Ikea and Missguided to ramp up online user generated content

In June two very different retailers spoke about overcoming their respective fears around publishing user generated content (UGC) on their websites, explaining the multiple business opportunities they believe accompany such a strategy.

Swedish furniture retailer Ikea has been trialling user reviews in two of its smallest markets, Austria and Switzerland, and this year will be rolling them out across 17 of its eCommerce markets – beginning in France, in the coming months.

Online fashion retailer Missguided, meanwhile, has now started displaying customer product reviews on its website, and is considering ways in which it can integrate them onto its mobile app and its soon-to-open first standalone physical store, in Westfield Stratford.

Speaking as customers of Bazaarvoice at the vendor's Inspire conference in London in the summer, Johanna Hansson-Sjo, business integration leader at Ikea, said that the organisation was slow to start publishing user reviews compared to other retailers primarily due to a "fear" of what comments might be generated. But the recent trial period has given the company confidence to ramp up its UGC strategy.

"We were worried about abuse. When everyone's shoulders came down and we could breath again it was full steam ahead," Hansson-Sjo remarked.

"We also decided we would respond to reviews in the customer support centres in each market. There was a fear we would be overloaded with questions and complaints, with shoppers using it as an alternative customer service channel, as they do with Facebook, but that hasn't happened at all."

The pilot saw 2% of reviews rejected, which is below the industry average, and Ikea now hopes to use the customer voice to benefit its product development process while fostering a community with its consumers. The retailer wants to analyse reviews to help it understand how customers use the products in their homes, while also using the insights to educate suppliers and create KPIs for quality strategy.

At the same event, Missguided's head of eCommerce Mark Leach said his company is targeting 8,000 reviews each month, while minimising the number of unsuitable comments and reviews that need to be rejected. Missguided's target audience of teenage and young twentysomething girls are among the most prolific social media users, and the implementation of UGC on product pages aims to give these shoppers another platform to share their experiences of the brand.

Leach said of the decision to embark on the project: "Good or bad [reviews] – it didn't matter. It was about our girls engaging with each other.

"We're dealing with young girls who aren't shy and who are willing to share their opinions with the rest of the world."

The eCommerce boss said the retailer has identified a feel-good factor associated with customers seeing their review go live on the website, and he suggested the facility for shoppers to publish pictures of themselves wearing the items they have purchased is a powerful social tool and often leads to significant product engagement.

Challenges for Missguided relate to the business's buying cycle. Product turnover at the business is high, with items often sold out within ten days of launch and not necessarily restocked, which means the company relies on shoppers posting their online reviews quickly before they become superfluous.

"We need to get the review request into the customers' hands as quickly as possible," Leach revealed.

There have been a few issues with the posting of "risky" photographs, he said, while also admitting that Missguided is perhaps more liberal than other businesses when it comes to blocking words included on Bazaarvoice's 330-word strong list of "profanities" to avoid.

Missguided is growing fast, and is currently expanding on an international scale, which includes the recent opening of a physical concession in US department store chain Nordstrom. Leach said there are opportunities to role out UGC platforms in the US, as well as in Australia, France and the other European territories in which it operates.

Representatives from Shop Direct, Argos and Dreams were among the other retailers and brands at the event, sharing their UGC success stories and challenges with the visiting delegates.

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