Open network lets brands, retailers share reviews

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User-generated content on retailer’s e-commerce sites helps get products noticed.

TurnTo Networks, a provider of next-generation customer content solutions, has launched an open network for retailers and brands to share product ratings and reviews regardless of management platform. The company's Open Review Syndication increases the number of brands that can participate in a retailer’s syndication programs, driving review volume.

User-generated content on retailer’s e-commerce sites helps get products noticed. Retailers with higher review volumes have seen increased sales. 

“Reviews are an important merchandising tool for retailers and brands,” George Eberstadt, CEO of TurnTo, told FierceRetail. “Brands want to get their product content—whether brand-produced or customer-generated—in front of shoppers on their path to purchase. Retailers charge for promotional units on their sites and premium position in search results. So, it only makes sense to put brand-supplied product reviews in front of shoppers, too.”

George Eberstadt

When it comes to reviews, Eberstadt says there is no one-size-fits-all model. However, all retailers need to be aware that the next wave of innovation in customer content is all about tailoring the experience. For example, when durability is an important attribute of the product, retailers should ask the customer to add a durability rating six months after the initial review. For complex products where questions arise, community Q&A can be powerful. 

Plus, Eberstadt says that customer images have a special role to play in do-it-yourself categories. For example, before-and-after photos are the “holy grail” for skin care. Also, apparel sellers should show feedback on “fit” next to the size selector. Any fast-turn catalog should consider using checkout comments instead of reviews due to their immediacy.

One of TurnTo’s clients is CPO Commerce, which sells power tools from major brands. CPO Commerce switched to Open Review Syndication and more than doubled the number of brands from which they received syndicated content while increasing the total number of reviews displayed by more than 250%.

Typically, this approach requires both brands to be on the same platform, and brands are often charged fees by providers for network access. With Turn To’s Open Syndication, brands can add reviews to the network and have them posted on a retailer’s e-commerce site within a few days. TurnTo also provides API access to merchants using other platforms, typically legacy home-built systems.

“Closed syndication networks don’t make any sense. It’s like a grocery store hiring someone to set up their end-of-aisle displays, only the person then sells that premium shelf space to soda companies and pockets the money,” said Eberstadt. “TurnTo’s Open Review Syndication is built around a different model. The content belongs to the brands—they should be able to share it to help their retailers. The network belongs to the retailers—they should be able to display reviews from any brand that wants to share. Our job is to make it easy for the two to work together.”