It’s now hard to imagine a time where product reviews weren’t a major part of our shopping experience. However, getting relevant review information to customers isn’t always a seamless process. In this piece, Elizabeth Scherle, founder, Influenster, outlines to RetailTechNews why review and ratings platforms hold such an important place for retailers; and why the current retail ecosystem means they will only become more relevant.
RetailTechNews: How does the Influenster platform work?
Elizabeth Scherle: Influenster is a product discovery and ratings/review platform – think TripAdvisor meets Facebook, but for brands. Our community is comprised of product junkies and everyday consumers who love sharing their feedback and opinions on products. They come to Influenster to read and write reviews, share photos, ask and answer questions, and scan products via our app. The platform has 30 million reviews, 98% of them organic, created by 4.9 million members. This is second only to Amazon in total review count; and more Beauty reviews than Amazon, Sephora, and Ulta. Based on the information our members share with us via their activity on the platform, we are able to create a highly personalised experience.
In what ways does your review system benefit retailers?
The quality, quantity, and recency of reviews is critical to driving sales conversion. In fact, brands are reported to increase sales 10% after moving from zero to one review; 30% for 50 reviews; and 37% from 50 to 100 reviews (according to BazaarVoice). And, according to another study we found by BrightLocal, 77% of consumers say reviews older than three months are no longer relevant in their minds. To sum it up, retailers need reviews for the products the sell; and we at Influenster have them. So we created a product called ‘ReviewSource’, which feeds fresh, organic reviews left on Influenster to brand and retailers sites on a monthly subscription basis.
What have been the challenges to retailers looking to improve their product review capabilities?
Generating reviews can be a costly endeavour. It usually involves sampling products and soliciting feedback, which starts with first identifying the right target audience, designing packaging, managing shipping and fulfilment, sending follow-ups… This is time consuming and resource-intensive. Plus, e-commerce sites are not communities. It’s not fun or interesting to leave a review there. And a portion of them tend to be negative, but actually have nothing to do with the product itself – more about customer service, shipping delays, etc.
Because we’ve created such a sense of community on Influenster, and this highly personalised experience, people love coming to us to talk and share, and then we are happy to share that content with the retailer. We make it easy and we remove those barriers.
And, should a retailer or brand need to sample to create reviews for a new product launch, we have a turnkey means of getting the right product in the hands of the right people via hyper-targeting, and handle execution end-to-end.
Are reviews becoming more necessary as we see a rise of e-commerce pureplay, and direct-to-consumer brands, that rely on online channels to sell their goods?
Absolutely they are. And I have some important stats and research to illustrate just how important they are. According to PowerReviews, nearly all shoppers (95% to be exact) consult ratings and reviews while shopping; and 86% consider them a critical resource when making a purchase decision. When reviews are added to a particular product on a site, traffic to that product experiences an average 108% lift.
Word-of-mouth has always been a powerful source of influence. People trust other people more than brands or retailers. And, while in the past few years many brands have turned to big-name social influencers as a source of authenticity, there is now widespread awareness that they are likely receiving payment for their endorsement. So real, unbiased consumer opinion, that can be harnessed at scale, is really the currency of the day.
What does the future hold for Influenster?
We’re constantly listening to our community of members to understand what is important to them, to both improve our platform experience and to provide meaningful insights to brand and retail partners. One thing that really interests us is linking content to commerce. We just announced the results of a study conducted by IRI on Influenster’s behalf, showing that a hyper-targeted sampling programme to generate reviews for two makeup products, with the aim of generating reviews and social content, produced a sales lift beating the average benchmark for digital campaigns by 44%!
And, really exciting news is that we launched Influenster Cash Back via an exclusive partnership with EBates, where people who discover products on Influenster can earn cash back rewards for shopping for them at their favourite retailers. For the first time ever, we are selling a highly curated Beauty Box, featuring most-reviewed and top-rated brands, at an incredible value – USD$50 (£39.20) for 20+ products valued at USD$300+ (£235.25), and 10% cash back. We know our community is highly engaged and motivated to shop, so we are now testing different means of activating this engagement.