Bizrate Insights Hot Topic Series: What drives Customer Recommendations?

There is a continued focus within ecommerce circles on striving for the almighty customer recommendation. We hear this with respect to Net Promoter Score™*, we hear this with respect to social media, and we see this (in concert with other metrics) in our data. Therefore, in Q2 2010, Bizrate Insights surveyed online buyers to identify the Who, What, Where, and How behind customer recommendations, with a Hot Topic study. We took a look at…

  1. Who is making recommendations and how often?
  2. Which topics are driving these recommendations?
  3. Where are consumers making these recommendations?
  4. How are these conversations initiated?

When you interpret this data it is even more important than usual to apply the filter of “who are your target customers” and the maturity level of your business. Unlike many other Hot Topics, we saw more swings in demographic segments this quarter. After presenting the data, we provide some direction on what retailers can do to garner more positive recommendations and lessen the incidence of negative conversations about their brand.

Who is making recommendations and how often?

78% of customers have positively recommended websites in the past six months. This is driven by repeat buyers, but first time buyers positively recommend websites more than 60% of the time as well. Women, those under the age of 40, and those earning less than $50k annually tend to be more vocal about making positive recommendations. Fortunately, only 4% of customers report having spoken negatively about their experiences shopping online at specific retailers. This 4% is spread relatively evenly across demographics, although the topics that drive the negative conversations do differ across segments.


Which topics are driving these recommendations?

Interestingly, “Pricing” tops the list for both positive and negative recommendation drivers. Men, first time buyers, and customers under age 45 are most polarized by this topic – they love it or hate it, and tend to be more vocal about it when they hate it. Women and higher Household Income (HHI) buyers are more likely to voice their opinion about product quality and value.


Recommendation Topics

There are a few notable differences for the top of each list by category:

  • Different Top Positives:
    • Apparel, Gifts & Flowers – Product quality/value
    • Food & Drink – Product selection/availability
  • Different Top Negatives:
    • Food & Drink – High shipping rates (tied with Pricing)
    • Gifts & Flowers – High shipping rates
    • Home & Garden – Product selection/availability
    • Toys & Video Games – Delivery timing


Where are consumers making these recommendations?

It is no surprise that 86% of positive recommendations happen in person or on the phone with someone that the buyer knows reasonably well. The percentages of those making positive recommendations via text and social media are still relatively low – only 5% each. These recommendations are driven by customers under 35 (7-18% range) and earning less than $50,000 (6-10% range) annually, so we should expect to see this percentage grow with each successive year entering the workforce. We have also found that customers who more frequently recommend a website tend to use multiple forms of communication for their recommendations, with electronic (email, text and social media) at much higher percentages than those who recommend less often. Furthermore, we see that email recommendations have a higher percentage focused on sales and promotions, versus other forms of communication.


Positive Recommendations


How are these conversations initiated?

Ideally, those with positive recommendations are proactive in making recommendations and those with something negative to say only do so when directly asked. Fortunately, customers generally tend to operate by this principle, as 53% of those with something negative to say are doing so in reaction to a conversation started by someone else.
Groups that are leading the way to proactively speak about a retailer: women, repeat customers, the higher HHI customer, and the older customer.

How this data can help retailers

  • Reach out to customers with negative experiences to right the wrong and recapture loyalty. In a separate Bizrate Insights study**, we found that 83% of customers who were unhappy with an online retailer and had a positive experience with Customer Support would consider buying from that same retailer again in the future.
  • Bizrate helps make this process efficient with its free Quick Response product.
  • Retailers should utilize the buzz around positive recommendations by publishing positive customer comments on their websites, in emails, and in all sales materials.
  • Customer quotes from Bizrate’s surveys may be used in publication and are provided via three Bizrate free services: VitalMail, Comments Classifier files, and Bizrate Testimonials. Please see our Publishing Guidelines that protect consumer identity and allow of validation of each quote.
  • Use the power of your rating to instill customer confidence via the Customer Certified badge and Circle of Excellence medal (if you have won.)
  • Use custom questions on your survey to determine what is driving both your positive recommendations and negative feedback. Then work to expand the reach of the positive attributes and correct or change the perception around the negative aspects of the experience.

About this Hot Topic:

Data was collected from over 81,000 online buyers immediately after purchase across retailers from every major product category from May 1, 2010 – July 13, 2010. Bizrate Insights provides free, independent surveys for retailers to utilize to gather actionable feedback from their customers. Free surveys are offered immediately after purchase (“point of sale”), after order receipt (“fulfillment”), and prior to purchase (“abandonment”). Please contact us with any questions about this Hot Topic or any of our programs.

* Net Promoter Score is a trademarked term owned by Sat Metrics, Inc.

** Bizrate 2008 Consumer Satisfaction Study April 8-10, 2008. n=571.