New research has found that while more than two thirds (69%) of internet professionals believe that user generated content (personal reviews, video footage etc) helps improve sales, many organisations are not engaging correctly with criticism of their brand online.
The research, conducted by online shopping community ciao.co.uk at Internet World 2009 , found that 14% of those surveyed choose to either moderate or delete online criticism of their organisation or product, while 4% ignore it.
The importance of community engagement was highlighted as a key topic for all respondents, with over half (52%) naming peer recommendation as the most important influence on their customer or end user.
The research also unveiled a number of additional findings on the way businesses interact with their customer community, including:
71% believe input from customers on online forums is of benefit to their business
73% think peer recommendations are very important to their customer/end user
87% consider the rising popularity of consumer review sites a positive development for brands and retailers
Three quarters respond to online criticism of their product or organisation, but only half do so in a public forum
Tom Hyde, Teamleader E-Commerce Ciao UK, comments: “Finding the cheapest price is not enough for today’s consumer. They are looking out for much more than just the way they spend their money: it’s about where they spend it, on what products, the value their purchase offers and more. In this sense, comparison shopping has enormous responsibility in providing the best information and prices to a more eager and savvy user”.
“Innovative companies, especially retailers, need to have the courage to address their end user’s comments directly instead of adopting an instinctively defensive demeanour. This kind of online community offers a great opportunity to interact and engage directly with consumers and the things that matter most to them.
Hyde continues: “HP is a perfect example on how to benefit from consumer reviews. On our German platform HP is currently running a pre-testing campaign where they directly get helpful user's opinions by a product test among a selected pool of members before market launch of HP’s latest printer. This is an excellent way marketers can and should use UGC rather than ignoring its potential.
"Consumers increasingly count on the opinions of other consumers as an ideal supplement to articles and tests among professional media. HP took a step forward in gaining direct contact with their target group and benefit from the multiplier's effect of these test results which will be then published as reviews.
"Our research clearly shows that UGC presents consumers with a wealth of information that helps them make informed purchases. Any criticism should be taken on board and addressed directly to correct misconceptions or to ensure that the product or service is improved accordingly.”
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