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Shoppers Like Peer Reviews

Aug 1, 2008

The popularity of shoppers' online reviews of products is leading to the use of peer reviews in emails, too. Customer reviews are fast becoming a mainstay of Internet retailing. Many shoppers are found to seek out and rely on the opinions of their peers when making a buying decision, eschewing marketing copy for what they perceive to be more objective information.

As more retailers adopt customer reviews, a new trend in email marketing is emerging. Online merchants are beginning to use customer reviews to bolster marketing copy in an attempt to increase sales, and email marketers are finding that they can leverage customer reviews to create more impactful promotional messages.

"A customer sees a product with positive customer reviews as almost pre-approved, it's almost guaranteed to be good," said Julie M. Katz, an email marketing consultant with Forrester Research Inc. "People like to hear stories from other consumers who have used a product, and that is where reviews come into play, information from real people instead of a marketer who is trained to like a product," Katz added. "More consumers are using ratings and reviews, and eRetailers can increase revenue gained through email marketing by using customer reviews."

Customer reviews seem well on their way to becoming an Internet retailing staple, according to a study by JupiterResearch. In the survey, 77 percent of online shoppers use customer reviews when purchasing. And 80 percent of online shoppers said they place more trust in brands that offer customer reviews, according to a study by research firm, Vizu and Bazaarvoice, a reviews technology vendor.

"The reasons a retailer should consider reviews are, first, because shoppers are looking for authentic, relevant, credible content, and, second, because retailers always are looking for ways to build trust and confidence among shoppers," said Sam Decker, chief marketing officer at Bazaarvoice, during the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

The four primary objectives of implementing customer reviews, Decker said, are attracting new customers, decreasing shopping cart abandonment, increasing online sales and solidifying customer loyalty. Email marketing is a key tool that eRetailers can use to drive adoption of customer reviews and build up the number of reviews on a site, Decker added.

"ERetailers can send out an email announcing the launch of customer reviews to customers who have made a purchase in the last three to six months, inviting them to visit the site and make their voice heard," he suggested. "Then send emails to customers two to six weeks after they purchase a product," he added, concluding, "a best practice for the latter is to include a link within the email, taking customers directly to a review form."

Organizations that tap into the power of ratings and reviews are showing a type of transparency customers can appreciate, agreed Matthew Seeley, CEO of Experian CheetahMail, an email marketing firm. "Anything a marketer can do to build a sense of community and elevate the customer voice will be incredibly powerful," he explained.

However, while some experts see reviews as a treasure just waiting to be exploited, others caution that inclusion of Web 2.0 features, whether they be reviews, videos, blog posts or others, can actually send marketing emails off message.

"As soon as you start playing around with more stuff embedded in an email, the more you are using email marketing as a standalone channel, which is not what it should be," warned Adam Sarner, an analyst who specializes in email marketing at research and consulting firm, Gartner Inc.

"Retailers should not be spending time on that as much as they should the quality of the message and who they're sending the message to. Social media can be a distraction. Email marketing messages must be a pointer to your website, not a standalone experience."

Information in this article was edited from a story on InternetRetailers.com.

Topic: Business Strategies

Related Articles: marketing  online shopping 

Article ID: 714

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