Bracing yr Brand 4 Online Feedbk

27 Apr,2015

 

By Faisal I Farooqui

 

Understanding the economic consequences of social interactions has always been a challenge in the regular, monetary economy. Where land, labour and capital were considered crucial elements in wealth generation, social interactions, private discussions and other ‘non-economic activities’ — while valuable and necessary — did not have any greater meaning. Until the advent of the internet, that is.

 

While studies dating as far back as 1955 show us that word-of-mouth is an important source of product information and positioning, recent research by marketing gurus highlights that such word-of-mouth recommendation influences a consumer’s product purchase decision a great deal. The all-pervasive Internet has made it possible for thousands, or even millions of consumers to interact online — the consequences of which are now beginning to haunt every CEO and marketer involved in selling a product or a service. A rising culture of sharing experiences and opinions on everything, from goods and services, to the arts and attitude, is the result of a rapidly-shrinking world, with a global economy, global brands and global icons all well within reach of practically everyone.

 

One thing is indisputable: social media is driving consumer choices and feedback. Social media’s growth relies around content that is primarily generated by users– or consumers in this case — and is bound by two common threads. The first thread is the platform’s binding medium, which is the internet with its software, servers, apps, websites and bandwidth.

 

The second thread is human emotions: the passion of consumers who believe in empowering others by sharing their own thoughts and experiences. As the country’s landscape is rapidly flooded with products manufactured from all over the world, Indian consumers are taking to their laptops and various mobile devices to talk about the hundreds of thousands of goods and services on offer – and not always in a flattering way. But what is significant, though, is that with this trend, a sociological ‘mapping’ of the consumer space is also taking place.

 

Various studies have indicated that more than 60% of online users in India do research on products and read reviews online before going ahead with their online or offline transactions.

 

So, what makes people share their experiences online? These days, around the world, there is a set of extremely well-informed consumers who are trying their best to help other consumers. This ‘competitive altruism’ or the eagerness to help other consumers with honest opinions, is resulting in the creation of a unique and a powerful community of consumers. It is this community that turns the spotlight on both the good and the bad; the pros and the cons of things.

 

The relative anonymity that the Internet offers has been known to enable people to shed their biases online, and review websites apparently draw out even the shyest of consumers and make them express their the opinions. And sometimes that feedback turns out to be quite influential.

 

Such largescale opinion-sharing is creating a direct impact on the reputation and the bottomlines of brands. While consumers are calling the shots, companies can leverage such discussions to monitor these reviews and consequently improve their offerings.

 

It is quite possible that if you are a brand manager or the CEO, you may come across opinions and reviews that criticise your products and services. You should have the ability to understand that most of the time, this is honest and unbiased feedback, and it would be good to address it.

 

Six ways to engage the online consumer –

1. Two-way communication: Set up a culture of dialogue. Build two-way communication with those who have written about your brand online.

2. Listening: Don’t confront. The smart CEO will never confront reviewers, but engage and communicate with them instead

3. Staff training and attitude: Empower your customer support team to quickly resolve issues. Often the cost of pampering a disgruntled customer is negligible, while the consequences of delaying it may only escalate matters.

4. Analysis: The shift from word-of-mouth to offline-to-online provides the single biggest opportunity to measure and analyse an activity that has always been a challenge to economists. Analytical tools will help you analyse all online feedback

5. Increase service quality allocation: Brands must spend more on service quality and customer support. If that means shifting some money from promotions and campaigns, so be it

6. Reward: Thank those who talk about your brand online. Remember, millions of people who write reviews are actually providing you feedback — subtle or otherwise — without you paying them. It’s the biggest market research data available to you. And you don’t even have to hire an agency to get it!

 

So get online, and listen to what your customers are saying.

 

Faisal I. Farooqui is CEO of MouthShut.com, a leading consumer review and feedback platform

 

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