Wal-Mart asking customers for product reviews as part of effort to boost online sales

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 77 views 

Wal-Mart is actively emailing customers who use its Savings Catcher application asking them to review certain items from their recent grocery receipt as part of an effort to boost its e-commerce business.

When customers click on the email to rate a product, they are redirected to the Walmart.com site where they are asked to complete the item review process. Customers are asked to title the review, provide relevant feedback such as how the product performed and things you would have liked to have known before buying it. The retailer asks customers to upload two photos and choose a rating from 1 to 5 stars. Finally consumers are asked whether they would recommend the product to a friend.

The Bentonville-based global retailer has been asking clients to review general merchandise items purchased online, but just recently began using Savings Catcher receipts to build up reviews and ratings on grocery items.

Jane Ewing, senior vice president of Digital Acceleration at Walmart, said Nov. 30 the retailer is trying to build up online reviews and ratings and urges suppliers to help with that content.

“We know ratings and reviews are important to consumers that value transparency today. Customers trust online ratings and reviews more than they do recommendations from colleagues or even mom,” Ewing said. “All items sold in stores and online need relevant content (ratings/reviews) and suppliers need to lean in and support this effort.”

Market watchers applaud this effort and it comes as no surprise given the retailer’s effort to beef up its online content as expand its marketplace. Walmart.com has increased its online items from 8 million last year to more than 23 million items this year.

“Walmart is asking for shopper feedback for grocery items as a clear effort for their omni channel plan. Manufacturers should recognize this as a store-based agenda, not a DotCom agenda. E-commerce is simply one channel of the Walmart seamless customer shopping experience (omni channel retail), something that Walmart has invested heavily in for the past couple years and will continue to invest toward. Suppliers that get behind Walmart’s strategy will see great rewards now and in the future,” said Eric Howerton, CEO of WhyteSpyder.

He said grocery is important for many reasons, but namely it’s where Walmart has a competitive advantage with its store rivals.

“Grocery items are also significantly lacking data/content compared to other items. As Walmart leads the world with better data/content for grocery items, shoppers will have more convenience in purchasing those items at Walmart — which is a win for Walmart, suppliers and most importantly, the shoppers,” Howerton added.

A recent study conducted by BrightLocal indicates online consumer reviews are highly relevant in business sectors. Retail however, was not among the businesses where reviews were deemed as important. Survey respondents were asked where they most often read and heed the advice of online reviews. About 60% of them said they use online reviews for restaurants and cafes, while just 31% indicate reading online reviews for clothing. Grocery reviews were less commonly read at just 28%.

The BrightLocal survey did find 84% of respondents trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. About 70% of consumers are willing to give reviews if they are asked, according to the survey. Other compelling stats around customer reviews include:
• 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews;
• 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business;
• 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more; and,
• 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important.

While the BrightLocal study indicates consumers are not yet interested in product reviews for clothing and grocery, analysts say it’s a matter of time before they will demand it.

SUPPLIER PUSHBACK
Howerton said some Wal-Mart suppliers have been hesitant to update and standardize their online product content which is a problem for retailer’s efforts to grow online sales and more importantly blend the online and in-store shopping experiences with services like online grocery pickup.

He said suppliers see that 99% of their business is inside Walmart U.S. stores, and they don’t think an online presence is necessary. What the suppliers are missing is many people do start their search for products online, where they can read and easily compare prices and reviews, but they may still purchase the item in a physical store.

That said, industry insights show shopper behavior utilizing digital technology to make confident purchasing decisions online and in-store, he added. Howerton said Wal-Mart is significantly invested in accommodating this empowered shopper. Though some manufacturers are behind in providing content he doesn’t think Wal-Mart has an option to wait.

Ken Lonyai, digital innovation strategist at ScreenPlay InterActive and a member of RetailWire’s Braintrust, recently noted in a blog post that retailers should be concerned with online reviews because competitor Amazon is focused on having reviews. Lonyai said consumers might now be more eager to seek reviews for service-types of businesses than clothing reviews, but shoppers are concerned about delivery or return hassles at retailers and reviews can be helpful in that respect.

“To not acknowledge the power and potential fallout of reviews is to not acknowledge that consumer experiences and interests are most important,” he added.

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