Frame your product as an experience to boost reviews

When you promote the experience around your product, rather than its material features, people feel closer to it and are more likely to review it (8% - 12% in experiments).

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As we saw in the last tip, how you describe your product has a big impact.

Today we look at how descriptions impact how much people will talk about your product to others (measured in terms of online reviews).

Thank you Íñigo Gallo from IESE, one of the co-authors of this research, for your inputs into creating today’s tip!


Frame your product as an experience to get more reviews

Impacted metrics: Word-of-mouth | Reviews
Channels: Ads | Website/App | Marketing communications
For: B2C

Tip type: Existing research (February 2019)
Previous tip: Be careful with fancy words in your product description (All tips here)

Recommendation

To increase the number of reviews for your product, describe it focusing on the experience around it (e.g. emotional or social moments with the product), not its features (e.g. performance, price).

Only do this if you’re confident your product is good. If not, you could find yourself with more negative reviews.

Effects

  • More experiential products (e.g. movies, videogames) tend to receive more reviews than more material products (e.g. office supplies, tools). For example, 28 of Amazon’s top 30 most reviewed products are mostly experiential.

  • Marketers can describe (i.e. frame) products as more experiential than they normally would be by emphasizing using the product and how it feels, rather than its features or benefits.

  • When products were framed as more experiential:

    • Amazon items had more reviews on average (even the same product type, e.g. diapers; see image below)

    • People were 8% and 12% more likely to review a product in two different experiments.


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(There’s a significant correlation between how products are described on Amazon and how many reviews they get - Click to zoom in)

(Example of ads used in one of the experiments. On the left the hairdryer is framed as material, on the right as experiential - Click to zoom in)

Why it works

  • When products are framed as experiences we perceive them as more personal and defining of who we are. 

  • When we write a review, as in all communication, we reveal something about ourselves.

  • Combining the two, we’re more likely to write a review of an experiential product because it reveals something about ourselves.

  • Talking about an experience doesn’t have the negative connotation of talking about a product (that could be perceived as showing off what we own).

Limitations

  • The study measures reviews. While it’s likely that the effect also impacts word-of-mouth in other contexts (e.g. when chatting with friends), this was not measured.

  • When products are framed as experiential, they’re usually described with much less information (e.g. without listing features). It’s unknown if this has an impact on reviews. People may want to share information they thought was lacking with others (e.g. “it has this feature but lacks this other one, I wasn’t expecting that”).

Companies using this

  • It’s more and more common for products to be framed as experiences (in developed markets, less so in emerging ones).

  • The trend is accelerated in mature product categories where features are similar across competing products and experiential framing helps differentiation. For example, think of early iPhone ads that focused on what it could do compared to more recent ones that emphasize the experiences around it.

Steps to implement

  • To frame your product as experiential:

    • Help the viewer imagine themselves using the product, physically and emotionally

    • For example, use a vivid story they can imagine being part of. Make sure models in ads look away from the viewer to help this process

    • You can highlight the social aspects of the product

    • Avoid talking about features, performance, and price. Less information aids the imagination

  • Remember this will increase reviews, not change the quality of your product. If your product is bad, you’ll get more negative reviews.


Study type

Lab and online experiments and market observation (of descriptions of 216 best-selling Amazon products). United States.

Source

Gallo, I., Townsend, C., & Alegre, I. (February 2019). Experiential product framing and its influence on the creation of consumer reviews. Journal of Business Research, 98, 177-190.

[Link to paper]

Affiliations

IESE Business School and University of Miami. Spain and United States

Remember: This research could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.


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