Social Media For E-Commerce Starts with Customer Reviews

By Kaitlyn Smeland Dhanaliwala | Jun 16, 2009
More Articles by Kaitlyn


Yesterday at Search Marketing Sage, Amanda Chaney gave some pointers on how businesses should use social media.  The first pointer she gives is to truly listen to what customers say on social media platforms.  Furthermore, once a business starts engaging in the conversation with customers, it should not merely be selling.

Amanda focuses mostly on Twitter in her post, but another social medium which is particularly relevant for e-commerce site is the tried-and-true customer review.  Customer reviews may not be the first things that come to mind when you think “social media,” but they are an excellent way to start the kinds of conversations customers value.  Plus, monitoring customer reviews is just plain good reputation management.  If you do not know what your customers are saying about you in customer reviews, you are missing a prime opportunity to improve their experiences and improve your brand equity.

Christopher Musico from Destination CRM cites a study by Opinion Research Corp which shows that 84% of all respondents said that customer reviews influenced their decision to purchase to some extent.  Furthermore, customers are beginning to pay attention to customer reviews in completely new product categories.  For example, the percentage of respondents who claimed to read customer reviews for food items (36%) increased by 12 points over the 2008 study.  The most popular product segments for customer review use were:

  • travel, recreation, leisure (80%)
  • electronics (78%)
  • household products/services (70%)
  • clothing (60%)
  • automotive (56%)
  • personal care (45%)
  • food (36%)
So how do you use customer reviews for your products as an entree to dialogue with your customers?
  1. Know where the customer reviews are. Do you offer a product review feature on your own site?  Do you sell through other major retailers like Amazon or Best Buy?  Are your products listed in the Google Products database?  All these channels offer customer review features.  You should also monitor sites like Epinions.com or industry-specific bookmarking or review sites.
  2. Learn how to monitor reviews effectively. Start with a list of places where you know your products are listed.  Monitor the reviews on these sites frequently.  (At least daily would be ideal, as a rapid response to an unsatisfied customer will make more of an impact than a response that is a week late).  But your product might be reviewed on sites you don’t know about.  For this, consider setting up a Google Alert so that you are notified by email whenever new content around your brand is indexed in the Google search engine results.
  3. Listen. Listening to what customers have to say about your product can yield valuable information in itself.  While it’s true that there might be a bias toward reviewing products for which customers have had a bad experience, it’s a good idea to pay attention to these problems.  If you sense a recurring theme with a particular product feature, then the development end needs to know.  If the issue is that customers cannot figure out how to use the product properly, then you know to focus on the support end.
  4. Participate. Only after really listening to understand the issue should you engage through the comments or message board medium.   Once you know the issue and have alerted the appropriate internal departments to systemic product- or service-side issues, then you still have a chance to help the customer.  If the customers are confused about a feature or how to use the product, offer advice or send them to the right place.  If the customer is irate over an unpleasant ordering process, apologize for the bad experience and consider offering some sort of credit to give the company another try.
As social media go, customer reviews have been around for a while.  Although they are most often considered tools for consumers, they can easily be transformed into a feedback loop between customers and e-retailers.  Don’t forget about them!

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