Optimising product reviews and why they are important

18 June 2013  |  Cate

Product reviews play an important part in the ecommerce industry, with Amazon and other big names establishing the precedence for user generated content that provides customers with honest feedback about their products. But why are product reviews so essential for your online shop?

The importance of product reviews

Product reviews are created by your customers, the people who have used your product in a real world environment, and therefore, are a more reliable source of information about the product than you are. Not only have these customers had actual experience of the product, but they are also in no hurry to sell you anything, so will be must more honest about their likes and dislikes. Other customers are then more likely to respond to this honesty and this can help to increase conversion rates.

Trustpilot review

According to research carried out by iPerceptions, 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.

Reviews and star ratings can also help in terms of SEO. If you are having reviews regularly posted on your site this will be seen as constantly updated, relevant content which is one of the most important things Google looks for when indexing your site. Not only that, the review stars can be picked up by Google Rich Snippets (built into your Bluepark site as standard) and these can then appear within your Google organic and paid listings.

Organic Star Ratings

Paid Stars Ratings

You can see, particularly with the Trustpilot link, that reviews can show your business in a positive light right in front of potential customers and this, in turn, gives your brand a sense of authority and trust.

Not all reviews are positive

Don't be afraid to publish all of the customer reviews you receive, even the negative ones, as this will show that the reviews are genuine. Always respond to negative ones visibly on your website, offering solutions to the customer’s issue, to show that you are willing to listen to your customers and that you are proactive at sorting out their problems.

Not all bad reviews will be seen as such because what might be a negative feature for one person might be positive for someone else. For instance, someone stating that a pair of jeans was a little too short for his 6ft height could be seen as a good thing for someone who is 5ft 8.

Negative reviews, whether aimed at your service in general or a particular product, can help you identify issues that you weren’t aware of. For instance, your delivery company maybe damaging fragile goods whilst in transit.  If you start getting regular reviews telling you of this then do something about it, perhaps look into a new service or invest in better packaging.  This, in turn, can then lead to less complaints and fewer returns.

The benefits of product review emails

Sending out a post-purchase email asking your customers to review the products they have recently bought is one of the best ways to ensure you have regular reviews posted on your site. Most people won’t just voluntarily go on to your site, without any prompt, and leave a review, so the majority of reviews you do receive will come from the feedback email.

Having a triggered, post-purchase review email instantly gives you a reason to contact your customer that won’t come across as intrusive. Most customers expect these emails nowadays and are normally happy to respond, especially if they have had a particularly good experience, or a particularly bad one! This extra touch point helps to increase engagement with your customers, showing that you want to know their opinions and that you are listening to them.

Product review email best practices

Make sure your product review email is designed with your brand in mind. It should be recognisable as belonging to your company on first glance so that there is no doubt as to whom it is from. Use the Bluepark Email Template to create a consistent, branded email wrapper that can be used for all triggered emails from your website. Add social icons with links through to your social profiles to encourage further engagement.

Hobbs reviews email

These emails are also a great way to encourage follow-on purchases. Links to top level categories or top selling products can tempt customers to click through and place another order.

Marks and Specner reviews email

Make the email personal to the customer by using their name and keeping it relaxed. Use a more chatty voice much like you would on your social sites, but remember that you are a business, so keep it professional.

Amazon reviews email

Always remember, however, that getting the review is the main reason you are sending the email, so keep it clean and uncluttered without too many distractions. Each of the above examples manage to achieve this, even though they are all quite different.

Make sure you think about the timing of your review email as well. Sending it too soon or weeks after they have received their goods is not going to get the biggest response. Work out the average time it takes your orders to get to someone in your main selling region and adjust it accordingly. If your items are made to order this is normally longer than ready to ship products. If you are unsure, test different times over a certain period to see what works the best.

And remember, if you sell overseas too these will take longer than your domestic orders so add a little note at the end to reflect this. One post-purchase email I received recently had the following at the bottom:

“If you are one of our overseas customers you may not have received your order yet, so please wait until you do, there is no rush.”

Other ways to optimise your product reviews

Branding your reviews

When it comes to the star ratings don’t be afraid to go for something other than star icons, particularly if your brand lends itself to something much more obvious. Lego, as you would expect, have gone for bricks, rather than stars, so the more bricks a product is given the better the rating.

Lego review bricks

The personalised gift specialist, Getting Personal, has been really creative with its ratings and reviews, using “smiles” as the rating icon because people smile when they receive a gift.  So, the bigger the smile (i.e. the bigger the rating), the better the product. They have also used their smile icon in the main logo, enforcing the company’s ethos about making their customer’s smile.

Getting Personal ratings

Getting Personal really focuses on its reviews, making sure its customers know that their comments and feedback are appreciated. You can’t go onto a single page without being reminded about it with a banner on their homepage, reviews on each product page, a banner in the left hand column on every page and a dedicated page where they list every single review they have ever received.

Getting Personal smiles banner Getting Personal smiles page

But you don’t have to use a different icon to remain branded, just change the colour of the stars to match your brand colours as The Body Shop have. They have changed theirs to green which, not only matches the website colours, but it's a colour very much associated with the ethical values of this company.

The Body Shop rating stars

Get the type of feedback you want

Many people when leaving a review are unsure of what to put and will either just leave a few words or will waffle on about the delivery driver or that it looked nice next to their yukka plant. None of these responses are of any help to anyone, so tell your customers what sort of review you would like them to leave.

Add a guidelines page to your site and link it from every product page so that they don’t need to go hunting for it. Hobbs has a really informative page which explains quite clearly what they are after - The Lego shop has an interesting guide on how to actually leave a review with some help hints as to what they want you to write at the bottom -

You could even incentivise your customers to try and encourage more of them to respond. Matalan have created a ratings and reviews page which incentivises their customer with a chance of winning a shopping spree worth £250 as well as offering guidance on what the reviews should contain -

Add reviews to all touch points

Once you’ve started to receive reviews make sure you use the best ones on all customer touch points. Include them in your email newsletters, add them to product signage within your bricks and mortar shop, feature them on leaflets or bag stuffers or add the best customer service one to the bottom of all despatch notes; the list goes on. Just remember, you have all this wonderful feedback so make sure everyone has a chance to see it.

Oliver Bonas reviews email newsletter

Don’t forget your social media profiles

Whenever you link to a product on your social media profiles remember to include any good reviews in the text. This will help to boost its appeal to other customers, particularly if the review has some helpful tips in it.

Social sites such as Google+ even have their own reviews section built in, so why not encourage your customers to leave reviews there too.

Expand your best reviews into blog posts

Have you had particularly good reviews for one of your products? If so, then why not ask the reviewers to contribute to a blog post about that product. Ask them to expand on their review, to give you more detail on how they use it or what they accessorize it with, depending on the type of product. Ask them to send in images or videos to add to their comments to really make it come to life.

External review sites

Many companies these days are using external review sites such as Trustpilot but what are the benefits? These sorts of sites are for company reviews, not specific products. They are about the level of service the company offers and the experience the customer had when purchasing their products or using their service.

Bluepark reviews on Trustpilot

Adding your company to one of these sites will allow your company to increase its brand awareness as it puts you in front of many people who wouldn’t find you through normal routes. They help build trust and confidence in your services which, in turn, will increase your traffic and conversions. But make sure you choose one that offers genuine reviews from verified customers and that has a licensing agreement with Google. This agreement will allow your ratings to appear within your paid search results and for your reviews to visible within your seller review profile along with ones from places such as Ebay.

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