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Businesses can use online reviews in new ways to empathize with customers, create better products and differentiate their brands.
Online consumer feedback is growing exponentially and contains invaluable information about not only what consumers think of products and brands, but also about what they expect from a product. Some businesses view the vast amounts of online feedback about their products and services in a reactive light. Each positive review is a pat on the back that need not be investigated further; while each negative review is an opportunity to put out a fire by offering an apology.
Rather than viewing online review data as an opportunity to address individual customers, however, astute businesses can use the multitude of crowd opinions to better understand consumer needs, fueling product development and the ability to create highly differentiated products.
Perhaps part of the reason that businesses are not looking at consumer reviews more broadly is because of the staggering amount of data that they would have to sift through and the complications of understanding what consumers are actually saying in a resource-effective manner.
For example, one product on a makeup review site collected unsolicited commentary from more than 5,000 people. With each review text spanning anywhere from several sentences to several paragraphs, it would take weeks to sift through all of the commentary and make informed business decisions.
Furthermore, since this information is growing so rapidly, it will not be long before it will become impossible for a single person to process all of the online feedback about a single product.
The question is how to move forward. Several businesses summarize product reviews by employing simple algorithmic techniques in natural language processing and statistical methods. This requires creating an ontology, or a dictionary of critical words, to identify important reviews. Typically, ontologies are manually created and have to be frequently updated. This is especially true in retail industries, such as consumer electronics, where consumer jargon can change rapidly.
As a powerful alternative, a new approach called product intelligence is highly adaptable and smartly summarizes what consumers are saying by creating ontologies on the fly. These algorithms can cluster, rank and summarize what thousands of consumers most consistently say about a product or service, without any human intervention or manual curating.
Using this approach, companies can move beyond understanding whether customer sentiment about a product or service is generally positive or negative. This product intelligence approach helps answer what happened over time and why.
Companies can leverage the product intelligence capability innovatively across core business processes, such as:
Product development—The product development lifecycle is dependent on a crucial knowledge gathering activity: understanding the customer.
Competitive market performance—The same kind of analysis can be applied to competitors’ products to gain a better understanding of new opportunities and the competitive landscape. Companies can find new insights by looking at the reviews of competing products.
Marketing—Gaining a better understanding of the customer dramatically increases the potential to improve marketing campaigns through various ways, including support pre-experience—decisions about what consumers want to buy before they actually purchase a product or service.
Supply chain optimization—Layering a geographical perspective of the regions in which consumers reside provides insights that businesses can use to optimize their product supply chains.
February 20, 2014
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