Since its founding in July 2003, Thriftbooks.com, a Seattle-based e-commerce site offering 7 million used book titles for sale, has been growing at a steady—if modest—pace, according to Matt Sand, the company’s vice president of marketing. Even modest growth has been a commendable achievement, given the fact that Thrift Books operates in Amazon’s own backyard, but in the fall of 2014, Thrift Books realized that it needed to overhaul both its website design and its brand’s digital standing to aid in its customer acquisition efforts.
In November 2014, Sand approached Copenhagen, Denmark-based website review platform Trustpilot Inc. with two goals: to increase ROI on its search marketing efforts, and to track customer service issues in real time. Trustpilot collects reviews for online retailers and feeds them directly to search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo. Reviews are then directly accessible via the retailers’ search engine listings, with a five-star rating system appearing just below the e-retailers’ Web addresses in search engine results. The star rating shows up in paid and organic search results, and on the “Google Shopping” search tab.
“With Trustpilot, there were a few things we were hoping to get,” Sand says. “One is having a Google-approved, third-party review site that would allow us to get the star ratings on all of our paid search ads. In Google Shopping [search results], that’s a pretty big deal. That helps conversion rates, in general. It just sets you apart from everything else on that screen” by giving consumers the sense that a company whose listing includes a healthy rating has been vetted by previous customers and, therefore, could be more trustworthy. The fact that Trustpilot also could help Thrift Books keep tabs on customer service issues and brand perception problems was a secondary—but equally valuable—benefit, he says.
Thrift Books e-mails customers two weeks after a purchase is completed, asking them to review their experiences directly on Trustpilot.com. That review is then factored into the overall five-star rating provided to search engines, and it can be featured on Thrift Books’ website or social media pages for promotional purposes. It’s also included on a review dashboard that Sand and his team can monitor.
According to Sand, the customer service team currently has to manually connect a customer’s review to his profile in the company’s records, so Sand is looking into CRM systems that will connect all of the information more quickly. However, in the meantime, Trustpilot’s review technology allows the team to identify and remedy customer service problems more quickly.
Through Trustpilot, Thrift Books is able to track issues like the condition of the book sent and how long shipping takes in real time, so mistakes are addressed quickly. “In the past, we had ways for customers to tell us if they had an issue, but by proactively going out and asking our customers what their experience was like, we’re not only getting those issues, we’re also getting things that have the potential to be issues if we’re not paying attention,” Sand says. “Being able to read through all of those reviews really helps us hone in on any meta-trends in our business that we otherwise might not be aware of.”
After seven months of prompting users to leave reviews, Thrift Books has garnered more than 17,000 reviews, and 95% are four or five stars. “We were able to find out that most of our customers are incredibly happy with us,” Sand says. “That’s something that really helps morale with our customer service team because they’re normally dealing with problems.”
Before Thrift Books had launched its Trustpilot partnership, total site traffic was up 60% over the previous year thanks to months of boosting SEO and digital ad buying. After the review platform launched, total site traffic increased 125% over the previous year. Revenue growth followed suit, climbing 180% year over year in the months following the review platform launch, compared with an 80% yearly gain prior to its deployment.
“Review aggregation is really important when there’s not much brand reputation formed yet, and it can be an excellent way to build that reputation and have some control over it,” says Ken Madden, senior vice president and head of engagement at New York-based shopper marketing firm Shoptology. The reason for spending marketing dollars on managing online reviews now is twofold, he says: “to manage any negative feedback and get on top of that quickly, but just as important is making sure that the good feedback is in the right places to drive those purchases through. Online reviews have become the new Better Business Bureau.”
Sand agrees: “Reviews are just critical. Trust is the No. 1 hurdle that we’ve had to overcome as far as whether or not someone is going to buy from us. … For us to be effective at all, we have to engender that feeling of trust, and having a neutral third party saying that we’re as good as we say we are really helps.”
But without being able to tie customers’ reviews directly to CRM data, the process is a work in progress, Sand says. “Joining customer reviews to our existing customer profiles will enable a whole new level of sophistication to our customer contact strategy, allowing us to follow up with customers in a more programmatic and targeted way.”
This post originally appeared on AMA.org – original post