How to Use Customer Reviews to Increase 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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