Peer recommendations loom large in prospective buyers’ purchasing decisions. In fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by SAP, Forrester Research found that 67% of customers most trust product recommendations from their friends and family – compared to 55% who most trust company experts.
While organizations realize the importance of peer recommendations, many struggle to leverage peer networks, communities, and user-generated content to improve online customer experience and drive purchases.
In a recent webcast moderated by SAP’s Carolyn Beal, Andy Hoar, principal analyst at Forrester Research, shared findings from the SAP-commissioned survey and explored how businesses can begin reimagining commerce and increasing revenue by harnessing the power of customer communities.
Give the people what they want
Today’s consumers have an insatiable appetite for content. And the more brands give them, the more they want. This is good news, because it’s a clear indication that your customers want to communicate with you.
The bad news, however, is your brand has to have something to say, and it’s got to be something your customers want to hear. The other issue here is your business must now be prepared to deliver the information your customers so desperately crave. But “this poses challenges for companies,” Hoar says, “because [many organizations] don’t have legacies for creating a lot of content.”
So how exactly can businesses address this issue? Well, given that today’s most powerful messages come from consumers who have already utilized a brand’s products, companies should make a concerted effort to enable their customer communities to create content on their behalf in order to influence decision making and drive sales.
Two pieces of content that are particularly important to customers – and equally critical in the process of building strong social communities – are ratings and reviews.
Amazon: The gold standard of customer experience
More and more, businesses are aiming to create an Amazon-like customer experience. The primary reason for this is the exceptional ratings and reviews system that the company has in place.
Ratings and reviews, as well as other user-generated content, are proven to influence decision making and drive sales. In fact, 70% of people say they’re more likely to purchase products when they’re able to view ratings and reviews.
Amazon was one of the first organizations to successfully leverage this type of user-generated content. And the company has continued to harness the power of the strong social community it has built to its distinct advantage.
According to Forrester Research, 47% of customers use Amazon ratings and reviews before buying a product. Keep in mind, this statistic doesn’t merely refer to the people purchasing items on Amazon; these are people buying products on different e-commerce sites, who are visiting Amazon specifically to scan the ratings and reviews to drive decision making.
5 tips for creating a better online customer experience
In addition to examining the value of ratings, reviews, and other user-generated content during this online session, Hoar offered five ways businesses can begin providing a superior experience for their online customers:
- Embed “buy” buttons on any and all community-generated content. This will help to simplify the purchasing process.
- Enable people to ask questions. By offering prospective customers a chat option, you can provide them with the helpful and timely information they need in order to make a purchasing decision.
- Provide a multi-directional experience to users. Allow people to easily view a variety of resources and community content by having several pieces of useful data available with the simple click of a button.
- Integrate your user-generated content right into your product pages. People’s attention spans are short. Don’t give prospective buyers the chance to navigate away from your site before making a purchase.
- Tag your content. Make it as easy as possible for users to find the information most relevant to their needs.
Aid your customer experience improvement effort
“Companies are eager to improve the online customer experience,” says Hoar. In fact, 71% of executives deem this a critical initiative over the next 12 months. Peer networks, communities, and user-generated content will undoubtedly help aid this effort.