Blog, Our Thinking

Is it time to reboot the user review?

Reviews have been a significant element in online purchasing since at least 2000, when Stephen Kaufer launched a social travel site from above a pizza parlor in Massachusetts. TripAdvisor, according to the Guardian ‘…was simple. Travelers left reviews of hotels. Fellow travelers found the reviews and could make a decision on whether to stay at a property based on what they’d read. Hoteliers freaked out. Travelers loved it’.

Twenty years on, nothing is quite so simple. Millions of consumers offer opinions on everything under the sun. But there are also reputation managers, paid influencers and a whole range of content generators – not all of whom can be trusted, as CNBC recently warned.

Reviews can be anything from throwaway comments from contented customers, ‘nice bit of kit, does the job’, through to wannabe Jeremy Clarksons using their 4K phone-cameras to make cinema-standard films about their new motor. Content can be user-generated, paid, earned and owned.

The ideal of absolute impartiality may be the holy grail, but as Oscar Wilde – a man who knew a thing or two about self-promotion – said, ‘there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about’.

The quest to be talked about. 

In the quest to be ‘talked about’ way back when, your PR company would have tried to entice a few features editors along to a press launch in the hope that they might write something positive about your product for their captive readership. Now, everyone who owns a phone is a journalist.

Everyone is an opinion influencer. If you want to sell your product online … or to put it another way – if you want to sell your product, your brand marketing has to treat everyone as a possible source of valuable endorsement, a source of content, recommendation, peer to peer approval.

Review 2.0 – selling to the head and the heart.

If Review 1.0 wasn’t much different to scribbling a throwaway comment in a Guest Book, Review 2.0 is an exit survey, focus group and qualitative research all rolled into one. Visual User Generated Content encompasses a full marketing mix of sales, PR and brand engagement opportunities.

It’s StoryStream’s mission to package all of this up in a simple AI-powered content curation platform because, while buyers want to keep sight of the testimonials that appeal to the head, they also want the visuals and the stories that pull at the heart. The interplay of both is where visual User Generated Content is at its most powerful.

And the truth is you can’t just wait for this to roll in. User-Generated Content requires a proactive marketing strategy. Millennials through to Gen Z have all grown up with a smartphone in their hand and are confident enough to understand the provenance of content.

The thirst for real stories.

If they weren’t open to being influenced, there wouldn’t be any ‘influencers’ right? So play to them, and their thirst for brands with stories, with authenticity and relevance. Review 2.0 is the opportunity for consumers to tell their story – your story – not just in words, but with the pictures and videos that speak a thousand words.

Experience matters. Experience sells.

Take a look at Volvo Saved My Life – they use StoryStream to encourage real Volvo customers to share real-life stories about their experiences of how their Volvo saved them or came to the rescue in some of life’s big moments.



What’s key is that these stories provide a very real connection to the Volvo brand’s most emblematic feature and selling point – safety. You would be challenged to find a more emotive and impactful piece of automotive marketing.  What better endorsement is there than “Volvo saved my life!”

At Boden, User Generated Content mingles alongside product pages, providing real-life visual stories and additional narrative to support brand messaging and product information. While at WooWoo, a stream of customer reviews, media, influencer and social posts creates a real conversational, community element to the online shopping experience.

These content streams harness the original ‘realness’ of TripAdvisor, augmented by all the bells and whistles of Web 2.0 such as shoppable content and personalisation. As TrustPilot says, ‘Behind every review is an experience that matters’.

With StoryStream’s Review 2.0 approach, we’re giving marketers an easy-to-implement means to draw on those experiences, and to fill your brand with colour, emotion and narrative.

A conversation with your customers starts with a conversation with us.

If you’re a brand owner, online retailer or marketing department and you want to harness the power of Review 2.0, contact the team, and we’ll talk you through some more StoryStream customer examples.


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash