The online sales market is constantly growing, but along with the demand for products and services, the supply is also growing, so you find yourself competing with an increasing number of stores of all sizes and product sectors and with an increasingly aware and informed consumer.
This is why it is necessary to structure the right strategy to create a successful e-commerce by monitoring the three key factors that determine turnover: number of visitors, conversion rate and average receipt value.
In this article, we analyse the role of product reviews in improving the conversion rate of an e-commerce, i.e. the percentage of visitors who make a purchase, turning into customers.
Product reviews are the numerical (usually on a scale of 1 to 5) and descriptive evaluation of how well a product met a customer’s needs and expectations after purchase.
We find product reviews on proprietary e-commerce, marketplaces, Google My Business tabs, social media, Trustpilot, Verified Reviews and other independent rating platforms and they are the ideal example of User Generated Content that help break down the natural barrier of doubt and mistrust that can hold a user back in the buyer journey when they first approach a brand/shop they are unfamiliar with.
Product reviews help users in evaluating information, help companies in defining e-commerce strategy, help algorithms in ranking in search results, and help marketing in advertising campaigns, let’s explore how.
Product reviews improve your e-commerce performance: some data
Purchasing preferences and the ability to evaluate alternatives in e-commerce have evolved and refined, it is becoming increasingly difficult for today’s experienced and informed consumer to trust ‘only’ the extraordinary product photo, a detailed description or other marketing content offered directly by companies, they want to know more.
And this is where product reviews play a key role in increasing sales.
Here is some data from recent HubSpot research that you need to know:
89% of consumers globally check online reviews before making purchases;
49% of consumers globally place reviews from other consumers in the top 3 factors influencing their purchase;
62% of consumers globally would stop using platforms that censor reviews;
55% of consumers would prefer to buy a product with a large number of reviews and an average rating, rather than a product with a limited number of reviews and an excellent rating;
Giving customers the opportunity to evaluate their experience with the product still puts many e-commerce managers at a disadvantage, caught up in the worry that an unsatisfied buyer might leave negative feedback.
However, these numbers speak for themselves, consumers trust disinterested and unbiased reviews, very often, in 81% of cases, a direct recommendation from an acquaintance, friend or family member is more valuable than corporate content, and users are careful to verify and give positive weight to the veracity of a product’s evaluation profile, even if this results in negative reviews.
Transparency is no longer an option, but an obligation and the human factor remains hugely relevant, driven by the need for support, feedback and affirmation from those we see as similar.
According to research by the University of Illinois Northwestern University, the conversion rate of a product can increase by 142% as it accumulates reviews.
Increase trust in the brand
Represent social proof
Show that you are an expert in the field
Gaining consumer trust and improving performance will be increasingly influenced by transparency and reliable information.
As Paul Kirwin, CEO of Social Signal stated in Forbes:
“The future e-commerce leaders will be the companies that excel at providing shoppers with the unbiased facts and opinions they need to make faster, more informed decisions.”
Product reviews help you get to know your buyer personas better
In addition to being a relevant factor in an e-commerce’s conversions when users are evaluating information, product reviews can also be a source of useful information for companies to use upstream in the process of defining their marketing, communication and unique selling proposition strategy.
To increase e-commerce sales, you need to implement a strategy that is tailored to the needs of your target consumers. To do this, you need to know who your ideal customers are, and the definition of buyer personas can be a great help here.
Have you ever wondered what makes customers buy your products over those of your competitors?
Buyer personas are the detailed representation of the ideal customer of a business (or a specific target group), obtained through the analysis and processing of real or hypothetical data, a kind of identikit of the ideal customer that makes it easier to get to know your audience, so that you can build an offer targeted on their preferences.
In the definition of buyer personas (or marketing personas or customer personas), all available customer information is useful:
The more sources one has at one’s disposal, the more accurate and useful this sketch will be.
The descriptive evaluation contained in product reviews is a valuable source of data in this respect, it may seem obvious, but many e-commerce managers do not consider reviews from this point of view at all.
In e-commerce reviews, customers tell of their experience and give information about:
Strengths and weaknesses of the product;
Strengths and weaknesses of sales-related services and the buying process;
How the product is used;
Emotions linked to the consumption experience
Comparisons with competitors
These and other data are a valuable asset for companies; reviews provide a better understanding of customers and products and can (indeed, must) be used to define inventory and brand marketing and communication levers, giving the customer what they are looking for and improving any points of weakness.
A good job done in this regard will certainly be an important boost to increase online sales.
Product reviews and SEO: how they improve positioning
Let’s get into a more technical part of this mini-guide, but crucial to analysing how product reviews increase e-commerce sales.
In addition to consumers and businesses, product reviews help search engine algorithms to rank in the SERP, the online search results page.
SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, is the series of activities that optimise a web page so that it ranks as high as possible in search results.
In the magnum sea of content on the web, SEO answers the question: ‘How do I get customers to find me online?
Well, SEO for e-commerce is one of the best ways to drive traffic to the store and it must be the prerogative of e-commerce managers to structure the right operations to get their products found before those of competitors.
Among others, reviews are an important ranking factor used by search engine algorithms to determine the order of SERP results.
The more visible a product is, the more it is clicked on, visited and (possibly) purchased; this applies to Google and more markedly to internal marketplace search engines such as Amazon and eBay.
Product reviews and Amazon SEO
Amazon’s A10 is the algorithm used by the internal search engine of the world’s most important marketplace to organise search results and return to the user a certain result suitable to meet their needs.
Amazon’s algorithm responds to the need to show customers the products that have the greatest chance of being sold with respect to the specific text and filter query set.
The ranking factors that determine the order in which products are shown are many, and often not known externally, but some of them are more relevant to the algorithm than others: product reviews are undoubtedly one of these relevant factors.
How much can your product sell if it is shown on the tenth page on Amazon after dozens of competitors?
Unbiased customer reviews have always been one of the strengths of the marketplace, Amazon encourages and values user reviews and uses them to rank products and sellers to meet customer needs.
There is no ideal number of reviews to be collected on a product, it depends a lot on the product sector and competitors, furthermore, certain characteristics determine the good quality of the review itself that is suitable to produce greater ranking benefits:
High rating (as close to 5 stars as possible)
Length of text
Presence of relevant keywords in the text
Presence of images and/or videos
If you sell on Amazon (also applies to eBay), implement a feedback strategy for your products and analyse the positive impacts on sales.
Ratings and reviews improve Google ranking
Even if indirectly, Google uses customer feedback as an SEO ranking factor, these can be a great added value to the SEO strategy in very competitive markets where optimisation perfection must be achieved.
In fact, customer ratings and reviews on the product pages of an e-commerce improve some important factors taken into account by Google when ordering search results:
CTR (Click Through Rate) via Rich Snippets;
In-depth, keyword-optimised content;
User dwell time;
We analyse how reviews affect each of these factors.
Ratings and reviews improve CTR thanks to Rich Snippets
Snippets are the content that Google shows in search results: title, URL and meta-description of the page. It is the content that can be clicked by the user to go from the search engine to the site in question.
Rich Snippets are, literally, content enriched with other information, in addition to that provided by default in snippets, offering additional details useful to give a clearer preview picture to the user who has to choose which result to click on.
In e-commerce, one of these additional pieces of information may be the user’s rating of the product, which translates into a score from 1 to 5, graphically represented by the classic golden stars.
According to Google Search Central, a Rich Snippet Review is
“a short excerpt of a review or rating from a reputable review website, usually shown as an average of the scores of the ratings of different review authors.”
In practice, when e-commerce developers implement the mark-up of this data, an average product rating score is shown in the SERP, star ratings below the URL, and if the product rating is great, it will be an additional reason for the user to click that result rather than another, even if placed slightly below.
All of this improves a key figure for Google, the CTR (Click Through Rate), i.e. the percentage of people who click on your site, the higher the CTR, the more sideways your site will be positioned in the search results for a given keyword.
Product reviews improve content
As I wrote in the first paragraph, reviews are a great example of User Generated Content by guaranteeing new and constantly updated content for product pages.
As Google stated, for SEO purposes, there is no difference between content created by you and content created by users, any type of content on a page will be taken into account by spiders for ranking purposes.
Richer and more up-to-date text content is content that ranks better, especially if, as is often the case, customers use keywords relevant to your business such as product name, brand and special features.
Reviews increase dwell time on the page
Finally, a large number of product reviews contribute to increasing the time users spend on a page.
This is another ranking factor for Google, in fact, if a user ‘bounces’ off your site within a few seconds of clicking, it probably means that they did not find what they were looking for, sending a negative signal to the search engine.
On the contrary, more reviews means more time to read, increasing the user’s dwell time on the page. Google will take this very positively.
Increase product reviews with isendu
With isendu you can customise your post-purchase email sequence to update your customers on shipping status, share educational and support content, encourage second purchases and collect reviews at the most important time.
Product reviews: how to use them in an advertising campaign
Product reviews can also be used to improve the performance of an advertising campaign in Facebook ADS and Google ADS.
This is an uncommon use of reviews, wrongly in my opinion.
We have analysed data confirming that positive reviews greatly increase users’ trust in a brand/online shop, but why not use them in a Facebook/Instragram ADS campaign or in Google/Youtube ads?
For e-commerce, the ideal structure of these paid advertising campaigns is based on the creation of specific content for each stage of the marketing funnel in which a potential customer finds himself.
Broadly speaking, three phases can be identified that describe the path that leads a user to become a customer:
TOFU, Top of Funnel;
MOFU, Middle of Funnel;
BOFU, Bottom of Funnel;
In the TOFU phase the user does not know the brand or does not know that he can satisfy a need with a certain product, in the MOFU phase he has already come into contact with the brand but needs more information, in the BOFU phase he is in the final decision phase of purchase.
It is precisely in the Middle of Funnel that it can be very fruitful to show reviews of the product(s).
In the MOFU phase the user has already come into contact with the brand, has already interacted in some way, e.g. by liking the Instagram post or visiting the product page on the website, but has not yet made a purchase.
He probably needs other motivations to push him to the next stage of the funnel, details that can often be of an informative or emotional nature.
Using a tracking system we can identify exactly those users who have already taken one of these actions and create content tailored to them. A useful example can be to show a slider of images (or a short video) that captures the best positive reviews of those who have already purchased from the site, knowing the impact that telling about the experience of other customers can have on prospects.
This can be a strong motivation to continue the previously interrupted path, bringing the user back to the site to make the purchase.
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