Intuit Socializes Reviews

eMarketer notes: Intuit Socializes Reviews

A N   I N T E R V I E W   W I T H :Seth Greenberg 

Vice President of Global Media & Digital Marketing

Intuit Consumer Group–TurboTax

Intuit’s TurboTax product line is the leading brand of tax preparation software. The company’s innovative approach to customer reviews has not only helped improve its product but has also aggressively enabled review content to go viral and social to reach more prospects.

Seth Greenberg is responsible for both offline and digital media buying and optimization including its interaction with earned and social media campaigns. He also leads the digital marketing team for TurboTax’s display, social, mobile, paid and organic search, affiliates, analytics programs, as well as investigating emerging media opportunities.

He spoke with eMarketer’s Tobi Elkin about Intuit’s experience with customer reviews and the opportunities presented by them.

eMarketer: When did Intuit begin using customer reviews?

Seth Greenberg: We started during tax season 2007 and learned that our customers are pretty passionate about telling us what they think of our product. With minimal effort, we went from zero to 50,000 reviews in about six weeks. In January 2010, which is tax season 2009, we created a new user interface that allows you to find people like you and people you know. It’s called www.FriendsLikeYou.com (also at http://reviews.turbotax.intuit.com) which is a database of 100,000 publicly facing reviews.

eMarketer: What have you learned?

“We wanted to use reviews to make our product better and also wanted to make sure that we shared them transparently so that people can look at the worst and the best reviews. We have 21 million avid customers. ”

Greenberg: We wanted to use reviews to make our product better and also wanted to make sure that we shared them transparently so that people can look at the worst and the best reviews. We have 21 million avid customers.

We wanted to directly address the barriers keeping people from using TurboTax. We designed the user interface on FriendsLikeYou.com with those barriers in mind. What are people afraid of? What is preventing someone from having the confidence to use TurboTax instead of going to a tax store? We figured if we could get those insights and then put them in front of prospects, we could help them realize there are people just like them who have the same barriers yet had a great experience with the product and saved a lot of money.

We overhauled the interface so that you can sort reviews by nearly 30 different options to whittle down the database to just a few reviews that are most relevant to your situation. You can find people like you and even people you know. Anyone who writes a review can enable friends to connect with them. We work with Bazaarvoice which is the engine that collects reviews and Gigya is the connective tissue that makes us network-agnostic to Facebook or Twitter.

eMarketer: How can consumer brands like yours benefit from customer reviews?

Greenberg: Using information from reviews for product innovation and improvements are table stakes. We receive an email alert when someone gives us a poor rating and review.

We use reviews to innovate in marketing communications. Reviews are a way for us to be transparent and not push down a marketing message. They’re also a way for us to let our consumers talk about us.

We could run standard banner ads, but they’re a negative interrupter. Imagine if you had a banner ad that was really helpful. If you’re on a real estate site and you’re buying a house, you don’t want to think about your taxes. But there are tax implications. We can target an ad treatment we call the Friendalyzer that talks to the 12,215 people that bought and sold a house and used TurboTax. It allows them to read exactly what they said.

In that way, we’re extending the role of reviews and being contextually relevant. For example, we might go out to parenting sites and use banner ads but they incorporate insights from customer reviews as a window into what customers think about with the tax implications of having had a baby.

eMarketer: What happens when you receive negative reviews?

Greenberg: They go to the customer service and technology team depending on what the issue is. We look at them in real-time and can quickly address issues.

eMarketer: How are you incorporating social media tools into customer reviews?

Greenberg: We enable customers to post reviews into their Facebook news feeds so their friends can see them. We know that 50% of our 21 million customers are pretty active on Facebook and our TurboTax active customers have 150 friends.

“Friendcasting is a new and very powerful channel since consumers are now using their networks as earned media and that’s like the Holy Grail because the influence is so much greater.”

Any time we can get them to talk about our brand, they’re actually doing what I call “friendcasting.” Friendcasting is a new and very powerful channel since consumers are now using their networks as earned media and that’s like the Holy Grail because the influence is so much greater. The clickthroughs and sales are higher. We give customers the tools to easily share reviews with their social networks. Through friendcasting, we’re able to hyper-segment reviews for relevancy and social networks. It’s about enabling those customers who are ready to share their reviews with us to share them with their network, if they choose to.

We’re not using any data from your tax return to populate or even start these reviews. After you file your return, you get an opportunity to complete a 5-minute online survey about your experience with the product.

eMarketer: How do you see the social tools piece of customer reviews evolving?

Greenberg: We want to encourage people to look at reviews as a utility and to use them as a means of marketing to our prospects. We have 21 million customers and there are about 140 million tax returns filed each year. So there are still a lot of people we can help who are actually paying a lot more money than they need to.

Making reviews relevant and social means making more utilities and applications readily available to customers and prospects. For example, we have something called TaxCaster which enables you to type in data from your W2 and in 30 seconds or less, we’ll calculate your approximate refund.

Using social media is more effective for us than just pouring money into paid media. Social will help us determine whether we have products that are striking a chord with consumers.

eMarketer: What are Intuit’s primary tools for socializing reviews?

Greenberg: Primarily Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. I’m totally agnostic when it comes to how people access our reviews. FriendsLikeYou.com is another channel. We do search engine optimization. I want to get this content out to people in whatever way they want to consume it.

eMarketer: Can you talk about the importance of optimizing search results where reviews are concerned?

Greenberg: It’s very important. When we expose our customer reviews and get them indexed on Google, it’s creating hundreds of thousands of pages of searchable reviews.

eMarketer: You want TurboTax product reviews to be at the top of search results but not if they’re negative.

“You take the good with the bad. Any negative reviews can show up because we’re not gaming the system. We choose to sort our reviews by newest first, not best first.”

Greenberg: You take the good with the bad. Any negative reviews can show up because we’re not gaming the system. We choose to sort our reviews by newest first, not best first.

eMarketer: Do you have any metrics that prove that customer reviews are helping business?

Greenberg: When people talk about our products on Facebook with their friends—and I mentioned that 50% of our customers are on Facebook—people are four times more likely to click on the link in the news feed. So if you talk about TurboTax and I’m a friend of yours, I’m four times more likely to click on that link vs. seeing a banner ad for the product. We found that 79% of those who clicked on the link and purchased TurboTax were brand-new customers. That showed me that friendcasting, talking about us on Facebook, is much more effective than most of our other marketing communications channels.

But how can we scale this? How can we get even more people to Friendcast the message?

Our average sale price is $50. You can do the math. We have 21 million customers. We do about $1.2 billion a year in 10 to 15 weeks. More than 50% of our business is done online. We want to arm our customers to be able to make it easy to be our best sale force.

eMarketer: What are the next steps for Intuit’s customer reviews ?

Greenberg: The next steps involve optimizing our social funnel, because we have 10 million people going through it offline and 10 million online. But a very low percentage of folks engage with and write reviews. We want to encourage more people to engage with and participate in reviews that will create a network effect. We know we aren’t going to get too many more people at the top of the funnel.

We need a better user interface and real-time testing in different variations. Leveraging reviews for loyalty initiatives is definitely on our list. We want to know how to use them to make people feel more connected to our brand. Tax time shouldn’t have to be like going to the dentist once a year. This is more of a year-round relationship when you want it. People have life changes throughout the year and if you’re a collector, we can help you easily input information along the way. If you’re a procrastinator, we can be there for you. Reviews are how consumers will maintain a relationship with brands they trust and admire.

 

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