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How Product Reviews Can Drive (or Dive) Sales

Including a high volume of quality and credible product review content on your brand site will help customers find the best products and stay on your brand site to purchase them.

When it comes to ecommerce, brand leaders often worry about user generated product reviews, specifically those negative star “land mines” which they feel must either be removed ASAP or at the very least, overwhelmed by an avalanche of “positive” reviews. The Good’s experience, however, indicates otherwise.

It starts with the belief that customers are sophisticated enough to decide whether a review’s content is actually relevant. Then, it focuses on enabling customers to provide quality review content and promoting credible reviews rather than reacting only to negative star ratings. The key word here is credible.

Credibility matters

Our research with ecommerce consumers, specifically their habits when shopping online, has shown that the credibility of the review, and the reviewer, matters much more than the actual review. That means negative reviews need to be evaluated in context with other influencing factors.

For instance, a one star review complaining about the shipping box being crushed will be disregarded and so won’t factor into a consumer’s purchase decision. But a one star review that explains why a product performs poorly in certain situations actually will help a customer make an informed decision.

Similarly, the five star review that proclaims “This product is awesome!” without any further details as to why the product proved to be the best fit for the reviewer’s needs, doesn’t provide enough context to really influence a consumer’s purchase decision.

Quality review content matters

What makes a quality review in the eyes of a consumer is authenticity and believability. A balanced review typically tests as the most authentic. Overly positive reviews however, can be perceived as potentially suspect. And here is something to consider, when it comes to reviews, grammar and spelling matters much more than star ratings.

The four star review that is thoughtful and well-written, and speaks to why the product was mostly a good fit for the reviewer’s specific needs and goals is the most helpful, because consumers want to hear from people who are like them, who have the same goals as they do, and make an informed decision for themselves.

Lack of review content dives sales

When it comes to reviews, the other thing that matters is where consumers actually find them. If an ecommerce or brand website doesn’t have them, consumers will look for them where they have had success in the past, such as Amazon or elsewhere.

This is a terrible scenario for brands for two reasons: One, it strips the brand of its ability to control surrounding content, such as product details, etc., and it almost ensures consumers will purchase from the site where they found the reviews and got their questions answered. Because that is the easiest thing for them to do! The result, however, is more sales for the aggregate site at the expense of direct sales for the brand.

Brands that do have reviews on sites they control will find it to their advantage to encourage the highest volume of reviews possible. Even when a reviewer has completely opposite goals, his review still provides a lens through which other consumers can view the product relative to their own needs. And when well written, even if the review is negative, it will still help the consumer decide which is the best product for their needs. Brands should be thinking about what they can do to encourage high volumes of credible and quality reviews. Tools such as Bazaarvoice encourage quality customer reviews, and allow for easy sharing, moderation and distribution of those reviews.

For brands that have just started an ecommerce site, it’s okay to pull in Amazon reviews — just make sure you pull in a balanced selection of them — not just the five star reviews.

Drive sales by encouraging content generation

Encouraging credible and quality reviews helps to create the relevant “in-context” content consumers are looking for. But authentic user generated reviews provide additional positive effects for both the brand and consumer as it is an especially potent form of content and content drives search results.

Contextual user-generated content such as reviews is especially important to search engines for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This applies even more so with Hummingbird, Google’s latest search engine update that focuses on conversational search.

When consumers are provided credible and quality review content with which to make their own decisions, either positive or negative, sales go up because consumers feel they are getting the whole story, which increases their confidence that product they’ve decided to purchase truly will be the best fit for their needs.

Jon MacDonald smiling at the camera for The Good

About the Author

Jon MacDonald

Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a digital experience optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest companies including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc.