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Move over Testimonials. Reviews are now King.

Written by Robin Yontz, VP, Creative Director

This summer when my older son was home from college, we all found ourselves in the car with my younger son who was behind the wheel armed with his learner’s permit. As the car stopped, my older son proceeded to provide a mock Yelp review of the driver and the passenger experience. It was hilarious. But it made me realize that I was in the car with two cohorts who depend almost exclusively on the reviews of their peers. I also realized that Yelp was so done for Millennials and GenZers.

That next week we met with an entrepreneur about a new product. “Do you have any reviews on your product?” I asked. He responded no. I looked at the 30-something in the room who said, “You just lost me as a customer.”

Reviews have elbowed testimonials right out of branding.

Savvy Millennial consumers are suspicious of testimonials, but trust peer reviews. “Now anyone can become an expert," cites a study by The Boston Consulting Group on The Millennial Consumer. "Messages that resonate are quickly spread and reinforced through user reviews and other online forums. Given this new reality, companies must monitor what is being said about their brands and participate in the conversation.” If in doubt, ask a studio executive. Movies are crushed after the first showing where social media either clobbers or canonizes each feature film. A process that used to take at least an opening weekend now happens in mere hours on a Thursday night.

To understand this shift, we have to understand that Millennials and GenZers are not influenced by advertising.  Case in point, their tendency to skip ads have agencies and advertisers in constant pursuit of new ways to get brand messages in their orbit.

Blogs are the new Consumer Report.

Millennials don’t download a song or buy an app, much less a phone or a car, without a quick check in the blogosphere. Forbes cited that 33% of Millennials like to consult blogs before making purchase decisions, while a study pioneered by Elite Daily and Millennial Branding entitled “The Millennial Consumer” found that 58% of Millennials expect brands to publish content online before buying.

So how do you create a compelling review strategy? How do you create content that is bite-size and believable for the Millennial and rising Gen Z?

  • Work within the peer group. This is where being audience-centric is key. You have to accept that what works for Millennials will not work for Baby Boomers.

  • If your product has a small downside, reveal it. Millennials like full disclosure and authenticity. They won’t hold it against you at all if you are transparent.

  • Incentivize reviews. But make it good. Most sites frequented by Millennials use incentives so this group is very discriminating with their time.

  • If your product has a negative review, respond immediately to encourage a dialogue. Ignoring issues or being confrontational only causes Millennials to post that negative review on every social platform available to them.

  • If your product has a positive review, share, share, share. Get it out there for more Millennials to see.

Zappos and Amazon seem to have mastered this concept. Both of these sites encourage reviews. Buy something from Amazon and you will certainly receive an email asking you to rate the product. Some of the site’s best third party vendors have started beating that email with their own email asking that if you had a problem, to contact them directly to resolve the issue before posting a negative review. They’re stopping the bad review from ever happening. Which means other Millennials can’t see it. Smart. Especially because good and bad reviews affect SEO for brands.

A great product is just part of cultivating good reviews. With the proper strategy, you can use reviews to influence your audience. If you need a little help crafting a digital strategy, we can help you get started

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