How to Leverage Product Reviews to Improve Conversion Rates

Product reviews are essential to building trust in your ecommerce stores. In this Insight, we offer time-tested advice for how to leverage product reviews for more ecommerce conversions.

Ecommerce product reviews can be a two-headed monster. On the one hand, implementing them on your website can be very time-consuming. On the other hand, allowing potential customers to see reviews typically increases your overall conversion rate.

There’s also a conundrum with product reviews. Should you allow negative product reviews on your site and risk turning buyers away, or only allow positive reviews and risk appearing dishonest? It’s a tricky question.

Whichever method you choose, you definitely need to have reviews on your website/product pages. Having 50 or more reviews per product can result in a 4.6 percent increase in your conversion rate. If you aren’t showing product reviews on your site, you should be.

Let’s look at why ecommerce product reviews are so important, as well as some best practices for implementing them.

Fifty or more reviews per product can result in a 4.6% increase in your conversion rate. If you aren’t leveraging product reviews on your site, you should be Click To Tweet

Why Are Ecommerce Product Reviews So Important?

When comparing products on Amazon, what’s one of the first things you do? You look at how many reviews the product has and the overall score of those reviews. The simple truth is that we rely heavily on reviews when making purchasing decisions. In fact, most shoppers won’t even consider making a purchase if product reviews aren’t present.

We also tend to consider reviews as more trustworthy than the copy written by the seller. After all, in most cases, the reviewers are giving their honest opinion about the product without any ulterior motives.

Research has shown just how important reviews are to customers. According to a report by Spiegel Research Center, nearly 95 percent of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. Additionally, products with more than five reviews have a significantly higher conversion rate than those with no reviews.

As the report noted:

As products begin displaying reviews, conversion rates escalate rapidly. The purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270 percent greater than the purchase likelihood of a product with no reviews.

The report also noted that as the price of a product increases, the importance of reviews also increases:

Our research found that when reviews were displayed for a lower-priced product, the conversion rate increased 190 percent. However, for a higher-priced product, the conversion rate increased 380 percent.

Product reviews report shows the importance of this essential ecommerce element

Clearly, reviews have a significant impact on whether or not a customer chooses to purchase. And if an ecommerce store doesn’t have product reviews, customers will go elsewhere to find them, such as Amazon or product review websites.

This is bad news for any ecommerce store.

When customers go elsewhere for reviews, the brand loses control of how the product is portrayed, as well as surrounding details such as product specifications, key benefits, etc. It also usually means that the consumer will purchase the product from the website where they found the reviews and had their questions answered instead of purchasing directly from your ecommerce store.

Bottom line: You need ecommerce product reviews.

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Of course, this raises the critical question: How do you get your customers to write reviews?

How to Motivate Customers to Write Product Reviews

If you want customers to write reviews, the first step is to ask them to do it.

Your customers certainly won’t be offended to be asked to write a review. On the contrary, they’ll feel honored because you consider their opinion to be valuable.

You can “pre-sell” reviews by letting your customers know three things immediately after the transaction is completed:

  • You want them to be 100 percent satisfied with their purchases.
  • If they aren’t satisfied, you want to know so you can correct the problem.
  • Once they are completely satisfied you would appreciate an honest review.

You should have a system in place that automatically asks customers to review your products after they’ve had them for a certain length of time. Obviously, you don’t want to ask too early because they won’t have had enough time to enjoy the benefits of the product. We often recommend asking for reviews as one step in a series of post-purchase emails.

Amazon does this extremely well. A short while after you make a purchase, they send you an email (see screenshot below) saying something along the lines of, “How would rate [product XYZ]?”

Amazon email asking customer for product reviews

Writing reviews should also be as easy as possible. Your review forms should be optimized for mobile users, and the forms should be extremely easy to find. Users shouldn’t have to go digging through your site to locate your product review form.

In order to help customers write meaningful reviews, ask them insightful questions. Provide unique methods to review the product beyond just a single “How would you rate your experience?” form field.

People want to help you. Your job is to show them how to do that conveniently. Give them a template to follow, and they’ll provide you with a much more in-depth and valuable review.

Essentially, you want to encourage the customer to answer the following questions:

  • What was the reviewer’s situation before purchasing your product or service?
  • What did the product or service do for the reviewer?
  • What happened as a result?
  • What would the reviewer say to someone considering a similar purchase?

By leading them to answer these four questions, you can get your customers to write helpful, thorough, motivating product reviews.

Quality and Credibility Are Key

When it comes to ecommerce product reviews, quality and credibility matter greatly. Well-written, thorough, thoughtful reviews will help the customer make an informed purchasing decision. On the flip side, short reviews that lack in substance won’t do much to motivate the customer to purchase.

The most effective reviews—the ones that seem the most authentic—tend to be balanced reviews. The customers are generally happy with the product without seeming as though it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever purchased.

The data seems to back this up. Again, to quote the Spiegel Research Center:

Is five stars “too good to be true” in the eyes of consumers? According to our research, it is. Across product categories, we found that purchase likelihood typically peaks at ratings in the 4.0 – 4.7 range, and then begins to decrease as ratings approach 5.0.

Chart showing a star ratings impact on purchase

In other words, no one expects a product to be perfect, and if a product only has glowing, five-star ratings, customers will suspect that something is off.

Your goal is to secure in-depth reviews that go beyond “Five stars – great product.”

And here’s one more thing to consider: Grammar and spelling actually matter a great deal when it comes to reviews. A recent study of hotel bookings found that if user reviews were well written with proper grammar, whether positive or negative, room bookings went up.

Clearly, the quality of the review matters to customers making purchase decisions.

One final reason to make every effort to secure good reviews is that it will help in your overall SEO efforts. User-generated content such as reviews are looked upon favorably by Google and can help you outrank your competitors in Google searches.

As Matthew Hodges at ThriveHive notes:

Google uses online reviews to gauge whether or not your brand is meeting the needs of consumers. Lots of good reviews send Google a signal that not only is your business is real, but also that consumers are having positive interactions with your brand in which their problems are resolved.

On the other hand, lots of bad or mixed reviews tell Google that you may not be offering the best solution for consumers, causing your search engine ranking to drop.

The moral of the story? Do everything in your power to secure well-written, in-depth, thoughtful reviews from your customers. Not only will they boost your conversion rate, but they’ll also have a significant on your SEO efforts.

Looking for more information on how you should go about leveraging product reviews on your site? Check out our video breakdown of an actual product detail page where we use heatmap data to identify stuck points in the user experience.

How to Manage Negative Reviews

Inevitably, you’re going to get negative reviews from time to time; that’s simply part of the ecommerce business. It’s how you handle those negative reviews that can make a difference.

First and foremost, learn from them. Criticism can be a valuable teacher. Assess and improve upon your product. Examine what customers are not satisfied with, and how you can start to improve on that. Negative reviews, believe it or not, can actually end up benefiting your business.

Second, approve the bad reviews. Yes, it might be tempting to delete them, but don’t. The reality is that if you only have positive reviews on your site, you lose credibility with customers. Nothing is perfect, and customers won’t believe that you or your products are. If they don’t see a single negative review, they’ll become skeptical.

As Broadly notes, 68 percent of customers will trust reviews more when they see a mix of both good and bad scores.

Note: It’s important to only approve negative reviews from verified buyers. If you don’t have a system for verifying reviewers, what’s stopping your competition from going on your site and leaving a series of negative reviews?

Third, respond appropriately to negative reviews. This doesn’t mean that you have to offer a full refund in every case. It simply means that you need to express real interest in the problem and put a good-faith effort into fixing it. You want to show customers that you genuinely do stand behind your products and take problems seriously.

Fourth, respond with gratitude to positive reviews. If a customer takes the time and effort to leave you a positive review, you should take the time to acknowledge it and express your appreciation. If someone said to you in person, “I love your products and tell everyone about them,” wouldn’t you thank that person? Treat your online customers in the same way.

This review of a Kimpton Hotel Monaco (shown below) is a great example of how to properly respond to a positive review. Personalize your response so it doesn’t seem like an automated message that you reply to every review with.

Trip Advisor hotel product reviews response
While you can’t escape criticism, you can certainly employ wise and tactful ways of dealing with it. Read: How to Leverage Product Reviews to Improve Conversions Click To Tweet

Tools for Collecting Online Reviews From Customers

As noted above, you should have some sort of automated process in place that makes it easy to collect ecommerce product reviews. Without an automated process, you’ll have a hard time getting much traction at all.

Fortunately, there are a number of tools that make gathering ecommerce product reviews much simpler. Tools such as YotpoBazaarvoice, and Power Reviews enable you to do things such as collect and display reviews, show off customer photos of your products, and even create loyalty and referral programs.

Product Reviews Are Essential

In an age of abundant choices, product reviews are more essential now than ever before. They function as a social proof, demonstrating that your products are trustworthy and likely worth purchasing. They improve the overall user experience on your website, boost your conversion rate, and aid your SEO efforts.

Don’t know where to start with collecting and utilizing product reviews on your website? Contact The Good for a free landing page assessment to get a better understanding of how you can start using product reviews to boost your conversion rate.

Want a free landing page teardown?

We’ll provide a data-driven critique of the usability and effectiveness of your site free of charge.

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About the Author

David Hoos

David Hoos is the former Director of Marketing at The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.