New research released today by Ciao, Europe’s leading shopping community, has found that brands are placing a higher emphasis than ever before on securing positive user generated content (UGC), in the run up to this year’s Christmas sales rush.
The research conducted by ciao.co.uk, a Microsoft company at E Commerce Expo 2009, found that 83% of companies regard user generated content (personal reviews, video footage, etc) as vital for improving their sales online, with 8 out of 10 believing that the outcome of UGC will affect their performance over the festive period. However, despite this 17% said that they would moderate or delete criticism about their brand online, or even ignore it completely.
The rising popularity of consumer review sites was also highlighted as a key development to help shoppers engage with a company and its offering online. 86% of respondents considered that providing forums for shoppers to offer feedback was a positive development and 72% said that peer recommendations are very important to customers.
The research also highlights the emergence of green shoots as almost half of respondents (44%) expect their Christmas sales to be higher than last year, 29% predict they will at least equal those recorded in 2008 and just 8% forecasted that sales this year would be lower than last year.
The research also unveiled a number of additional findings on the way businesses interact with their online community, including:
• 52% consider peer recommendations as the most important influence for their customers/end users, followed by online media (12%) and sales people (11%)
• 86% believe that brands are more comfortable engaging with their users online than in the past
• 84% feel they have a good understanding of what motivates their customers/end users to make a purchase online
• 74% of organisations actively respond to negative comments online, with 38% responding publically and 36% privately
These results build on research conducted by ciao.co.uk earlier this year at Internet World which found that 69% of businesses believe UGC improves sales, highlighting that even greater emphasis is placed on UGC now than six months ago.
Given that almost all companies surveyed now engage with their audiences online and see positive feedback as key for boosting Christmas sales, it is evident that pleasing the online consumer is vital for success in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Commenting on the findings, Tom Hyde, Teamleader E-Commerce Ciao UK, says: “There are clearly high expectations for online sales this Christmas and as our results show, generating positive customer feedback bears greater renitence on company performance than ever before.
Failing to recognise the impact that peer reviews and online discussion can have on reputation can be catastrophic and the fact that more retailers are identifying this is a crucial step as they look ahead to their most lucrative shopping period of the year.
“Sites like Ciao offer consumers an open forum to air their views and to share their personal experiences and opinions with others. This is becoming an increasingly influential channel for consumers as they look for advice before making purchase decisions both on and offline. Brands need to wake up and realise that if managed correctly, those that respond to user generated content are the ones most likely to build their brand reputation and enjoy the strongest sales this Christmas.”
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