Here, we look at how ecommerce sites can use customer reviews and UGC effectively on-site and beyond…
Reviews are vital for ecommerce sites, to the extent that the vast majority of sites now display reviews and other user-generated content on their sites.
If used well within the customer journey and during the best days for ecommerce sales, reviews can help shoppers to find the product they want, and provide the reassurance needed to make the final decision to purchase.
Many sites will simply place a list of reviews on product pages, but the presentation of reviews and use of such content around the site can make a big difference.
Here, I’ll look at how Home Depot and other sites make the most of consumer reviews…
What Are Customer Reviews?
A customer review is a form of ecommerce feedback, evaluating a product or service made by a consumer who has had an experience.
Dedicated review sites, such as G2, Trust Pilot, Yelp and Tripadvisor are utilised by companies who want to provide an online customer-driven description of their services and products, to drive interest and authenticity.
Online reviews from consumers have created a new playing field in business marketing that colludes traditional word-of-mouth communication with global online accounts of experiences, which can overall influence a potential customer’s decision making.
Are Customer Reviews Important?
According to Qualtircs.com, in 2022 93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product. Therefore, the importance of customer reviews are proving highly significant especially taking into consideration our ever-growing reliance in online technology.
Strengthening your company’s credibility is key to driving sales. Reviews hold this power, as they have the backing of ‘real’ people/ customers who have had ‘real life’ experiences.
Creating a space for customer reviews is also an opportunity to build relationships with the customer, and establishing an emotional connection with customers has been proven to provide more revenue than with a non-engaged customer, according to research by medium.com.
All in all, the importance of customer reviews can be summed up into 5 key areas for the benefit of your business:
– Expanding the conversation
– Helps drive decision making
– A clear impact on sales
Are Customer Reviews Reliable?
Social Proof drives purchases – in other words, consumers are more likely to make a purchase if others agree that it’s a good decision. This mentality can be driven even by complete strangers who are making the same customer journey as other customers involved.
Online reviews are most likely the biggest source of social proof currently utilised by businesses, as they play a key role in driving sales.
However, this does not necessarily mean that all customers trust reviews. As we are aware, some reviews can be extremely vague (and therefore unuseful), unreasonable or even untrue. This could be driven by a small percentage of opportunists trying to gain discounts or refunds, or could be driven by a legitimate bad experience. In fact, most people are more likely to spend time writing a bad review compared to a positive one – once again, social proof dictates that most of what we do is driven by emotion.
Although opening your business up to freedom of opinion seems daunting, when it comes to ecommerce, having a mixture of positive and negative reviews could actually be used as an asset. A well-rounded account of an experience demonstrates an authentic review. It decreases room for suspicion involving fake positive reviews, and could therefore lead to your customer making a more informed decision.
Customer Reviews: Stats
Here are some stats which underline the importance of reviews:
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. (Bright Local)
- 70% of customers consult reviews or ratings before making a final purchase. (PeopleClaim)
- 63% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews. (MarketingProfs)
- Visitors who interact with reviews and customer questions and answers are 105% more likely to purchase while visiting. (Bazaarvoice).
How Ecommerce Sites Can Use Reviews
The presentation of reviews is very important for retailers. It’s one thing having reviews, but sites also need to help customers make sense of other customers’ feedback and to help them to reach a decision.
Presenting Large Numbers of User Reviews
One problem can be the sheer number of reviews sites collect. It’s important to have a certain number of reviews to make the ratings credible, but once sites attract more than a handful, they need to be able to organise them.
Here, Amazon has almost 2,000 reviews for this chopper, but has organised them so customers can make sense of them more easily.
The average review score is a common (and very useful) feature, but the table showing the distribution of scores can be a big help.
It allows customers to see both positive and negative reviews quickly to help them. So, for example, if the negative reviews mentioned a common fault in the product, buyers may think twice.
Home Depot presents a similar table to Amazon, but adds an extra dimension with average scores for quality, ease of use, value and features.
Home Depot adds another feature, allowing shoppers to filter reviews. So, for example, they can find reviews from people like them (age group and level of expertise for example).
For relatively complex products such as chainsaws and lawnmowers, the more help customers can receive, the better.
The questions and answers section is essentially another form of reviews, but one which allows customers to speak to each other.
This would constitute a risk for some brands, and may require some moderation in case of abuse, but it works very well when previous customers are willing to make the effort to respond.
One of the most important ways to display reviews is the most obvious – placing the average review score (and quantity of reviews) prominently on the product page.
On the examples above from Amazon and Home Depot, and indeed most sites, the bulk of review content sits well down the page where shoppers need to actively seek it out.
Many shoppers will just see the average score which, along with the number of reviews, helps them to make a quick assessment.
So, a product with 4.5 stars after 100 reviews should be good. To keep that score over so many reviews is a positive signal, while the odd negative review can help to give the score more credibility.
The average score should link to the review detail, so that people can investigate further if they want to. On Home Depot, showing the ratings breakdown when customers hover over the score is another useful feature.
Using Reviews Around the Site
The product page is the place where the bulk of review data should sit, but reviews can be used around ecommerce sites for maximum effect.
For example, featured products on the homepage can be shown alongside review scores to tempt customers into the product page.
It also makes sense to show average review scores on site search results and product category pages.
As customers browse through results, review scores are a key part of the decision to click on the page, or even add to cart directly.
Another great way to use reviews is as part of filtered navigation, so people can search for only products above a certain review score.
Using Reviews Away from the Site
If reviews are effective on-site, then it makes sense to display reviews in other contexts.
People are now familiar with the average review score / number of reviews format, so this can be used in different contexts and still be understood.
In Search Results
By using the correct markup, reviews can be pulled through into search results pages.
This, along with having the reviews in the first place, enables brands to rank for searches around reviews.
It also makes search results stand out from the rest, which should help to improve click through rates.
In Marketing Emails
Reviews can work well in emails as an extra prompt to check out certain products. They can be used in cart abandonment emails for example, adding that extra level of social proof.
In TV Advertising
Automotive brand Kia used consumer reviews of its cars as the basis for a campaign which featured TV ads.
The mainly positive review scores it received were displayed prominently on-screen, backed up by detail on landing pages. It worked too, with reviews contributing to increased web traffic.
If reviews work on websites, why not use them in stores? Here, shoppers can see the online reviews of DeWalt power tools.
Some brands have now started to use reviews in outdoor ads. It’s nothing new in one sense as, for example, movie ads have often featured star ratings from reviewers.
What’s new is using the online data in an offline setting. This example from Sonos doesn’t actually use the review scores, but instead suggests customers head to Google to find them.
It’s a confident ad, and would have been risky if reviews were mixed, but the search results delivered on the promise.
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Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.