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In the age of user-generated content, even negative reviews are useful

The American billionaire businessman and co-founder of Intuit, Scott Cook, tells it straight, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

Around the world consumers are increasingly moving into the driver’s seat when it comes to influencing the perceptions and successes of brands in the marketplace.

They achieve this by harnessing the power of consumer, or, as some call it, user-generated content, to spread the word about their favourite brand and products.

During 2019, we are likely to see a marked inflection point in the use of user-generated content (UGC) among Australian brands and retailers, as it is increasingly recognised as the next generation of digital marketing.

While Australian brands and retailers have been slow to respond compared with their US, European and Asian counterparts, the speed to embrace UGC has suddenly gathered pace in the past year. But what’s driven this?

Amazon has made product reviews a priority

Amazon was the first to introduce UGC in the form of product reviews, and it changed the game for brands and retailers.

In late 2017, many Australian retailers felt they weren’t prepared for Amazon’s market entry ahead of Christmas. They held their collective breath and expected the worst but, actually, the worst didn’t happen. Indeed, the feedback we received from some retailers is that they felt they’d been given a reprieve, and during 2018, they have made the most of it.

Many retailers have realised their shopper relevancy and survival depends on their ability to rise above the noise with UGC, such as authentic product reviews. The figures speak for themselves. According to the 2017 Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92 per cent of consumers trust organic, consumer-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising.

Customers are able to provide direct feedback to retailers about their shopping experience and the products and services they have purchased, as well as rate, review and post photos and videos of their products. In return, this has allowed savvy brands and retailers to improve their products and services if and where needed, as well as improve customer experience along the path to purchase.

As an astute quote from the VP of British Airways, Donald Porter, reminds us, “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they expect you to fix things when they go wrong”.

I’ve been amazed how often negatives have been turned into positives by brands and retailers as a result of acting on shoppers’ blunt reviews. We’re in a new age of consumer power and it will continue to increase.

Kate Musgrove is the managing director of Bazaarvoice in APAC.

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