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Technological innovation is empowering customers to expect more from the businesses they deal with and to quickly take to social media or online review sites to share their shopping experiences; whether that’s dissatisfaction when things go wrong or outright delight when a company over-exceeds against expectations.

What is happening to the retail side of things?

Retail isn’t what it used to be ten or even five years ago. Trends and shopping behaviors have changed dramatically, with online consumers becoming increasingly vocal and unforgiving, but also much more reliant on the feedback of other shoppers to support their decision making. 

While once upon a time having a slick website was key to a great ecommerce experience, most shoppers’ expectations now stretch far beyond this, with modern demands for superior experiences at every touchpoint - from same-next day delivery options to real-time shipping, hassle-free returns and incredible response times. 

If one of these areas fail, then they all do, potentially leading to frustrated shoppers and negative feedback. On the flip side, as the influence of online product reviews continues to grow, positive endorsements can enhance a retailer’s reputation with potential customers above its competitors – leading to increased conversion, retention and spend.

Recognizing this, some innovative retailers are capitalizing on the growing review economy by doubling down on an outstanding customer experience at all ends of the buying journey to encourage the type of glowing feedback which builds trust and competitive differentiation.  

Here, three retail brands explain how they are killing it with a great review strategy, and why technology is proving to be a key pillar to their success.

1. Mad4Tools

Mad4Tools.com is an online retailer that specializes in delivering thousands of products, from power tools and workwear, to lighting and electrical equipment to DIY enthusiasts and tradespeople all over the world.

The brand has successfully built a passionate and vocal community around their products by investing in excellent experiences. As Paul Swain, Director of Mad4Tools.com, explains here, the business prides itself on an excellent end-to-end journey. “If a customer has a positive experience with our brand, they’re more likely to buy from us again, to tell their friends and leave positive feedback on consumer review sites, which gives other shoppers more confidence to buy.”

Mad4Tools.com views its sector as extremely price competitive so delivery of excellent buying experiences has become a key differentiator. “We recognize that the decision to buy from Mad4Tools.com will be influenced, to a large degree, by our ratings and reviews,” says Paul. “We win business because of our positive feedback and high ratings and we retain business because of the experience we provide - from meeting fulfillment expectations, to orders being delivered as expected.”

Today, Mad4Tools.com works with technology providers like Brightpearl to ensure its retail operations are slick, automated and able to deliver more competitive offerings while still maintaining the excellent standards of service that are in line with its ‘five star’ mantra.

2. Seriously Silly Socks 

We’re more likely to make a purchase if others around us - even total strangers - agree that it's a good decision. For example, Seriously Silly Socks has been able to drive a 60% higher average order value on the company’s website than its other sales channels, and it’s likely that its 3000 five-star reviews that populate the ecommerce site’s various product pages have helped a great deal.

The brand now leverages its wealth of positive reviews and high star ratings to increase conversions. Andrew Gill, the owner of the company, recently told BigCommerce about the impact their killer review strategy has had on helping their audience to trust the brand. “Customer feedback creates that ‘social-proof’ trust that encourages other visitors to our store to buy.”

The team has also been able to figure out which parts of the buyer’s journey stand out, and which ones need more work by analyzing their reviews and turning the data into customer insights, which in turn, helps the business to optimize and improve the entire customer journey. Andrew explains: “It has been a great engagement tool to learn about what our customers like, don't like, what they want, how to resolve issues and how to turn customers into repeat buyers.”

3. Energybulbs.co.uk 

Energybulbs.co.uk is a large UK online retailer of lighting products. The brand is focused on building superior end-to-end experiences to help differentiate from a fairly saturated and price competitive market and has worked with Brightpearl to super-charge its order management.

“The technology allows us to process orders twice as fast as before, giving us the confidence to introduce multiple delivery options, including late next-day delivery services,” explains Andy Lockley, Head of Ecommerce at Energybulbs.co.uk. 

The tech-led improvements to the customer experience have translated into a huge increase in positive reviews. “We’re now flooded with 5* reviews, most of which quote ‘fantastic, ‘great’ or ‘excellent’ customer service,” says Andy. “Now, we don’t just meet our customer delivery expectations, we’re exceeding them, with an experience that both surprises and delights our shoppers. It has become a key competitive differentiator for our brand.”

The brand’s approach recognizes that modern consumer expectations stretch beyond the website, to factors such as fulfillment, delivery, returns and post-purchase customer service. They understand that it's not enough to efficiently fulfill orders and expect to generate glowing endorsements. Instead, you need to support lightning-quick turnaround times which are more likely to delight customers with the speed at which they receive their items. 

By taking their end-to-end experience to the next level, Energybulbs.co.uk are able to offer competitive options and convenience, which attracts and drives conversion, builds loyalty and encourages the five star ratings and reviews which are essential to the success of the business. 

Wrapping up

The retail game is changing in a big way. The influence of online product reviews and ratings continues to play an increasingly important and normalized role in our purchasing behavior and retailers must acknowledge that every customer who leaves feedback is now an influencer - and every potential buyer is ready to be influenced. 

So, if a bad review or overall rating is sitting there on a consumer review platform or your website, people are going to think twice before buying from your business. It’s time to focus more on investing in your community and taking ownership over online feedback by implementing your own killer review strategy

A positive review – or many – can make a huge difference in the choices consumers make when it comes to selecting a brand or retailer. Focus on creating seamless end-to-end experiences with consideration for the right technologies that will help your brand to expertly fulfill the modern expectations of customers. By actively working to delight customers at every interaction, you can earn those positive endorsements that capture attention and that position your brand as one that customers can trust. 

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About the Author

Derek is CEO of Brightpearl, responsible for the overall company strategy. Co-author of the Omnichannel Survival Guide, Derek is recognized as a leading retail expert, and his mantra is to deliver on Brightpearl’s mission to automate the back office for today’s merchants. During the 1990’s Derek founded two IT companies, including Ireland’s first online advertising agency building database driven websites and offering SEO services. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President of field sales and marketing for Norton, responsible for $1.7bn of revenue globally. Since Derek became CEO of Brightpearl in spring 2016, the company has seen significant growth in its core customer base, cementing its position as an invaluable asset for mid-sized merchants seeking a competitive edge.