There are three steps brands must take when harnessing product advocacy to drive sales. First, they need to gather the people who are sought out for buying advice on products like theirs. We call these people experts. Second, they need to connect with these experts and provide them with knowledge about, and firsthand experiences with, their products to increase their likelihood to recommend and improve the quality of those recommendations.
The third step is to ensure these expert recommendations reach as many consumers as possible. One very important place that recommendations happen is on the retail sales floor. Another is the word-of-mouth from consumer to consumer. These verbal recommendations are extremely important, but these days, expert recommendations are also often shared online via e-commerce product pages, YouTube, Instagram, blog posts and more. And with the ability to reach millions of consumers with the click of a button, these digital recommendations are becoming increasingly more relevant and impactful.
It is almost a year since we launched the product recommendations feature in the ExpertVoice experience. Since then experts have been writing thousands of product recommendations every week. In the new Advocacy Platform we launched in March, we are giving brands the ability to access the recommendations that experts are writing about their products. And soon we will add the ability to curate recommendations and display the most useful ones on a brand’s website. This capturing and distribution of expert recommendations will massively enhance a brand’s ability to harness the power of expert recommendations.
Recommendations on demand
Experts love to help people. We’ve known this for a long time, but were still pleasantly surprised at the quantity and quality of recommendations generated when our Expert Recommendations feature became available in our web and mobile apps. There is no incentive for writing a recommendation and no reward for sharing positive feedback, but experts still do it. As a result of these detailed expert recommendations, hundreds of our partner brands now have access to honest, authentic product reviews, feedback and user-generated content — all created by credentialed experts who are knowledgeable and influential in their industry.
Most importantly, brands don’t have to leave recommendations to chance. We provide opportunities to prompt experts to write recommendations. There is no quid pro quo, and therefore no conflict of interest — experts are excited to provide their honest opinion when asked for it.
Digital means measurable
One of the limitations that marketers face with traditional word-of-mouth is the inability to measure the scale and impact. What are people saying, and who are those messages reaching? Once a recommendation is digital that all changes. Now marketers can compare and contrast product features with expert opinion. And if the brand is using a platform like ExpertVoice to provide product education to recommenders, they can actually measure the effectiveness of the educational content, and then optimize the content where necessary. Beyond changes in messaging, brands will also find insights that they can use to improve products. Access to a large corpus of recommendations by product experts, and the responses to those recommendations from consumers, is an extremely valuable asset.
These digital recommendations also give meaningful insights into the physical recommendations these same experts are making in person. While this doesn’t directly connected a verbal recommendation to sales attribution, it does provide directional indicators behind the strength and value of said recommendations. Think of these digital recommendations as a proxy for what is shared in person.
Digital drives reach
A verbal recommendation is valuable, and marketers should always seek to improve the quality of these that are happening in retail, on the ski slopes, and at dinner parties. But verbal recommendations rely on word-of-mouth to get reach beyond the original in-person audience. Digital recommendations, on the other hand, have almost infinite potential for reach. The brand themselves can amplify a great recommendation using their own social and advertising channels. They can show them on product detail pages, where they are proven to increase conversions. And through product review syndication networks, the distribution of reviews can go beyond their own e-commerce pages.
Experts educating experts
Our platform features the ability for experts to search and find the recommendations other experts are writing. This provides them with the opportunity to learn from one another and give even better recommendations to potential buyers. For example, a retail sales associate who doesn’t have firsthand experience with a particular product can view the product in the ExpertVoice app on their phone and share with the customer why other experts recommend it.
Digital recommendations have the most potential reach. Verbal, in-person recommendations have the most strength. Digital recommendations can also inform verbal recommendations. So it is the combination of digital and verbal recommendations that is the most powerful.
Bringing it all together
Despite the ever-evolving consumer landscape, one thing is clear – consumers are turning to the voices of people they trust to make better buying decisions. The best brands are launching full-scale advocacy programs to help consumers determine what to buy. And therefore, they’re selling more product.
The first step is gathering your most authentic advocates because who is sharing the recommendation has become just as important as what they are saying. The next step is arming these people with knowledge and experiences that strengthen their recommendations they were already sharing. The third and final step is ensuring these expert recommendations are reaching as many people as possible.
With the recent launch of the Advocacy Platform, ExpertVoice can now better help brands create and manage advocacy at scale, strengthening expert recommendations that impact consumers far and wide, online and offline.