Friday, October 24, 2008

Ratings & Reviews in Practice...From a B2B Perspective

During the Ratings & Reviews session at Warrillow earlier this week, there was an insightful presentation given to show how relevant reviews have become to reaching the SMB market. There were also a few best practices shared on harnessing this growing communications channel that is clearly playing a major role in the purchase decision making process.

Contrary to the common belief that reviews are neatly stored in a few places, it was clear that the distribution of ratings and reviews was scattered throughout the web. Adding to the difficulty in pinpointing review sources, is the high percentage of ratings and reviews embedded within blogs and discussion boards.
Following were some best practices shared at the session:
  • Enable ratings on your corporate website
  • Have reviewers identify themselves - establish trust and resonance with the readers
  • Allow business owners to share their reviews - email, post, bookmark tools etc.
  • Monitor your ratings & reviews and use the feedback - great for innovation and customer service improvements
  • Send Press kits to 3rd party sites to spur ratings - solicit reviews
  • Sponsor links or banner ads on rating websites and blogs
All of these points were well supported. My two favourites were the "identity" factor and the promotional strategies behind reviews.

The idea of letting reviewers identify themselves was a hot topic. Small business owners feel more comfortable about reviews when they see the source. The combination of identifying the author and establishing instant commonality with the person reading the review can be quite powerful.

Some sites have gone to great lengths creating networks of reviewers. I wonder if all this is necessary to gain the same effect as just allowing people to quickly state their industry or other contextual point that would connect with other readers. Here's a TurboTax review as an example of the simplified approach:

From a promotional stand point, it makes a lot of sense to highlight positive reviews and drive audiences to them. There was an interesting case study shared from Office Depot. Since implementing a strategy around driving SEM campaigns to individual review pages, they’ve seen results:

  • Clickthrough rates increased by 78.5%
  • Conversion rates increased by 23.8%
  • Revenue up by 198%
  • New Buyers up 183%
The topic of reviews has been alive for a few years but the true adoption and advancement of its influence over buying decisions is still in its infancy. Warrillow pegged its monetary life stage below. Infancy indeed, we're talking sleep deprivation young here...

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