In the past, Black Friday marked the official start of the holiday shopping season. But this year, things are looking a lot different.
For many consumers, the 2020 holiday shopping season is already well underway. According to a survey from Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights, 70% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping before Black Friday.
And there has been no shortage of opportunities for these shoppers to get an early start. Amazon held its annual Prime Day in October, and major retailers including Target and Walmart followed suit with earlier-than-usual holiday sales.
The way consumers shop this holiday season is expected to look a lot different, too. The phrase “holiday shopping” often conjures up visions of shoppers lined up outside of stores on Thanksgiving, waiting to get the best deals on the season’s hottest toys or electronics. But this year, experts predict more consumers will limit in-store visits (or forgo them altogether) in favor of shopping online. Deloitte predicts overall holiday retail sales will remain relatively flat compared to last year. But eCommerce sales are expected to grow by 25-35%.
Leveraging UGC to Engage Holiday Shoppers
Shopping behavior has shifted significantly. This year, more than ever, retailers are under pressure to find ways to effectively engage with holiday shoppers.
The good news is, user-generated content (UGC), including ratings and reviews and Q&A, is a great tool to engage holiday shoppers, even in today’s “contactless” world. What’s more, it’s a powerful tool that these shoppers depend on to find great gifts. A survey from our friends at Bazaarvoice found that product reviews are the second most important decision factor when choosing between two gift options. In fact, it’s second only to price.
In our last post, we explored how UGC can help you boost sales, decrease returns and foster loyalty this holiday season. In this post, we’ll focus on five steps you can take to see the largest ROI from UGC during the busiest shopping season of the year -- and beyond.
Pro Tip #1: Invite User-Generated Content
It might seem obvious, but we’re going to say it anyway. You can’t expect to see a positive impact from UGC this holiday season unless you have plenty of it.
Make it a priority to collect fresh reviews and shopper questions for plenty of your products -- especially those you plan to feature this holiday season. And notice we used the word “fresh.” That’s because our friends at Bazaarvoice found that nearly half (44%) of consumers think the date when a review was written is either important or very important to their purchase decision. In other words, if a review or question is too old, holiday shoppers might disregard it altogether.
On each of your product pages, make it clear that you welcome user-generated content like reviews and Q&A. For example, this children’s clothing brand has “write a review” and “ask a question” buttons prominently displayed on each of its product pages.
But remember: while many shoppers will happily write a review, most won’t do it without being asked. So be sure to send all of your customers an email or SMS message (or both!), asking them to submit reviews for the products they’ve recently purchased.
Here’s an example of a post purchase email from the same children’s clothing company we mentioned earlier. This email is a great example because it’s short and sweet, it includes clickable images of the products to jog the shopper’s memory, and it lets the shopper know they’ll be entered into a drawing for a gift card if they submit a review. What’s more, the email is easy to read and engage with on a mobile device.
Pro Tip #2: Simplify the Process for Writing a Review and Submitting a Question
Spoiler alert: if a shopper runs into an issue when submitting a review or question, they’re likely to abandon the process altogether. So be sure the submission process for reviews and questions is quick and easy and doesn’t require a lot of clicks.
Your shoppers should be able to click through the followup email or SMS message you sent requesting a review. And they should easily be able to write reviews for all products from the same transaction. To take things a step further, Amazon does a great job allowing customers to write reviews for all products they’ve purchased over time -- right from one page.
Of course, the process for writing reviews or submitting a question should be optimized for mobile, as today’s shoppers are never far away from their mobile devices.
Tip #3: Encourage Detailed Reviews
Shoppers depend on reviews to make informed purchase decisions. This is especially true during the holidays, when consumers are shopping for products they don’t normally buy. For example, a man might be shopping for perfume for his mother-in-law. Or a single woman might be shopping for a toy for her preschool-aged niece.
But let’s face it: some reviews are more helpful than others.
Imagine you’re shopping for a water table for a three year old relative. This review from Erica in North Carolina is really detailed -- it touches on the quality of the product, the ages it’s good for, and some issues she encountered with assembly (along with some helpful tips). As someone who’s shopping for a water table and doesn’t know much about what kids like, this is all really helpful feedback.
This reviewer, Pearl, also wrote a five star review for the same product. But it’s a lot less detailed -- and therefore, less helpful.
The takeaway? Do what you can to encourage detailed reviews from your shoppers. This is the type of content that your future shoppers will engage with -- and it’s what’ll help them make better purchase decisions.
A great way to generate detailed reviews is to prompt reviewers with specific questions. For example, if a shopper purchased this jacket, you can ask them for details about how the item fit, as well as the top pros and cons of the jacket. And this detailed feedback can help future shoppers find the products that’ll best suit them.
Tip #4: Shine the Spotlight on Your UGC
UGC can give holiday shoppers the confidence they need to convert. And a critical way to ensure holiday shoppers engage with your product reviews and Q&A is to make sure this content is easy to find and consume.
Skechers does a great job with this. Right at the top of the page, the shopper can see that this product has 313 reviews and has an average star rating of just under 5.
If the shopper scrolls down a bit, they see a really great “snapshot” of the review content. They can easily sort and filter to find the content that’s most relevant to them (or the person they’re buying a gift for).
Finally, the shopper can read questions that have already been asked by other shoppers via Q&A. And if they still have outstanding questions, they can easily submit them by clicking the blue button.
Tip #5: Respond to Reviews and Q&A
Every time you receive a review or a customer question, you’re given a golden opportunity to engage with a shopper and build lasting relationships. So be sure to engage!
Respond to reviews, giving priority to negative ones -- especially those mentioning health or safety issues. A quick, thoughtful response can turn a bad situation around. What’s more, your response shows future shoppers that you value and care about your customers -- which can give them the confidence they need to make a purchase.
If a shopper submits a question, answer it as soon as possible. In fact, Amazon’s recommendation is to respond to shoppers’ questions in near real time. If your response is delayed, you’re likely to lose the shopper to another brand.
Managing and responding to all of your reviews and customer questions can be challenging. This is especially true if you sell your products through a number of different channels. It’s easy for a review or question to slip through the cracks!
But if you’re a Reputation Studio customer, you can see and respond to all reviews and customer questions from one dashboard -- regardless of where the content was submitted. You can even get alerts when a question is asked or a review falls below a certain star level or includes certain keywords. That way, you can respond quickly.
UGC: Your Secret Ingredient to a Happy Holiday Season
The 2020 holiday shopping season will be unlike any we’ve seen before. And while it may be more challenging to engage with shoppers at a time when online shopping has become a lot more prevalent, it’s certainly not impossible.
UGC can be a powerful way to connect with shoppers and drive sales this holiday season (and beyond). And by using the tips we’ve covered in this blog, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the most impact from UGC.
Best of luck for a happy holiday season!