When it comes to making a buying decision, nothing can be more important in closing the sale than customer reviews. A form of social proof, non-biased peer-to-peer reviews are just as good as getting a referral for a product from a friend. In case you are not familiar with the term "social proof," it refers to the phenomenon where people gravitate to doing things they see others doing. It occurs because they feel others might understand more about the situation than they do, and they consider them to be better informed.
A recent study by CompUSA and iPerceptions resulted in 63 percent of consumers indicating they are more likely to purchase from a site with product ratings and reviews. In fact, studies show that even when people hear recommendations for a product or service from a complete stranger, they are more likely to buy based on the feedback. Additional research shows that when PETCO added customer ratings to their website, they saw an increase in sales and a decrease in costs. They surveyed their customers to get an answer to the following question: "What online tool most influenced your purchase decision?" The number one answer was product ratings and reviews.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that ecommerce stores that have integrated customer reviews, feedback, and testimonials into their design, specifically regarding individual product pages, consistently see an increase in sales. In addition, studies show that adding this element of social behavior to a website can play a part in increasing the average order value, and lower product returns. Quite simply, when people read reviews they tend to move in the same direction. This psychological behavior is called "herd behavior," and is what causes large groups of people to conform to a given decision.
If your shopping cart does not already provide customer reviews, it does not imply you have to hire a programmer to include this feature. A number of third party services can provide your customers the opportunity to write and read reviews. Some of those services are TrustPilot, BizRate, and Google Reviews. Google will show the average store rating within their search results. A search for "iPad," for example, will yield results depicting this behavior.
Giving customers the opportunity to review products on your site is one thing, getting them to engage the site and review the product is another. Let's face it, product reviews do not typically happen until after the customer has taken possession of the product and put it to use. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a customer to forget to provide a review. So it becomes the store's job to remind them to do so. The best way to do this is to send an email asking them to provide a review. I recommend this email, in the very least, thank them for the order, let them know you hope they are enjoying the product, and then ask for the review, providing a link to the review page for that product. If your system allows it, ask for the review after a period of time, when you know they have received the product and had time to use it. There would be nothing worse than sending out an email to a customer asking them to review a product they have yet to receive, or use. Amazon.com does a super job of implementing this type of follow-up reminder, and it shows in the number of product reviews they are able to generate.
It goes without saying that if you moderate your reviews, do not just allow the favorable ones through. For it to work, you need to be fair and post the non-favorable ones as well. When making a buying decision, customers are looking for objective third party product feedback, both good and bad. If all they see are five star ratings for all your products, they will question their validity and your business.
Customer Reviews Checklist
- Studies show that peer-to-peer reviews carry far greater weight in consumer buying decisions than most other factors on a site.
- In surveys, 63 percent of consumers indicate they are more likely to buy from a site that provides customer product reviews.
- Follow-up with the customer and ask for the review.
- Include product reviews so they are directly accessible from the individual product pages. Don't make the customer hunt for them.
- Google Reviews shows average ratings for stores listed in their search results.
- Third party services make it easy to include reviews on any ecommerce website that may not already have the ability to do so.
- Product reviews have been proven to increase sales, increase average order values, and lower product returns.
When push comes to shove, the bottom line is this: when visitors have the opportunity to read real, non-biased and verified feedback from current customers, their buying decision is made easier, leading to more sales for your store and more satisfied customers overall.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce expert, founder of Ecommerce Amplifier, and owner of Voom Ventures, LLC, whose products and services help stores increase traffic, maximize ROI, decrease expenses, and increase revenue. He can be contacted online at www.voomventures.com, or by phone at 866-602-2673.
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