Last week I reviewed factors that are most important to consumers when choosing to make holiday purchases from one retailer versus another. As part of the eHoliday 2009 Study pre-holiday survey (conducted for us by BIGresearch), we asked consumers which specific Web site features they rely on most when making holiday purchases.
On a scale of 1 (least important) to 5 (most important), consumers confirmed just how powerful reviews from fellow customers are, assigning those an overall score of 4.1 (out of 5). The 2009 State of Retailing Online Merchandising Report (produced with Forrester Research) found that close to two-thirds of retailers surveyed have implemented consumer ratings and reviews on their sites, and that almost three-quarters of those rated this site feature “very effective”. With consumer reviews the beneficiary of high investment priority this year (per the same research), retailers should now evaluate how they are using reviews on their site and in their marketing to best effect.
For example, in the past year, we’ve all seen any number of emails and paper catalogs featuring customer reviews gleaned from the Web sites, effectively extending the power of these testimonials far beyond the product detail page. Some retailers have assigned “Power review” status to publicly recognize frequent reviewers, and numerous retailers now ask customers directly to write reviews for products that they’ve purchased, rather than relying on customer good will (and spare time). All in all, consumers generally should be pleased with the ubiquity of customer review information now accessible.
No doubt a sign of the times – though possibly something which consumers will be looking for even after the economy has palpably turned around – consumers want to see clearance sale pages (4.0) and featured sale item pages (3.8). Rather than seeing this as a negative, think of the clearance or sales pages on your site as a welcome mat for customers new and old – make it visible and easily accessible, merchandise it as attractively as any other section of the site (no sub-standard imagery, please), cross-sell across all products (yes, including full priced), and incorporate it into your search plans for the season. Once through this site door, you can convert that visitor from browser to bona fide buyer, dazzling not only with great offers but also a great product selection, guaranteed on- time delivery, stellar customer service, and all the other features that customers value and that you already offer.
Continuing the theme of consumer pragmatism — the shipping deadlines calendar ranks a solid 3.8 with consumers. Many retailers do offer this feature, so the trick may really lie in featuring this information in more places on the Web site and in emails. Exciting? Perhaps not – but in terms of what is most important to consumers, this site feature edged out expert reviews, comparison engines, gift receipts, express ordering, wish lists, suggested items, and numerous other areas.
For the full results, please see the eHoliday ’09 pre-holiday survey results on the Shop.org Web site. As always, I welcome your ideas and feedback about our research.