Globally, online customer ratings and reviews have evolved into an essential, trusted influence over brand awareness, product sales and even product design in the consumer packaged goods industry.
However, in Australia and New Zealand, despite the huge shift in consumer preference towards shopping online for groceries in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies have been slow to catch on to the raft of benefits of allowing consumer reviews – some wrongly fearful of the potential exposure to negative reviews.
Bazaarvoice, a company that offers user-generated content solutions for brands and, has forged close partnerships with Coles and other grocery giants and FMCG brands in Australia and New Zealand. The company also works with Officeworks, Dan Murphy’s and Chemist Warehouse.
Using Bazaarvoice, FMCG brands can sign up to Coles’ ratings program, start generating content and share the results across the retailer’s website. The reviews collected by the brands are proven to inspire brand confidence among shoppers and boost online sales for both the products and the supermarket.
“A lot of brand managers may not know that they’ve got an opportunity to influence the number of reviews that can be shown on Cole’s website by partnering with Bazaarvoice,” explains Kate Musgrove, MD APAC at Bazaarvoice. “They can collect genuine consumer reviews, either through their own social channels, or by using our 45,000-strong Influenster community across Australia to get shoppers to test their products and provide feedback about them.”
(Influenster, described as a social shopping experience where community meets commerce, was acquired by Bazaarvoice in 2019.)
All of the reviews shown by Coles have been collected by brands and shared across the Coles website using Bazaarvoice. One manufacturer, Colgate-Palmolive, has achieved an 87.7-per-cent review coverage across the 57 products it stocks at Coles Online.
Skincare brand E45 used Bazaarvoice’s sampling solution and collected over 600 reviews in just three months. Between June and August last year these reviews were shared and displayed on Chemist Warehouse using Bazaarvoice’s syndication tool, positively impacting the conversion rate on E45 hero products by 42 per cent.
Coles welcomes the digital-first solution. “We are always looking for ways to make life easier for our customers and enabling Coles Online customers to read ratings and reviews of products on our site helps them better understand the product they are purchasing and instils trust in their purchasing decision,” says Cameron McPherson, e-commerce manager at Coles.
Reviews and ratings boost more than sales for brands
According to the 2020 Bazaarvoice Network ROI benchmarks, when a CPG brand interacts with user-generated content, brands and retailers see a 127-per-cent lift in conversion and a 120-per-cent increase in revenue per visitor.
Impressive as those figures may be, aggregating user-generated reviews and ratings can have further impact on a brand than boosting topline sales. Musgrove says they can help boost a brand’s reputation and market awareness as well.
“As part of collecting customer reviews you collect a huge amount of data. If you start to dig deeper into how consumers are talking about your product, often a marketer will find a better way to market a product or to adjust their tone of voice to reach the target consumers they’re looking to get their product in front of.
“All the content that comes through the review is tagged so it can be sliced and diced by a marketer, or a product development person within the business to say, okay, we’ve learned here that this is not great.”
In one such example, Nestle changed an active ingredient which altered the taste of a tea product in the US. The average consumer rating of the product out of five dropped by around half a point. Nestle listened to its customers, restored the original formula and the sales trajectory – and ratings – returned to the point before the change was introduced.
“So it enables a brand to act really quickly,” reflects Musgrove. “Waiting for that feedback to come through other channels in the market can be really damaging to a brand and also to sales and profit if you’re not getting that feedback quickly.”
Brands also have the opportunity to respond to negative reviews on the Bazaarvoice system, something that can be a challenge on traditional social-media channels.
“Sometimes it might be the misuse of a product that will cause a consumer to leave a negative review. By collecting reviews on their own website, brands are able to respond quickly to consumers so that people understand that actually it’s a misuse error versus anything fundamentally wrong with the product. That also drives changes to product detail pages and product descriptions. If you compare a product detail page for groceries to one for a washing machine, for example, there’s a lot less information on groceries. It’s better than it was in the past, but reviews are playing a great part in helping fill out a whole product picture if you’re a CPG product on a retailer’s website.”
In another example of an FMCG retailer proactively using Bazaarvoice’s solution to build customer engagement, a Dan Murphy’s store on Sydney’s Northern Beaches created a curated offering of products that customers had rated four stars or higher. Since then, the concept has been taken a step further with QR code-bearing tags placed on shelves for customers to scan and learn more about the product on their phones.
“You can pull up the product detail page in store to see the ratings and reviews, or what food you would pair with a wine for example. It’s a first for the Australian market but it has been happening for ages overseas.”
Software ensures integrity of reviews
A common concern in online ratings is that they might be open to manipulation from competitors, spammers or consumers with an ulterior motive. Bazaarvoice has addressed this issue by implementing fraud-detection across its platform, monitoring IP addresses and a device’s digital fingerprint when a comment is posted, to ensure the review is free from fraud or spam.
“We are looking at trends across different reviews submitted, as well as looking at the individual review and when we know it’s a verified purchase,” explains Musgrove. “We have badges on reviews to call out that it’s a verified purchaser. Another important thing is if the reviews are generated off the back of a free product which consumers can get on our Influenster platform, we declare that the review was left in return for a free product to try.”
Meanwhile, Musgrove says FMCG companies should not shy away from encouraging reviews of their products.
“If you don’t proactively go out and ask consumers to leave a review, you will find that your reviews are overwhelmingly negative, because the people that are inspired to leave them are typically raters who have had a really bad product experience and they want to vent.
“When we start partnering with a lot of companies, they’re really scared of negative reviews, because they see them on different platforms. But once they start running a program that reaches out to consumers who they know and who try their products – that is a tipping point. The overwhelming number – typically 90 per cent of the reviews – are positive, and you’ll have only 10 per cent at the most where they are rated low.”
A typical product on Bazaarvoice’s platform will have an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars.
Across the global Bazaarvoice Network, more than 1 billion consumers create, view and share user-generated content including reviews, questions and answers, and social photos across more than 11,500 global brand and retailer websites. Founded in 2005, the company launched in Australia seven years ago. It partners with eight of Australia’s 10 largest retailers.