What’s the verdict from Forrester’s CX NYC Conference?

CX conference CX professionals CXNYC

Forrester’s annual CX NYC event is known in the CX world as one not to be missed, and so we were delighted to be in attendance yet again. If you couldn’t make it this year, we’ve brought you some of our key takeaways from this year’s thought-provoking two day event, with a deeper dive into one theme that we know is a particular pain point for CX professionals.

  1. Authentic commitment to brand values that resonate with your audience is essential to growth and maintaining loyalty, especially as Gen Z are entering the market.

Forrester are defining this as the rise of “values-based customers”: a growing number of consumers who will choose, switch and boycott brands based on its ethical/social justice stance, who expect company CEOs to stand up personally for what is morally ‘right’, and who trust companies more than governments to solve social issues.

Ahead of the curve here are brands like Patagonia for their stance on environmental awareness, foregoing potential revenue to encourage people to reuse old damaged clothes and product instead of buying new ones; and REI, again sucking up potentially significant losses to close down for Black Friday as part of their core belief that people should #optoutside instead, to destress and spend time with loved ones instead of being stuck inside working or part of a frantic shopping melee.

Forrester advises all CX professionals to work with their companies to consciously decide how much they should integrate their values into their business model, and how much they will highlight those values to consumers. No longer can businesses remain aloof and agnostic about issues, if they wish to stay relevant.

  1. CX is stagnating.

Forrester used an early keynote speech in their flagship event as a wakeup call, to brands and to the CX industry as a whole.  The scores in this year’s CX Index report remained largely flat against last year, with no organizations emerging as leaders of the pack.

Forrester recommend two ways that businesses who want to ‘change the game’ can really start to push here: a) understand the impact that emotion has on CX, and really focus – more than ever before –  on how you can start to tip the scales here for your customers; and b) Ensure you’re capable of measuring CX, how those changes you make impact it, and that your measurement tools allow you to tie this to business objectives of loyalty and – of course – revenue (more on this below).

CX NYC 2019 board_what customers really want

  1. Tying CX to revenue growth is absolutely vital.

And yet it’s one of the toughest challenges for CX professionals, according to those we’ve spoken with.

Proving the value and ROI of your company’s CX programs is key to a) getting buy in from the top down – a must if said programs are going to thrive and succeed – b) securing further investment, whether that’s in terms of time, technology or training & recruitment, and c) ensuring that your programs are ultimately successful in terms of your key business objectives: increasing customer loyalty and spend.

According to Forrester, one of the common missteps in tying CX to revenue include over-reliance on NPS as the only metric. They don’t suggest that NPS isn’t valuable by any means, just that there are other indicators that may have even more impact, particularly those associated with enrichment of the relationship.

They note that collecting feedback at point of sale is an important data source when it comes to tying CX to revenue, especially with the additional value of real-time responses and gaining a much larger sample size.

Having a plan for what you want to measure is obviously important. It sounds like common sense, but it’s very easy to get almost too enthusiastic and start trying to capture data that actually doesn’t relate to your core objectives.

Which brings us to the final point – prioritization. How you prioritize which fixes to make first depends on the relationship between CX and revenue, and this is why getting mass, accurate data is key. It’s impossible to prioritize effectively without first measuring which elements of CX matter most – to your brand and bottom line. And most businesses right now don’t have the tools to do this. Accurate, mass feedback from customers at the point of sale, returned in real-time, is a powerfully  effective tool in any CX practitioner’s toolkit.

The opening keynote speech from Forrester at CX NYC 2019 began with the idea that CX as an industry has stalled and needs a fresh outlook. It’s our goal to provide that fresh outlook by giving a voice to every customer, and helping our retailers listen, understand and ultimately change their CX for the better, based on that voice, that truth, that only customers can provide.

What is social proof and why is it important in marketing?

The history of social proof

Social proof as a concept has been around for quite some time. Psychologists were describing it decades ago (perhaps most notably Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: The psychology of persuasion). However, it’s only recently that we’ve seen it become the focus of intense interest from marketers – particularly marketers in the digital space.

A great example of social proof from pre-digital times is choosing a restaurant. You’re on vacation in a completely new area. Your first day you go for an early evening stroll to find a place to eat. Of course, the beachfront is filled with appealing-looking seafood restaurants.  You walk by three that are almost exactly the same. All look good, but two are almost empty and one is almost full. Which do you choose?

The vast, vast majority of us will choose the busy restaurant. Even though we know this means that service will probably take longer. It may not even be a fully-conscious decision – such is the power of social proof.

This is but one example – there are all kinds of ways that social proof is influencing our behavior every day – from working later because our colleagues tend to, to watching a box office hit movie or reading a bestselling novel.

As much as we all love to think of ourselves as independent, free-willed individuals, the truth is that we’re all human, and as such all subject to a certain amount of ‘herd mentality’: we like to fit in.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Social Proof Pioneer: Elvis Presley

Recent developments in social proof

So why has ‘social proof’ as a concept suddenly moved front and center of many a marketer’s spheres of interest?

Well, consider the above restaurant example. These days people are as likely to hop onto the TripAdvisor app on their phone as they are to take a chance on strolling up & down the road to pick out a restaurant. And what powers TripAdvisor? Social proof in the form of ratings and reviews.

While restaurants and cafes remain the top category that consumers check reviews for, all types of commerce are now subject to social proof. Even in the case of buying products in a brick & mortar store, people still often jump online to check out reviews first (usually for larger ticket items – not so much when buying a pack of gum). In fact, in 2018 56% of consumers read reviews on their mobile devices while browsing in-store.

It’s not just reviews. The simple power of knowing that lots of people have made the decision we’re considering can help push us one way or the other. Hence ads and sign-up CTAs have started to include little nuggets such as “114, 506 people in your area have already joined us!”. Next time you’re booking a hotel, notice the little pop up that tells you something like “This hotel has been booked 19 times in the past 24 hours”.  Even Candy Crush, when encouraging you to buy extra moves to get past a level, now tells you reassuringly, “28, 881 people used extra moves to complete this level”. Oh, well, in that case…

Other types of social proof include celebrity endorsements, expert endorsements (“9 out of 10 dentists recommend…”) and quick stats similar to those above, like “84 people are currently viewing this webpage”. However, ratings and reviews are where the big business (and hand in hand, the gaming and the fakery) lies.

Social proof and marketing

Whether you’re marketing a product, service or experience, if you have no online reviews, you have a big problem. 92% of consumers will hesitate to make a purchase if there are none, according to this 2017 survey.

86% of shoppers will look for reviews according to this 2018 consumer survey – and this is only going to grow. In the 18-34 category, 95% of people look for reviews, and 92% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

This last stat was fairly astounding to me. As a marketer, I’d always understood ‘Word of Mouth’ (or WOM) marketing to be the ever-elusive holy grail for marketing, something that money can’t buy, and that ‘friends & family’ recommendations were the most powerful of all.

And yet here is a growing body of evidence that online ratings and reviews are almost as powerful as a personal recommendation from a family member.

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TruRating collected more reviews for a London based DimSum restaurant than Disney World

How to get social proof

Whether you work in retail, hospitality, service or pretty much any industry going, there is a multitude of tools available to help you increase your business’s social proof.

Here is our run-down of the factors you should keep in mind when considering these tools:

  • Mix it up. Online ratings may be the most powerful tool in the kit, but ‘recent customer activity’-type quick stats have been said to boost conversion rates by 10-25% in e-commerce.
  • Quantity counts. People find your rating more trustworthy if they can see a lot of people have rated. Choose a tool that makes it as easy as possible for people to rate, and watch your social proof skyrocket!
  • Don’t aim for perfection. This fascinating study found that not only is the quantity of ratings way more important than quality but that a perfect rating average can actually hurt your business, as readers view it as a suspect.
  • Timing is, if not everything, then certainly very important. 70% of people responded to a question about how recent the reviews need to be in order to trust them with ‘within one month’. More than half of those preferred ‘within two weeks’. Choose a tool that keeps your ratings display fresh.
  • Make sure you’re pushing traffic in the right direction. No sense having all this fantastic influence on your consumer’s buying behavior if they’re not then directed to the right place (such as your website). If the increase in traffic picks up enough, you’ll also see a positive impact on your SEO – win-win!

TruRating and social proof

By asking customers one simple question each as they pay, both online and in-store, TruRating gets businesses more ratings than they’ve ever had before.

With the highest response rates of any customer rating system, we’ve helped a small London restaurant chain gain more ratings in just two years than Disney World has in total.

And it’s not just about the numbers…once you’re collecting all those ratings, we can help you leverage them in the most valuable possible way, through real-time updates on your website that help positively influence your customers’ buying behavior.

Speak to us about how you can use your in-store ratings to boost online social proof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazon Fake Reviews Trap: Freakin’ Cheatin’ and What Businesses Can Do To Avoid It

It’s all over the news about Amazon and fake reviews and yet—is it really news? Amazon does its best to tackle the fake review problem but are any of us truly shocked to find that they’re still being gamed?

In a world where “fake news!” has become a common battle cry, what is perhaps surprising is that increasing numbers of consumers rely on reviews to make a purchasing decision, particularly when buying online.

Indeed, 97% of online shoppers say they are influenced by reviews, and it’s been found that 85% of people rely on reviews as much as they do personal recommendations from friends and family. A more recent study found that product reviews are the most important factor influencing purchase (88%), over brand name (71%), social influencers (10%) and celebrity endorsements (5%).

The evidence is clear—if you’re selling something, whether online or off (56 percent of consumers read reviews on their mobile devices while browsing in-store), you need reviews to help convince your customers that they’re making the right decision before they pull out their wallets.

So how do businesses protect themselves—and their customers—against the pitfalls of fake reviews?

Make it really, really easy

When it’s quick and painless for customers to rate, most of them will! Estimates of the proportion of consumers willing to leave reviews vary, and Amazon are understandably playing their cards close to their chest, but recent research suggests it’s between 3-10%.

However, by asking one quick question at the point of payment and answering with a push of a button, we’ve found that up to 90% of customers are happy to leave feedback.

With such a massive volume of validated customer ratings, even if someone did try to game the system with fake ones, they would have little to no impact. After all, if the manufacturers could afford to pay 90% of purchasers for fake reviews, they probably wouldn’t need to.

Keep it anonymous

People are more likely to leave honest feedback, and trust that feedback from others is honest, when it’s completely anonymous. This anonymity would put a further roadblock in the path to cheating businesses paying for false positives. And perhaps just as importantly, it prevents over-eager restaurant managers pursuing customers who left a negative review.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Or in other words, don’t fret too much about the odd negative review. Think more about the sheer number you get.

Some recent and very fascinating findings indicate that shoppers pay far more attention to the volume of reviews than they do to the number of negative ones. Out of two products with the same score, shoppers will tend to opt for the one with the most ratings, even though the statistics mean there’s more chance the poor ratings are accurate. In fact, products with only perfect ratings are mistrusted as too good to be true—having a few lower ratings in there appears to be more convincing.

Remember, the main objective is to get honest feedback from genuine customers. That means that the occasional issue is bound to arise, as no business is perfect—not even Amazon! As a business, be prepared to listen to and act on what your customers are telling you—and that might mean occasionally hearing unpleasant truths.

The good news

Businesses that follow this advice have found it easier to make their customers happier, increase loyalty, retention, and ultimately, spend.

And they don’t have to worry about fake reviews.

Jill Bentley

TruRating Survived the Retail Shark Tank and Came Out on Top!

We are absolutely delighted to announce that despite tough competition, TruRating was voted winner of the 2017 Retail Executive Summit (RES) Startup Competition, sponsored by RIS News.

“TruRating emerged as the big winner by beating two other retail tech startups in a shark-tank competition,” said Joe Skorupa, editorial director of RIS News. “TruRating won the audience poll by a wide margin and was also the unanimous choice of the expert judges. Alan Outlaw made it clear that TruRating is unique in the market, fills an important need, and improves a retailer’s business performance. Congratulations are due to everyone at TruRating for this impressive win.”

Thank you, Joe! We’re incredibly proud to have won, and certainly pleased to be collecting the very nice check!

But much more than this, the event was such a rewarding experience overall. In fact, the follow-up questions and feedback from attending industry leaders in the days since the event has really brought home just how valuable it was. Our North American President, Alan Outlaw, was inundated with requests for more information and meetings following the pitch he made before the ‘sharks’. We’re very grateful to the organizers for building such a great event and inviting us, as well as to the panel of judges that voted for us.

We must give a shout out to our competitors too! Anquiro, a game-changer in the field of competitive intelligence, and MallMotion, a unique geolocation/shopping platform, impressed all the judges and audience members with their exciting, innovative concepts. And making a mark at an event like RES is hugely significant for any start up.

The Retail Executive Summit (RES) is an annual event bringing together prominent retail leaders and industry experts to enable an interactive sharing of ideas, with a focus on leadership, business strategy and cutting-edge technology. It’s a fantastic way to make new connections, learn about the latest developments and trends, and discover the companies that are breaking new ground to deliver retailers opportunities for competitive advantage.

Alan Outlaw _Shart Tank

We felt reasonably confident going into the competition that we fall under the latter. TruRating is breaking new ground by taking a simple transaction and turning it into a unique dialogue that’s giving that huge silent majority a voice. The value we bring to a retailer is in helping them make fast, accurate decisions that can tangibly affect their bottom line. We believe in the power of honest feedback from real customers to help build better businesses.

Learn more about TruRating

Read more about the competition

Learn more about RES 2017

Jill Bentley

UK Retail: The Survival of the Fittest

For those of us who’ve been a part of the UK retail industry for any length of time, April headlines are the source of many knowing smiles—bouncing madly as they do between projections for the perpetual death of the high street, and better-than-expected announcements from the larger brands who compete on it.

Yes, there are some undeniable and well-known truths:

  • Online shopping is changing the game
  • Households are tightening their belts
  • Millennials are much pickier than previous generations

But beyond that, can we definitively say that brick-and-mortar is crumbling?

There are those who say yes—changes to the way we shop are too far gone to be rescued. I know it’s a subject keeping many of the retailers that I talk to each week awake at night. But I believe that, somewhere in the noise, these better-than-expected announcements herald good news—that smart, savvy high street stores who play the customer game right can still win, and flourish.

Because I don’t believe it’s absolute spend that’s changing the game—i.e., money disappearing. There is money still there to be had and our own data shows that quite clearly. What’s really changing is consumer sentiment—that is, the increasing demands that consumers want met before they part with their hard-earned cash. They don’t just want a product, they want an experience—a value exchange—a bit more bang for their buck.

So, as the bright spots in the news show, a winning retail growth strategy is very much one that’s built around the total consumer experience. One that blends the right elements of product value, customer service, channel experience and brand perception into a single, complete engagement that drives the customer to spend more.

How do you get that mix right? Well, here’s a pretty frank quote from a recent PWC sector review: “Knowing the consumer, what they want and how they want to buy, will become more important than ever.” So, in other words, listening to your customers more closely, and linking what they say to their spending habits is how you get it right.

But where to begin? Well, it should be a pretty simple step-by-step process:

  • Start with giving the customer a voice—at the right time and in the right place—to tell you what you need to hear
  • Take their voices together and quickly and effectively qualify them against the different areas of your business that make up their experience
  • Play a bit of test-and-learn game, a game of marginal gains, where you tweak each element and track what works best
  • And of course—repeat, repeat, repeat

I know it doesn’t sound like rocket science—it’s not!—but until TruRating came along, it’s been surprisingly hard to do. Mainly because retail has been a little slower than many other verticals in grasping that simple solution—making technology do the hard graft.

The retail game is not a sprint—it’s a marathon where you must continually tweak and adjust elements of your performance to meet customer expectations and brand perceptions. I firmly believe that technology, in many different guises, holds the answer, and over the next few weeks I’ll be adding to this blog to go through what that means. I’ll be looking at the concept of “getting fit” for your business, and the different areas you can address to make marginal gains on your profits.

So stay tuned. And, in the meantime, do check out the PWC report linked above. It’s well worth a read.

Jill Bentley