In Partner Content Q&A: Joanna Alter, Co-marketing Manager at Yotpo Posted by Stefan Hi Joanna, could you tell our readers a little more about your role at Yotpo? As Co-marketing Manager I provide online businesses with actionable information that they can use to grow. I do this by establishing content partnerships with other key eCommerce players that are valuable to our user base, and whose user base would find Yotpo valuable as well. How would you explain the idea of Yotpo, and its benefits, to someone with little experience online? Yotpo allows businesses to collect tons of genuine, verified user-generated content (UGC) and leverage that content across marketing channels to grow key metrics like traffic, sales, customer trust and community engagement. UGC is any content relating to your brand that is voluntarily produced by customers. This includes customer reviews, user-generated photos and customer Q&A. Social proof is a hugely impactful force in online purchasing habits, especially in today’s increasingly mobile-centric environment. Essentially, people’s decisions are influenced by other people’s experiences. This means that your customers really are your most valuable advocates and the most reliable and convincing source of information for shoppers. Yotpo amplifies their voices to bring more attention to your brand and increase your traffic and conversion rates. Yotpo ensures that businesses own their reviews–and the value that comes along with them–so the traffic that reviews generate (for example, from an organic search) go to the business, not a third-party site. What are the main obstacles to generating user reviews, and how does Yotpo’s MAP (Mail After Purchase) feature overcome these obstacles to generate more reviews? Customers will not be compelled to write a review if they do not feel an emotional connection to your brand. A major obstacle to getting customer reviews is the mobile lifestyle of consumers. People are easily distracted and short on time, so in the seconds it takes to click on a link, redirect to a landing page, or log in, you are likely to lose that customer’s attention and miss out on their review. However, people are often happy to contribute content when you take all the work out of it. The mobile-first design of the MAP makes it super easy for customers to submit a review. It is literally as easy as replying to an email. All the customer has to do is write their review directly in the body of the email, as if they were quickly replying to a work email or to a friend. There are no links to click, no pages to load, no intermediate steps at all. A lot of companies are quick to make their product pages and check-out pages mobile friendly, but drop the ball when it comes to review requests. Nearly 60% of Yotpo reviews come from mobile, so it really makes a difference for customers and spells a big increase in content for businesses. Building strong two-way relationships with customers is also a challenge that can affect review generation. Customers will not be compelled to write a review if they do not feel an emotional connection to your brand. The MAP is entirely customizable, which makes it easy for businesses to personalize customer communications with valuable and relevant information such as exclusive deals and suggested products related to their purchase. This is something that could never be done with a third-party review platform because they are not connected to your business’s site. They are looking to draw traffic to their own site, which also happens to host reviews for your competitors. People are often happy to contribute content when you take all the work out of it. What’s the best way for brands to use their reviews to market themselves? For example, is it better for brands to quote reviews via their social media accounts, or to link to their reviews on-site instead? The beauty of user-generated content is that it can be repurposed across marketing channels. Brands can maximize the benefits of their UGC by using it both on-site and off. Owning your reviews and displaying them on-site–whether on the home page, product page, or checkout page–brings you lots of traffic by boosting SEO and Google search results. When shoppers see reviews on your site the customer content piques their interest, keeps them on your site longer, and increases the number of page views per visit. Using UGC via social media accounts allows brands to communicate with people while they are not actually shopping. Including customer reviews in Facebook ads increases click-through rates by 300% and it also brings a higher volume and higher quality traffic to your site. Yotpo data shows that traffic from reviews has a 4% lower bounce rate and 30% more page views per visit than traffic that comes from a source without reviews. In your experience, are there common recurring themes in customer reviews and ratings which any business could act on to improve their products/services? The rise in mobile is key for businesses to pay attention to. 48% of traffic to eCommerce sites comes from mobile, and that number is even higher for some industries like fashion where it goes up to 60%. Yotpo has collected more than 16 million reviews, 56% of which were written on mobile devices. Online businesses need to ensure that the entire customer journey is mobile-friendly, from browsing to check-out to review request. Products with higher star ratings also get the most orders–94% of orders are for products with an average rating of four or five stars. Looking into the products that get the highest customer ratings can give companies a better understanding of their customers’ needs and purchasing habits. One of the biggest challenges in eCommerce is ensuring that the expectations of potential customers match the actual product. Many negative reviews are written as a result of unmatched expectations and actually have nothing to do with the customer not liking the product. A Yotpo study of 1.3 million reviews found that by far the most commonly used negative word in reviews is “disappointment” or “disappointed.” It was mentioned almost 20,000 times, while the next most common negative word — “bad” — is mentioned only about 7,500 times. To avoid customer disappointment companies should write detailed and accurate product descriptions. They should also be honest about inventory, shipping and installation times so that customers have realistic expectations. Displaying negative reviews that help set expectations keeps potential customers informed and shows transparency on the part of the company. In a 2015 article on the Yotpo blog, Doug Baltman highlighted how the men’s natural soap company Dr. Squatch uses their funny Yotpo customer reviews to grow their brand. Do you think it’s possible for brands to encourage particular kinds of funny, positive user-generated content like this? Or is it more down to luck in getting the right reviews, or the industry that a brand is in? It is definitely possible! Brands can set the tone with funny and creative content, and customers will follow suit. UGC campaigns, customer emails, website content and product names are all opportunities to fit in a little humor and establish your brand personality. Mattress company Leesa is another example of tongue-in-cheek customer content–from positive reviews warning that buyers will be late to work, to funny customer photos of pets sleeping on their beds. What is Yotpo doing to ensure the integrity of its reviews, and protecting its visitors from fake reviews that could mislead them? The whole story of Yotpo all started with a bad experience due to fake reviews, so we take the matter very seriously here! Our automatic verification tools and reviewer badges ensure shoppers and businesses alike that the reviews are authentic. Yotpo Mail After Purchase (MAP) emails are sent to purchasers, which ensures that someone can only submit a review for a product if they actually bought it. Verification badges are shown next to verified reviews, which both rewards authentic content and shows shoppers that the content they are reading is genuine. Reviewers can also verify their submissions by linking them to one of their social networks, in which case their picture shows up next to their review, adding an additional personal touch and degree of credibility for shoppers. For businesses with more reviews and for those who want to focus on specific review concerns, our team of moderation experts filters reviews based on our best practices and your specific needs. This means that you don’t need to spend time and resources worrying about fake reviews or dealing with a third-party site to have fake reviews removed. Among other things, Yotpo Human Moderation includes rejecting fake or inappropriate reviews, notifying you of reviews that require immediate follow up, and sending you the glowing reviews that can be leveraged by your sales and marketing teams. At Yotpo we also encourage companies to stray from publishing only positive reviews. Contrary to popular belief, displaying negative reviews actually increases your credibility and consumer trust in your brand because it makes the good reviews all the more reliable. What would you say is the best way to handle a negative review? What are reviewers looking for in a company’s response? The first thing to do with a negative review is publish it. When shoppers see only good reviews on a product page they become skeptical that the company is hiding something. Displaying some negative reviews builds credibility and consumer trust in your brand. Once a negative review is published, businesses should respond quickly, genuinely and publicly. Impress the unsatisfied customer with your top-notch customer service by sending a prompt response from a real person. The public response to their negative review will emphasize your brand’s transparency and show everyone who sees it that you prioritize customer experience. Once the issue has been resolved, follow up with the customer to make sure they are happy. This goes the extra mile and will ensure that they remember a good experience with your brand instead of the initial bad one. Where do you see the role of online reviews and user-generated content in five years’ time? How do you think they’ll help to shape our experience of the web? Over the next five years user-generated content and online reviews are only going to become more impactful and more crucial for online businesses. People are more easily distracted than ever with all of our devices, applications and ever-shrinking attention spans. There is an overflow of media and content, which consumers now easily tune out. But what consumers do want to know is what their friends like, what they think and what they are up to. Shoppers interested in your brand have common interests with your existing customers. User-generated content like reviews, user-generated photos and customer Q&A allows brands to highlight that trust between consumers and leverage it to increase traffic, sales and engagement. As UGC becomes more prevalent, shoppers will come to expect customer content like user-generated photos and verified reviews to get reliable information about products and services. Already, nearly 80% of shoppers say they prefer user-generated photos over professionally taken photos when making purchase decisions. Shoppers are relying more on each other, and less on branded content. UGC gives customers the opportunity to connect with each other and is the vehicle for online word-of-mouth marketing. Do you think reviews and user-generated content have changed the way we shop? Do customers get better products and services as a result? Yes, absolutely. Customers now expect more information more quickly and with more authenticity–and businesses are rising to the occasion. User-generated content allows customers to make more informed purchase decisions based on real experiences from real people. Furthermore, UGC gives companies a direct connection to their customers’ pain points, which they can–and should–use to improve their products and services. Thanks a lot for your time, Joanna!