Customer service in the digital age isn’t completely different than it was when every business was brick-and-mortar. Some rules of the customer-brand relationship—like “the customer is always right”—are unlikely ever to change. However, the fundamental approach to customer service has changed thanks to the internet and other technologies. Technology has given your customers a broader range of choice than ever before—which means that customer service matters more than it ever has before.
How can your brand engage modern customers, guarantee their satisfaction, improve brand loyalty, and give business a boost?
Be active on social media
Social media is ground zero for customer interaction. If customers want to praise your product or service, they are going to use Facebook or Twitter to do it. If they want to criticize your product, social media is their first stop, too. If they want to get in touch with you directly to ask questions or lodge complaints, they are going to start by trying to find you on social media.
The best thing you can do to build an effective customer service model is to be active and responsive on social media. Build a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular networks and encourage customers to follow you and like your pages. Share news about your brand to let customers know about sales, discounts, and new products. Most of all, track mentions or comments and respond promptly and respectfully to customers who ask questions or raise concerns. Being reachable via social media will humanize your brand and make it easy for people to contact you in a casual, low-stress environment.
Respond quickly to their questions or concerns
It doesn’t matter whether you are doing most of your customer service work on Facebook and Twitter or through a messaging system on your website. Customers reaching out via phone, email, instant message, social media, text, or any other method all have something in common: they expect quick responses. Time is of the essence with customer service, now more than ever. If a customer asks a question and you don’t get back to them for 12 hours, there’s a good chance that person will just go elsewhere to find the products or services you offer. There’s a reason that some brands outsource their customer service to companies that offer 24-hour support. Whichever customer service system you want to offer, you need to make sure that you can respond in a timely fashion.
Update your website frequently with news and helpful, informative content
While many customers will look to social media to get the information they need from you, others will still beeline toward your website if they have questions or need assistance with a product. Updating your website frequently with new content—news posts, announcements, FAQs, tutorials, etc.—is an effective way of providing passive customer service. Your customers can get the help they need on their own time without having to contact you directly.
Think about the types of content that will be most beneficial for your customers to be able to access on your site. If you have product manuals, consider uploading them in PDF form so that customers who have misplaced their physical manuals can find them easily. Video tutorials are also incredibly helpful to teach customers how to access certain features or capabilities of a product.
Make it easy for customers to leave feedback (and listen to what they say)
Giving your customers a voice to provide feedback on products is one of the most important aspects of modern customer service. Customers today want to tell other potential buyers about their experiences with products or brands. Implementing product reviews on your website is a great way to ensure that customers have that voice. Product reviews are the best way of finding out what customers think of your wares and the overall brand experience that you offer. Positive reviews reinforce your instincts about product development and work well as testimonials to share on social media. Negative reviews identify areas for improvement and help with goal setting.
Allow customers to create helpful content
If you don’t have money in the budget for full-fledged product tutorials or other video content, let your customers create it for you. Implementing video reviews on your site provides all the advantages of text reviews and then some. With video reviews, customers can demonstrate products, show off features, and offer mini tutorials of their own. Your customers want to know a lot about products before they buy, but they don’t necessarily want to hear that information directly from your brand for fear of bias. With video reviews, customers can answer each other’s questions and provide valuable content. Most importantly, video reviews add other perspectives into the mix and give your shoppers a greater feeling of trust.
In 2014, BrightLocal published a survey on the power of customer reviews. 88% of respondents said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In other words, nearly nine in 10 customers are just as willing to buy a product based on the praise of a stranger as they are to buy a product at the recommendation of a friend.
Consumer trust is at a low point. In the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, 16 of the 27 countries that the survey tracked recorded customer trust levels of under 50%. For Edelman, countries with trust levels of 50% or under fall into the unacceptable or “distruster” range.
The numbers from the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer survey could spell doom and gloom for brands everywhere. How can businesses market to their customers if customers don’t trust them?
How Customer Reviews Can Save Your Brand from Customer Distrust
Implementing customer reviews is one of the easiest and most effective strategies that online e-commerce brands can use to combat customer distrust. When you give your customers a platform through which they can share their opinions on your products right there on your website, you harness the power of BrightLocal’s findings.
88% of customers are just as willing to buy products because of online recommendations as they are to listen to recommendations from friends or family. By having a positive customer review on one of your product pages, you are giving many of your customers the equivalent of a product endorsement from their close friends. This strategy can be hugely beneficial for encouraging sales and boosting revenues—especially in an age in which so many customers are inherently distrustful of brands.
Why Video Reviews Are the Best Kind of Customer Review
Video reviews are the optimal way to build customer trust in this day and age, particularly for e-commerce brands. Video reviews provide all of the key advantages of standard text-based customer reviews. They show that your brand is willing to give customers a platform through which to share their opinions, they put customer testimonials right on your product pages, and they supplement product descriptions to give shoppers all of the information they need to understand and purchase a product.
There are a few drawbacks to text reviews that video reviews help to solve or circumnavigate. Here are the key benefits you get from video reviews that written customer reviews don’t offer.
They are easier to trust
Distrust of brands among modern customers has reached such a point that many shoppers don’t trust online reviews anymore. With text, anyone could be behind the words. There’s a chance that the person extolling the virtues of a product on a brand’s website is a genuine customer, but there is also a chance that the brand created the review. The spread of fake and paid reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp has only made matters worse in this department. Video reviews are easier for customers to trust because viewers can actually see and hear the reviewer in addition to engaging with their words. Video is naturally a more personal medium than writing, so users feel more inclined to trust it. Video reviews are also much harder for brands to fake than written reviews, making them more trustworthy.
They encourage an emotional connection
Video is inherently a more personal medium than text: being able to see a person’s facial expressions, watch their body language, and hear the tone of their voice make video reviews feel like a window into someone’s day-to-day life. The personal nature of these videos encourages users to forge an emotional connection with the reviewer. They see someone who reminds them of themselves and therefore they feel inclined to trust that person. The trust created by that emotional connection ends up linked to your brand and your products.
They are engaging
Modern attention spans have dwindled, as has people’s willingness to read. There is a reason that sites like Buzzfeed have done so well with list-based articles that are made up largely of pictures. Many internet users just aren’t interested in reading large blocks of text—not because they are lazy, but because they don’t engage with it on any level. Videos encourage more engagement. It is easier for most customers to watch a two-minute video than absorb a three-paragraph product review. There’s a facet of accessibility to that play button that isn’t there with a lengthier review. As such, customers who would not have read or engaged with a written customer review are willing to watch a video review through to the end and use it to inform purchasing decisions.
At Criteek, we can help you to implement video reviews throughout your e-commerce website, you can learn more here.
By now, you understand that video content is the future of marketing. However, understanding and implementation are not the same. There are plenty of high-profile sources out there that have gone on record highlighting the importance of video for brands. There are also plenty of brands that still aren’t using video as a regular part of their content marketing strategies.
We know that making the switch from written content to video content can be daunting. By following the steps and tips laid out below, you can master these basics and start enjoying the benefits of video content right now.
Implement both in-house and user-generated video strategies
The best video marketing strategies make use of both in-house video and user-generated video. There are some types of videos that only you can create. Brand stories, interviews with people from your company, case studies, and official product “how-to” guides are all going to be in-house projects. However, customer-generated video (which usually takes the form of video reviews and social videos) will deliver a lot of the benefits of other types of video without the production costs. Video reviews improve dwell rates, give shoppers extra information about your products, and offer great social media sharing power. Positive video reviews also double as customer testimonials, which are terrific for improving brand trust.
Figure out what type of video content your audience wants to see
Before you film a second of video, sit down and brainstorm what type of video content you want to create. In order to do this, try to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What stories do they want to see? Which “customer support” topics or frequently asked questions can you address with “how to” guides or demonstration videos? Could case studies of your company’s projects help you win over new clients? If you feel like there is customer demand for a specific video topic, then the corresponding video will benefit your brand.
Retain the human element
Brands often make the mistake of focusing their video content primarily on things rather than on people. For instance, an e-commerce company might have a product take center stage for the visual portion of a video and then relegate the narration to voiceover. Similarly, a construction contractor might feature shots of machinery or active project footage rather than giving a good amount of time to an interview with the project manager. While it is important to show your product or service in your video, it is also vital to retain the human element. People—their voices, their facial expressions, their body language, and their reliability—will give your video an emotional dimension that connects with customers.
Keep the content short and sweet
Long-form videos have their place in content marketing. For example, if you host a webinar, it’s obviously going to be lengthy. But for the most part, you want to keep your content as short and digestible as possible. One to three minutes is typically the sweet spot. That’s a tight target to hit, so make sure you are utilizing cuts and other editing tricks to keep the video slick and on-topic.
Create a spot on your website where users can browse videos
Too many brands spend time and money on their video content and then just dump it on YouTube. While YouTube is a good place to host your videos, you shouldn’t just upload them to your YouTube channel and then call it a day. You need your videos to be easily locatable to anyone visiting your website for the first time. Build a section of your website where you store all of your videos, or divide video pages into different categories depending on the content. You will reap more benefits from your video content (improved traffic, dwell rate, and revenue) and users will still be able to find your greatest hits on YouTube if they want to.
You also shouldn’t just upload your videos to your site and hope that customers find them. Instead, start featuring and sharing your videos everywhere you can. Post videos on Facebook and Twitter and encourage users to give feedback. Video content is extremely sharable, so you should see good numbers of likes and retweets on these posts. You can also make videos more visible on your website by featuring a few of them on your homepage or embedding them in your email newsletters to improve their reach.
Watch the metrics
Before you implement video reviews or start posting video content you have produced in-house, take note of your website and social media metrics. What do your dwell rates or conversion rates look like? What sort of traffic is your written marketing content getting? How many social followers do you have? How do your posts do on Facebook or Twitter when you share text-based content? Once you’ve implemented video, track all of these metrics and see how they change. You need to look at view numbers for your videos and stats about how many customers make it all the way through your videos. Comparing your site and social media performance before and after video content will give you a sense of just how much video is helping your brand.
Have you looked at your brand’s e-commerce sales numbers lately? If not, take a look right now. How many of your sales are coming from desktop operating systems? How many are coming from mobile?
If you are like most online retail brands, then your number of sales coming from mobile platforms has grown dramatically in the past few years. Mobile has become so vital in e-commerce that it now has its own name: “mobile commerce” or “m-commerce.”
It’s easy to assume that most of your e-commerce sales are still coming from desktop platforms. The image that most of us see in our heads when we think of “online shopping” is someone sitting in front of their computer, typing in searches and clicking their mouse to add items to their shopping carts. But that image is quickly shifting to accommodate the experiences that customers expect, like, and trust when shopping online.
The Power of M-Commerce
In 2014, Shopify studied 100,000 e-commerce retailers and found that 50.3% of their combined sales were coming from mobile platforms compared to 49.7% for desktop. In September 2012, Shopify’s numbers had only credited 17% of e-commerce sales to mobile devices. 22.7% is a big leap for m-commerce to take in just two years. Gartner, an information technology research company, predicted in a January 2015 press release that mobile commerce would account for half of “digital commerce revenue” after 2017.
There can be no doubt that m-commerce is growing and growing rapidly. In the not-to-distant future, it will surpass desktop shopping as the predominant form of e-commerce.
Understanding How M-Commerce and Video Go Hand-in-Hand
So how can online retailers keep pace with the changing world of e-commerce? The first step is to make sure that your site is as responsive and mobile-friendly as possible. It needs to be as easy for customers to use your online store on mobile as it is on desktop. From searching products to picking out sizes, colors, and other product variations all the way to the checkout process, everything about your e-commerce store needs to be optimized for mobile.
However, simply making your site mobile-friendly isn’t enough to keep pace with the changes that are transforming e-commerce. You also need to think about how your mobile customers will want to interact and engage with different parts of your site, including the homepage and the product pages. Specifically, you need to think about tweaking your content marketing strategy to include more of an emphasis on video content.
It’s no coincidence that online video has seen a rise in prominence alongside mobile devices. Cisco says that, by next year, 69% of all consumer internet traffic will come from video. The rise in video has something to do with our society’s short attention spans and decreasing willingness to read anything longer than 140 characters, but while these factors might be playing a role, the rise in video can also be credited to mobile devices.
Why is video the preferred content format for mobile devices? There are several reasons. First off, while smartphone screens are getting bigger on average, they are still much smaller than a computer screen. Reading an entire article, website page, or customer review on a smartphone screen is straining on the eyes. Getting the same information from a video is more convenient and user-friendly.
Video is also more immediately engaging. Most smartphone users do a lot of browsing the web or scrolling through their social media feeds during the short bits of free time they have during the day. Reading an entire blog post still feels like a time commitment, which means that written marketing content doesn’t usually engage users who are just checking their Twitter feed during a break from work or while waiting for an appointment. Bite-sized video content is more easily digestible for users whose time is limited, which leads to higher engagement rates and more shares.
The extra convenience and digestibility of video content is a huge boon for e-commerce companies. It makes product pages more mobile-friendly, helps you show off your products with words and visuals, and makes your content more shareable. The benefits range from higher dwell rates on your website to wider reach on social media, all the way to better revenues.
How to Incorporate Video into Your Content Marketing Strategy
The bottom line is this: to keep pace with the rise of m-commerce, your brand needs to start producing, publishing, and sharing video content. Criteek can help you take your first steps into video content marketing.
We help e-commerce brands like yours incorporate video reviews on their product pages. With this feature, you can encourage your users to start contributing video content to your site. These videos have the same benefits of other video content (they are innately shareable, they increase dwell rates, and more), but they don’t require your company to shoulder production rates.
If your e-commerce product pages aren’t recording the conversion rates that you want, there could be several factors to blame. From visuals to text-to-site responsiveness, conversion rate is not determined by just one thing but by many variables interacting with one another. When Criteek works with e-commerce companies, we find that the ones struggling with conversion rates are falling victim to all of the same pitfalls.
Here are the factors that the experts tweak to help clients increase their conversions:
Strong product descriptions help with SEO, and good specification sections help customers feel more informed before they buy. However, these factors cannot and will not give you a strong conversion rate by themselves. Most modern customers just don’t trust written copy that comes directly from a brand.
This fact is not a reflection on your company or how honest and forthright you have been with your customers in the past. Rather, customer distrust ties back to modern marketing as a whole. From targeted advertisements that feel like invasions of privacy to the “bad egg” companies that purposefully mislead their customers, there are plenty of reasons for modern shoppers not to trust any content that they can label as “marketing” or “advertising.”
What most modern shoppers do trust is the word of their peers. At Criteek, our statistics tell us that shoppers today are 12 times more likely to trust other shoppers than they are to trust marketers. As such, the best thing that you can possibly do to improve the conversion rates of your e-commerce site is to implement customer reviews. This way, shoppers can get the objective information they need about your product from other shoppers while reading a subjective opinion about the product. A good review on your product page will do much more to convince shoppers to click the “Add to Cart” button than marketing copy ever could.
Another thing that marketing copy can’t replicate is a high-quality image (or several high-quality images) of the product you are selling. Customers want to be able to see what they are buying before they buy it. Online shopping makes this part of the shopping experience much more difficult than brick-and-mortar shopping because customers can’t hold the products in their hands before buying. Because of this shortcoming, including large and beautiful images of your products—preferably showing your product from multiple different angles and displaying different color options—will greatly increase the likelihood of a customer deciding to buy.
Images are great supplementary content, but ultimately they can’t rival the power of video. Pictures of your product help to fill the “hold it in your hand” facet of in-person shopping that often isn’t replicated in e-commerce settings. Video content does an even better job at filling that void. While video content can’t give customers the opportunity to touch or hold a product in their hands, it gets closer than images. With product videos, customers see your product without an edited (and potentially untrustworthy) brand-produced sizzle reel and they get to observe how it looks from all angles. They get to see it in action. A video that demonstrates your product’s features will help your customers imagine what it will actually be like to use that product. As such, video content is terrific for dispelling any doubts or reservations that customers may have about a product.
You can pair video content and customer reviews into one powerful conversion-boosting tool. Video reviews are becoming more and more popular in the e-commerce sphere, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Combining the trust that shoppers have in their peers with the easy engagement and visual nature of video produces a site feature that your product pages must have.
Since producing professional video content is expensive, video reviews can help your brand save money. By letting your customers create videos that show off your products and demonstrate their features, you get the benefits of videos without having to invest in their production. The quality of the video will inherently be lower than it would have been if you had created a professional demonstration clip. However, since shoppers prefer to trust content from other customers anyway, they won’t mind the lower fidelity.
By most metrics that you track, your e-commerce brand is doing fine. You have a lot of followers on social media, your SEO campaigns are paying off, and your website traffic is right in the sweet spot. The only problem is that all of those factors just aren’t translating into purchases, revenues, or increased customer loyalty. Why, when your brand is seemingly performing well on the internet, are you still struggling to record strong conversion rates? Read on to see how you can improve shopper engagement.
Dwell Times: The Most Important Metric for Your E-Commerce Website
If you look at the dwell times for your product pages, you will find the source of your conversion problem. Yes, you are getting good page view numbers. You are successfully getting customers to your website and onto your product pages. What you aren’t doing is inspiring them to stick around and make decisions.
Dwell times tell the story of an e-commerce company’s success much better than page view numbers and social media followers can. They don’t just tell you how many people clicked a link and visited a URL, or how many people tapped the “Follow” button. Dwell time figures tell you how customers are interacting with your website. When the dwell times for your product pages are somewhere near 60 seconds on average, that’s a sign that people aren’t engaging with the content or products on those pages. Something is causing them to lose interest and abandon the page. The question is, what’s the culprit?
Criteek’s Newton Running Experiment
At Criteek, we recently had the pleasure of working with Newton Running, a globally regarded running shoe brand headquartered in Boulder, Colorado—one of the most popular running cities in the country. Newton is generally a well-regarded brand, not just for the quality of their shoes but also for their environmentally-friendly practices and their philanthropic efforts. Despite all of this, Newton Running was having the same problem with their online store that so many e-commerce brands experience. Despite strong traffic and a fairly robust social media following, Newton Running was struggling to maintain strong dwell times.
Working with Criteek, Newton Running implemented a professional experiment to increase customer engagement on a few of its key product pages. The question behind the experiment was simple: could implementing video-based customer reviews on product pages increase the dwell times for those pages?
The answer to that question was a massive “yes.” Each page increased its average dwell time by over a minute with the biggest leap at 70 seconds. 84% of surveyed users said they felt that the addition of video reviews improved the user experience of the product pages in question. The presence of video reviews made customers feel more inclined to engage with those pages.
Why Customers Aren’t Engaging with Your Product Pages
Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. You are shopping for a product online and you end up on a brand’s website, browsing their product pages. The pages include product descriptions directly from the brand as well as a photo or two. However, the pages include no information you can use to gauge the quality or usability of the product. You therefore have two options: you can take the brand at its word and trust that the product will suit your needs perfectly, or you can head back to Google and try to find reviews for the product in question.
In a Dimensional Research survey from 2013, 90% of respondents said that their buying decisions were influenced by online reviews. Most customers actively seek out a second or third opinion when they are shopping for products. They don’t just want to trust the brand’s product description without finding any additional trustworthy information to back it up. As a result, e-commerce sites that don’t host customer reviews tend to lose visitors who either go elsewhere to find reviews or simply give up on that product or service.
This trend explains why many e-commerce brands see poor dwell times for their product pages. There is nothing for customers to engage with on those pages, so they don’t inspire customers to stick around. When customers don’t stick around, those product pages don’t convert.
Implementing customer reviews—and video reviews specifically—is a terrific way to boost engagement, dwell time, and conversion rates at once. When customers have the option to read a review of a product, they will take that opportunity to learn more about the product and come to a purchasing decision. Video reviews are even better because they create strong emotional connections between the reviewer and the shopper and allow for real-time demonstrations of products. Not only do customers learn more about product features via video reviews but they also see those features in action.