France Carrefour Brings Online Reviews to its Stores
Carrefour has started promoting 200 of its private label products with shopper feedback instore. The French market leader will use shelf talkers to display selected reviews from its online customers.
Reviews were collected over the past one to two years via the platform ‘Mon avis le rend gratuit’ (‘My opinion makes it free’). Shoppers registering on this website receive a coupon for a named Carrefour product that they then have to test and review.
The shelf talkers highlight one reviewer’s particular recommendation and show the average rating for the item.
Denise Klug (Senior Retail Analyst)
Opinion Cards on the Table!
France is a very challenging market in terms of private labels. It is the only European country that has seen a drop in own brand penetration over the last couple of years. Hypermarket operators have been battling over branded goods and promotions spurred price decreases, making private labels comparatively less attractive. As the retailers have exploited this A-brand logic to the maximum to establish their price image (eg. multipile buying alliance), retailers are now turning back to their own products for differentiation. Most retailers are now looking to generate value on their higher margin private labels. Système U is fundamentally re-working its lines, removing entry price products and creating healthier versions of its existing items. Intermarché is following the same rationale and is looking to drive up private label contribution to around one third of sales. And market leader Carrefour has now started to make private label reviews visible to reduce the inhibitions of reluctant French shoppers.
Customers reviewing products giving it one to five stars is anything but a new scenario. Carrefour was clearly inspired by the reviewing system of online retailers. Amazon in particular has a very transparent rating system that is highly valued by its shoppers and one of its service USPs. In the UK and Germany, where the e-commerce giant has already rolled out its Fresh concepts, shoppers can already give star ratings to private label items from Amazon’s retail partners. However, this has already led to some not-so-pleasant results. For Tegut’s premium private label line ragout for instance, the only available review includes harsh criticism on the taste and appearance of the ready-meal. This and other ratings are now visible for all online customers and could have a negative effect on the perception of the premium range itself – also at Tegut’s physical stores.
Similar scenario at Swiss market leader and private label innovator Migros. This retailer was the first to provide an online platform for shoppers to discuss own brands, research product information, write reviews, browse through related editorial content and post suggestions for new launches. Earlier this year, Migros decided to link this website to its app to make dedicated content – including reviews – available for shoppers after they scan a product with their phones. This however also includes 1 Star-ratings. Nevertheless, it helps Migros to make sure shoppers use their own platform instead of independent providers when searching for product information to help them with their buying decision. And even if Migros attempts to be transparent with its reviews: it still is the host of the site and has admin, moderation and editorial power over this feedback. Shoppers are not going to stop writing embarrassing reviews online – if not on Migipedia then somewhere else where Migros does not have any influence or chance to react. The retailer also hopes the app will help to encourage even more customers to rate their product. More ratings are likely to also mean more balanced and higher ratings, which will of course also help to avoid that the one very bad rating of a picky shopper stands out as the only opinion on a single product. This is probably also the reason why Carrefour first collected reviews for one to two years before using them as promotional material.
Carrefour is likely to not use negative shopper feedback for its shelf talkers and it is also a very likely possibility that it is not equipping products with shelf talkers that received an average rating below 2.5 stars. This will however minimalise the credibility of the entire initiative. It means that it is not considered a service for its shoppers that could really help to make decisions but yet another shelf talker promotional piece of paper. It will also lead to the impression that products without a rating might not be good at all. If retailers intend to make use of their reviews it would be best to make this in a transparent way and show the entire outcome instead of just picking the positive results. This will help the company to appear even more trustworthy and gives customers the impression that their reviews are taken seriously. This however of course assumes that the price quality ratio is well-perceived leading to enough positive feedback.
With contributions from Senior Retail Analyst Gildas Aitamer.