Do you offer online reviews for your products? If not, you’re missing out on powerful opportunities to use the words of your current customers to help influence potential customers to buy. Reviews can provide (sometimes painfully honest) feedback about problems or issues with a product, giving you an opportunity to address them. If those aren’t enough good reasons to make sure you encourage product reviews, here are two you may have overlooked: when used effectively, product reviews can bring more traffic to your site and, better use of Google’s paid spend optimization.
5 Biggest Reasons Why You Should Be Using Product Reviews
1. Product Reviews Influence Through Social Proof
Think of the last time you shopped on Amazon. If you’re like most shoppers, you probably looked up a product or two, read their descriptions and, most importantly, read their product reviews. Did customers like the book or was it a waste of money? Did the room fan break after a week or did it successfully keep a mid-sized room cool? Did the blender really crush ice enough to make a smoothie?
We all know: product manufacturers may paint a pretty picture about a product’s capabilities, but fellow consumers will give the unvarnished truth. They have nothing to lose, so we’re more likely to heed their warning.
With the rise of online shopping, customers increasingly rely on the recommendations of other customers. Nearly 90% of customers consult a review site before making a purchase. Not only do customers seek the input from fellow customers, they trust that input from strangers. A recent survey showed that 88% of customers value online reviews as much as they value a personal recommendation.
Psychologists call this psychological phenomenon “social proof,” and it’s something we see every day. As humans, we rely on each other for cues on how to behave. Pass by a theater with a long line of people waiting to buy tickets at a particular movie, and we think: that must be a good movie. Likewise, when readers gush about a new book, we’re more likely to take notice. As part of social proof, when the same outcome (i.e. liking a particular product) comes from a variety of sources or customers, the influence is even greater.
2. Reviews Increase Conversion Rates
Between the information and influence product reviews offer, the results are clear: online reviews sell products. Online UK clothing retailer, figleaves.com, did a six-month study to see just what the conversion rate was for products that had reviews versus those that did not. Products with reviews had a 12.5% higher conversion rate than those that did not. Not surprisingly, the number of reviews available also influenced buyers. Products with twenty or more reviews had an 83.85% higher conversion rate than those with no reviews.
3. Reviews Provide Product Feedback to Company
Even as product reviews provide valuable information to prospective customers, they provide on point feedback to the online business. Again, consumers will be honest, and if they have difficulty using the product, difficulty reading the instructions or if the product doesn’t work as expected, they’ll let you know. This information may be your first notice if you need to re-work your design. Reviewers may recommend your product above another—letting you know who your competition is, and how you stand out. They may ask for the product with different features—bigger, smaller, a different color, or with wheels—allowing you to crowdsource for your product’s next iteration.
4. Product Reviews Bring Traffic
On a typical website, product descriptions remain static. But product reviews add new, fresh content, often with the exact search terms a fellow consumer would use. When I was searching for a blender, I searched “best blender for smoothies,” which led me to websites selling blenders other users had deemed best. In essence, it was content from customer reviews that brought me to the site.
We all know that content is king—but it must be quality content. Online retailers provide some of that for SEO in the product pages, but customers provide new, fresh material, and that user generated content (UGC) invites more traffic. Google algorithms frequently change, but tend to reward sites offering on new content with long-tail search terms. Evans Cycles, a bicycle and cycling retailer, found tremendous benefit when it added text from UGC into the product page’s code. Traffic on the site increased 23%; with one product getting 361% more search visits than before the addition of the text.
5. Paid Spend Optimization
Not that you need more convincing, but there is an additional benefit that reviews offer: optimization of Google’s paid Adwords spending.
Google can attach positive ratings from your online store to your Adword ads, making it easier for potential customers to find you when they search for highly rated merchants.
This works if you have an online store that’s rated in Google Product Search and have at least 30 reviews and four or more stars. Google says no other work is needed and you’re only charged if someone clicks the headline of your ad.
How to Help Your Customer Create a Useful Review
With these compelling reasons for using customer reviews, the next issue is how to encourage customers to create reviews that are useful to your business.
1. Ask. Don’t assume that happy customers will automatically share their positive experience. Make it easy for a customer to share thoughts by including a product review form on the product page. Perhaps the most effective approach is to send the customer an email after they’ve received the product, with a link to the review form. Provide specific questions about your product as well as a place for customers to add comments and a star rating. Each of these components will be helpful to future customers and to your SEO.
2. Request reviewer information. Ask your customer to share some information such as location (for local SEO), and a photo. Consider reinforcing frequent reviewers by including the number of reviews they have provided. These details provide authenticity to the reviews and will make the writers more trustworthy.
3. Request that customers provide comments on your site as well as on 3rd party review sites. Not all customers are going to initially come to your site to find you. Some may look up highest rated retailers on sites like Yelp, Trustpilot, or PriceGrabber. (A simple plugin with built-in rich snippets probably works best for this.) In the course of a year, try to get thirty or more reviews that you can spread among 3rd party sites such as Google checkout, Bizrate or Reseller Ratings.
4. Respond to negative reviews. No one wants to see something negative written on a site, or so you’d think. But studies reveal that for customers, a relentless stream of perky reviews actually feels false. Assuming you only occasionally have a customer who is less than thrilled, a negative review here or there shouldn’t do you irreversible harm. What’s more important is how you as the retailer respond to the complaint. A prompt and courteous response and solution to the unhappy customer’s problem provides a wealth of positive information to prospective customers.
Customer reviews are no longer just a “nice to have.” They should be considered an essential piece of your marketing efforts. And, with a well-constructed plan, a product view—even a negative one—yields multiple benefits, both to potential customers and to your business.