Proving The Sales Effect Of Online Reviews With A Boring Product

May 23, 2017 10:42 AM | Written by: Jeroen den Bok

‘What are the sales effects of online reviews?’ is one of the first questions prospects ask us. It’s a fair question and easy to answer: they are GREAT! Yet, somehow this doesn't always convince everyone...

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Online consumer feedback makes you sell more, give you more insights and improve your Google Search positions to name a few. But for those potential clients who are still in doubt, we provide proof through interesting business cases like this sexy case about a revolutionary new condom in which an a/b test shows sales conversion increase of 245% because of online reviews.

Still, these kind of business cases are convincing but the need for proof of sales effects got me thinking: How can I create the perfect business case that is so compelling to my prospects, it makes them dance on the table and order it immediately?

Now thát is a real challenge. We would need real data to back up such a case and that is not as easy as it may sound.

Why collecting real data is hard for us

We are not a software company. We don't sell tools, we are an agency that sells a service. We don't work with bits and bytes, we work with an army of real people. If anything, this business is about being real and authentic. But it sure makes it hard for us to measure the effects.

The challenges we face:

  • Online retailers don’t share their sales data. A company like bol.com or fnac.com is protecting conversion data information like Coca Cola is protecting their secret formula;
  • Measuring effects is complicated in itself as there are many different factors influencing the sales of a product;
  • Every stakeholder involved needs to be convinced to put resources in a test case on the effects of online sales and it is hard to get 3 to 6 different parties on the same page if it doesn’t bring them immediate results;
  • If you have everyone on board, how do you start measuring it? What is the best way? For example:
    • You could compare sales data from two different moments in time. Let’s say in one month you have zero reviews, in the next month you have 20 reviews. If your sales numbers have improved (or declined) you can argue this change is due to the online reviews. This is not the best approach as many factors which have an impact on sales could have changed in the meantime (seasonal influence, sales promotion).
    • You can do an A/B test: one consumer goes to the product listing page of the e-tailer, sees and reads online reviews and ratings, the next consumer goes to same product listing page but without the consumer feedback. By comparing the conversion rates of these consumers you can measure the sales effects of online reviews. We’ve build a pretty strong case like this for LELO HEX condoms.

Creating the ultimate business case

Having this in mind, I took a couple of weeks of thinking, reading, talking and forgetting before I figured out what I had to do to create the ultimate business case: Stars and Stories had to create a product on its own, sell it online and do all kinds of tests with it in relation to the impact of online reviews.

Why do I think this is the best way? Because:

  • it gives us the purest data available: our own sales numbers.
  • we can do A/B tests on different online retailers.
  • we won’t advertise in any other way except through online review campaigns so the data can’t be corrupt.

There were some other reasons why I thought creating our own product and launching it on the market was a good plan:

  • It would help our team understand our clients in a deeper way: we'd start to understand how complicated it is to bring a product to the market.
  • It would help our team tell a story full of emotion, facts, failures and successes in a more compelling way to our suspects, prospects and clients.

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