Experience or education: which one sells more at retail?

Advocacy Marketing
Best Practices



What is macaroni without cheese? The cheese is the ooey gooey goodness that melts around the funny shaped noodles and converts the dish into a staple dinner for most American families, and a favorite for every child under the age of 7. Just like mac belongs with cheese and Jim and Pam were meant to be together, product education is even better when paired with product seeding.


We surveyed 1,000+ pro and retail experts about their recommendation behavior. We know their product recommendations drive sales (if you want a refresher on that research, check it out here) but we decided to dig deeper. We wanted to uncover what makes an expert recommend one product over another. The results were just what we suspected: knowledge of, and personal experience with, a product are the leading factors that determine an expert’s likelihood to recommend that product.


Why they’re not recommending your brand

I have an undying love for Costco, and why wouldn’t I? With delicious samples and the option to buy a year’s worth of toilet paper for just $51.49, it’s hard to resist the discount-giving, bulk-toting warehouse. Because of my devotion to Costco, I recommend it to anyone who asks (and everyone who doesn’t). Costco’s biggest competitor is Sam’s Club, which has a similar setup to my favorite store: high ceilings, cheap hot dogs and the ability to buy tires and 50 lbs of dog food in the same trip. While I know they’re comparable stores, I’ve never recommended Sam’s Club. Why? I’ve never been to one.


I know about both stores, but my personal experience is limited to Costco. When people have a good experience with something, they like to talk about it. (Ever chatted with someone who’s just seen the Broadway show Hamilton? Case in point.) We rave about the things we love, and I can’t say I love Sam’s Club. I could tell you the perks of shopping at the retail warehouse, but my recommendation lacks passion and authenticity — because it lacks personal experience.


When partnering with ExpertVoice, some brands choose either product education or product seeding. When they want to focus on the retail experts on the sales floor, brands often only provide product education. They give Bobby, a sales associate, the information he needs to help a consumer know the difference between products A, B and C. That knowledge is important. In the chart above you can see that knowledge of a product is the number one factor helping experts make recommendations. Product education cannot and should not be understated.




What if Bobby had been given the chance to take product B home and put it to the test? Do you think that would change the conversation? While he’s helping consumers decide which product is the best for their needs, he’s going to have more insight about product B. His recommendation has changed from just knowledgeable to knowledgeable and experienced, and according to consumers, having a recommendation that features both is important.


What’s the solution?

Some brands only offer product seeding. They know the value of hands-on experience, so they provide the opportunity for experts to try the product — for free or at a discount — so they can give recommendations that are backed by personal experience. Is product seeding the better alternative then? I refer you to the chart above. To increase the likelihood that an expert will recommend their products, brands must marry the most powerful factors that determine recommendations. Having both product knowledge and product experience is where the money’s at, literally.


Learn more about empowering experts to recommend your products — and drive sales — hereIn the meantime, head to your local Costco. Tell them Heather sent you (they’ll have no idea who you’re talking about).

Related Posts

Driving the reach of digital recommendations

There are three steps brands must take when harnessing product advocacy to drive sales.

Social media metrics defined

Marketing is a numbers game.

Reflections on a decade at ExpertVoice

Well I’m into my 46th year of life, there’s a chance I may finally see my name in lights with a No. 1 ranking.