How to Use Customer Reviews to Increase Conversion

  |  October 12, 2007   |  Comments

Optimize your customer review system for maximum conversion.

If you recently purchased something online, did a review influence your purchase decision? For most of us, the answer is yes.

Have you shopped online and a lack of reviews for a particular product actually gave you pause or stopped you from buying? We all like to know the opinions of our peers, in this case our fellow buyers.

This is hardly a secret or fresh revelation. Today, I'll demonstrate exactly how important customer reviews are, and give you some action items that will help you optimize a customer review system for maximum conversion.

Marketers Can't Ignore Online Product Reviews

Reviews on e-commerce sites have become a critical feature over the past couple years, and they're becoming even more important now. In an earlier column, I cited Roy Williams on why this word-of-mouth (WOM) feature has become so influential. You ignore WOM at your peril.

Consider dipping into the traditional marketing budget to invest in a customer review system. A review system allows you to let your customers market your products for you. Need more rationale? Consider these facts:

  • According to JupiterResearch, 77 percent of online shoppers use reviews and ratings when purchasing.

  • Reviews drive 21 percent higher purchase satisfaction and 18 percent higher loyalty, according to Foresee Results.

  • In a study of 2,000 shoppers, 92 percent deemed customer reviews as "extremely" or "very" helpful, finds eTailing Group.

  • BizRate found 59 percent of users considered customer reviews to be more valuable than expert reviews.

  • In a CompUSA-iPerceptions study, 63 percent of consumers indicated they're more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.

  • 86.9 percent of respondents said they'd trust a friend's recommendation over a critic's review, while 83.8 percent said they'd trust user reviews over a critic, according to MarketingSherpa.

  • 92.5 percent of adults said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying in a store, found BIGresearch.

  • According to Keller Fay, 63 percent of all WOM is positive. Across all Bazaarvoice clients, 80 percent of products rate 4 or 5 stars out of 5.
  • Not All Reviews Are Created Equal

    Whether you enable review functionality and consumer-generated content from your e-commerce platform or from a third-party-hosted solution like Power Reviews and Bazaarvoice, it's important to test and optimize for conversion and persuasion by focusing on the following areas:

  • Review visibility:

    • Feature reviews above the fold.

    • Make them big enough to be visible.

    • Provide a visual representation of the rating (e.g., a star system).

    • Situate reviews near a point of attention or action.

  • Review interaction:

    • Make reading easy.

    • Allow visitors to sort by rating.

    • Show how the ratings are distributed on a specific product.

    • Place reviews on listings, not just on the product detail page.

  • Single versus Multidimension reviews:

    • What are the key attributes across different categories? If you sell shoes, for example, provide a rating for different attributes, such as style, comfort, and value.

    • Can review content influence purchase decisions? Is there enough feedback in the reviews to allow visitors to compare and make a selection?

  • Credibility factors:

    • Negative and positive reviews: Negative reviews can actually aid a purchase decision. No product is perfect. They allows visitors to see both product strengths and product weaknesses.

    • Approval policy: Do you overmoderate reviews? Do they sound like a pitch? Must reviewers jump through hoops to post a reviews?

    • Reviewer characteristics: Can the reviewer be trusted? Is there information to establish the reviewer's credibility (did he review other products; can reviews be rated)?

  • Review meaning:

    • Do you display the number of reviews? Find ways to generate reviews so the database isn't skinny and inconsistent from product to product.

    • What questions do you ask? Would your reviewers buy again?

    • Consider whether they're qualitative or quantitative.

  • Don't have a review system yet? What are you waiting for?

    Share your customer review experiences with me.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Bryan Eisenberg

    Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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