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Archive for December 27, 2018

2018: The year online reviews exploded 

Online Reviews

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that online reviews are all the rage now. I love reading reviews…whether it’s booking a hotel, trying out a new restaurant, buying a new laptop, or even renting a movie. I read reviews so often and so thoroughly that it drives my husband crazy. He tells me that there will always be a few negative reviews because you can’t please everyone. And I know that! But reviews carry a lot of clout when it comes to customers and their buying power.

If you are a business owner you should know how important reviews are to customer satisfaction as well as earning repeat buyers. If you are struggling in that department, let these statistics be a wakeup call. They will turn you into a believer!

Customers are reading reviews
• Nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)
• 94% of customers read online reviews (Fan and Fuel, 2016)
• 93% of local consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad (BrightLocal, 2017)
• 72% of customers don’t take action until they have read reviews (Testimonial Engine)

If that doesn’t encourage you to pay attention to online reviews, I don’t know what will. Obviously customers are researching your company before they decided to do business with you. So make sure those reviews reflect you and your brand in the best possible light.

The impact of online reviews on sales
• 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review (G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing, 2017)
• Displaying reviews can increase conversion rates by 270% (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)
• Purchase likelihood improves 15% when buyers read verified buyer reviews over anonymous reviews (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)
• 97% of shoppers say reviews influence buying decisions (Fan and Fuel, 2016)
• 68% of Americans report positive reviews making them more likely to use a business (BrightLocal, 2017)
• Given two products with similar ratings, consumers are more likely to buy the product with more reviews (Psychological Science, 2017)
• Reviews produce an 18% uplift in sales (Revoo, as shared by Econsultancy)
• Reviews make 71% of customers are more comfortable purchasing a product (3D Cart)
• 88% of buyers are influenced in their buying decision by reviews (Zendesk)

Consumer engagement with reviews
• 68% of consumers look for either information on the reviewer’s experience, or problems the reviewer experienced when reading reviews (Fan and Fuel, 2016)
• 60% of people read online reviews for a local restaurant or cafe (BrightLocal, 2017)
• 73% of consumers trust a local business more after reading positive reviews (BrightLocal, 2017)
• 87% of American-based consumers need a business to have a minimum star rating of three or higher (out of five) to use it (BrightLocal, 2017)
• 67% of B2B buyers want to see a mix of positive and negative reviews (G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing, 2017)
• 85% of buyers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal, 2017)

The importance of replying to customer reviews
• 53% of customers expect businesses to reply to their online reviews within seven days (Review Trackers, 2018)
• 41% of consumers say that brands replying to reviews makes them believe the company really cares about their customers (Bazaarvoice)
• Not replying to reviews risks increasing customer churn by up to 15% (Chatmeter, 2017)
• 7 out of 10 consumers changed their opinion about a brand after the company replied to a review (Bazaarvoice via Marketing Charts, 2013)

Negative reviews
• 72% of B2B buyers say negative reviews give depth and insight into a product (G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing, 2017)
• 40% of B2B buyers say negative reviews help build credibility for a product (G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing, 2017)
• 82% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews (Power Reviews, 2017)
• Consumers spend four times as long interacting with negative reviews, with a 67% increase in conversion rate (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)
• 92% of consumers have difficulties or hesitations purchasing an item with no reviews (Fan and Fuel, 2016)

The process of getting customer reviews
• 68% of consumers have left a review for a local business after being asked to do so (BrightLocal, 2017)
• Up to 80% of reviews originate from follow-up emails urging shoppers to review their purchases (Power Reviews, 2017)
• Brands can expect their average star rating to increase after emailing buyers a direct link to submit reviews (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)

After reading through all of the statistics, one fact remains clear: customer reviews matter. If you are already utilizing reviews, good for you! If you haven’t begun, let this be the push you need to get started. You want as many reviews as possible with a good strategy of how to maintain a positive online reputation.

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Innovative Ways to Bring Excitement Back to the Customer Experience

Improve CX

 

Excited and engaged customers bring in 23% more profits. Yes, you read that right! 23% more profits! However, with advancing technology and decreasing face-to-face encounters, companies are having to find new ways to get customers excited.

Positive experiences lead to increasing connections. And the more positive experiences a customer has the more loyal they become to your brand. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. So why do only 58% percent of businesses have a formal engagement program? Companies must adopt a customer engagement strategy or get left behind.

Here are some innovative ways business leaders can excite their customers in this impersonal, digital age:

1. Survey customers to better understand them.

It sounds simple enough, but yet most businesses do not implement effective surveys. What’s the best way to learn what excites customers? Ask them.
Surveys can be useful if companies use proper analytics to interpret data and implement necessary changes. Get creative! Put a quick poll on social media or after an order. Ask a couple of questions when following up with customers. You can also casually poll customers during checkout at a retail location. Use this data to make better decisions and help employees to better understand the target audience.

2. Use personalization.

 

80% of people say that brands are not tailored to their needs. In a world where brands like Netflix and Amazon are doubling down on personalization, smaller brands must also commit to this growing trend. Amazon’s Alexa is designed to “get to know the customer.” The more “she” learns, the easier it is for consumers to buy products. Again, understanding your customer and catering to their needs is a surefire way to gain repeat buyers.

Customer Experience

3. Focus on creating added value.

 

The heart of brand loyalty is always value. Value is not about giving away free things or being the cheapest product. Instead, it is about giving customers what they want.
Take PNC bank for example:
Marianne Hynd, VP of Operations at Ann Michaels & Associates and mom of 3, is always in need of single bills for her kids lunch money. Since ATM machines typically like to dispense $10 and $20 bills, Marianne usually has to stop somewhere to make a small purchase in order to get singles. A couple years ago PNC bank started allowing ATM withdrawals in multiples of $1. While this was a welcome change, Marianne says “I still had to make three separate transactions. But I was okay with it at the time.”

“However, I went to the ATM the other day and started going through the process and after choosing the amount for the withdrawal I saw three game changing words…Choose your bills. PNC now allows customers to choose which denominations they’d like for their withdrawals. Now this is such a small change but I can’t tell you how happy it made me. What it did for me as a consumer was it took one more step out of the process and it made my weekly trip a little bit quicker. I’ve been a customer of PNC for many years and it’s little changes like that that will keep me a customer for many years to come.”

4. Share behind-the-scenes content.

 

Taking customers behind the scenes humanizes companies. This can be as simple as sharing employee stories on social media or doing a personal one-on-one interview with a company executive.

Disney offers “Behind the Scenes” tours to guests to engage customers in the “magic” of Disney. These tours present an unseen side of the company, demonstrating how Disney is changing the world through agriculture research or by valuing minority causes. The tours reinforce the Disney brand while providing visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

5. Try something new.

 

According to a study cited by NBC, pumpkin spice in the fall has been shown to evoke positive memories of childhood. Perhaps this is one reason why Starbucks found incredible success when they launched their pumpkin spice latte in 2003. In fact, the company could barely keep up with demand in the early days.

Be willing to try new things. Starbucks took a calculated risk in introducing the pumpkin spice latte, and it paid off spectacularly. Similarly, business leaders must ensure that their organizations are daring enough to try new things.

There are a variety of ways for business leaders to develop excitement and engagement in consumers. However, the common component is always putting the customer first. Once the customer is the primary focus for you and you understand what matters most to them, it will be easier to develop innovative approaches to creating customer excitement.

 

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The Human Side of the Customer Experience

customer experience

In today’s digital world, people are spending more time online as screens become larger, web connections faster, and more people own smartphones. With so many online businesses vying for a customer’s attention, brands need to focus more than ever on making meaningful connections to stand out. Companies that singularly focus on digital tools but do not invest in the customer experience can expect to fall behind.
Forrester Research studies around the Customer Experience Interest shows that making customers feel valued and respected is the number one factor leading to customer loyalty. In the digital realm, that means you remember their names, preferences, and purchase history, and you go the extra mile to offer them something that is relevant and of value. Consumers want to spend their money with companies that demonstrate that they understand and attend to each customer’s individual needs and truly value who they are. We like to call this “humanizing” the customer experience.
Humanizing the Digital Customer Experience
The key to “humanizing the customer experience” is authenticity, and creating a true people-focused core in which all interactions are individual. Adding the human element means focusing on long-term relationships and on true partnerships with customers. Companies need to shift their thinking, and replace the immediate sales goals of the past with proactive interactions that align with the goals that customers have for themselves.

Here are 4 ways you can help your company humanize the customer experience.

1. Listen to your Customers: 
Do all of your customers have the same wants and needs? Do they have the same income, product affinities and communication preferences? Definitely not. According to the customer experience survey, 63% of consumers who would otherwise not want to share personal information are willing to share these details —if they’re dealing with a brand that has given them a good experience. Retailers have to listen with intention, gather feedback and data, analyze it and then incorporate it into a customer experience strategy.
Slack, a popular collaboration and project management tool, retains 6 million-plus daily users. “Our focus is on making Slack a great experience for individuals — our internal advocates, our ambassadors — since they are the ones who often start using the product, then share it with their teams,” says Ali Rayl, Slack VP of Customer Experience. “We respect our users’ opinions; we listen to their feedback and in turn they help shape the product.” Rayl says that incorporating feedback helped propel Slack’s growth. As the company began working with larger organizations, listening to these customers helped Slack leaders realize they needed to offer a custom product, and they were able to build that into their experience, cementing loyalty.
A company that listens to its customers will aim relevant and tailored messages to the individual customer.

2. Get the Basics: Right
Retail basics can prove to be monumental. The fundamentals of a positive retail experience — speed, convenience, consistency and friendliness — are challenging to get right. Touting a shiny new piece of technology or virtual reality dressing rooms is meaningless if a company isn’t getting the basics like delivery, payment and sourcing right.

Nearly 1/4 of early digital adopters — who represent 20% of consumers today — expect same-day delivery of goods. This same group also expects to pay via mobile payment in stores. Analysts estimate that mobile payment will surge more than 16-fold between 2012 and 2020 as consumers adapt to this prevalent technology. Apps that offer mobile payment can boost loyalty and customer spending.

 

3. Become AI-Driven
:Incorporating AI into your customer experience process allows you to have a deeper knowledge of each individual customer that continues to get smarter over time. Feedback from every customer interaction should be fed back into the customer profile. You need a closed-feedback loop to continuously learn from every interaction, which allows you to become smarter about your customers, their needs and their behavior.
Example: You register for a marathon using your credit card. Your bank may provide you with offers from an athletic clothing partner based on knowledge from that registration transaction. Although you’ve never purchased sports clothes from this brand, an AI-driven brand will have some very specific, targeted recommendations for the best apparel you need for the marathon. Offers are made based on your own credit card transaction history but can also take into account what other customers like you have purchased. Your response to the company’s offer will be fed back to optimize the future customer experience.

4. Real-Time Action
: A clear advantage to enhancing customer experience is to act on AI knowledge and feedback in real-time. Every interaction – whether next best offer, alerts etc. – needs to be delivered in a timely manner to ensure impact and results. Customers expect a personalized relationship with your brand and becoming AI-driven not only makes you continuously smarter, it uses the individual customer context to automate many processes. This is important because it means you are instantly ready to respond to and anticipate a customer’s next step.
Let’s revisit the financial industry example: You just called your credit card company’s customer service department due to an unusual charge, and the agent tells you the issue would be resolved within the hour. Ideally, if you were to check the credit card app on your phone, you would be alerted that the issue was resolved. You shouldn’t have to call back the customer service agent for an update. This proves that every customer interaction with the credit card company is tracked in real-time, and the conversation continues with relevancy no matter which touchpoint you engage.
Conclusion
Humanizing the customer experience means connecting with your customer on their multi-device, multi-channel journey, in the digital and physical world and providing a seamless and continuous experience. It’s having an individual-level understanding of every customer, and putting those insights into action. Finding the “sweet spot”, where technology complements the human element of customer experience without creating new frustrations, is how retailers will win loyalty.

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