American shoppers have become addicted to checking consumer reviews on everything they buy.
But stores have failed to find a way to make reviews readily available in stores, and that’s killing business for many traditional retailers like Macy’s, JC Penney, and Best Buy.
“Social feedback and validation has become an embedded step in our daily consumption — no longer an afterthought but simply part of how we buy,” Doug Stephens, author of the blog The Retail Prophet, writes. “And yet when we walk into most retail environments we are entering digital deserts, barren of any meaningful content at all.”
Shoppers need to be able to pick up a product and instantly have access to user reviews and other relevant information. If it’s a piece of clothing, for example, it would helpful to see how other customers have styled it.
This problem doesn’t just affect sellers of big-ticket items like flat-screen TVs. Most people today wouldn’t even consider renting a movie without checking reviews, Stephens points out.
Many traditional retailers have added digital displays in their stores, but they serve little utility.
“If we’re lucky we get a digital screen or two dropped into the store looping irrelevant imagery,” Stephens writes. “If we’re not so lucky, we get is a price sticker, a label and a full-time employee with a part-time interest in helping us.”
“Several of the pots have no label below them. Others have no price. And, this being a retail store, there were no customer reviews. I also had no way to compare Le Creuset to other brands, and no way to understand which product type — copper? cast iron? steel? anodized? — would work best for me.
And I was standing alone. No one at any time approached to offer help, even though I was circling the cookware section. (This might have just been a momentary lapse, as I’ve seen helpful staff on other visits.) Overall the store lacked information on its products — call it a ‘data desert’ — which led me to pull out my iPhone and open the Amazon app.
Within two minutes I had read a half-dozen customer reviews and compared prices. The skillet was a good choice, and as it turned out, Amazon was $US10 cheaper and offered free shipping. A couple of taps later I had ordered the skillet from Amazon — and avoided standing in a checkout line.”
Some stores, like Nordstrom, are using social media to better merchandise their products.
Nordstrom has been using Pinterest to find out which products are most popular, and marks those products with a red tag in stores so customers can easily find them.
But stores need to go even further if they want to survive, according to Stephens.
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