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The marketing tactic that gets five stars

Quick: Which online marketing technique, according to Foresee Results, is used by 72 percent of the top Internet retailers and is the most influential factor in purchase for 39% of all buyers? The answer is customer ratings and reviews. So why aren’t you using them on your site?


For most online marketers, it’s all about fear—fear of negative reviews. David Seifert, Director of Direct Marketing Operations for outdoors retailer Bass Pro Shops, sums it up: “As a retailer, you never want to say anything bad about something you sell.” But the fear is overblown—“Only seven to eight percent are negative reviews,” according to David.
The negative reviews are a small price to pay for some impressive results. Customers want to see negative reviews—it makes all of other reviews more credible. The Senior Director of e-Commerce for CompUSA, Al Hurlebaus, notes that after the US technology retailer added product reviews to its site, “Every single [product] category improved its conversion rate.”
Customer reviews and ratings are moving beyond products into services. US telephone company AT&T has launched reviews on YELLOWPAGES.COM, allowing consumers to rate any business, from a local plumber to a global retailer.
You might be growing convinced that offering reviews is a good idea for product retailers and service directories. After all, if one listing gets bad reviews maybe they’ll by something else from you. But it takes real guts for a product manufacturer to post reviews—negative ratings might send customers to your biggest competitor. I’ve highlighted Sun Microsystem’s use of product reviews in the past in the hope that more manufacturers will take the plunge.
Product ratings and reviews are proven to lead to higher conversions, but they also provide an invaluable listening post for customer feedback. David says Bass Pro monitors the top-rated and lowest-rated items and “we fix things not designed correctly.” “It gives [CompUSA] information about what’s important to them,” says Al.
But do reviews change customer perceptions? According to Curt Sasaki, Vice President of .SUN Web, “If you read and respond to what people say, people think, ‘Hey, Sun actually listened.’” In an era with so little trust in marketing, that may be the biggest benefit of all.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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