February 7, 2014 Leave a Comment
By now, merchants know that customer reviews are an essential component of product content. Reviews are increasingly widespread, with more than 60% of the merchants in Internet Retailer’s list of Top 500 merchants using them.
As a result, the long-standing best practices surrounding reviews, if not universally adopted, are at least well-known — from avoiding censorship of negative reviews (since negative reviews can actually drive sales) to enabling ratings of individual product attributes to using review content in merchandising and marketing.
But the ubiquity of reviews and the increasingly savvy online consumers who consult them require merchants to up their game. Shoppers’ sophistication about review content, as well as their access to mobile technologies and social sharing opportunities, all play a role in the latest best-of-breed implementations. Among the ways to freshen reviews for 2014 and beyond:
Seek reviews, not just star ratings, from those in the know. Shoppers’ disregard of star ratings was among the surprising findings from a 2013 study of more than 18,000 Amazon reviews. Higher sales were associated with products with a mix of high and low ratings, versus those with uniformly negative or positive ratings — again demonstrating the importance of negative reviews. But what shoppers paid attention to most was the review text itself; positive reviews with a more credible linguistic style had more impact than those that displayed no particular expertise about the product or the product category. So to enhance the credibility of their reviews, merchants should encourage submissions from frequent or long-time buyers who are best able to evaluate and compare products.
MarketLive merchant Peruvian Connection makes submission of a detailed review easy by providing helpful tips for content. The review display includes several indicators of a contributor’s knowledge of brand offerings, from a “First Time Customer?” attribute to badges for top contributors.
Let shoppers “review the review”. Allowing shoppers to vote on whether a particular contribution was helpful gives merchants a criterion for prioritizing display of reviews, while the ability to comment on reviews enables a dialogue among customers and would-be buyers. And, of course, customer service staff can use the commenting feature to respond to reviews and provide further information.
Summarize with a representative sample of the best reviews. In addition to aggregating and averaging the star ratings, merchants should provide a summary sampling of the most popular comments so that shoppers can quickly scan to get the gist of opinions. The summary should be representative of the entire body of reviews for the product, good and bad, while showcasing the reviews deemed most helpful.
MarketLive merchant Perricone MD provides a review snapshot that includes the most liked positive and negative reviews, along with a list of popular product attributes as indicated by reviewers.
Enable multimedia reviews. Since consumers increasingly have a camera and video recorder — in the form of their smartphones — within easy reach, and are increasingly comfortable with posting pictures and video online, merchants should go beyond text-and-ratings reviews to take advantage of this new potential pool of user-generated content. Review submission forms should prominently invite inclusion of photos and video, and review displays should showcase multimedia content. In addition, merchants should allow shoppers to sort and filter reviews according to whether they have images or video, and even consider adding the presence of multimedia reviews as an attribute for guided search alongside star ratings.
Retro-style clothing and home decor merchant ModCloth includes photo submission on its review form, and pictures are displayed alongside review text.
Syndicate review content across touchpoints. Social media is an ideal platform for sharing product review content, as brand followers are hungry for recommendations from other customers. At the least, merchants should consider featuring “top-rated” products on Facebook and/or Pinterest, and quoting review text aspart of the presentation.
MarketLive merchant Figi’s prominently features a link to product reviews from its main Timeline page on Facebook. The page offers social shoppers the ability to browse featured products and customer favorites, and to submit reviews directly from within Facebook.
Disclose collection methods up-front. Achieving “critical mass” for reviews is crucial to relevance — but so is transparency when it comes to methods of achieving it. Merchants who aggregate reviews from other sites (e.g. Amazon), or who incentivize customers to contribute reviews with contests or prize drawings, should disclose those practices as part of the review display on the product page. Sears includes a line in its review summary noting that some contributors have received benefits in exchange for their submissions — but emphasizes those benefits weren’t conditional based on review content.
How are you maximizing the efficacy of customer reviews?