Social commerce will be a key battleground in the year ahead as retailers attempt to bring the power of the crowd into a shop or onto a website, and product review business Reevoo is helping lead the charge.
Founder of the company, Richard Anson, tells Retail Gazette that customer reviews are “a cornerstone” of the online community phenomenon that is sweeping across the world, and they can help retailers improve operations and boost customer loyalty.
“There is a plethora of choice out there - there are so many different channels on which to shop and the rise of the web has enabled people to carry out research easily,” he explains.
“Shoppers have come to realise that they really value transparency and trust and, as a result, there is nothing more powerful than the opinion of another shopper.”
Reevoo was established by Anson five years ago, with the aim of “harnessing the power of customer opinion”, as well as helping shoppers make better choices and businesses sell more products.
It now boasts a number of big-name retail clients such as Tesco.com, Best Buy UK and Dixons Retail, for whom it provides trusted online product reviews that help to drive sales at these companies.
Customers who buy items via the internet at these affiliated businesses - there are now around 100 retailers and manufacturers working with Reevoo - are sent emails requesting their opinion on products soon after they have been purchasing.
Anson’s company, which specialises in electricals retail and was grown out of the founder’s own frustration at the lack of an online service helping customers make impartial product choices, ensures that customer responses are quickly aggregated and published next to the relevant products on clients’ websites.
“Our publish rate is around 13 to 15 per cent. For every 100 emails we send out there are 13 to 15 publishable reviews,” Anson states.
“As far as I know, we are the only company that provide this harvesting - right from the very beginning we have always sent out emails that are engaging and as simple as possible, while making sure the review is as useful as possible.”
Inevitably, working so closely with the general public and hearing so many opinions from it, brings its fair share of funny stories and comments.
Defamatory remarks and swearing are the only things that can stop a review from being published by Reevoo, so there have been a number of amusing statements making their way online as result of the company’s endeavours.
One wry commentator who had just purchased a Sony Bravia KDL-32V5810, seemingly in time for last summer’s World Cup, said: “Excellent picture but England still looked rubbish on it!”
Meanwhile, reflecting on the purchase of a Panasonic DMC-FS3 camera, another customer commented: “If I can get good pics out of it (even after a few glasses of wine) then it must be good!”
Reevoo collects these humorous comments together and publishes them on its website’s Funny Friday Reviews page, but despite the light-hearted nature of these stories the company is certainly a serious player in the modern retail landscape.
Its own data shows that retailers who put customer reviews on their websites can see around a nine to 18 per cent improvement in online sales.
Also, by working at the heart of the retail sector the review specialist is able to gather a detailed understanding of people’s spending patterns and it has some interesting insight into the busiest online shopping day of 2010.
Whereas Boxing Day tends to traditionally be the busiest day for e-commerce, data from Reevoo’s customer network shows that online shopping traffic levels were even higher on December 27th and 28th.
Additionally on January 3rd, the day before the VAT rise came into play, the company’s clients saw a sharp rise in website visits, suggesting there were a high number of people looking to make electricals purchases before prices were increased overnight.
Anson is obviously someone who has his finger on the pulse of the retail industry, so how does he see social commerce developing across the sector during the coming months?
“We’ve had pretty rapid growth since forming in 2005, and have been partly responsible in making retailers identify the power of using customer reviews,” he explains.
“But we’re just touching the tip of the iceberg for social commerce and if you look at 2011 and 2012 there is much more to come.”
With experience in venture capital from the early stages of his career, as well as spending a number of years as a strategy consultant at professional services firm KPMG, the Reevoo boss has the commercial nous to know what makes businesses tick.
Reflecting on the social commerce craze, which many retailers are trying to benefit from, he states: “At the heart of it all is ROI and actually being able to measure the impact this medium has on sales.
“Measurement is going to become fundamental in the coming years as people will be demanding to see the value of that functionality.”