Customer review solution provider PowerReviews released its latest solution BrandConnect in late September. The solution that aims to help marketers become better "Listeners" when it comes to product reviews, and give consumers a "Social Megaphone" by which they can share their reviews online within their networks. Companies do not have to be a PowerReviews customer (i.e., on PowerReview's review platform) to take advantage of the solution and the four years worth of structured content collected from millions of reviews. The launch of BrandConnect comes at a critical point for the company, explains Darby Williams, vice president of marketing at PowerReviews. "We needed to get a critical mass of content so we could have lots of information and data to draw from," he says. "This is the point that we're at."
The Listener component of BrandConnect acts similar to a social monitoring and analytics platform but instead of listening to the entire social Web, brands can engage in "structured listening," which is based on PowerReview's tag-based capture technology. Reviews conducted in a multiple-choice-like approach, which "remind you of some things you might want to consider," he says. In fact, he says this form of reviews has actually shown higher completion rates compared to more open-ended reviews and that "there's absolutely no data to suggest the reverse," he says.
Because product attributes are organized in a standardized fashion, brands can make a head-to-head comparison based on category and product, the company says. Moreover, consumers are classified in a similar fashion and therefore enable users to search based on category-specific consumer lifestyle segments.
According to a study by The E-Tailing Group, the top concern retailers have when it comes to joining the social conversation is the fear that consumers will "trash [their] products in front of a large audience." PowerReview's Listener dashboard allows retailers and brands to analyze the conversation around any product, brand, or category and monitor their detractors and advocates. By simply clicking on "detractors," companies can find a list of all those who wrote negative reviews and have it immediately flagged and sent to customer service or the chief executive officer. By the next release of BrandConnect, Williams says there will be a capability to enable companies to create a workflow that can take action once a detractor is identified. For now, BrandConnect Listen aims to provide retailers with:
- real-time product and campaign "Watch List": a list of the set of products or programs high-level management wants to be updated on as events take place;
- real-time issue and opportunity alerts: monitor detractors and advocates to determine the next course of action. Look for words like "should" and "improve" to see what customers are recommending or want to see come next; and
- keyword-based social search and tracking.
Typically, merchants are only able to get this type of data from sales data or through market research, which is often a timely and expensive process, explains Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research says. While she does classify BrandConnect in the category of brand monitoring, she notes that when compared with other solutions in the space, PowerReviews does add a different data point to the mix. "It's actually about what people are explicitly saying about products and brands and is leveraging review content," she says. In her observation, other brand monitoring solutions may scrape Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social content-everything but the actual review. "It's not just what people are saying after their laptops exploded," she says. "It's not just about the zeitgeist, but more detail about the specific product attributes."
According to Williams, PowerReview's Social Megaphone will hopefully encourage user adoption for two reasons:
- Reviewers are asked to share their completed review on their social network (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), while they are in the midst of writing the review, thereby reminding users of this capability while it's top of mind. Currently, social tools require users to make a conscious effort to share the review, a thought that may only occur to them well after the review's been written. The effort to share may, by then, feel like a burden;
- When a review is posted, only a portion of the review is posted, which leads readers who want to read more to the full review as it is displayed on the product page.
Mulpuru does point out the imperfections of a solution that relies on data generated by a self-selected group of vocal reviewers. Nevertheless, she argues that understanding the extremes -- or the "visceral love-hate" -- of consumer reactions can sometimes be a much more valuable predictor of a product or program's success compared to a controlled study to gather insight from a group of objective, neutral users. The former method, she says, can be "a very useful barometer for improving your merchandizing strategy."
At the moment, Mulpuru sees retailers focused more on aligning their traditional processes like technology integration and less on social functionalities. Identifying the pain points of their merchandizing strategy can be difficult to monitor the content streaming in from every social media outlet. Looking on channels like Twitter for every mention of the brand name can "in many ways be a little less useful," Mulpuru says, especially when the comment can be about anything, regardless of whether or not a brand is attempting to sell a product. For brands to read that they're "fun" or "out-of-touch" aren't necessarily actionable, she says. Therefore, a solution centered specifically around specific product reviews may make the social space a little less daunting and a bit more manageable when it comes to mining for consumer insight.
Nevertheless, the ability to share reviews, Mulpuru says, is still relatively new. In fact, she says, "I don't think it's by any stretch of the imagination commonplace."
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