May 8, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Influencer marketing has gotten some negative press lately, with advertisers voicing understandable concerns about issues like attribution and return on investment.
In June 2018, Unilever CMO Keith Weed went so far as to tell a crowd gathered at Cannes that his company would no longer work with influencers who inflated their follower counts by simply buying them.
“We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever,” Weed said in a statement that was picked up by several media outlets.1
When it comes to influencers, Weed’s skeptical gaze is understandable. Unilever’s relationships with influencers who have fake followers has been well documented. For example, analytics company Points North Group estimated that 25% of the followers of influencers working with Unilever brand Dove in 2018 were fake.
The Influencer Paradox
Despite this, the practice of influencer marketing is still drawing significant outlays from advertisers. Points North also estimated that North American marketers spent more than $1 billion on influencers in 2018.2
eMarketer estimates that, worldwide, marketers are allocating about 10% of their budgets to influencers on average, and that marketers plan to continue increasing their spending on the strategy.3
Marketers are stuck in something of an influencer paradox. Influencer agency Mediakix surveyed marketers in January and found that 80% consider influencer marketing to be effective. But 50% also said that spotting fake followers and inauthentic engagement was their chief challenge with influencer marketing, more than any other factor.4
Go Micro for a Better Influencer Strategy
Influencer marketing is really just the digital equivalent of an old advertising standby—the celebrity endorsement. In the 90s, Michael Jordan was paid millions for hawking Nikes on TV. Today Kendall Jenner is reportedly pulling in six figures for sponsored posts potentially seen by her roughly 109 million followers.5
But as thinking around influencer marketing evolves, some brands and retailers are moving away from influencers that promise scale. Instead they’re getting replaced by so-called microinfluencers and nanoinfluencers.
These influencers have a fraction of the number of followers that the most famous celebrity influencers have, but often deliver much better levels of engagement.6
Your Shoppers Are Also Influencers
Why are these microinfluencers delivering better results for marketers? One key reason is because they’re seen as authentic sources of information, instead of celebrities looking to make a quick buck.
In that sense, microinfluencers have a lot in common with a resource eCommerce sites might not be taking full advantage of—their own customers.
Like influencer marketing, a Voice of the Customer strategy has proven benefits. Our research shows that 76% of shoppers are less likely to make a purchase from a site that lacks Customer-Generated Content like Ratings & Reviews. And 74% said Customer-Generated Content influenced their decision to shop on one site over another.
When a product is backed by other customers with content like Ratings & Reviews, it gives shoppers the social proof they might need to pull the trigger on a purchase—the same way an influencer endorsement might. Brands and retailers with online stores can benefit from this effect by taking a more expansive view of what an influencer looks like.
How TurnTo Can Help
Instagram’s meteoric growth was due in no small part to its mobile-first approach. Our Visual Reviews product was similarly created with smartphone users in mind, making it simple for them to submit a photo from their device instead of typing out a review.
Those photos can be displayed on your product detail page in a constantly updated gallery row, just like a social media feed. Converse’s site is a great example of how customer created visuals can be showcased on a product page.
TurnTo also partners with services like Curalate, which lets you integrate visually focused social media into product pages right alongside content submitted directly by customers.
In fact, TurnTo’s entire Customer-Generated Content product suite of Ratings & Reviews, Community Q&A, Visual Reviews™, and Checkout Comments™ is designed to help eCommerce sites gather more and better quality content from your customers.
Want to learn more?
1 Unilever to Crack Down on Influencers Who Buy Fake Followers and Use Bots; Adweek, June 18, 2018
2 Fake Followers Are Hard to Shake, According to New Report; Ad Age, February 6, 2019
3 Global Influencer Marketing 2019; eMarketer, March 5, 2019
4 Influencer Marketing 2019 Industry Benchmarks; Mediakix, January 2019
5 Preview: Kris Jenner as the Force Behind a Family Empire Worth Billions;
6 Are You Ready for the Nanoinfluencers?; New York Times, November 11, 2018
April 24, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods was founded in 1978 by Bob Moore and his wife Charlee, who turned their love of healthy foods and whole grains into a business with the goal of making high-quality natural and organic foods available to as many people as possible.
Today, Bob’s Red Mill is an employee-owned company with globally distributed products and a deeply passionate following—many of the company’s customers rely on it to provide quality gluten-free products due to their sensitivities or allergies.
We spoke with Kevin Irish, Digital Marketing Manager for Bob’s Red Mill, about how the company’s new Customer-Generated Content strategy helped to capture the passion of its most ardent customers for some powerful word-of-mouth marketing.
What was the problem Bob’s Red Mill faced before you revamped your Customer-Generated Content approach?
When I started, Bob’s Red Mill sent me to several food trade shows where thousands of attendees would come to our booth. At every single show a grown person would break down in tears while telling me their story. Bob’s Red Mill had made their life—or the life of someone they loved—manageable for the first time, mostly because they could finally deal with a food allergy.
Then I looked at our website, and none of that emotion was present. None. That was my guiding hypothesis for improving our Customer-Generated Content. If we gave our customers a platform to voice their love for us and our products, we would get lots of good content. And with TurnTo’s platform, I turned out to be right.
How did TurnTo’s products help the company?
Before TurnTo, all we had was a “write a review” button—and a poor user experience for those that clicked on it. There was no review solicitation. I crunched the numbers and found out we were getting about 1.3 pieces of Customer-Generated Content per day. After we implemented TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews and other products, that jumped to more than 115 submissions per day.
Bob’s Red Mill almost didn’t turn on TurnTo’s Checkout Comments at launch, correct?
Yes, that’s true. One of TurnTo’s customer success reps highly recommended that we include Checkout Comments in our implementation, which was the right call. It’s been a huge success for us, and a feature we never would have thought of ourselves.
Basically, Checkout Comments pops up on an order confirmation page and asks, “Why did you choose this?” We’re getting content gold from that, so much so that we rebuilt part of our website around it to include a visual pinboard of products that get responses.
We use a slightly customized API from TurnTo that lets us only show comments we think are worth displaying. It’s just pages and pages of comments raving about our products, all based on that one simple question at checkout.
Recipes are also a huge draw for the Bob’s Red Mill website, right?
Yes, about one-third of our traffic is to our recipe section. About 18 months ago a bug in the recipe section of our website took our entire site down. When we brought the site back online we completely remade the recipe platform. A large part of that was to integrate TurnTo’s reviews and Community Q&A into the recipes.
On our old recipe platform users were leaving reviews for recipes that were actually questions. Things like, “Can I use almond milk instead of cow’s milk?” We weren’t really serving our customers’ needs.
With TurnTo’s Community Q&A customers didn’t need to leave a question in a review, they could just ask our recipe pros what would work. We soft-launched the feature without telling anybody and our first organic question came in 30 minutes later. We had 260 questions in the first month.
TurnTo even went back to the old questions that customers left in reviews and paired them with answers. Then they imported that content into the new Community Q&A feature so we wouldn’t lose all of that historical information.
Anything else to add?
I’ve worked with other “top players” for Customer-Generated Content collection in the past and was always really disappointed. They nickel and dimed us, lacked support and weren’t open to any changes to personalize or customize their platforms.
TurnTo met all of those basic needs and then offered us even more features. We love how much of the platform is open via API, and how well documented it is. It’s been a perfect partnership.
To learn more about how TurnTo helped Bob’s Red Mill improve their Customer-Generated Content strategy, see our recent case study with the company. You can also watch a presentation Kevin Irish gave on the benefits of TurnTo at Shop.org 2018.
Want to find out how TurnTo can help you?
April 11, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Tired of reading clickbait about Millennials’ love of avocado toast? Here’s some good news: GenZ is the next new generation, and over the next few years, people are going to be working hard to figure out this vibrant and dynamic group—the first truly digital native generation.
The boundaries of the US’s youngest generation are still somewhat fuzzy, but the Pew Research Center defines Gen Z as those born in 1997 or later.1
What sets Gen Z apart from its predecessors? For starters, it’s the most racially and ethnically diverse generation the US has ever seen—a group with even greater diversity than Millennials, according to Pew.
Gen Z Has Truly Digital-First Media Habits
It also consumes media in a fundamentally different way than any of its forebears. The oldest Gen Zers were only 10 years old when Apple released the first iPhone; smartphones are likely their default method for heading online.
The Center for Generational Kinetics reports that 95% of Gen Zers had a smartphone in 2018. Their survey also revealed that 61% of Gen Zers spent at least five hours on their smartphone per day, and that more than one-quarter spent a daily average of 10 hours or more with the devices.2
With so much of their time spent on smartphones, legacy media channels like TV hold significantly less sway over them than older generations. That means marketers can have a tough time reaching them at scale through more traditional advertising methods.
Teens and the Power of Recommendations and Reviews
Those media habits could make Gen Z a tough nut for online merchants to crack. But some new research from Social Media Link found that there are still some things that do exert a lot of influence over their purchase decisions: recommendations and reviews.3
According to the company’s survey, nearly all Gen Zers (96%) said they often read recommendations or reviews for products they were thinking about buying.
These young shoppers also relied heavily on their personal networks for guidance on purchase decisions. 80% of teens looked to friends and family for recommendations about new products and brands, making it their No. 1 source for those types of endorsements.
But online reviews were almost as popular with Gen Zers, with nearly eight in 10 accessing them for insights on potential purchases and brands. In fact, reviews were a bigger influence on their purchase decisions than social media, influencers, and even ads.
Social Media Link also found that these young shoppers aren’t just likely to read product reviews. They’re also highly predisposed to writing them as well. More than 90% of Gen Zers wrote product reviews at least some of the time, and more than a quarter wrote one for every product or service they used.
To sum up the research:
- 96% of Gen Zers often read ratings and reviews about things they’re thinking about buying.
- Members of the generation tend to look first to friends and family for product recommendations, but online reviews are a close second.
- Gen Zers are not just reading reviews; more than 9 in 10 also write them for at least some purchases
- Gen Z spends substantially more time on smartphones than with older media platforms like TV
To Reach Gen Z, Think Mobile-First
Just like our entire product suite, Ratings & Reviews is mobile-first and uses responsive design principles to make reviews submitted on a smartphone frictionless. To be clear, we’re not just making things look pretty on mobile devices. We’re changing the way content is collected based on smartphone users’ behavior.
It’s an approach that makes things as easy as possible for Gen Zers on smartphones—who, remember, are already primed to write reviews—to submit more content about their purchases to eCommerce sites.
TurnTo’s Visual Reviews™ takes this mobile-first approach a step further. Its visual-first collection flow lets shoppers send photos and videos to eCommerce sites with just a few taps. As a result, eCommerce sites get to bank even more content on their product pages, and customers don’t even have to type anything out.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo’s innovative products can help you connect with Gen Z?
1 Defining Generations: Where Millennials End and Generation Z Begins; Pew Research Center, January 2019
2 How Obsessed is Gen Z with Mobile Technology?; The Center for Generational Kinetics, 2018
3 Infographic: 27% of Gen Zers Say They Always Write a Product Review After Making a Purchase; Adweek, April 2018
March 27, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
At first blush, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page might seem like a dated throwback to the earliest days of the web—more dial-up internet than sophisticated eCommerce selling tool. But an FAQ page is actually a crucial part of a modern digital strategy for eCommerce sites.
A well-crafted FAQ page can free a customer who’s hit a friction point, and then ease them back toward a conversion. The proactive nature of FAQs can also reduce customer service costs by eliminating a shopper’s need to reach out to your customer support team.
Most brands understand the importance of FAQs, according to recent research from Gartner L2. The research company found that more than 85% of brands it examined had put FAQs in their sites’ primary or secondary navigation1, a clear nod to how important they’ve become for eCommerce companies.
But it’s not just about serving your shoppers. FAQs provide a source of high-quality, searchable content that can be used by several other systems in your eCommerce toolbox.
Here are 5 ways that eCommerce sites can max out the usefulness of their FAQs:
1. Give the People What They Want
Customer service communications are a great way to identify problem areas and figure what content you should be putting in your FAQ. Is your customer service team fielding the same questions over and over again? That’s a sure sign that your website is either failing to include the information your customers actually want, or that the particulars are difficult for them to find.
Remember, good FAQ pages are about specifics: How do I use this coupon I received in the mail? How long will it take for my new rug to be delivered? Both the question and the answer should zero in on a clearly defined issue.
2. Keep It Simple
Now you know what information your customers are looking for, so make sure you actually give it to them. Keep your answers short and clear; your language should mirror the question being asked. Don’t be afraid to play around with tone either. You can use jargon or slang if your target audience is a niche one that will get it, but only as long as it’s consistent with your overall brand voice.
3. If You Have a Lot of Questions, Group by Topic
Gartner L2’s research found that nearly nine in 10 brands organized their FAQ pages by topic, highlighting a best practice. By grouping a lengthy list of FAQs by topic you’re giving shoppers a better user experience by organizing your content and giving them some visual breathing room, rather than wall of text. You’re also make it easier for shoppers to scan content that’s similar in nature, and might be related to their original question.
WhatsApp, for example, does a great job of breaking up its FAQ by device, platform and vertical. The service rightly assumes that WhatsApp Business users are more likely to have more questions in common with one another than with WhatsApp users on an iPhone.
4. Guide Your Shoppers Back to the Purchase Funnel
FAQs should be a detour on the customer journey, not a dead end. Include links in your FAQs that will guide your shoppers back to the path to purchase, but only when they’re relevant. Think hard about using calls-to-action that serve shoppers’ interests first and foremost, not yours.
5. Search Should Be Top-of-Mind
Shockingly, Gartner L2 found that only about one-quarter of brand sites it analyzed took the effort to make their FAQ pages searchable. Big box brands were leaders in this regard, while fashion and hotel brands lagged behind. Both retailers and brands can benefit from instituting good SEO practices on their eCommerce site’s FAQ pages.
Start by creating a multipage FAQ instead of cramming all of the information on one page. You can add a search bar to your FAQ page if you think it will help shoppers get to the answers to their questions faster, or if you have a lot of information for customers to parse through.
How TurnTo’s Community Q&A Can Help with eCommerce FAQs
TurnTo developed its Community Q&A product to deliver fast answers to shopper questions from a resource they trust: other customers who’ve already bought the product. Answers to questions submitted to Community Q&A come from a number of sources. They can be drawn from previously answered questions, product Ratings & Reviews, as well as other relevant product content.
In addition, with TurnTo’s Community Q&A your FAQ pages—and any other pages on your website for that matter—are searchable, giving shoppers instant answers from both customers and your own in-house experts at the same time.
One of the major benefits of TurnTo’s Community Q&A is that it keeps shoppers on your product detail page even when they have a question that’s unrelated to a particular item.
In the example above, a customer on a product detail page wants information about Cole Haan’s shipping and tracking features. Community Q&A can serve up an answer without forcing a shopper to navigate to another page, removing a customer’s potential digression from a conversion.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo’s Community Q&A can help?
1 Helping Customers Help Themselves; Gartner L2, March 2019
March 21, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Is eCommerce in the midst of a voice search revolution? Maybe.
But so far there’s little evidence to show that voice has had a dramatic effect on the way shoppers are buying things online.
Consider the following: an August 2018 survey from Social Lens Research found that just 10% of shoppers had purchased a new product using a voice command.1
And even though smart speakers like the Amazon Alexa have seen rapid adoption rates2, they have yet to move the needle in purchasing behaviors in any substantial way. Last year, tech news site The Information reported that only 2% of Alexa owners had ever used the smart speaker to make a purchase.3
Why Hasn’t Voice Commerce Taken Off?
Alexa, what’s the holdup?
Voice is well-suited for shoppers reordering regular purchases who already know what they want to buy—things like paper towels and laundry detergent. In those instances, voice is saving customers the trouble of typing, tapping, or clicking their repeat orders.
But voice isn’t always as good at helping shoppers on the path of discovery, those who might not know exactly what they want. These customers are likely to read product details, compare prices, and scan product Ratings & Reviews. That kind of browsing can become kludgy—if not downright impossible—for shoppers using a voice-only interface.
In one survey, RetailMeNot found that more than half of customers didn’t want to shop using a smart speaker because they wanted to see an item before they bought it, even if it was just an online picture.4
The takeaway? eCommerce sites can’t ignore the old way of doing things, even as voice search looms on the horizon. Traditional product detail pages that include visuals are still valuable.
And Customer-Generated Content—not just written reviews, but also rich media like shopper-submitted photos and videos you’d find in Visual Reviews—can help serve customer needs and guide them towards a purchase.
Voice Search Isn’t Just About Smart Speakers
Also, the conversation around voice tends to miss a key point: voice search isn’t just about smart speakers. eMarketer estimates that there will be 74.2 million smart speaker users in the US this year.5 But the company also projects that US smartphone users will number 232.2 million in 2019.6
In other words, there will be more than three times as many smartphone users as smart speaker users this year. And nearly everyone with a smartphone can access a voice assistant like Google Assistant, Siri, or even Amazon’s Alexa app. In fact, the Social Lens Research study found that 91% of voice commands are made on smartphones.
The New User Experience is Voice
Unlike shoppers using smart speakers, smartphone users who start their search with a voice query are likely to migrate from the voice interface to review results on their device’s screen. For these customers, voice is just another touchpoint on their path to purchase. Research, browsing, and even conversion can still take place on a more traditional interface: a screen.
As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that worked well in a pre-voice search world should also deliver results today, and in the near future. But there are still a few unique factors to voice SEO that ecommerce sites should keep in mind.
How to Optimize Your eCommerce Site for Voice SEO
- Speed matters. This is a fundamental pillar of all SEO. Search engines just like websites that are optimized for fast load times. There are a host of tools out there, such as Google’s Page Speed Insights, that can help you make your pages faster.
- Embrace natural language. In the world of voice search, queries are getting longer and more closely resemble how we talk, rather than how we type. TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews and Community Q&A products can help by populating your product detail pages with “conversational content” written by real people—your customers—that delivers better search results for voice users.
- Support snippets. Google’s “rich snippets” are the details placed between the URL and description of a search result. As we pointed out in our last blog post, TurnTo’s widget platform is fully indexable by Google. That means that Google searches will return the average star rating and number of reviews of your product pages right on the search engine results page. And that usually means better conversions.
- Answer questions. Voice searchers are more likely to phrase their queries in the form of a question. Bolstering your site’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page can help with voice SEO because FAQ pages include both a question and an answer, something that’s irresistible to search engines. Just make sure the answers you supply are accurate and succinct.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo can help?
1 Voice Commands: Current State; Social Lens Research, October 2018
2 Smart Speakers Hit Critical Mass in 2018; TechCrunch, December 2018
3 The Reality Behind Voice Shopping Hype; The Information, August 2018
4 The 2019 Retailer Playbook; RetailMeNot, November 2018
5 Global Smart Speaker Users 2019; eMarketer, January 2019
6 eMarketer: US Smartphone Usage Will Grow 3% to 232.8M People This Year; March 2019
May 28, 2015 by John Swords
[Updated October 11, 2015 to reflect changes Internet Retailer made to their 2015 Top 500 database since the date this was first published.]
According to the newest data from the leading trade publication, Internet Retailer, TurnTo Networks Inc. is the fastest-growing user-generated content (UGC) solution provider to the “IR500” – the top 500 online retailers in North America.
Of the top 3 solution providers in Internet Retailer’s “Customer Reviews and Forums” category – TurnTo, Bazaarvoice, and PowerReviews – only TurnTo showed significant growth from the 2014 tally to 2015. The number of top 500 retailers using TurnTo grew by 53% during the period, while the number using Bazaarvoice declined 3% and the number using PowerReviews declined 12%.
Measured by the annual web sales of the retailers served, the results were even more dramatic. TurnTo grew 198% during the period, while Bazaarvoice grew 2% and PowerReviews declined 1%. Additionally, the Internet Retailer 2015 research shows that 50% of the annual web sales of the PowerReviews customer base is represented by a single customer. Excepting this, the total annual web sales of TurnTo’s IR500 customers would be ahead of PowerReviews and second only to Bazaarvoice overall.
I had a quick chat with our CEO, George Eberstadt, to get his thoughts on the reasons for this growth.
Me: George, the first thing people are going to ask on seeing these numbers is what’s driving them. So, what’s driving them?
George: First let me say – and I don’t want to be too saccharine about this – it’s humbling and gratifying to get this kind of trust from these businesses. The alternatives have been around a while, so we recognize that the retailers adopting us are making a bold move rather than the safe choice.
And I think that’s the short answer to your question. The customer-generated content space hasn’t seen much bold innovation for a while, and retailers that are tired of the same-old haven’t had alternatives – especially at the enterprise level. We bring the fresh perspective, smart innovation, and fanatical commitment that a lot of retailers are looking for.
Me: Can you put your finger on any particular TurnTo innovations that the market has been responding to?
George: I think it’s a mix – some big, some subtle. For example, we were the first to introduce the “active outreach” mechanism for getting fast community answers to shopper questions. That was really the breakthrough that makes community answering work. Then, we expanded our vision of Q&A to include answering an ever broader range of shopper questions even faster, so we added instant answers and knowledge base features. Q&A is still a new frontier with lots more opportunities for major innovations, and we’re pursuing those.
Checkout Chatter is another example. It’s simple and highly effective. And it’s a TurnTo exclusive.
Ratings & Reviews, on the other had, is a more mature area, so our innovations have been less revolutionary, though they still have a big impact on ROI. For example, our ready-to-wear UI is exceptionally clean, elegant, and mobile-friendly while still providing easy customizability either through CSS or our comprehensive API. Our review-solicitation email answer flow automatically authenticates the user, leading to more reviews from verified buyers – especially on mobile devices. Our transaction history integration enables the system to ask for reviews on previously purchased items immediately after a user writes a review or answers a question, which increases total review volume by 20-30%.
Me: Are there any other reasons you think retailers are switching?
George: I think our customer success process and the great team behind it is another reason. By focusing on the business as well as the technical aspects of integrating our tools, we ensure customers get the most value from them. And we don’t just move on to the next customer as soon as the last one is set up; no one is fully optimized on the day they go live, and we are pretty relentless in follow-through over time. That’s a hard thing for retailers to get a sense of during an evaluation, but it comes into play in our high customer retention and referral rates, which is a big part of our growth.
Data from the IR500 survey by Internet Retailer are available at www.top500guide.com.