If there’s one thing we’re the experts on, it’s Ratings and Reviews. Which is why we’ve literally written the (digital) book on it.
We have created this Guide to enable you to optimize your Ratings and Reviews strategy for 2021. It’s full of practical steps you can apply today, all through the lens of what we know – through our own extensive data – consumers are looking for right now.
Ratings & Reviews in 2021
How do Ratings & Reviews Affect the Buyer Journey?
Ratings and reviews allow customers to share their experience with a product or service, and give it an overall star rating.
After price, reviews are the second-most important factor to customers making a purchase decision.
of consumers typically read product ratings and reviews before making a purchase.
of all online purchases occur on product pages with ratings and reviews content.
of all product page web traffic occurs on product pages with ratings and reviews content.
Displaying ratings and reviews on product pages is proven to lift conversions by up to 115%.
Why are ratings & reviews so impactful? They provide invaluable social proof to shoppers. They can’t see, touch, and smell a product they’re purchasing online. But when they read the reviews, shoppers can cross-reference with people who have already purchased your product, to verify that it looks and works like you say it does.
What the Data Says: Impact of Reviews in 2021
Let’s start by level setting. What is the state of ratings and reviews in 2021?
Obviously, the Covid pandemic has had an immense effect on the ecommerce landscape.
This trend data – from our July monthly snapshot – highlights a 3x surge in online purchase volumes at the start of the pandemic (this is based on analysis of consumer activity across more than 1,200 ecommerce sites).
There has been some stabilization since but purchase volumes are now consistently at 40 – 70% above where they were before the pandemic.
The impact of ratings and reviews has also surged during the pandemic.
The below chart highlights the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.).
It is for a representative year-on-year period post and pre-Covid (we excluded the Holidays deliberately as ratings and reviews impact always goes up at this time).
Over the three-month period highlighted, review interactors are consistently converting at 25% higher rate than a year ago.
1. Way more shopping is happening online.
2. A higher percentage of online shoppers are converting once they have consumed ratings and reviews content compared to a year ago.
3. You need an effective ratings and reviews strategy in this environment
4. This Guide provides all the information you need to do just that.
What Information Should the Ideal Customer Review Incorporate?
When thinking about how to generate review content that will convert the best, always remember the purpose of displaying user-generated content is to build buyer confidence.
Reviews are a great vehicle for building confidence with customers by delivering an authentic depiction of your products.
Building a “perfect review” and considering all the elements entailed is therefore grounded in this overall concept. How do you hone and elevate the trustworthy voice of your customers?
From our experience, a perfect review typically incorporates the elements highlighted below.
Titles need to grab shopper attention quickly.
Five star reviews are ideal but consumers value authenticity above all. An artificially-inflated rating will only lead to distrust of your brand.
Ensures content is 100% reliable, and more valued by consumers.
Real-life accounts of use cases add value and color that is critical to the buying decision.
Reviews longer than 500 characters are proven to generate a greater number of conversions.
Authentic imagery and video “out in the wild” adds unrivalled credibility.
Specific demographic detail to make content relatable and relevant.
Review length: The longer the better
Our research proves that longer reviews provide exponentially greater value – without fail. Based on the number of “helpful” votes provided by shoppers to existing reviews, a review of 500+ characters is 2.3 times more valuable than a review of 20 characters or fewer.
Why? Longer reviews provide consumers with the ability to provide the relatable use cases and stories that resonate with buyers.
As you can see, helpfulness increases in line with review length growth. The trend is very clear. The longer the review, the more helpful it is. 500+ character reviews – in particular – evidently offer huge value to shoppers.
This makes complete sense: consumers like to consume longer review content because it includes more detail that is more likely to be relevant to them.
Take a coat for example. A longer review might go into the fit, the material, the zipper, the color, the warmth, reasons for buying and so on and so on.
If you’re unclear about the value of reviews with a “helpful” rating by the way, here’s why it’s important.
Review Sort Conversion Lift
Conversion rate of visitors that engaged with each feature
Of all consumers sorting review content, those that sort by helpful rating convert at the highest rate (this actually amounts to 192% above overall average conversion rates).
So longer reviews are more helpful and helpful reviews have a huge impact on whether that shopper then goes on to buy that item or not.
Something else to consider about longer reviews: they provide more information about the product for you to analyze (assuming you have the NLP and text analytics to do so…check out our UGC Analytics platform if you don’t).
What do consumers like about your product? What do they hate? How can you improve it? Now project this across your entire catalog. That’s a whole lot of high-value and actionable information for you to leverage to drive positive and meaningful change.
We talk more about analyzing review content later in this Guide. And if you want to find out more about review length, check out the blog we wrote on this very topic.
Imagery and video: Buyers love visual media
A review voted as “helpful” by consumers is 4x more likely to include imagery or video
of consumers specifically look for visuals submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase.
More than half of consumers under the age of 30 say visual user-generated content is MORE important than the glossy photos produced by a brand or retailer
Imagery and video provide exceptional real-life examples of the product in actual everyday use. How does it hold up under the typical strain customers put it under? Does it look, feel and smell as described? Is performance in line with, worse or better than expected? Visual media enables each of these questions to be answered with precision and in great detail. In doing so, it generates exceptional authenticity and trust.
To give you an idea of volume you should be aiming for, our research shows that customers EXPECT at least three to five authentic customer images on each product page. And there is a direct correlation between conversion and products where this number of visual media is present.
Rating: Consumers value authenticity over best scores
While there is a clear and direct correlation between average rating and conversions, reviews considered the most helpful by consumers tell a very different story. In fact, our research shows one and two star ratings are deemed the most helpful by consumers.
This makes sense, given time and time again shoppers are proven to value authenticity over every other quality when it comes to user-generated content. Which stands to reason: you can’t game ratings and reviews. A disappointing product will always end up being reviewed as such and vice versa. An artificially-inflated product rating or overly positive set of reviews will only lead to consumer disappointment and distrust.
Add in purchase levels and this trend is clearly evident. There is such a thing as “too good to be true” when it comes to product ratings. As is shown by analysis of our data by Northwestern University Spiegel Research center on two random product groupings, there is a drop off in conversions once the average rating rises above around 4.5.
Review Recency: Fresh Ratings & Reviews Content is Key
With authenticity being critical for shoppers, it is unsurprising that review recency is considered key.
Consumers want to see a regular stream of ratings and reviews to be sure the product continues to perform well.
And our data backs this up. Across around 1,200 brand and retailer sites that run our technology, review recency is the second most used sort option for shoppers (this is despite not all brands and retailers providing this option).
These consumers also convert at around the double the rate of those who do not engage with review content.
Fresh review content is also super important when it comes to SEO authority. This should not be underestimated: SEO and Google Shopping is an absolutely critical customer acquisition tactic for many brands and retailers.
In fact: according to Google, ads with Customer Ratings get a 17% higher Click Through Rate than the same ads without ratings.
Bottom line: Review recency is clearly an extremely influential factor in the buyer journey. So you need to invest in constantly generating this content to ensure you maximize its impact.
Profile information: Let shoppers find people and use cases similar to themselves
of users engage with tags on best uses, pros/cons and other descriptors of the reviewer that are queryable (Source: Baymard Institute)
When shoppers browse your site and start to read reviews for particular products, they are looking to validate a potential purchase. Ideally, they want to know people like them were happy with what they bought. The same goes for the specific usage or deployment of the product. Specific examples include age and gender for clothing or location for outdoor furniture. Customers ask: how suitable is this product for exactly what I want to use it for?
The more vivid, relatable and relevant your review content is, the more likely it is to resonate and push consumers over the line to purchase.
The first step to maximizing review collection is asking.
You may get lucky and capture some content without, but most people need at least a gentle nudge. Others may need considerably more.
The more creative you can get, the more successful you are likely to be. But here are some of our top tips.
A post-purchase email asking for a review is a staple for most brands.
And with good reason: it’s the most important. From our experience, it generates up to 80% of ALL ratings and reviews content dependent on the brand.
Although this should go without saying, they must be personalized based on the specific purchase.
They should also be simple and to the point. No fluff. Be very clear about the purpose of the communication and in your call to action.
Here are some good examples.
All three of these follow-up review request emails are on brand, simple and to-the-point – critical factors in generating the desired outcome.
Post Purchase Email Checklist
Compelling subject line with less than 55 characters
Short and sweet
16–18 point font
Single column layout
Clear call to action
Image and link to product
No other marketing or sales call to action
Enable review submission from within email
There are typically two options when it comes to actual collection of the review content:
- Dynamically from within the email itself
- In a form on your website
Here’s an example of an “In-Email” review submission capability from Naturepedic.
This obviously means fewer clicks and a more seamless review submission process. However, content generated this way is typically less detailed and shorter.
Let’s assume you are not enabling reviewers to provide content in the email itself. In which case, you’ll be directing shoppers to a form on your site to provide a review. Again, you’ll need to be very clear in your ask. Provide obvious direction to deliver the content you need where you need it.
Basket sizes average 2.73 items. So you should also enable consumers to write reviews on multiple products without leaving or refreshing the page. This encourages far higher collection rates.
As in this example: load up all of those products in your review form so customers can provide content without leaving the window or refreshing the page.
Collect Ratings & Reviews via Text Message
Increasingly, brands are also collecting ratings and reviews via text message. Why? It’s deemed by many to be quicker and easier. This methodology particularly resonates with younger generations who are not as wedded to email.
We already talked about the importance of review coverage across all your products. And – beyond that – why maximizing the review volumes you generate is vital. Here are some ways you can get more reviews.
Time the ask appropriately
You can’t ask for a review as soon as the item has been purchased. Customers need time to 1) receive the product and 2) try it out.
The ideal timing is also dependent on the type of product the consumer purchased. We therefore typically provide the following guidelines for timing review request emails:
1. Seasonal Products: 7 days
There’s a pretty short window when folks will purchase seasonal goods, such as school supplies or holiday decorations. Since we know that reviews drive sales, you’ll want to get reviews for seasonal products as quickly as possible so you don’t miss the season. Send post purchase emails for seasonal goods within seven days.
2. Perishable Goods: 14 Days
Perishable goods—such as cut flowers and fresh fruit and vegetables —have a short shelf life. Send post purchase emails for these products within 14 days. If you wait any longer, the product will be out of sight and out of mind.
Soft goods are items that are immediately consumed or have a lifespan of three years or less, such as clothing and cosmetics. As with hard goods, you’ll want to give your customer the opportunity to try out the product before writing a review. But don’t wait too long, because the lifespan of soft goods is much shorter than hard goods and the purchase won’t be top of mind for long.
Hard goods are durable items that don’t wear out quickly, such as refrigerators, washing machines and computers. It’s a best practice to wait 21 days before sending a post purchase email for these types of products.
After three weeks, the customer will have enough time to get a good feel for the product so they can write a well informed, thorough review.
Send TWO email requests as a best practice. Although we’d all love to only make the ask once to get the desired results, that’s also not realistic.
As mentioned, studies show that up to 80% of reviews originate from post purchase emails. So if you don’t send more than one email, you risk wasting the best opportunity to boost review volumes.
Prioritize products that need it
Review coverage – the concept of generating review content across your entire product catalog – is a big concern for pretty much every brand and retailer.
Where possible, you should look to prioritize collection for your least-reviewed products.
In this example, the products are ordered accordingly. Best-in-class technology will do this automatically.
Incorporate sweepstake incentives
A sweepstakes is an incentive to be placed in a raffle-style drawing for a cash prize or similar in exchange for providing a review.
Although not appropriate for all brands, they can work great in the right circumstances.
Here are a couple of examples of how you would incorporate this incentive in one of your review submission request emails.
Incorporate in your loyalty program
You may not want to provide cash incentives. If so, consider integrating into your loyalty program.
Many brands offer up loyalty points in exchange for review content.
This can be super powerful in creating engagement with your brand, generating more loyal customers and generally making them feel part of a bigger community.
Review Generation Case Study: Leading Apparel Brand
Three simple tweaks to Ratings & Review program that had a stunning impact.
What they did
- Added a second follow up email post-purchase
- Enabled ability to provide multiple products in the same form
- Added a sweepstakes entry
The results they saw
- Initial jump from 1,000 to 10,000 reviews in a month
- Continue to generate 8,000 reviews monthly
- These new techniques led to increased review completion by 300% and review volume by 147%.
Ask for review content in other communication channels
Dedicated follow-up emails are the most direct and effective review collection method.
But you routinely communicate with customers across a whole host of methods and channels. Brands are increasingly leveraging these to collect review content.
Run a product sampling campaign
Product sampling campaigns – sending a product to a group of people who agree to write a review or create a social post in exchange – are a really effective method for generating reviews from a very targeted persona.
Brands and retailers find they are particularly effective in specific scenarios:
- Product launches
- Filling existing glaring gaps
- To keep review content fresh
- Generating content quickly to in advance of selling a seasonal product
Product sampling is a complex process made up of a number of critical elements. You need to be clear on your goals from the outset and this will determine the scale of the project.
Targeting the right audience, fulfilling the campaign and then ensuring your samplers provide the review content you’re seeking is also obviously super important.
Our product sampling guide provides a detailed step-by-step breakdown.
Bissell, the vacuum brand, offers high consideration items. With a typical cost of $200, shoppers tend to consume a lot of review content before purchasing.
Bissell wanted to launch its latest product line complete with pre-existing customer endorsement and validation.
Bissell believes its vacuums are the best in the industry at tackling pet hair, so they embarked on a sampling campaign to target pet owners frustrated by other vacuums.
This resulted in a review coverage of 90% across its product catalog and the collection of over 2,000 customer-generated images. As you can see from this image, many of these included dogs – a vivid illustration of the value proposition the company sought to communicate.
Now that you’re using the collection methods that will generate the most content, you need to ensure the quality of your reviews is as good as it possibly can be.
When shoppers view your review content, they are typically looking to address very specific questions or preconceived ideas.
In this section, we focus on actions you can take to generate the types of reviews we highlighted above.
Ask the right questions: Get conversion-driving information
Prospective buyers tend to look for patterns when they consume reviews. So incorporate specific questions in the review generation process to provide them with those patterns in an easily summarizable way.
In doing so, you make finding the information they need much easier.
However, there are a number of things you need to bear in mind when asking questions on a review submission form:
- Focus on questions that you know will address key known customer issues (e.g. sizing for clothing). Also consider asking for specific demographic information (e.g. location, gender, age etc.) or invite customers to submit their perceived pros and cons.
- Limit to two open-ended text-based questions: reviewer and shopper fatigue is real.
- Only make these follow-up questions available to verified buyers to ensure authenticity.
- Ensure this information is easily filterable and searchable for shoppers on your product pages. Use review snapshots at the top of the page to make a few things really clear, such as ratings distribution (in a clickable format), pros/cons, keyword filters and sorting buttons. Providing this information up front makes product returns less likely.
- Remember that shoppers are seeking negative content, so don’t shy away from it.
Encourage quality: Generate longer in-depth review content
Consumers place a higher value on longer reviews. Which begs the question: how do you generate this more in-depth review content?
The first thing to know: often, reviewers have the inclination and motivation to leave detailed reviews, they just aren’t always sure how to. Most consumers are not professional writers or product experts so will most likely need some guidance on how to even approach the task of leaving a useful review.
Guide reviewers to provide more detailed content
Our customer, Room & Board, offers a great example. They plant a number of ideas in the reviewer’s head before they get to the form.
Specifically, they ask customers to select from a series of multiple choice checkboxes. The review form is related to a furniture item, so Room & Board ask reviewers to choose their uses (options: accent, informal, lounging, small spaces, formal, large spaces, primary seating, watching tv) where they live (options: apartment, loft, townhouse, house) and so on.
This very smartly plants ideas in the reviewer’s head that they will take into their comment submission later in the form.
“Love this couch” becomes “I needed a modern looking couch that is super comfortable (mainly for watching TV) to be the centerpiece in my one-bedroom New York City apartment. I love how flexible it is…it’s equally great for lounging and as a formal piece for hosting” etc.
The form in effect guides customers to provide helpful review content.
And of course the checklist approach also has other highly complementary purposes. Namely, they help populate the Pro/Con lists, use cases and demographic information we talk about above.
These can then be displayed in an easily scannable and filterable way for shoppers, providing super impactful social proof from “people like me”.
Shoppers who filter by the “most helpful” review content convert at 295% the rate of those who don’t
Shoppers who filter by reviews that include imagery convert at 275% the rate of those who don’t
Shoppers who filter by the lowest rated reviews convert at 205% the rate of those who don’t
Some brands incorporate an interactive character counter under the review commentary section that increases as your customer writes his or her review. Here’s an example of it in action:
As you can see, a little green bar grows as the customer types. Some explainer text beneath gently reminds customers to keep writing until they reach the minimum number of characters (this length can be customized to your own specification).
Nothing stops the customer from submitting at that shorter length. But this provides some encouragement to provide just a little more detail – particularly if that customer has just been primed by you to talk about best uses or where they are using a product and why.
Once the customer hits that minimum character count, the meter lights up excitedly. The text also converts over to a “keep it up” message, further reinforcing positive behavior.
It’s very simple. But that small visual can go a long way in helping to encourage customers to talk just a little more about their experiences and/or why they like something.
The result: longer, more in-depth reviews for shoppers to read on your site.
Ask for visual content: Customer-submitted imagery and videos add exceptional authenticity
Shoppers love video and imagery of your products “out in the wild”. We cover extensively how you can generate more of this content in Chapter 4. Go there to find out all you need to know.
But we didn’t want to talk about how you can generate better quality review content without mentioning it here.
Reviews that incorporate visual media perform way better when it comes to conversions and sales. That’s a fact.
Collecting review content is a critical part of an overall ratings and reviews program. But it’s only one component of a much bigger process.
The next challenge is the actual marketing of this content. You need to ensure you’re fully maximizing its potential. How do you get this content in front of the maximum number of shoppers for the biggest possible impact?
Ratings and Reviews boosts consumer confidence. The more customers who are exposed to it, the more sales you will make.
Throughout this section, we’ll share proven best practices that will help you get more eyes on your review content – in the places and ways your shoppers want to consume it. In doing so, you achieve the results you work day-in day-out for: more sales and bigger bottom line impact.
Let’s start with the most obvious place to showcase your review content: your product pages. But although it’s obvious, many brands and retailers get it wrong.
Of course, review displays aren’t one size fits all.
For example, a display for a pair of shoes should feature size and fit information to help future shoppers determine the correct size to purchase. But those data points would be completely irrelevant for a product page selling eye makeup. There are, however, best practices that apply across all categories.
Ultimately, your goal is to provide the information necessary to provide shoppers with the confidence to buy. This is the make-or-break point in the customer journey and the final step.
All your marketing efforts have led to this point. This is where you convert consumers, turning browsers to customers.
In this section, we focus on the information we know shoppers look for at this moment of truth.
The Ideal Review Display: At a Glance
- Review Snippet: A simple visualization of a product’s review content — right at the top of the product page.
- Review Snapshot: A visual overview of the review content for a given product, including average star rating and rating distribution, and customized to your needs.
- Search and Filter: Helps shoppers find reviews relevant to their needs.
- Demographic Information: Shoppers can find relatable content from someone with similar characteristics and use cases.
- Verified Buyer Badge: Show shoppers a review was written by someone who actually purchased the product.
- Visual Content Display: Photos and videos from your shoppers — collected both natively and through social media.
47% of consumers apply filters when consuming review content to seek out information most directly relevant to them.
Search and filter options
Helps consumers understand the key features existing customers like and dislike about the product. According to our data, shoppers who interact with this section of the review display are 183% more likely to convert than those who don’t.
Further Enhance Your Image Gallery with Review Content
Your PDP image galleries offer a great opportunity to further highlight great review content in a hugely visually compelling way.
Check out this example within an image carousel.
ability to display content from other customers
who have first-hand experience in our products
has been vital in facilitating the shoppers’ decisionmaking process.”
Dena ChildsEcommerce Manager, WEBS – America’s Yarn Store
There are plenty of ways to leverage review content throughout your website to entice visitors to click through to your product pages.
Transform your Homepage by leveraging Review Content
Of course, your homepage is the springboard for the rest of the customer journey. So it represents a fantastic opportunity to guide consumers down the path to purchase.
Featuring review content on your homepage does just that. Why? It helps shoppers more easily (and quickly) find the products that meet their needs.
Attention spans are notoriously short nowadays so you have little time to influence behavior as you’d like. As we’ve seen, ratings and reviews are among the most potent weapons in your arsenal. So incorporate it in your first “touch” with customers.
Be sure to display the average star rating and review volume for each of the products featured in your best sellers carousel. Or, consider adding a top rating products carousel to your homepage.
If you’re featuring a specific product on your homepage, include user-generated photos, as well as the text of a glowing review, to entice visitors to click to learn more.
Spruce up your Category Pages
Today, when shoppers hit a product category page, they likely have the option to filter the results by a number of different categories, such as price and new arrivals. Make sure your shoppers can sort by “top rated,” too.
Also include the average star rating and the number of reviews for each product in a category to make browsing easier for shoppers.
Want to include even more social proof on your category pages? When a shopper hovers over a product, display a preview of a written review to entice them to click through.
Feature Customer Photos and Videos Throughout Your Website
Your professionally shot photos and videos are certainly important. But shoppers actually prefer to see photos and videos of your products being used by real people like them (as we already mentioned, we look at this in a lot more detail in chapter 6).
In fact, according to our own research, more than half of consumers under 30 say customer-generated visual content is more important than glossy photos produced by a brand or retailer.
Consider adding a visual content gallery to your website that showcases images and videos of your products that you’ve collected from social media.
If you’re like any other brand, you are constantly questioning how to improve the performance of your digital campaigns to drive more shoppers to your website.
Ratings and reviews are a fantastic resource to leverage to drive these enhancements.
Build Email Campaigns that Showcase Ratings & Reviews
With most inboxes now overflowing with promotional emails, you need to stand out.
Consider incorporating star ratings and review text. Or perhaps create completely new campaigns that feature your top-rated products.
For example, if summer is approaching, you might build a campaign featuring top-rated swimwear. Be sure to display star ratings or review excerpts in the email — as well as on the campaign landing pages.
Also think about featuring star ratings in your cart abandonment emails. In many cases, that social proof may be enough to draw shoppers back to your website to complete their purchases.
Feature Shopper Content on Social Media
Consumers use social media to connect with family and friends. But they also use these channels to discover products and engage with brands.
Feature star ratings, review quotes and customer-submitted photos on your paid and organic posts to drive traffic to your site and generate sales.
Traditional marketing is still critical for most brands. Incorporating ratings and reviews content can make this activity even more effective.
Add Review Content to Print Ads
If your brand runs printed ads in magazines or newspapers, think of ways to enhance these ads with ratings and reviews content.
Add Star Ratings and Reviews to Print Catalogs
If you send out paper catalogs to customers, consider adding star ratings, text reviews or even shopper-submitted photos alongside your key products. Or, include an entire spread of your top-rated products.
Create More Credible TV Commercials with Review Content
If you’re looking for ways to make your TV commercials pop, ratings and reviews content can help.
Feature star ratings for your products (or even your company as a whole) in your television commercials.
Power Creativity with Review Content
Some of the most fun examples we’ve seen use review content as the basis of broader creative branding and imagery.
In Brick-and-Mortar Retail
We know consumers use ratings and reviews to make smart purchase decisions when shopping online. But they also depend on this content when shopping in a physical store.
In fact, a PowerReviews study found that 70% of consumers find this information helpful.
70% of consumers are interested in accessing product ratings and reviews in-store.
Ensure Your Displays are Mobile-Friendly
Everyone has a smartphone now and typically treats it as an extension of their own bodies. When shopping in a store, it’s now common practice for shoppers to pull out their phones to get more information about a product.
In fact, a RetailMeNot study found that when shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, 69% of shoppers are likely to use their smartphones to find customer reviews. So ensuring your reviews look and read great on mobile is now critical.
Enhance Store Signage with Review Content
Strategically placed review content can attract the attention of in-store shoppers — and give them the confidence they need to add an item to their cart.
Some stores are starting to use digital signage to showcase UGC. And featuring this content in your stores doesn’t have to be an expensive, high tech initiative.
For example, create a display of “top rated” products. Include a product’s average star rating or the text of a positive review to your pricing labels. Or create in-store signage for a product that showcases photos submitted by real shoppers.
Feature Review Content on the Product Itself
Another way to give in-store shoppers the social proof they crave? Feature review content on the product itself.
This can be as simple as including the average star rating or the text from an especially glowing review on the packaging of a few of your key products.
Dealing with Negative Ratings & Reviews
Getting a negative review can feel like a punch to the gut. After all, your brand is laser-focused on developing products and experiences that your customers love. So it’s never fun to hear negative feedback about something you’ve worked hard to create. But negative reviews are inevitable. Even the most well-loved businesses get them from time to time. That’s because it’s simply impossible to create a product that meets the needs of every single customer who comes your way.
Of course, negative reviews are never the end goal. But there’s a positive side to negative reviews. Yes, you read that right. In fact, one and two star reviews can actually be good for your business.
Why Negative Reviews Can Help You
Negative Reviews Help you Build Trust with Shoppers
Today, consumers have literally endless shopping options. Of course, there are dozens of things a consumer considers when determining which companies to do business with — and which to pass up. But one top consideration is trust.
Research from Edelman found that 81% of consumers say they must be able to trust a brand prior to making a purchase. And 70% indicate trusting a brand is more important now than in the past.
In order to earn that trust, brands must be transparent. And a key way to do that is to display feedback from other shoppers — including the negative kind. When shoppers see negative reviews, they see you have nothing to hide. And that lets them know you’re a brand they can trust.
Negative Reviews Increase Product Sales
You might assume that the higher the average star rating of a product, the more likely a shopper is to buy it. And that’s true — up to a point.
We partnered with Northwestern University and made an interesting discovery, though. We found that a shopper is actually more likely to purchase a product when it has some negative reviews (we did already touch on this in Chapter 1).
As we already mentioned, our research found that purchase probability peaks when a product’s average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 (it varies a bit by product category). If the average star rating surpasses 4.5, the likelihood of purchase actually drops.
The occasional negative review brings your average star rating closer to that sweet spot of 4.2-4.5 – actually potentially increasing sales
Negative Reviews Help Consumers Make Better Purchase Decisions
Shoppers depend on negative reviews to determine which products fit their needs — and which don’t. Our research found that a staggering 85% of shoppers seek out negative reviews.
To elaborate on why this may be the case, our research also highlights that a third of shoppers say that poor reviews gave balance to their shopping research, stating that a negative perspective was either a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ factor influencing their decision.
In fact, when researching products, two-thirds of ecommerce shoppers filter for one-star reviews. These visitors still convert at 108% the rate of general web traffic (incidentally, this is the type of insight our PDP Site Analytics solution routinely surfaces).
But why is this the case? Here are three things we’ve noticed from speaking to brands and looking at this data day-in, day-out:
- Based on the negative reviews, the shopper determines the product isn’t a good fit for their needs. They keep searching for a product that’s a better match — and you avoid an unhappy customer and an unnecessary return.
- The shopper determines the feedback in the one and two star reviews isn’t relevant to them– so they disregard it.
- The shopper determines the worst case scenario isn’t a concern — so they purchase the product anyway.
In each of these three situations, negative reviews helped a shopper make a more informed purchase decision.
Negative Reviews Help Consumers Make Better Purchase Decisions
One and two star reviews can help you identify issues with your products or services that you may not have known about otherwise. This feedback can help inform improvements that’ll allow you to better serve your customers.
For example, let’s say you sell a children’s play kitchen that has a high return rate. Unfortunately, you don’t have much data on the reasons for the returns. However, you notice the product has a pretty low average star rating. And several of the reviews mention that the product was impossible to assemble because the pieces didn’t line up correctly.
So, you bring this feedback to your manufacturer to improve the quality control process for the product. And then, you observe how the average star rating goes up after this improvement.
Three Ways to Leverage Negative Reviews to Boost Your Bottom Line
So negative reviews can positively impact the performance of your brand. In fact, they should be viewed as an opportunity to do just that.
Here are three ways how:
1. Display Negative Reviews
It might be tempting to filter out negative reviews. But avoid the temptation. One and two star reviews add a layer of authenticity to your content and let shoppers know you’re a brand they can trust. What’s more, negative reviews help your shoppers make more informed purchase decisions, which will help decrease returns and boost loyalty.
So be sure to display all reviews, regardless of star rating.
In addition, allow shoppers to easily spot the “worst case scenario” — and determine whether it’s relevant or important to them. Our friends at Athleta do this in a couple different ways. First, shoppers can filter reviews by a specific star rating. Shoppers can also sort reviews by the lowest rating.
Finally, consider displaying the most helpful positive review alongside the most helpful negative review. Again, this is a great way to help shoppers easily identify the worst case scenario. And this helps them find the products that best fit their needs.
2. Respond to Negative Reviews
When you get a negative review, don’t just cross your fingers and hope it’ll quickly get covered up by positive reviews. Instead, face the review head-on by responding to it.
When you respond to a negative review, you have the opportunity to turn a bad situation around and salvage a relationship with your customer. If you’re able to fix the issue, the shopper is likely to buy from you again. What’s more, your response will show future shoppers that you value your customers and are committed to helping them resolve their issues. And that’ll give these new customers the confidence they need to make a purchase.
Remember: when it comes to responding to negative reviews, time is of the essence. If a customer is left hanging, they’ll only get more upset.
In addition, avoid using a generic, canned response — and don’t get defensive. Instead, personalize your response by using the shopper’s name and address the specific issues raised in the negative review.
Finally, take things offline when needed. Sometimes you’ll need more details from the shopper in order to resolve their issue.
But be sure to post a public response too, as it’ll let the customer (and future shoppers) know you’re taking action.
3. Analyze Negative Reviews to Identify Actionable Insights
In some cases, a negative review might mention an isolated issue. For example, a product might be damaged in transit.
But in other cases, a negative review can point to a larger issue that needs to be addressed. For example, one of our customers noticed several negative reviews for a watch that mentioned a broken clasp. They rectified the problem and their ratings subsequently improved.
Be sure you’re regularly analyzing your review content to gauge sentiment and identify issues early on. Then, use the insights you uncover to improve your products or messaging/marketing of those products or whatever else the data says needs adjusting.
With the right tool, you can also benchmark against your competitors. Compare by product rating, sentiment, key themes and so on by product, brand, and product category. This is critical insight to improving overall strategic direction and performance.
Creating buyer confidence at scale is critical to growing your business. A best-in-class ecommerce strategy will therefore nearly always leverage ratings and reviews as a critical mechanism to “meet shoppers where they are”.
Sharing and syndicating ratings and reviews content to different channels across the internet is a common tactic to scale brand credibility.
Ratings and Reviews as a Customer Acquisition Mechanism
Sharing and syndicating your ratings and reviews content serves one main purpose: expanding your reach.
Why is this so important? It exposes the value of your products to new audiences, which means it’s critical to customer acquisition.
In an ideal world, you’d create a great product, price it appropriately, build an awesome website and product page and then sit back and watch the sales come in. But that’s unrealistic. You need to be findable across a range of digital channels. We explore a few in this chapter.
But first, here’s a brief definition of what we mean by syndication in the context of ratings and reviews.
Ratings and Reviews Syndication, Defined
How exactly does syndication work? Essentially, syndication is when one business shares some form of user-generated content — such as a review, question, photo or video — with another business.
For example, let’s say a shopper submits a review via a brand’s site. The brand displays the review on its own website. The exact same review is then shared with the brand’s chosen retailer partners, and these companies display the review on their ecommerce sites, too.
For example, this shopper submitted a review on hormelfoods.com for bacon.
This review is displayed on Hormel’s website — and is shared with Target.com for display on the appropriate product page, extending the value of this specific review.
A badge is displayed as part of the review on Target.com, letting shoppers know the review was originally posted on hormelfoods.com.
The result: you are more likely to get noticed by shoppers who otherwise wouldn’t otherwise have known about your product or – quite possibly – your brand.
Ratings & Reviews as an SEO tool
Search engines love fresh content. You don’t want to be constantly refreshing your website copy when the product or value proposition hasn’t changed just to improve your rankings.
A steady stream of new, relevant review content enables you to fulfill this key need. It is also typically keyword rich.
A strong review generation program therefore helps your product pages rank higher – which means more traffic on your site and more shoppers being exposed to your products (we talked about loads of ways you can maximize review volumes in Chapter 2).
Questions & Answers, a form of user-generated content which we explore in depth later, is also great for this purpose.
Search ads are another great way to reach new shoppers – and they’re even more effective when they include star ratings.
Be sure to syndicate your product star ratings to Google. That way, stars will appear in your ads — and you will further optimize inbound traffic to your product pages.
Google Seller Ratings is a Google Ads extension that displays a rating between one and five stars that shows up on search ads.
It’s an automated extension that is calculated by aggregating customer reviews from various sources that Google trusts. The resulting rating is then displayed within the body of the ad.
If you’ve ever typed into Google’s search bar, you’ve seen Google Seller Ratings.
It is the star rating that displays underneath the URL on Google ads.
While Seller Ratings are most often used by ecommerce companies, any company with a digital presence can use Google Seller Ratings (Note: Seller Ratings are for the entire site, not individual products).
If they are not already, Seller Ratings should be a critical part of your digital strategy. Why? According to Google, they can increase the click-through rates (CTR) of your ads by up to 10%.
This is super important because a higher CTR means a higher quality score — which reduces your CPC (cost per click) and improves your ad rank.
Bottom line: Seller Ratings optimize the performance of your Google Ads. More click throughs, more eyeballs on your site and – in turn – more sales from “greenfield” customers. Which makes complete sense. Your Seller Ratings are determined by a cumulative and aggregated volume of trusted customer reviews. They are a direct reflection of the experiences your customers have had while dealing with your business. This provides social proof for your brand right on Google search results pages, increasing shoppers’ trust in your business and giving them the confidence they need to click through to your site.
So ensure you are maximizing your customer acquisition potential by syndicating your ratings in this way (check out our blog on the topic for technical directions).
Ratings & Reviews on Amazon
Every brand knows about the importance of Amazon as a sales channel. In fact, nearly half of ALL product searches start on Amazon nowadays.
If you sell your products on Amazon, you’ve got to make sure you have plenty of ratings and reviews content on your product pages.
One simple way to do that is to allow your shoppers to share the reviews they’ve written on your website to your Amazon product pages (ask your ratings and reviews vendor if they have a feature that allows this).
In doing so, you cultivate buyer confidence among shoppers who may not even previously known you existed.
Showcase UGC on Amazon Product Pages
Product reviews are actually a top reason consumers shop on Amazon. So think of creative ways to put this content front and center on your Amazon product pages.
One way to do that is to create an image that includes the text of a product review. Then, upload it alongside your other product images.
You can also feature user-generated visual content alongside your professionally shot photos and videos to give shoppers a better idea of what your products look like being used by “real” people.
Ratings & Reviews on big box retail sites
Many brands sell their products through retailer sites like Target, Walmart and others – as well as through vertical specific platforms like Ulta, Zappos and so on.
If that’s the case for your brand, make it a priority to give consumers the content they need to make confident purchase decisions.
Again, these are critical opportunities to acquire new previously untapped customers. So don’t miss this opportunity to provide a great first impression.
Syndicate Your Content to Retailer Partners
Typically, a shopper will write a review on the same website where they purchased a product. That means only customers who shop on your website will see this content.
But when you share your ratings and reviews from your own ecommerce site to your product pages on retailer sites, your reach obviously increases significantly.
For example, this review for a Melissa & Doug toy was originally written on the company’s eCommerce site, but it also appears on the product page on Target.com.
Because of this, shoppers can access the same confidence-building content – regardless of the channel they choose to shop for your products. In doing so, you maximize the value of the content you receive.
“The ability to syndicate reviews
across a wide range of retailers helps
us reach more customers than ever.
This is vital to increasing consumer
confidence in their purchasing
Whitney ConnerDirector of Customer Support, Mizuno USA
Activating Ratings & Reviews Syndication
So you’re fully bought into ratings and reviews syndication being something you should be doing. But how do you activate it?
The short answer: it’s enabled by your ratings and reviews technology vendor. You’ll need to talk to your preferred supplier to understand where they can get your ratings and reviews content to (PowerReviews has an extensive network).
As well as reach, accuracy is super important. Check whichever vendor you choose to work with accurately syndicates and effectively moderates content across the web.
If you’re wondering what’s the worst that could happen, here is an example of poorly-moderated syndication from Walmart’s website. The reviews contain obscenities and are mainly focused on the availability of the product rather than the product itself.
Yikes. This content should not have been published.
Today’s shoppers depend on visual content — including photos and videos — to make informed purchase decisions. Research tells us that 72% of shoppers always or regularly search for photos or videos prior to making a purchase. And a mere 3% say they never seek out visual content.
In fact, visual content has never been more important. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, more consumers are shopping online. Photos and videos help these online shoppers find the products that best fit their needs — even when they can’t access their options in person.
“Visual content is so key to ecommerce. Customers expect high-quality imagery and video. Gardening is very hands-on, and the content inspires confidence in customers that products work as promised.”
Amanda EverseSEO Manager, Gardener’s Supply Company
Professional Photos and Videos Alone Won’t Cut it
Consumers have a big appetite for visual content. But not just any photos or videos will fit their need.
You probably already capture beautiful, stylized photos and videos of your products. That professional content certainly has a role to play, but it’s no longer enough. That’s because 88% of consumers specifically seek out photos and videos from others like them before making a purchase.
User-generated visual content is authentic — and shoppers trust it. In fact, 65% of shoppers indicate they’re more likely to trust products that have user-submitted photos or videos. What’s more, this imagery allows shoppers to understand what a product looks like “out in the wild,” being used by someone like them. And that helps them make better purchase decisions.
User-Generated Imagery Boosts Sales
Shoppers depend on photos and videos from others like them. And brands and retailers that collect and display this content are rewarded.
Based on data across our customer base, we’ve found that brands can expect a 69% increase in conversion when just one user-generated image is added to a product page. What’s more, online shoppers who interact with user-generated imagery are 81% more likely to convert than those who don’t.
Shoppers who interact with user-generated imagery (click to enloarge, filter, etc) are 81% more likely to convert than those that don’t.
Conversions increase 69% when one user-generated image is added to a product page.
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re not collecting and displaying user-generated imagery, you’re losing customers to brands that are.
In fact, a third of consumers report they’re less likely to purchase a product if they can’t find photos or videos of the product from other customers. This number jumps to 47% for consumers aged 18-29.
The Role of User-Generated Visual Content
Collecting and displaying visual content from your customers is an important way to help future shoppers make informed purchase decisions. Why should you care? Because when shoppers make informed purchase decisions, they’re more likely to be satisfied when their products arrive in the mail. And that means they’ll also be more likely to:
- Keep the product. That’s one less return for you to worry about.
- Write positive reviews. That content will help future shoppers make smart purchase decisions — and boost your conversion rate.
- Be a repeat customer. That’s great news, because it’s cheaper to nurture an existing customer than to acquire a new one.
Customer Imagery Influences Purchase Behavior
User-generated visual content fuels informed purchase decisions in a number of key ways. Let’s take a closer look.
Visual Content Builds Trust
Today’s shoppers want to buy from brands they trust. In fact, research from Edelman found that 81% of consumers must be able to trust a brand before making a purchase.
Collecting and displaying photos and videos from your shoppers is one way to earn that trust.
In order to boost sales, brands post sleek, glossy photos that show off their products in the best light. But consumers post realistic photos that show products in real situations — and they have nothing to gain by doing so. And other consumers trust this content.
Research tells us that 65% of shoppers are more likely to trust products that have user-submitted photos or videos. And half of consumers trust user-generated videos more than brand generated videos.
When you display user-generated visual content, you’re showing future shoppers you have nothing to hide. That’s an important way to let them know you’re a brand they can trust.
Visual Content Sets Realistic Expectations
User-generated visual content allows shoppers to see what your products look like in real life being used by real people. That means there will be fewer surprises when the item arrives.
What’s more, when you display user-generated photos and videos, shoppers can better understand elements of your product that might not be captured in your professional photos. For example, imagine a consumer is shopping for a dining table. They come across this model, which looks promising and is described as narrow.
The measurements are listed in the product details, but then they scroll to the user-generated images and see several photos of the table in different kitchens and dining rooms. The scale is way too big for a small apartment, so they search for something that’s a better fit.
Visual Content Excites and Inspires Shoppers
Seeing photos and videos from other customers gets shoppers excited to try a product. For example, our friends at Canyon Bakehouse sell gluten-free bakery products. Of course, they include a professionally shot image on each of their product pages. But let’s be honest: a photo of a bag of plain bagels isn’t very inspiring.
Enter the power of user-generated visual content. The company encourages customers to share photos of the dishes they’ve made using their products. These photos help future shoppers understand all of the great dishes they can make with the bagels — and that gets them excited to purchase the product. Avocado bagel, anyone?
User-generated visual content can also inspire shoppers to add additional items to their shopping baskets — thus increasing your sales. For example, a shopper might be eying this Soren chair from our friends at Room & Board.
They click around the product page and find photos submitted by shoppers who purchased the chair. They especially love how one customer paired the chairs with other items, so they start exploring those items too.
Visual Content Helps Shoppers See What Products Looks Like on Different Types of People
A product like a vacuum cleaner looks the same no matter who buys it. But apparel and cosmetic products look different on different people. For example, a pair of jeans worn by a 6 foot tall model won’t look the same when they’re worn by a shopper who’s a foot shorter.
User-generated visual content helps apparel and cosmetic shoppers better understand how a product looks on different kinds of people. Shoppers can find photos and videos submitted by people with similar characteristics to them. And that way, they can identify the products that’ll work best for their unique needs.
For example, let’s say a consumer is shopping for eyeshadow from Juvia’s Place. They can see how a particular eyeshadow looks on shoppers with similar skin types and tones. And by doing so, they can find an option that’ll likely work for them.
Or maybe a customer is shopping for a sweater from Athleta. But the profesional photos show the product on a slender model, and the shopper has a more athletic build. That shopper can scroll through the customer-submitted images to get a better idea of how the sweater looks on someone with a similar body type to theirs.
How to Collect More Visual Content
We’ve explored the important role visual content from shoppers plays in the purchase journey. But what can you do to see the biggest impact from this type of content?
Let’s explore proven best practices that can help you effectively collect, display and analyze visual content — and drive bigger business results.
Generating More User-Generated Imagery
In order to see an impact from visual content, you’ve got to collect plenty of it. Let’s take a look at a few ways to make that happen.
Make it Easy for Shoppers to Natively Submit Imagery
If it’s complicated or time consuming to submit photos and videos, shoppers probably won’t do it. So make sure the entire process is simple.
Shoppers should be able to submit photos and videos to your website directly from their desktop, mobile device or social media accounts.
Request Images via Follow-Up Email
Many shoppers are happy to share the photos and videos they take. But oftentimes, they won’t do so without being prompted.
Be sure to send post purchase emails to your shoppers, explicitly asking them to share photos and videos of the products they’ve recently purchased. It might seem simple, but it’s incredibly effective.
Here’s an example from our friends at Crocs. The post purchase email is short, simple and straight to the point.
Prioritize Image Collection
Oftentimes, photo and video collection is an afterthought. Brands ask for photos and videos — but not until a shopper has already written a review. Here’s the thing: if a customer spends time and effort writing a review, they’re likely to skip right over the visual content submission component altogether.
Instead, ask your shoppers to share imagery and videos before providing a review. And consider making the review portion optional. It’ll help you generate more content — quickly. In fact, PowerReviews customers see an average 154% increase in visual content collection when they take this approach.
Brands can collect 154% more visual content by asking for photos and videos before reviews.
Here’s an example of a submission form that puts the ask for visual content first. After the shopper has submitted a photo or video, they’re asked to submit a review, too. But the review component isn’t required.
Request Visual Content on Your Homepage
Another great way to generate more visual content from your shoppers is to ask for it — right on the homepage of your website. After all, this is probably one of the most visited pages on your website.
Our friends at Janie and Jack display a beautiful, eye-catching carousel of customer-generated imagery on their homepage — along with a button shoppers can click to to add their own photos.
Those who click the button are taken to a simple form that allows them to upload a photo from their computer or mobile device — or from one of their social media profiles. When they do, their image is added to the image gallery.
Curate Visual Content from Social Media
Up until this point, we’ve been focused on ways to generate more visual content natively. But there’s another simple way to get more user-generated imagery on your website: leveraging the content that’s already being posted by your customers on social media.
As an example, check out all the beautiful photos that have recently been posted, tagging our friends at Shopper’s Drug Mart. This is a treasure trove of authentic imagery the company can leverage to inspire future shoppers — while boosting site engagement and conversion.
How does it work? Essentially, curating visual content from social media involves a few steps:
- Setting up your campaign, which involves choosing a hashtag, solidifying your legal messaging and terms and promoting your campaign.
- Continuously mining social media for photos and videos you’re tagged in.
- Securing permission to use your shoppers’ photos and videos.
- Repurposing the content on your website and other marketing initiatives.
Quick Tip: Ask your ratings and reviews provider about their social curation.
At PowerReviews, we have the ability to manage the entire process for you!
Free Guide: How To Curate Social Content For Maximum Impact On The Buyer Journey
Find out how to leverage the photos and videos shoppers are posting of your products on Instagram!
It sounds simple, but when done right, it’s incredibly effective. PowerReviews customers that curate visual content from social media capture 221% more images and videos than those that don’t.
Shure Incorporated, an audio products brand, typically collected around 40 images natively per month. But when they started curating content from social media, they were able to access more than 11,000 images in just a few months.
How to Effectively Display Visual Content for Bigger Impact
You’ve started to collect photos and videos from your shoppers both natively and from social media. Now, it’s time to do something with that content.
Let’s take a look at some proven best practices for getting your user-generated visual content in front of more shoppers.
Prominently Display Content on Product Pages
Perhaps the most obvious place to display your user-generated visual content is on your product pages. After all, when a shopper is researching a product, this content can give them the boost of confidence they need to convert.
So be sure to prominently showcase user generated imagery — both natively submitted and curated from Instagram — in a gallery on your product pages. Here’s an example of a gallery our friends at Gardener’s Supply Company display on a product page for one of their popular watering cans.
Another option is to display your customer-generated content at the top of your product page — right alongside your own professional images and videos.
Here’s an example from at dutchbulbs.com. Visitors to this product page can find user-generated visual content right under the glossy brand-provided images. When the visitor clicks on “buyer images & videos,” they’re taken to a scrolling gallery of photos and videos submitted by other shoppers.
Showcase Visual Content from Shoppers Throughout Your Website
User-generated imagery inspires shoppers — and increases the chances that they’ll convert. So look for other opportunities to showcase this content — beyond the product page.
A great way to do that is to display a shoppable visual carousel on your category pages and your homepage that features content from your shoppers.
For example, when a shopper lands on the homepage for WEBS yarn, they’re greeted by an image carousel, featuring visual content from WEBS customers.
These are typically photos of projects customers have made with WEBS products. When a visitor clicks on one of these images, they can see the WEBS products that were used to create the item in the photo — along with a link to purchase the product.
Enhance Other Marketing Materials with User-Generated Imagery
When it comes to displaying the user-generated imagery you collect, don’t limit yourself to your own website. There are plenty of other ways to repurpose this content in your marketing initiatives.
In fact, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Consider including customer-submitted visual content in your digital marketing initiatives. For example, add a user-generated photo to your email campaigns and organic and paid Instagram posts.
This content will capture your audience’s attention and help you earn their trust. And ideally, they’ll be intrigued enough to click through to the product details page to learn more (and find even more visual content from others like them.
There may be opportunities to enhance your traditional marketing initiatives with user-generated imagery, too. For example, consider showcasing a shopper image in your print ads, catalogs or in-store signage. If you leverage outdoor advertising, take a cue from Apple. The company often runs billboards that feature photos taken by customers on their Apple devices.
Enhance Your Marketing Initiatives with Customer Imagery
The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas to get the ideas flowing.
Organic social media posts
Paid social media posts
How to Analyze and Optimize Visual Content
You’ve started collecting and displaying photos and videos from your shoppers. But the work isn’t over yet.
Instead, it’s critical to continuously measure performance and identify opportunities to increase the impact of the content you collect. Let’s explore some ways to do that.
Understand the ROI of Your Visual Content
You spend time and effort collecting and displaying visual content from other shoppers. So it’s important to understand the impact this content has on sales.
Be sure you regularly assess performance metrics, including:
- How a specific carousel performs on a specific page type
- Whether a certain image style has more impact than others
- Whether images collected from social media or those collected natively have a bigger impact
Then, use that information to drive improvements to your user-generated visual content program.
Check out chapter 8 for more on how to analyze ratings and reviews, and other user-generated content.
Questions & Answers (Q&A) is a natural accompaniment for ratings and reviews content. More important, it’s also extremely powerful when it comes to driving results for brands. But it’s underutilized. Too many brands aren’t taking advantage of this type of UGC, even though it’s super helpful for shoppers — and super profitable for brands.
No matter how you dice it, the stats all agree: Q&A is the most impactful type of UGC on consumer outcomes. In the COVID era, Q&A is more important than ever. From February through May of 2020, the number of users interacting with Q&A content increased by 60%.
Why? Q&A has become an essential resource for consumers who are now shopping solely online. They’re not able to touch, test, and feel products before they buy. They can’t hold it in their hands, or talk to one of your in-store sales associates.
But they still have questions that they need answered before being confident enough to make a purchase.
So any best practice ratings and reviews or user-generated content strategy should absolutely include Q&A as a core component.
Q&A allows prospective customers to, you guessed it, ask questions about the products they’re interested in. Previous shoppers and your own brand experts typically provide the responses.
This content is displayed prominently on product pages. Here’s an example.
This is an outstanding mechanism for quickly answering customers’ purchase-blocking questions. In doing so, it increases conversions and drives traffic to your product pages.
Average increase in conversion when shoppers interact with Q&A content
Average increase in traffic for products with an answered question through Q&A
Average increase in sales revenue when brands add Q&A to product pages
*Based on a representative sample of 7,800+ products across 50+ retailers in the PowerReviews Network that went from 0 answers (for a minimum of 30 days) to > 0 answers (for a minimum of 30 days) over a six-month period.
On average, when a product goes from displaying 0 answers to at least 1 answer, brands and retailers see an 88% lift in traffic, and an 82% lift in conversion for that product.
No matter how detailed your product description is, some shoppers will still have additional questions they need answered before they’re comfortable enough to buy. In fact, 45% of Centennials said they wouldn’t buy a product if they couldn’t ask a question about it.
Similarly, 55% of U.S. online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question, according to Forrester.
Question and answer content on your product pages is intended to address this issue. As well as driving more conversions at the consideration phase in the journey, Q&A also drives customer acquisition. How? It has serious SEO benefits.
Consistently filling your product pages with fresh, keyword rich content enhances your search rankings and drives more traffic to your site.
“Because a customer who submits a question is already engaged, if we can give them the answer they want in a timely fashion, they usually buy the shoe,” shared Tim Lakin, Ecommerce Merchandising Manager at Skechers. “We were able to boost our rankings in Google’s organic search for the keyword ‘shoes’ to be on the first page of results.”
This content is displayed prominently on product pages. Here’s an example.
In addition, Q&A helps you identify any recurring questions that shoppers are asking. You can then adjust your product descriptions or messaging accordingly.
Maybe consumers keep asking about the size of the bottle of lotion. As a result, you then add sizing information in the product description to avoid people having to ask those questions. In doing so, you remove a common barrier to purchase.
And last but certainly not least, Q&A has undeniable community-building power. Offering your biggest fans the opportunity to become content creators on your own site – while providing them with a direct communication channel to your business – deepens their relationship with your brand.
For shoppers, Q&A also of course provides extremely authentic validation of your products. As in any industry, having real customers address prospective customer questions is about as convincing as it gets.
Best Practices for Collecting Q&A Content
The first step is to add Q&A to your site. But before you do, you need internal commitment to the process.
Q&A can be immensely powerful in driving desired outcomes. But only if customer questions are actually answered. Multiple unanswered questions is way worse than not providing the opportunity in the first place.
Assuming you have the processes and structures in place to support a Q&A program, you should aim to cover some basic bases to get it off the ground.
Dedicate some of your internal staff so you can respond to questions quickly. The faster, the better.
If possible, have multiple brand experts available to answer questions. This alleviates the burden on any one person, and relieves customer service reps who may already be stretched thin.
Your first step is creating questions. Whenever you add Q&A to your site, or whenever you launch a new product, add the top questions you expect customers to have, along with answers.
You can analyze your existing review content to see if common questions come up, and pre-seed based on that. Check in with your customer service team, too. They may have additional ideas for Q&A.
Beyond that, it’s meant to be an organic process. The whole point is to address genuine concerns from genuine customers. So simply giving them the opportunity to ask by activating Q&A on your site is key.
You could of course run an email campaign to try to expedite the process. But the best content will come organically.
Not sure about capacity? Don’t launch Q&A sitewide at first. Launch it on your best-selling products. This will provide an immediate sense of its likely impact.
It’ll also give you a baseline for the volume and types of questions you’ll get. You can adjust your bandwidth accordingly as you expand Q&A to other product pages.
Predict question volume using your reviews.
Just use this simple formula: For every 17 reviews you have, you can expect about 1 question.
Have a system for routing questions
Questions asked on your site can go to different queues based on the type of inquiry. You can keep it simple and route all questions to a general queue, or you can route specific questions to different kinds of people.
For example, you will for sure want questions about shipping to go to a subject matter expert. But you may choose to have product-specific questions directed to a previous buyer.
You could also consider routing questions to previous buyers first, and then to brand experts if they haven’t been answered within a given period of time.
Commit to responding within specified time period
Skechers commit to answering questions submitted via Q&A within three hours. You should aspire to implement similar internal SLAs. The quicker you answer questions, the more responsive you appear to consumers and the more likely the original shopper who asked the question is to buy.
Link to related products in your response
Sometimes the customer may ask about an item that’s been discontinued, or complementary products. Make it easy for them to add more to their cart by linking to the other products in your answer.
Nutrisystem is committed to answering 100% of their shopper-submitted questions. “Not only does it provide a better shopping experience for shoppers, but it also helps us reduce operational expenses,” shared Kristina Cerminara, Manager of Online Optimization for Nutrisystem.
Also encourage answers from your customers
As we mentioned before, letting other customers respond offers your busy customer service team some relief, while allowing shoppers to hear from people like them.
Plus, nearly two thirds of Centennials (consumers between the ages of 13-18) actually prefer having their questions answered by previous customers as opposed to a brand expert.
Tip: ”Can you help a fellow shopper?”
When a shopper asks a question, notify previous customers who bought that product via email and invite them to answer in order to help others make the right buying decision. This speeds up response times and gives you the opportunity to re-engage your customer base and turn your product owners into brand advocates and regular content contributors.
Notify shoppers when their question has been answered
We like to call these answer emails, and customers love them. For brands like Skechers, answer emails boast an 80% open rate and a 51% conversion rate.
Give your brands an opportunity to respond and interact directly with customers via Q&A on your product pages.
This increases shopper’s trust in the answers, making them more likely to convert. It also helps build a community on your site, as you have shoppers, your retailer brand, and the brands you sell connecting with each other.
Best Practices for Displaying Q&A Content
When it comes to displaying Q&A content on your product pages, we always recommend some basic tips to get started.
Never lose sight of the objective of Q&A: it’s to provide critical validation and encouragement at the moment of truth.
Get the basics right
- Customize the look and feel of your Q&A so it’s on-brand and matches the color and font you use in the rest of your product pages.
- Strategically position Q&A content on the page: Q&A increases overall page flexibility to appeal to different types of consumer by placing UGC in multiple locations
- Present this Q&A content in an easy-to-follow and bulleted list so shoppers can find information they’re looking for quickly.
Shoppers could ask questions about the wrong product, curse, or include personal information you don’t want to display. You want your Q&A to be valuable, accurate, and authentic. So make sure you have the appropriate moderation processes in place to ensure it hits the mark.
Ensure the answer provided is relevant to the question asked and is for the correct product etc.
Brands can allow different people to answer questions, from staff experts to verified purchasers. Show who’s responding to build trust with potential shoppers.
Make your Q&A easy to navigate
As with Ratings and Reviews display, add a search box and filter functionality so shoppers can search terms to see if their question has previously been asked. This becomes especially important as Q&A volume grows.
That brings us to the final chapter of our Guide for 2021 but undoubtedly the most important.
Here, we will explain all about why and how you should be using your user-generated content – ratings and reviews, Q&A and image & video – as a valuable customer insight resource.
If you’re not currently looking at it in this way, you’re in good company. In fact, most brands and retailers do not effectively leverage the insights they receive from UGC. They typically see this form of feedback in a vacuum where it exists only to convince shoppers to buy products.
But the holistic analytic potential of this data is immense. If you fail to realize it, you are missing out. Big time.
Today, many businesses spend millions of dollars on research projects all aimed at getting to the heart of what their customers are thinking.
Survey programs, customer focus groups and so on are seriously expensive and often not especially effective. This is because they generally yield feedback that’s pretty generic. And that makes it hard for them to take any meaningful action.
But UGC is different.
“Ratings and reviews are great validation and social proof for other customers. But using this information to drive tangible change makes sense on so many levels. In the first month alone, we were able to identify and size two process issues from our review data. We implemented corrective action right away for huge impact.”
Dan WainwrightCustomer Insights Coordinator, Discount Tire
We touched on this already, but it’s important so needs to be reiterated. Customer research is expensive. Focus groups, survey projects and generic CX improvement efforts cost a lot of money.
With UGC, you are analyzing customer data that already exists. The only cost involved is – assuming you don’t want to invest the time to do it manually – the technology to power it.
With UGC, you can map customer feedback to specific products. That’s super powerful. Most brands and retailers have extensive catalogs of hundreds or even thousands of products. It’s impossible to monitor customer sentiment across a large catalog of items using any other methodology.
What’s more, reviewers often provide demographic information, such as age and location, which provides another valuable layer of context. For example, this review from someone 19-24 who identifies their skin and eye color, alerting similar customers that this could also be their “BEST concealer ever.”
No other type of customer feedback that’s captured digitally and at scale provides that level of specificity.
That means with UGC, you can precisely map product feedback and information about those who bought it to the actual product itself.
3. The content is meaningful and constructive
Another thing that sets UGC apart from other feedback collection methods is that it’s almost always constructive and meaningful in its focus. Whether positive or negative, UGC typically includes powerful, actionable and context-rich recommendations and suggestions for improvement. For example, this reviewer isn’t shy about voicing their specific recommendations for this flat iron: “I would prefer this model with a digital temp setting.” This is valuable feedback for the next iteration of the product.
What analyzing UGC can teach you
When you regularly analyze your user-generated content, you’re sure to make a lot of powerful discoveries. And these discoveries can help you drive powerful change at your organization.
Here are some examples:
How Shoppers Feel About Your Products (and Your Brand as a Whole)
The feedback in the UGC you capture helps you understand how your brand and its products resonate with shoppers. You’ll get a very accurate picture of which products your shoppers love, and which ones fall flat.
You can zoom in even further to understand which features people love about your products — and which could use some improvements.
How you Stack up Against Your Competitors
Analyzing UGC is a great way to understand how your products compare to your competitors. For example, let’s say you’re a brand that makes sunscreen and Banana Boat is one of your largest competitors.
Because UGC is publicly available online, you can – with the right technology – compare sentiment at the product, product category and even brand level.
And by doing so, you can uncover some great ways to give your brand and your products a competitive edge.
“The biggest opportunity may be simply leveraging Ratings & Reviews as a new/different means of insight mining— specifically around competitive and product innovation insights…”
Charlie NuttingSr. Product Manager, Ecommerce, Gillette
How UGC Impacts your Shoppers’ Behavior
You’ve probably seen plenty of stats about how UGC positively impacts key metrics like traffic and sales. But when you tap into your UGC, you can determine exactly how this content impacts your buyers’ journey. Namely, you can see how shoppers are interacting with content on your site, and what action they’re taking next.
For example, you might determine that those who interact with the Q&A on one of your product pages are more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t – and then adjust your content generation strategies accordingly.
Online shoppers that interact with some form of UGC are 103% more likely to convert.
* PowerReviews data
How to analyze the data when you’re not an analyst
User-generated content provides brands and retailers with some pretty powerful data. But how exactly do you access and analyze that data?
At many organizations, analyzing UGC is a manual, clunky and time-consuming process. A staff member might be assigned the duty of reading each and every review — on top of their other job duties. As you can imagine, this is not a methodology that sets you up for success. Great insights are often overlooked or missed, human bias creeps in and so on.
So – if you really want to maximize the incredible potential of this data – you will need to leverage some form of technology. At a very basic level, you’ll need some form of text analytics that surfaces the key trends and helps you quantify their impact. In an ideal world, the technology would have been trained on UGC for optimal effectiveness.
Get actionable insights into the right hands
When you tap into your UGC, you’re going to uncover some amazing insights that’ll help your company better meet the needs of its customers. But if the data doesn’t drive any action, it’s pointless.
Be sure to share the insights you uncover with the teams that can take action on them. For example, let’s say you notice a lot of shoppers are complaining about a broken zipper on a pair of jeans. Share that information with your merchandising or product team. Or maybe several negative reviews for a bed mention an inaccurate product description. Pass along that feedback to your web team to take action.
Share the right data with the right teams to drive impactful change
UGC insights can drive positive impact across your business.
Drive key decisions impacting company direction
Drive supplier decisions, requirements and negotiations
Influence product development and improvements in line with market demand
Determine how to best position, differentiate and promote the product, product line and brand.
Influence how to describe the product and brand and which features to elevate
Influence how and where exactly to market the product throughout the digital experience
Influence in-store displays, presentations and where to sell across the in-store network
How to Leverage Data from UGC to Boost Your Bottom Line
User-generated content is a rich source of data that can help you uncover insights you can’t find elsewhere. But what actions – and actual tangible change – can it generate?
The possibilities are endless.
Here are eight ways leading brands and retailers are using data from their user-generated content to improve products and experiences — and, of course, optimize sales performance.
1. Improve a Product (or an Entire Product Line)
In some cases, a negative review brings up an isolated problem. For example, Room&Board received the occassional return or negative review on their fade-resistant lounge chairs. These are unfortunate, but expected as a normal part of business. In one instance however, a negative review sheds light on a larger (but fixable) issue.
This one-star review, which included photos, mentioned that their dissatisfaction was specifically with the lack of promised fade-resistance. Room&Board offered to replace the chair, and upon further investigation, they identified several negative reviews for the lounge chair that specifically mention the color.
When you holistically analyze your UGC data with technology specifically designed for this purpose, it’s easy to spot recurring themes in your negative content – such as rust.
You can then work with the manufacturer to fix the issue — and then monitor your UGC to ensure it’s having the desired effect.
Let’s face it: not all products can be winners. While some products will resonate with your shoppers — others will fall flat.
If you’re consistently getting negative feedback about a specific product, it might be time to pull the item from your catalog. If you don’t, you risk damaging your reputation which can, in turn, negatively impact your sales.
For example, Ulta has a huge line of products with a dedicated following. But a closer look at its UGC revealed a consistent stream of one and two star reviews about a specific foundation.
They took that feedback, discontinued the product, and focussed on improving the ones that sold well. If you see similar patterns in your own product line, you can choose to adjust or withdraw it. It may be worth cutting your losses.
3. Identify New Audiences and Use Cases
You might think that you have a good idea of who uses your products (and how they use them).
But digging into your UGC data can help you identify audiences and use cases for your products that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. And that can open up new opportunities for sales.
Take, for example, this inflatable baby pool that has more than 11,000 reviews. Sure, a lot of the reviews discuss how the pool did (or didn’t) work well for a child. But there are also a decent number of reviews that mention the product being used for a dog, rather than a child.
If the use cases are prevalent enough (and in line with your brand), consider updating your messaging to reflect them.
For example, the brand that sells the children’s pool could add a bullet point to the product description that mentions that many shoppers use the product for their pets. And by doing so, the product is more likely to show up when a shopper is searching for a pool for their dog.
4. Adjust Product Pricing
Determining the right price for a product is key. If you price it too high, you’ll lose shoppers to a more affordable competitor. But if you price it too low, you won’t make much of a profit. Of course, you work hard to price your products right from the start. But analyzing your UGC can help you determine if and when those prices need to be refined.
The first place to start is average rating. Price considerations may not exclusively drive a low rating. But if your pricing strategy is off, it’ll certainly show up here. Beyond that, look at the aggregated sentiment of the review content. For example, this one star review for a toddler toy indicates the item is “a little pricey.” The shopper seems to like the product otherwise; the price seems to be the sole reason for the one-star review.
If cost is a common theme of this particular product’s reviews, it may be time to adjust the item’s price.
Additionally, you might notice that one of your competitor’s products has a lot of reviews that mention the item being a great value.
You sell a very similar item, but at a significantly higher price point. And sales haven’t been great. There’s an opportunity here to modify the price of your product to generate more sales.
5. Adjust Product Messaging
Accurate, thorough product descriptions help shoppers make informed purchase decisions.
Your UGC can help you identify ways to make these descriptions even better. By analyzing your UGC, you’ll get a better idea of what product features your shoppers love. These are things you’ll want to be sure to showcase in your product descriptions.
For example, let’s say you’re a health and beauty company that sells shampoo. When analyzing your UGC, you notice several positive reviews mention the great smell of your product. This isn’t a feature that’s mentioned in your existing product description.
So you add some text to your product page to describe the fragrance (or even callouts from real-life reviews).
Insights from negative reviews can help you improve your product messaging, too. For example, let’s say you sell this duvet cover.
You notice an influx of negative reviews for this product. Many of them mention that there was no duvet insert like in the product photo.
So you update the product description to make it clear what is (and isn’t) included. That way, your shoppers know exactly what to expect.
6. Inform Digital Marketing Initiatives
Your marketing team works hard to develop campaigns to attract shoppers. But the data from UGC can make these campaigns even more effective.
In fact, there are nearly endless ways your marketing team can leverage UGC to be more effective. For example, think about pay-per-click ads. When creating PPC campaigns, you want to include keywords your shoppers are likely to use when conducting a search.
By analyzing your UGC (and that of your competitors), you get a clear picture of the words your shoppers are actually using when describing products. So use this intelligence to uncover new keywords and phrases you can start using to improve the performance of your PPC ads. You can also share the new use cases and audiences you uncovered in tip #3 with your marketing team. Then, they can put together targeted campaigns to reach these audiences.
Remember when we discovered that the inflatable children’s pool is also commonly used for dogs? This information should be shared with the marketing team, as there may be opportunities to create marketing campaigns targeted at pet owners. For example, they could run display ads for the pool on websites focused on pet ownership topics.
7. Invest More in Content that Drives Conversion
When you examine the impact of UGC on your site, you get a very accurate picture of what types of content are driving sales.
You can then use that information to invest in generating the types of content that’ll drive the biggest return on investment.
Let’s say you notice visitors to your website are more likely to make a purchase after interacting with user-generated photos and videos.
That means you should make it a priority to collect more of this content. You can do so by sending post purchase emails to your shoppers, specifically asking them to submit photos and videos.
8. Optimize Your UGC Display
Of course, it’s important to determine which types of content are most likely to drive sales for your brand. But it’s also key to understand how shoppers are interacting with different types of content. This is a key part of analyzing UGC.
For example, you might notice a large percentage of your shoppers filter reviews to display only the one-star rated content. With this information, Skechers optimized the UGC displayed to their customers. If there’s a particular component that’s boosting conversion, make it more prominent. For example, the “review faceoff” feature (highlighted in our review display chapter) allows shoppers to easily compare the most helpful positive review with the most helpful negative review.
This integrates the behavior of checking negative reviews, while also promoting detailed, higher quality reviews. The positive review describes specific assets, and the negative review provides criticism that’s relevant to other shoppers (“the padding isn’t as durable as comparable shoes” as opposed to “not how I imagined them”).
Quick tips for Ratings & Reviews in 2021
This guide is intended to provide you with all the direction you need to run a successful, productive and – most importantly – revenue-generating ratings and reviews program in 2021.
There is a lot of information to digest: there are a ton of elements involved in ratings and reviews after all.
But here are four key areas you should absolutely be focusing on this year:
Collect more and better quality reviews
The data is clear: consumers want longer reviews and more of them. And if you’re able to provide them, you will drive more conversions and sales. There are tons of things you can be doing to generate high quality content in bigger volumes (check out chapter 2). Our list may seem overwhelming. If so, focus on two or three of our tips and grow from there.
Showcase to drive conversions
Ratings and Reviews content is a proven conversion booster. But there are specific enhancements you can make to your displays to maximize its impact. There are also plenty of ways you can incorporate it throughout the rest of your marketing activity to improve its effectiveness (as we demonstrate in depth in chapter 3). Experiment with these in 2021 – and modify depending on what the interaction data tells you – to increase the value of your Ratings and Reviews program.
Ratings and Reviews should be where your program starts
There’s a lot to do to maximize the value of your Ratings and Reviews content. But all this activity should form part of a broader user-generated content program. Q&A is the single most impactful type of UGC on conversion rates (more than Ratings & Reviews) so you’re hurting yourself if you don’t build it into your overall strategy (see chapter 7). User-generated video and imagery (aka visual media) also makes a huge difference to ecommerce performance (see chapter 6). So you should be looking to incorporate this too.
Analysis presents your biggest opportunity for 2021
The big opportunity for 2021? Leveraging your Ratings & Reviews content as a form of customer intelligence (as we outline at length in chapter 8). It’s cost effective, context-rich, actionable and it provides insane benchmarking potential. The most progressive companies will increasingly leverage Ratings and Reviews content to propel business growth – not just in terms of conversion and sales impact but also in terms of providing critical strategic direction.
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