1userThe world wide web has led to a massive change in consumer behavior, e.g. for every product you might be interested in, you can refer to ratings and other customers’ opinions. Consumers produce content, share content and are getting more and more actively involved in dialogues with brands and resellers. Today’s merchants need to be able to make use of these dialogues in their favor.

User generated content consists of ratings, reviews, recommendations, blog posts, social media posts - not just Facebook, but sharing pictures, videos and URLs via Whatsapp or other platforms. Online consumers are also continually interested in what other users are doing, and often they trust the opinion of other users more than the marketing messages of a brand.

According to one study, 8 out of 10 Gen Y users are influenced by the product rating of other unknown users. 51% even state that these online ratings play a greater role than the opinions of friends, family or the information found on the company web site. This shows the importance for brands to develop a strategy to make use of the consumer dialogues and user generated content.

Interacting with customers

If you haven‘t done so yet, you should get started soon in offering customers functionalities for feedback, ask them if they are happy with the service and ask them to contribute their opinion. Automated e-mail campaigns may be of use here, sent out automatically after the sales process, asking the buyer for a review. It is also a good idea to offer incentives for participating, e.g. a rebate for the next purchase, which at the same time can motivate the customer to buy again.

After receiving feedback, publish it online so it can be seen connected to the product. Consumers also look for opinions of other consumers on social networks. Companies should be not only aware of this but should be taking action to provide those searching for information with access to the most relevant reviews and content. This might be reviews by experts, reviews and rating of other consumers and the opinions of contacts from social networks.

Provide a platform for discussions and dialogue

The most frequently used forms of user generated content are ratings, reviews, recommendations and forum discussions, but uploading of pictures and videos and blog posts are getting more and more popular. Provide a platform for ratings and reviews, for questions and feedback by installing a forum with a rating system. Obviously you will receive negative feedback once in a while, and if this happens, don‘t delete these contributions. If consumers start talking about this, it will hurt your image. Make use of criticism to identify areas where you have room for improvement of your products and services. Most importantly, use the opportunity to get into a dialogue with the customers who rated you negatively, and you will find out this might turn out absolutely positively for your image. Often it‘s not the fact that something went wrong at all that makes consumers angry, but it is the way complaints are handled. If a company takes the opportunity and goes into dialogue with the customer directly, admits what went wrong on the company side, and offers an appropriate solution, almost every customer will be happy in the end.

Also make sure you provide a good user experience on different mobile devices, as a lot of buying decisions nowadays are made on the go.

To make the reviews and opinions accessible, you should be making use of different channels. Integrate the reviews on your website and / or in the forum and integrate social plug-ins to make sure your visitors can share the information easily. Also share and post relevant content and reviews across the social networks in question and initiate conversations about your products and services, and encourage the sharing of consumer experience. This will make you appear trustworthy to those who are visiting your site because they are interested in your products.

More revenue and customer engagement

Making use of user generated content and the consumer dialogue can propel your brand towards more web traffic, more conversions, better revenue happy customers and less returned merchandise.

The biggest benefit lies in generating new content from the most important source: your customers. Integrating customer reviews into your e-mail templates, for example, will lead to a higher click rate and higher revenue rate per email sent out.

When consumers notice that their feedback is welcome, they will be more willing to interact in the future and provide further content. This type of communication with customers will not only strengthen customer engagement and create a positive image of your brand, but also contribute to the economic success in today’s connected and social world.

By Anjum Siddiqi