About three years ago the world went ratings and reviews mad. It was the number-one website must-have and we couldn’t keep up with news of online retailers installing third-party reviews software on their websites or developing their own ratings systems.
Reviews hit the headlines again recently, with news of people trolling reviews sites like Tripadvisor intentionally leaving unfounded negative comments. But despite being in the news for all the wrong reasons, reviews can still be a force for good.
It’s widely accepted that consumers trust other people’s reviews, and for many online retailers, the content is already there, so why haven’t more direct sellers made use of the feedback in their offline marketing?
Muddy Puddles, a catalogue of outdoor clothing for children, is on what seems to be a very short list of cataloguers using their online products reviews in their direct mail. And I’m scratching my head as to why.
At Muddy Puddles, the company uses its online user-generated content in the form of testimonials: “Cosy and well designed. Perfect for playing in the snow and skiing”, says one customer of the Performance Mitt; “The fleece is so beautifully soft and snuggly, my son wants to wear it all the time”, says another of the Hooded Fleece. To validate the claims, Muddy Puddles publishes a logo of Feefo, the independent reviews system it uses, with its 99 percent service rating.
Industrial equipment catalogue Slingsby also uses Feefo to gather customer feedback online, and featured a spread of reviewed products on its Work It magalogue, while businesswear cataloguer/retailer Charles Tyrwhitt, which I know also uses the same provider, uses testimonials from satisfied customers in its catalogues, but doesn’t necessarily attribute them to the online reviews system.
In my opinion, cataloguers can leverage reviews to be even more practical than that. People read reviews because they are looking for advice on whether the product will meet their needs. To put this in context, I need a new hairbrush, but the one I have been buying at the Body Shop since I was 16 years old, is no longer on sale. The brush in its place is not quite the same: “I thought this was the same as my lovely old one with smooth pins--please bring those back”, pleads one customer on the Body Shop’s website. Another two-star review says the brush didn’t suit her thick curly hair. These two reviews led me to go back and look at a different brush, which had a higher customer rating and lots of praise on its detangling prowess. That’s the one that got the sale.
So how about incorporating advice from online reviews in your catalogues to guide customers to right purchase? For example, apparel cataloguers could use reviews that advise on size: “Sizes quite large, so if you’re in-between sizes, order the smaller one…” Or a for homewares title, a review that can be used to cross-sell an item: “I was devastated when the Classic Bath Towels were discontinued, but the Royale range makes a fabulous alternative.”
Another tactic is a twist on an old favourite. I flicked through a dozen or so catalogues while writing this blog and found lots that spotlighted their best selling products but none that gave the products a rating—how about, next to one of your best-selling lines, adding a relevant five-star review, or even just a five-star graphic to draw the eye?
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is that by carefully selecting your online reviews for use in your offline material, you’re putting user-generated content firmly back under your control.--MT