Customer ratings and reviews have become a must-have tool for many web sites, particularly online stores. Majority of shoppers nowadays look for customer-generated reviews – from 5-star ratings to the more elaborate questions and answers — to help guide their buying decisions.
In fact, a number of studies point to the huge importance customers give to reviews and ratings. Nielsen Online estimates that about 81 percent of online shoppers have read product or retail reviews. BazaarVoice.com’s “Driving Channel Sales with User Generated Marketing” cites a number of studies on how online word of mouth through customer reviews has become a precious asset for retailers:
- A study by Edelman Public Relations found that trust “in someone like me” has more than tripled in three years, from 20 percent to 68 percent.
- According to BIGresearch survey, 92.5 percent of adults said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in a store.
- Jupiter found that 77 percent of online shoppers seek out ratings and reviews before making a purchase.
Comments from other users give customers information beyond what is presented by the merchant. Customers want feedback and guidance from other buyers, including whether the product works, if the presentation on the site is accurate, whether the product is worth its price, and other factors they need to consider when they purchase the product. Is the bedding’s color indeed red or is it more rust brown? Is the sizing of the blouse on the small size or a little large? Is the ride-on fire truck something that a 3-year old will enjoy, or is it more suitable for a 6 year old? Through the reviews, customers learn what to expect from the product, which is invaluable for many buyers.
However, there are sellers who are hesitant to use ratings or review system in their online stores. Even if they know that their products are excellent, getting negative reviews from customers can sting. Worse, seeing the not-so-good reviews may drive away other customers and reduce sales of the product. Some competitors might also use the review system to jeopardize the sales by posting bogus and fake reviews. Plus, there’s the added cost of investing in technologies to integrate a review system in the online store, which small businesses may not be able to afford.
What are the Benefits of Using Customer Reviews for Your Website?
For sellers, customer reviews can drive sales and create loyalty. According to an old study of Jupiter Research
JupiterResearch also found that online shoppers who find user-generated product ratings and reviews useful are heavier online spenders than average online buyers. For example, online buyers who write a lot of product reviews make up only 20 percent of the online shopping population, but account for 32 percent of online sales. JupiterResearch also found that shoppers that find reviews useful are more likely to say they are more loyal to, buy more frequently from and return their purchases less frequently to stores that feature consumer-generated product reviews and ratings.
There are a number of ways you can use reviews to help improve your sales. Customer reviews can be key to developing merchandising strategy for your business. You can help improve your merchandising and product selection to ensure that you have adequate inventory of highly reviewed products. You can then weed out products that are reviewed poorly by your customers, especially those that get the most negative reviews and complaints.
The reviews will also allow you to understand what your customers’ value in your products. This knowledge can help you better fine-tune your overall strategies and provide what your customers really want.
The reviews can also prompt you to assess your copy; product description and presentation (including photos) to more accurately present the product. The key is to ensure that the product will align with customers’ expectations.
You can also highlight products that get the best reviews, and there are a number of ways to do this:
- Highlight the products that received the most number of positive reviews in your homepage
- Provide top 10 lists of the products that received the best reviews accessible from your product category pages.
- Include your top 10 list in your email campaigns
- If your search system can allow it, include an option to search your products based on customer ranking or feedback.
- Launch a marketing campaign based on your top rated products.
- If you do paid search marketing, include your list of top rated products in the landing pages.
To help you gain more information on how to use customer generated reviews and feedback for your online business, read the 2010 Customer Reviews Strategy Guide by Customer Lobby