# Wednesday, 02 March 2011

Social commerce is all about customers engaging each other helping online stores and webshops sell more by leveraging the high degree of credibility inherent in personal recommendations and getting the word out to a wider audience. Social commerce is available in many guises: At uCommerce we tend to think about it as internal- and external social commerce.

Reviews, Ratings, and Comments

The very first step in adopting social commerce is to enable customers to post reviews. As such we’re dealing with internal social commerce as everything happens in the webshop and doesn’t involve interaction with sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Even in online stores stores with product lines changing frequently there’s value to adding reviews to products as customers tend to skip past product information and dive straight into the user generated content to see whether or not a product is worth any further the attention.

Product Ratings

When a customers look at product information the very first thing that will catch her eye is the star rating of a product. uCommerce enables customers to post ratings. Each rating is aggregated into an average rating stored on each product, which can be used for searches, filtering, and custom product listings like “Most popular in this category”.

Ratings with no additional content require no approval and will be aggregated into the overall score by default. This behavior can be overridden by modifying the Product Review Pipeline.

Star Ratings in Google Search Results

Product review in Google Search

When searching for products online which link would you be more inclined to click? The one with no star rating or the one with star rating?  When searching on Google and Bing you’ve probably noticed that some search results are displayed with a star rating. This helps your search results stand out in the crowd and will bring in new customers.

The uCommerce Store supports this out of the box by leveraging a micro format that Google and Bing recognizes and will display as part of the search result bring more “foot traffic” into the webshop.

Product Reviews

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uCommerce enables customers to add product reviews on individual products and submit them either directly to the site or, if enabled, for approval by store managers. Product reviews consists of a rating, a review headline, and a review body. If a customer is logged in the review can optionally be associated with that particular customer, which will make the reviews even more effective by letting you display information about the reviewer such as the first name. More on that later.

Because uCommerce supports multiple stores and languages each product review is associated with the store in which it was received, which makes it possible to display just the reviews received in a particular store.

Of course you’ll want to get as much review bang for your buck so more often than not reviews will be displayed from all stores, but you do have a choice.

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Comments and Helpful Reviews

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To further improve the value of having product reviews on a webshop you can open up for comments on existing reviews. The simplest form of commenting on a review is to indicate whether or not it was helpful, but the customer can go ahead and add a text comment as well to further explain her position or ask questions of the reviewer to get the conversation going.

Customer Information

As you can see in the previous screenshots information about the customer adding content is added to the review or comment. Customers are integrated with site members so you’re effectively free to add as much additional information to the customer profile and by extension the reviews themselves.

Optionally you can require the customer to log in before being able to comment as is the case on Amazon.com or just leave the floodgates open and let anyone comment if they provide an e-mail, which leads us to the next topic: Reporting Abuse.

Reporting Abuse

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The internet can be a downright nasty place with scammers and spammers in abundance. When a site opens up to user generated content it better be prepared to deal with spam. Fortunately uCommerce supports multiple kinds of protection. You can enable customers to report abuse and thus bring any unsuitable content to your attention for approval. Abuse can be reported for both reviews and individual commets.

By default content reported as spam is still displayed on the site to prevent users from removing content from the site until it can be reviewed and approved. If content is to be removed from the site immediately you can do so as well by modifying the filters for user generated content which is not to be displayed.

Approval Workflow

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Once user generated content is reported as abuse it will show up in the administration backend where store owners and managers approve or unapprove content.

The approval workflow is available both on the product level and more importantly on the store level as well to make sure that the process of approving reviews is as efficient as possible. Reviews can be removed at any time at the store manager’s discretion.

When viewing the “Pending Reviews” tab on each store only reviews and comments, which require attention are displayed. While everything is displayed on the product level.

Should you want to have all reviews and comments screened before allowing them onto your website, you can indicate so on each of the stores by ticking the “Product reviews require approval” check box.

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Automatic Workflow via Pipelines

As new ratings, reviews, and comments are received they are processed by uCommerce Pipelines, which enables automatic steps to be carried out for each piece of user generated content. Developers can extend these pipeline with custom logic to support custom requirements.

To give you an idea of what can be done using the pipelines here are some ideas:

You might want to check whether the customer has submitted a high number of reviews inside a short timeframe, which might indicate a spammer or you could notify store managers whenever new content requires attention.

This is also true whenever content is approved or unapproved in the backend. You might want to send an e-mail to the customer who submitted the review when it’s approved so they can see their handiwork on your site (thus bringing back the customer to the store) or you could post teasers from reviews on your Facebook fan page or to Twitter.

Please see uCommerce Pipelines Explained for detailed information on extending the Product Review and Product Review Comment pipelines.

Summary

Social commerce is many things to many people, but in the end a good place to start is by opening up for user generated content like ratings, reviews, and comments on your e-commerce site to increase conversion rates. Keep in mind that while user generated content will help sell more there are caveats associated with it. It’s important to ensure that only proper content makes it onto your site either by using an approval workflow like the one previously described, by requiring user login to be able to review, or by letting customers report abuse.

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