seen a 32 percent increase in conversions for products with this Q&A functionality, and more than half of consumers who receive an answer notification email ultimately end up converting.
For apparel brands and retailers, ratings and reviews are incredibly important in bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences. Without them, shoppers would have little insight into important features such as the fit and quality of items, which ultimately leads to lower return rates and more satisfied customers.
Theresa O'Neil is the senior vice president of marketing at PowerReviews, a provider of ratings, reviews and Q&A technology for brands and retailers.
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