By Nick Whitfield

 

 

AdWords, Local Search and In-Store Purchases

 

Google is currently investigating the relationship between interactions with online advertising and consequent in-store purchase behavior. The findings will likely further what we already know, that the reality of the 21st Century purchase journey is that online and offline commerce are inextricably linked.

 

The growth of mobile devices and the concept of ‘showrooming’ means that it is increasingly difficult to differentiate between the two. Even when you are able to attract customers to your physical outlet, they may still actually purchase online. Comparably, they may prefer to do initial research online, before visiting a store to save waiting for a delivery.

 

As connected devices become the norm, the ability to intelligently gather and act upon data streams will be crucial to excelling in the competitive online retail space. With the introduction of Feefo Places, merchants that offer multichannel purchase options can incorporate customer feedback across all points of contact.

 

Why use multichannel customer feedback?

 

• Does a successful in-store experience inspire your customers to go on to buy online and vice versa? Which happens more often?

• Is there a discrepancy in product satisfaction or sales between online and in-store purchases?

• Are you detailing or showcasing products more successfully in one channel?

• Are your online sales suffering from the lack of personal contact as occurs in-store? Do you need to offer live chat, an FAQ or a Q&A system?

• Are you currently capturing customer data from physical sales in order to develop ongoing contact after the sale?

• Can you display feedback in paid local search terms?

 

An example of the 21st century multichannel customer journey

 

Multichannel Customer Journey

 

 

Image sourced from https://econsultancy.com/blog/64604-moments-and-journeys-how-to-use-the-voice-of-the-customer-in-a-multichannel-world#i.fu486m10a4cpvy

 

 

Who is using multichannel feedback?

 


 

“We initially implemented Feefo Places for our high street stores because we could see the tangible benefits that being able to understand our customer journey was having for our online sales. We intended to replicate this across our physical outlets, to provide the same valuable business intelligence in our stores. It is simply better business to ensure that TM Lewin consistently delivers excellent products and service, than potentially disappoints customers. The first step in achieving this is to actually gather the data from verified customers to provide a reliable metric. Feefo has provided a consumer-trusted method of doing this.”

 

“Some of the primary benefits that TM Lewin stores have experienced since gathering feedback through Feefo involve having reportable data on the strengths and weaknesses of individual locations or points of sale. Once we had established trends, we were able to quickly identify which of our stores are performing best in the eyes of genuine customers. It also becomes easy to highlight any potential problems at an early stage and rectify them quickly.”

 

“Requesting customer feedback provides TM Lewin with the ability to continue to engage with our customers after they have left our stores. Traditionally this is a weakness of high street retail in comparison to internet purchases, as it is more challenging to develop the same level of ongoing relationship, without relying on that customer to re-visit the store. We can respond to our feedback very easily through Feefo, and this undoubtedly prompts more repeat business than had they simply left the store as their final touch point.”

 

tm lewin store reviews

 

“One aspect of our in-store feedback that we are particularly pleased with, is that it has unified the customer experience for TM Lewin. Whether a customer chooses to purchase online or in-store, we are still able to demonstrate that we care about their experience equally, and we provide a platform for them to let us know whether we met their expectations.”

 

“There are some added benefits of in-store feedback that actually provide benefits not relevant to online sales. When a member of staff has excelled in advising or serving a customer, they are often singled out for praise in our reviews, and this is a big motivation to keep service levels high. Motivated staff make productive staff, and this has made a noticeable impact to our bottom line.”

 

“To date, we are extremely proud that our in-store feedback currently sits on 97% Service Rating, and 98% Product Rating. Judging our use of Feefo since late 2012, we can correlate high customer service with better customer retention, higher average sale value and increased footfall through our enhanced online promotion. Being able to collate, analyse and publicly display our customer feedback through Feefo has been a big success for TM Lewin.”

 

John Mihill, Operations Manager

 

 


 

“We have been seeking customer reviews & feedback for our in-store experience via various digital media for the last three years. Our Watch and Clock shop’s focus has always been to offer a personal and attentive service to customers, and it is even more important in this digital age.”

 

“Feefo’s in-store review system values customer’s time by offering a quick and easy way for customers to provide feedback. I highly recommend Feefo Places for businesses that want to succeed with the in-store experience.”

 

Pradip Sarda, Co-Founder

 

 

To learn more about how Feefo customer feedback can help your business, please contact us:

 

T: 08456 800 320

Send Email

 


FacebookTwitterMore...

none
By Nick Whitfield

Even Entrepreneurs Need to Listen to Customers at Some Point

 

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

— Steve Jobs

 

steve jobs lego

 

Don’t listen to customers?

 

This quote is often referenced in opposition to the value that customer feedback provides, and is held with particular reverence amongst entrepreneurial circles. The implication of the quote, as entrepreneurs would understand it, is that listening to customers is akin to an admission of failure, in terms of not being inventive or creative enough to deliver a ground-breaking product without the aid of market research. Indeed, Jobs often referenced wanting to avoid “Me too” products, simply providing another option for consumers as opposed to something new.

 

There can be no mistaking that Steve Jobs was a transcendent business brain, and the fact that his driving vision turned Apple into a market-leading powerhouse cannot be disputed. The exact manner in which this quote is often referenced however, can certainly be challenged by how it applies to the vast majority of businesses.

 

The consequences of failing to listen to customers

 

One time Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple, Ron Johnson, famously alienated the customer base in his new role at JC Penney, by following the same mantra. Wanting to turn the stores into a ‘trendy’ place to ‘hang out’, alienated the existing customer base, that held discounting and value as the brand values they expected, and held in best regard.

 

Based on the documents that have emerged in the ongoing Apple versus Samsung legal trial in the US, It seems like Apple themselves actually care quite a lot about customer preferences and tastes… The internal Apple documents presented, seem to display a strong understanding of the market, and how consumer opinions are continually shaping it.

 

apple internal doc

 

apple internal document

 

Did Steve Jobs really intend this quote to be used this way?

 

Perhaps this is where we need to dig deeper into the quote. Placed into context, perhaps we can ascertain that Jobs was not arguing for removing customers from the equation altogether, but expressing the need for businesses to dig for useful insights. It is unlikely that if you gave customers a pencil and paper they would design a perfect product for you…

 

But by identifying the existing strengths and weaknesses, both of individual products and of your customer experience however, customers can readily shape the brief that is provided to the problem solvers, the entrepreneurs and the designers.

 

Consumers will always have a voice. If your business doesn’t empower, listen and react to it, they will simply voice their opinion another way – by choosing to buy from someone else. Innovation undoubtedly drives progress, but realising too late that “Consumers want what we don’t have” can be costly.

 

To learn more about how Feefo customer feedback can help your business, please contact us:

 

T: 08456 800 320

Send Email

 


FacebookTwitterMore...

none
By Nick Whitfield

 

April Fools

 

Contrary to the April Fools’ Day article that appeared yesterday, Feefo will not be conducting a nude, Petersfield to Portsmouth bicycle ride. We do hope however that the story grabbed your attention.

 

Feefo tandem

 

Reality

 

Feefo will still be raising money for charity Just a Drop. On the afternoon of Thursday 1st May, the Feefo team will be walking 6 km, carrying a jerry can of water each. This distance is reflective of the average distance that women and children walk to find water in remote parts of the world. The walk will start and finish at the Feefo office, and will travel around the surrounding Petersfield heath and lake.

 

Just A Drop’s mission is to lower child mortality, by providing clean, safe water where it is needed most. The statistics surrounding parts of the world that lack proper sanitation and clean drinking water are utterly shocking.

 

  • Every 20 seconds a child dies from a water related disease.
  • More people in the world own mobile phones than have access to a toilet.
  • Over 40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa.
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related illness.
  • Children in poor environments often carry approximately 1,000 parasitic worms in their bodies.

 

For those of us lucky enough to be born into more fortunate circumstances, it is impossible to truly comprehend how it must feel to watch your children suffering from such conditions and illnesses. Just A Drop helps these communities to construct the wells, boreholes, pipelines and latrines that can make a genuine difference in the quality of people’s lives.

 

Just A Drop Campaign Film from Just A Drop on Vimeo.

 

How Can you Help?

 

If you’d like to contribute to the cause, please visit our JustGiving page.

 

Alternatively, you can donate via text – just text FEEF50 followed by the amount to 70070 (ie FEEF50 £5).

 

We will provide full coverage of the fundraising event.

 

Thank you.


FacebookTwitterMore...

none
By Nick Whitfield


 

Prioritising the Customer

 

Hiscox has been recognised as a Gold Trusted Merchant in the annual Feefo accreditation, meaning that 98% of the customers that left feedback for the brand over the duration of 2013 rated their service as either “Good” or “Excellent”.

 

Feefo invites all customers that have purchased a home or business insurance policy online to provide feedback on their experience. For prospective customers, this provides an opportunity to read verified, un-moderated appraisals from prior customers, while also allowing Hiscox to measure and analyse their customer service and satisfaction.

 

Trust is absolutely vital for financial services, and verified feedback is therefore an important signal to prospective customers when looking to buy. If they cannot find reviews on the pages that they navigate, they will simply look for this information elsewhere.  Online transparency means that it is best practice for businesses to enable and own the review process, keeping browsers on site with relevant content.

 

In light of the Gold Trusted Merchant accreditation, I recently spent time with James Harding, Online Marketing Manager at Hiscox, discussing how customer feedback was helping the business to meet customer service targets.


James Harding Hiscox
“Social proof is now such an important part of how consumers interact with brands. If you cannot provide access to trustworthy customer feedback, then there is a strong chance that you may lose business to those that can. Feefo has been valuable to us in providing a platform for our customers to voice their opinions on whether we met their expectations. We were delighted when our Feefo Service Rating reached its current level of 98%.”

 

“Our Gold Trusted Merchant status is a testament to the hard work that our team have put into achieving our goal – that every Hiscox customer experiences world-class service and feels valued. We really value the feedback we’ve been receiving so far and would like to thank all of our customers who have taken the time to leave us their feedback through Feefo.”

 

“Customer retention is crucial to our business, and receiving feedback after each purchase ensures that we can resolve any issues that may have arisen, as well as being confident that the vast majority of our customers are pleased that they chose us as their provider.”

 

I went on to enquire about the strategy that Hiscox has developed for dealing with any negative feedback that might be left:

 

“As soon as we receive negative feedback, we are keen to understand exactly what went wrong. We can then act on a case by case basis and deal with the issues appropriately. Treating each case separately is the most effective way to ensure that any problems are resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

 

It has been an extremely successful 12 months for Hiscox. In addition to Gold Trusted Merchant status, it has also been recognised as the Best Small Business Insurer at the Start Your Business Awards, the Personal Claims Lines Team of the Year and Outstanding Insurer Claims Team of the Year in 2013.

 

For more information on Hiscox’s award winning Business Insurance products please visit: http://www.hiscox.co.uk/business-insurance/.

 

For more information on Feefo, please use the contact details below:

T: 08456 800 320

Send Email

none
By Nick Whitfield

Data Analysis Versus Engagement and Listening

 

A notable feature of the recent Budget announcement, was the founding of the Alan Turing Institute – the medium through which the government hopes to put the UK at the forefront of “big data and algorithm research”. £42 million has been allocated for the project over five years, displaying the level of investment in the intelligent use of data. This is not only a UK phenomenon, with President Obama unveiling a ‘Big Data Initiative’ back in 2012, and the private sector also being heavily invested in.

 

At a base level, ‘big data’ refers to the systematic analysis of complex data streams in order to find patterns or correlations that can translate into an actionable use. The potential implications for a range of industries are clear, and marketing is no different. The ability to make intelligent predictions (and consequent decisions) about consumer tastes, trends and preferences is why data is such a hot commodity.

 

big data

 

 

For data and research-focused organisations, big data is undeniably the future. How fruitful it will be for the average marketer however is debateable. The difficulty in drawing meaningful insights, the concerns over online privacy and the simple alternatives, all point to gaining customer insights through other means for the immediate future.

 

Data Collection

 

There will inevitably be a time when consumer attitudes to data collection will clash with marketing practices, and falling foul may ultimately harm the perception of a brand.

 

As consumers become increasingly ‘digitally aware’, there will be the risk of certain forms of digital marketing appearing, at best passé, and at worst, unethical. Studies are already emerging that suggest certain practices are already considered a breach of privacy by those being marketed to.

 

Adobe-Consumer-Attitudes-Online-Data-Collection-Privacy-June2013

 

 

Ask your customers!

 

The irony here, is that were businesses to actually just ask customers for their thoughts, providing that they have built solid relationships, they could gain many of the same insights and also strengthen their relationship with that individual. Feefo merchants are often surprised at just how many of their customers choose to provide a rating and review, both of the service that they received, and the products that they purchased. When asked, customers are generally more than happy to give an appraisal of their experience, and provide cues as to how a business can secure repeat business.

 

The vast majority of businesses simply do not need to do secret agent work, examining their customers’ broader behaviour and tastes, when they could simply engage them in conversation.

 

secret agent

Code Name: Big Data

 

Create Brand Participants

 

Brands need to actually work with consumers, and enable their natural behaviour patterns. A big part of 21st century online identity revolves around (conscious or subconscious) personal brand building. As consumers, we have progressed to not only defining our identities through consumption, but also what we choose to publicly discuss, interact with and share. The growth of blogging, social networking and other creative outlets speak to the importance of individuality and forging a distinct personality.

 

Empowering customers to provide feedback, in their own words, and in their own time, is a proactive invitation for them to express themselves. Customers can be made to feel like they are valued participants in your brand, as opposed being viewed as a statistical probability, which big data eventually boils down to.

 

For more information on how to use Feefo customer feedback to gain customer insight, please get in touch:

 

T: 08456 800 320

Send Email

none
By Nick Whitfield

Feefo Places Logo

 

Feefo has built a trusted reputation over years of providing many of the biggest online brand names with a powerful ratings and reviews solution. Feefo has now launched Feefo Places to cater for those that conduct business in person, or over multiple channels.

 

The internet has made all marketplaces completely transparent and therefore, increasingly competitive. In this context, it is increasingly difficult to stand out from competitors. Customer experience and customer service are two controllable variables that play a key role in determining key measures of success such as customer loyalty.

 

Digital High Street

 

 

The Digital High Street

 

Omnichannel is real, and it’s increasingly incurring on physical retailers and attractions. The need to universalise the customer experience across channels and points of sale applies to customer feedback for high street purchases or services, just as much as for online retail.

 

In a previous post we discussed what an influential factor ‘showrooming’ has become, and that ideally merchants should be enabling this process rather than trying to fight it. The blurring of on and offline retail is about to get a lot more complicated.

 

Wearable Technology

 

Wearable Tech

 

 

With the mass adoption of smartphones, and the sheer quantity of wearable technology currently in development, customer feedback is only going to gain in significance. Whether in-store, browsing online or even both… Social proof is a powerful precursor to a sale, and that content is only ever a click, or perhaps even, a voice command away. Our world is becoming increasingly connected, and the digital preferences that consumers are able to demonstrate will become progressively more powerful. Ratings and reviews already play a key role in signalling to search engines which businesses are offering great experiences. If you do not already own the customer feedback process, you are missing out to those that do.

 

The stats also support this theory. Usablenet suggests that:

 

Digital High Street

 

 

The ability to demonstrate the quality of the products, services, and experiences on offer across online touch points has become a key feature of the 21st century, disrupted customer journey.

 

Feefo Places

 

Whether you are responsible for high street stores, restaurants, hotels, venues, cafes, museums, places of historical interest or anywhere else that involves an in-person transaction, verified customer feedback can play a big role in driving success.

 

92% of consumers have more confidence in info found online than they do in anything from a salesclerk or other source (Wall Street Journal).

 

All businesses operate in different ways. To account for this, Feefo Places can operate by email request, placing unique codes to be placed on customer collateral or via electronic receipt.

 

The Advantages of Feefo Places

 

  • All feedback is from verified customers
  • Increase store footfall
  • Drive larger average sale value
  • Capture customer data for remarketing
  • Optimize employee performance
  • Resolve customer complaints quickly
  • Boost customer satisfaction and repeat business
  • Promote omnichannel approaches to customer experience
  • Generate actionable data on individual products and points of sale

 

To test how well Feefo Places works for your business, take a no obligation,  free trial.

 

Tel: 08456 800 320

 

Email: places@feefo.com

 

none
By Nick Whitfield

Made Simple Group

 

 

Feefo and Customer Strategy

 

With Feefo having recently awarded the Trusted Merchant accreditations to merchants that met the customer-generated criteria, it has been an interesting time for users to appraise how feedback plays a role in providing business intelligence and enhanced engagement with their customers.

 

The Made Simple Group provide an array of product and service solutions to start-up companies and small businesses. Offering everything required to get a business up and running and an impressive list of partners, the portfolio of brands that make up the group continue to meet and exceed the expectations of customers.

 

With service as a key brand value, having a platform to listen and engage with customers has been important for monitoring and assessing their performance. It has also provided key insights on how to enhance the customer experience.

 

How to use Customer Feedback

 

Michelle Carvill, Marketing Director at The Made Simple Group has discussed how using Feefo fits into The Made Simple Group’s customer-focused strategies.

 

Michelle Carvill

 

“At Made Simple, a predominantly online business, where not all of our customers get to meet us face to face – we have always placed a huge emphasis on the importance of service excellence.  Dedicated to continuous improvement, we regularly undertake ‘mystery shopping’ across our range of online business solutions – and have always undertaken some form of regular customer feedback via surveys.  However, whilst we always had great engagement from our own surveys there’s always the question of ‘trust’ if all you see on a website are ‘too good to be true’ stories.  Therefore, our desire to get a totally independent view of our service levels led us to working with Feefo.

 

“Some may say it takes a brave company to put themselves ‘out there’ to be independently reviewed for all to see – but the ethos at Made Simple is one of continuous learning and transparency.  We’d rather know about any problem areas so that we can address them.

 

“Getting started with Feefo was a relatively simple process – far simpler than we thought it was going to be. We have four of our businesses using Feefo; Companies Made Simple, Company Searches Made Simple, London Presence and Business Training Made Simple.  In 2013 our Companies Made Simple service consistently scored 98%+ and so we were awarded a Gold Trust Merchant accreditation – and our Business Training Made Simple service has scored 100% ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ – which delights us all.  We have also uncovered some service challenges with our other two businesses – which has enabled us to work on fixes to improve customer service – and so Feefo has been useful to assisting us in addressing the real needs of customers.

 

“We’re really proud of our Feefo ratings so far – and we are delighted to have an ongoing process to help us keep on track – and focus attention on continuous improvement.”

none
By Nick Whitfield

the internet of things

 

How will Customer Signals Impact the Internet of Things?

 

David Cameron recently announced that an extra £45M will be allocated for Britain to play a big part in developing the ‘Internet of Things’.

 

But… What is it?

 

The ‘Internet of Things’ in simple terms, refers to a large-scale network of connected online devices that are able to pass data between them. We are already familiar with our phones being ‘smart’, but once our other devices catch up, the potential for generating genuinely useful information will be far higher.

 

In terms of scale, research firm Gartner predicts there will be nearly 26 billion devices connected to the internet of things by 2020.

 

But… Why does everything need to be connected to the internet?

 

Google Now already provides a glimpse into this concept, being able to provide timely information about your journey to work, results from your favourite sport or team, and even reminders about hotel or restaurant reservations. As the mantra goes, “the right information at just the right time”. From a search perspective, it inevitably leads to foregoing the search entirely, and data being used to anticipate what information you require before you’ve even asked for it.

 

Samsung’s most recent smartphone launch provides detailed apps relating to health and fitness as a key selling point, and demonstrates how our devices can help to monitor our health, activity levels and overall wellbeing. This raises the prospect of our phones or wearable devices monitoring our blood pressure, or temperature as an example, and advising us to visit our GP when necessary.

 

Both Apple and Android have launched in-car applications, which suggests that we will eventually receive an SMS prior to a morning commute reminding us that we will need to purchase fuel en route, or that our tyre pressure is low.

 

Is the application really that widespread?

 

What if your fridge could identify that you were running low on milk, could also identify there is a special offer on your preferred brand, and then order some for delivery at the touch of a button?

 

What if our health-tracking smart gadgets could recommend a weekly food shopping list and provide video tutorials on exercise regimes, based on our desire to lose weight?

 

What if our home boilers constantly monitored temperature, pressure and whether we were at home or not to determine being ‘on’ or ‘off’, or automatically turned off in the case of an irregularity?

 

What if our thermostats factored in current weather and temperature outside to continually asses the most efficient way to heat our homes?

 

What if roads contained sensors to monitor traffic speed and congestion to feed into our GPS devices to automatically find the quickest route?

 

So in short… The applications are almost endless, and are no longer the thing of science fiction. Many of the possibilities suggested above are either already available or currently in development.

 

What about Reviews?

 

Customer signals, such as browsing behaviour and user generated reviews already factor strongly into search engine algorithms, but the internet of things will make them far more powerful commercially. Reviews will play a strong role in the personalisation of recommendations, as well as developing a profile of each person as a consumer.

 

For many of the examples already provided, ratings and reviews could play a strong role. It is sure that any location, service or product recommended will factor in prior customer signals, whether from you, people in your ‘networks’, or other consumers into the automated decision-making or selection process.

 

In the desire to make automated information feasible – data, and lots of it, is required. Signals such as qualitative ratings, that provide direct, quantifiable endorsements of a particular product or service will inevitably be factored into judging what can provide value to other consumers.

 

Reviews and user testimonials are already a crucial component across advertising mediums. If anything, they will become more effective, with smart commodities being able to display them at the most optimum time. Marketers will likely have the opportunity to be incredibly selective with their target audience. Eg market chocolate when something sweet is taken out of the fridge, or display a local garage with good reviews to a person with a flat tyre… Real-time targeting will become an incredibly powerful call to action, and reviews from verified customers will always play a key role in influencing purchase decisions.

 

The impending arrival of 5G points to the direction that we are heading – we will have the ability to transfer ever-increasing amounts of data, and while smart devices communicating will factor into this, human signals such as consumer choice will play the most significant role in what they ultimately say to each other, and to us.

 

none
By Nick Whitfield

Customer Feedback and the Travel Industry

 

The British Travel Awards have released the Travelvision 2014 document, which is a collection of insights into consumer buying intentions for the coming year.

 

With just under thirty seven thousand individual responses to 22 questions, it is interesting how many of the findings have clear implications for consumer feedback.

 

Thirty four questions were asked, with multiple choice answers available. Below, the question being answered is highlighted, as well as the responses to one of the available options.

 

Which of these resources is most important when choosing a destination for your holiday?

15.07% answered that they seek customer feedback on the destination via blog sites / comparison websites.

 

Travelvision stats1

 

What is the top influencing factor that starts your holiday search and booking process?

34.65% stated that recommendations from review sites and online forums are the most influential factor in booking a holiday.

 

Travelvision stats 2

 

What is the main reason that prompts you to finally decide to book a holiday?

13.76% of those surveyed believe that recommendations from other people via review sites and online forums are the factor that prompts them into finally making a booking.

 

Travelvision stats 3

 

What is the most important internet service relating to your holidays?

19.93% of respondents believe the most important internet service relating to their holidays is researching comments about holiday companies from other consumers.

 

Travelvision stats 4

 

 

What is the most important internet service relating to your holidays?

12.01% believe that the most important internet service related to holidays is researching individual companies.

 

Travelvision stats 5

 

 

Takeaways

 

Young people, being digital natives genuinely care about the ability to feedback and be listened to! Almost all of the responses regarding feedback are skewed towards the younger demographics.

 

Customer feedback impacts the customer journey in a number of different ways:

  • Whether it’s researching destinations, accommodation options, a  specific company or seeking inspiration and recommendations regarding where to travel, the internet is often the place consumers turn for information.
  • Customer reviews act as a final convincing factor or prompt into taking action and making a booking.

 

If you are not actively collating and displaying customer feedback already, you risk travel consumers eliminating your company from potential business even at the initial research stage.

none
By Nick Whitfield

 

What is going on with Seller Ratings?

 

 

“Seller Ratings” refer to the stars that appear in paid Google search results, that link through to reviews providing that the merchant has generated the feedback through a Google Partner such as Feefo.

 

Number of Reviews VS Rating out of 5

 

Until recently, the number of reviews that a merchant had generated in the eyes of Google would be clearly visible.

 

mandm direct adwords

 

 

This has recently changed to a rating out of 5, with no indication of how many reviews it is based on.

 

mandm new adwords

 

 

The implications of this change are debatable, and the intention behind the move difficult to speculate upon.

 

My first reaction would be that Google’s updates or changes are normally predicated on making their services as efficient as possible. Google constantly split-tests to see how even very subtle variables influence browser behaviour. As I see it, two explanations seem most likely.

 

1. Optimisation

 

 

I wonder whether a number (particularly if it’s high) is a more temping link to click on, as opposed to a rating. Perhaps with the more generic rating, the landing page becomes the obvious click, eliminating one step from a potential conversion – meaning the Google Ad, over a large number of impressions can become a more efficient sales tool, by driving traffic to the purchase page earlier.

 

From a customer feedback perspective, there is an obvious change in what is important in a consumer’s first impression. The rating is now all-important, and the numbers of reviews largely irrelevant. In the name of transparency and the ‘spirit’ of what Seller Ratings are intended for, I wonder whether this move will incentivise ‘gaming’ the system, by collating reviews until a desired rating is reached and then refusing to collect more… Meaning that the rating would no longer be a true reflection of their current level of service, as judged by recent customers. The balance between optimisation and transparency dramatically shifted to one side.

 

 

2. Does the number of reviews eventually become meaningless?

 

 

I previously discussed this topic with Econsultancy, and I stand by the position that I expressed then.

 

Is there a ‘risk’ that, after a few hundred the numbers [of reviews] become meaningless, and perhaps even less credible?

 

It’s a difficult question to answer, as it’s somewhat subjective how to define ‘meaningless’ and would likely differ between individual consumers and how recognisable the business is.

For example, consumers are likely to require less reassurance about a business they have heard of than those they haven’t.  

I would say that there is likely a critical mass (depending on the size of the business) to which initially the number of reviews is what matters most, and after that the most recent feedback alongside the relevance (eg are there reviews specific to the product a consumer is intending to purchase?) become more important factors. 

Historic data also gains significance for the merchants themselves. An often missed aspect of reviews is the business intelligence offered directly by genuine customers.

You might be able to track how your service has improved from the previous year, or identify a particular product / aspect of your customer journey that is generating negative feedback for example. You can then use this data to improve your offering.  

 

I never quite understood the ‘credible’ issue – once reviews are from a verified source, it would surely be less ‘credible’ to have fewer reviews that were ‘cherry-picked’ as being useful or positive?

 

There is a genuine point to be made however, that as Seller Ratings age (they were introduced in 2010), it would be largely pointless for reviews to still be counted and displayed as a number into the hundreds of thousands. To keep the display universal, perhaps it simply makes logical sense to move to the rating system regardless if a brand has 5 or 50000 reviews.

 

I would still speculate however that for smaller businesses, (that a consumer might not be already familiar with) the number of verified reviews they have generated (combined with a good score of course) is a more effective first impression in paid search. For big brands, especially if they have a high street presence, consumers may simply require a quick reassurance that their mode of delivery is efficient, or that there are no glaring issues in ordering online from them.

 

What happens next?

  

If we accept the speculation that landing pages from Ad campaigns will have slightly higher click through rates, the importance of displaying on-page reviews would become that much more important. We previously discussed why product reviews in particular are such a powerful sales tool, and their importance simply shifts towards later in the sales funnel.

 

On the subject of the age of reviews that I discussed earlier, while reviews can maintain relevance for merchants in monitoring trends and providing business intelligence, how long before they are no longer useful for consumers?

 

Is the experience of a customer from 5 years prior less relevant than one left yesterday? Should there eventually be a weighting, or consideration of this in Google’s rating out of 5?

 

What else is being tested?

 

“Seller Reviews” versus “Advertiser Rating”

 

On certain Ads the phrase “advertiser rating” is appearing alongside the stars rather than the previous “seller reviews”.

 

ultimate travel company

 

 

advertiser ratings

 

 

Location of Ads – top versus bottom of the page

 

Ads occasionally only appear at the bottom of search results.

 

ads at bottom of search results

 

 

How Ads are Identified

 

Occasionally Ads appear against a white background, with a more prominently identified ‘Ad’ icon.

 

Expedia adwords

 

 

 

What do you think about the number of reviews versus ratings debate? And what of the other variables that seem to be being tested?

none