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The Power Of Online Reviews And Their Effect On Your Shopify Audience

A woman in front of a chevron wall.

Your buyers know very well that marketing is a tireless industry.

So even if you’re an established and trusted brand running a thriving campaign, people see beyond it and will research your products anyway. We can’t stress this enough, especially regarding ecommerce stores where products are intangible, and buyers want reassurance.

Online reviews emerged in 1999 and have been a significant driving force behind consumer behavior. People want to read about first-hand experiences from verified buyers, not about a paid-for marketer’s calculated description – and that will never change.

But where do we stand with online reviews today? In such a dynamic age of digital transformation where ecommerce is seeing exponential growth, it’s essential to find new ways to leverage the power of consumer engagement. Simply knowing the facts isn’t good enough. We must act on it to enhance online conversation, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately increase revenue.

A run-through of existing data

Industry experts are continually doing extensive research to prove that online reviews are a powerful and necessary marketing tool. Year after year, the results remain constant because word-of-mouth is an age-old tactic influencing brand reputation since the dawn of retail.

There will always be some essential psychological aspects of human behavior that don’t change; in this case, it’s trust. Here are some of the facts that can’t be ignored:

  • About 90% of people trust user-generated content over advertisements, making it highly likely that reviews will influence them.
  • Displaying at least five reviews can increase conversions by up to 380%.
  • The first ten reviews of a product are generally the most impactful.
  • People are more likely to seek reviews for high-consideration products that are pricey, affect health and safety, or are from a newer brand.
  • Consumers are 15% more likely to purchase a product based on reviews written by verified buyers than anonymous reviewers.
  • Anonymous reviewers are more likely to give poor reviews.
  • Buyers are likelier to go out of their way to write a review if their experience is poor.
  • The presence of negative reviews is vital for establishing credibility.
  • Five-star ratings create skepticism. It is preferable to have ratings in the 4.2-4.7 star range.
  • The importance of a review depends on the product category and its price. Reviews on electronics, appliances, computers, and other high-functionality products get scoped more intensely.

Let’s not forget another fact: Online reviews are essential to your Shopify store’s SEO strategy! According to Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey 2018, online reviews are thought to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results. Besides, thoughts typically hold a lot of juicy keywords. Talk about an omnipresent influencer.

We know the crowd leads the way – but why?

We wanted to learn more about how the people behind these figures feel. To get the ball rolling, we contacted three dozen consumers from five countries and asked their opinions on product reviews. It was a brief experiment, but we discovered quality insight.

Unsurprisingly, 92% of the people we spoke to appreciate online reviews and are likely to read a few different opinions before buying a product. In a nutshell, they rely on and trust fellow buyers’ words because they:

  • indicate overall customer satisfaction.
  • provide honest and unbiased opinions.
  • verify product quality and functionality.
  • reveal factors that consumers don’t always consider.
  • make it easier to find and compare alternative products.
  • help manage expectations before committing to a purchase.
  • give important information about unfamiliar and newer products.
  • help consumers understand technical descriptions through layperson’s terms.

The power of reviews didn’t move the remaining 8% of people. The reasons behind this is that some consumers:

  • don’t value the opinion of strangers.
  • prefer to take bad experiences up with a company directly.
  • believe that paid-for candidates write most reviews.
  • think they already have enough information on the products they want and don’t need micro-input.
  • don’t ever buy online and therefore don’t see the point in sharing.

Who is in this crowd of reviewers?

What did come as a surprise is that only 14% are willing to write reviews. That’s quite a contrast compared to the 92% that rely on them. Why are people so quick to read about experiences but not to share theirs? The most common responses included:

  • It’s not their responsibility to act as a product promoter.
  • Reviews are only valuable when employees deserve praise and recognition in the service industry.
  • Writing reviews wastes time and effort because existing reviews already express similar feelings so that no one will read them.
  • They don’t feel they fit the criteria for reviewing because they are not experts or because it’s not in their personality to do so.
  • They don’t want their name and opinion in the public domain.
  • Reviewers are the people who like ranting unnecessarily or value their opinion so much that they will clutter the internet.

Interestingly, such a vast majority of people feel this way – those are pretty direct opinions. In all fairness, some people did show glimmers of guilt towards their lack of participation. They know they should write reviews but are too lazy. One person even said that he has been “abusing the online review system for too long” and that it’s high time he “gives companies credit where credit is due.”

We can change how consumers interact with online reviews and incentivize them to share their thoughts without becoming the tyrant brand that promotes insincere assessments – as long as we’re doing it for the greater good of the whole audience.

Here are three ways to start doing that now

1. Find your reviewers

Please look at crowd-sourced review forums like Yelp, Google Reviews, and Foursquare. If you’re not already on platforms like these, now is the time to join the community. Also, most users use the embedded Google reviews on the website to increase the social proof for your business.

You can be smart about where people are talking about your products. Social media gets worldwide penetration, so it’s worth discovering where you are being mentioned. Start using Google Alerts and pay specific attention to the conversation.

Don’t ignore your competitors’ reviews – their audience is your audience. Learn from their mistakes and look further into their successes.

If you can’t find much valuable insight in any of the reviews you see, then it’s up to you to open the conversation and give your audience a reason to engage.

And if you can’t find any reviews, remember that the first ten are the most impactful! Empower your brand by taking advantage of this clean slate.

2. Monitor and respond

Observation should be an integral part of your online conversation strategy. Once you understand content sentiment and behavioral patterns, you’ll improve how you interact with your audience and how they talk about you.

Keep your eyes open to any emerging problems or changing consumer needs, and take great care in responding to reviews. We already know that people think writing reviews is time-consuming, so show appreciation for their effort.

Even if every single consumer doesn’t participate in providing structured reviews, they’re still all online – reading and seeing everything. Please pay attention to the information they’re interested in and use it to steer your conversation.

3. Promote the conversation

Be authentic – that’s all that people want. Ask your consumers questions directly to motivate them to talk to you, but don’t forget to give them space to speak to one another without your input.

Find creative ways to implement word-of-mouth marketing to affect buying intention positively. It’s up to brand owners to remind consumers that reviews aren’t only there to warn and guide other buyers but also so that companies can learn more about individual wants and needs and accommodate them.

The good, the bad and the ugly

We want to gain positive feedback from our online reviews. As a brand, it’s nice to get solid verification that you’re doing well. But remember – and even though it’s painful to admit – bad publicity can bolster sales.

Online reviews are supposed to be a trusted space where buyers can share real-time experiences of their own accord. If you let people say precisely what they want to say, others will know that, as a brand, you are confident in your products.

Personal, social, and psychological factors come into play when people discuss their experiences. Hearing the details about dissatisfaction can play a huge advantage in approaching different buyer personas.

Besides, bad publicity is a gateway to showing your audience how you handle customer support. Don’t give generic responses to bad reviews. People want to know that there are real humans behind the screen who are generally interested in consumer concerns. At Eastside Co, we respond to every single app review left for us in the Shopify app store, thanking those who leave glowing feedback, but more importantly, helping anyone who needs assistance and addressing any issues that have led to anything less than a five-star review. It’s something we take very seriously.

You may receive an uncalled-for and downright horrible review one day. Don’t feel disheartened when this happens – we all know that sometimes people can get ugly unnecessarily. The most important thing is not to ignore these reviews. Understand that they are only human and that they are upset. Show other readers that you can help an angry customer and remain polite while standing up for yourself as a brand.

Going beyond the typical consumer

The people who regularly buy online are at the forefront of this conversation – but they’re not the entire audience. Online reviews have a powerful influence that attracts high-value businesses to services and products.

Since we’re on ecommerce, let’s take the experts as an example. Shopify is a complete ecommerce platform for online stores. How did the review system maximize Shopify’s business?

Scenario: A retail company wants to re-platform its website to an online store. They’ve heard of Shopify but are not so sure about it. The first thing they do is turn to the public for advice.

The search engine results page (SERP) will look something like this:

Not a single rating under four stars across multiple trustworthy sources. That’s already enough to convince someone that it’s well-trusted! But for a business owner, choosing the right platform is a high-consideration, long-term commitment, so you can expect the decision-makers to dig deeper. What will they find?

Different types of reviews

The Star

At first glance, we saw star ratings in the Shopify review SERP. Star ratings are a popular rating system that gives an idea of overall satisfaction across different criteria. It’s used in many industry categories like local businesses, hotels, restaurants, books, movies, and e-commerce sites. Star ratings are undeniably important, but they only scratch the surface of good review practice.

The word

Written reviews typically appear alongside star ratings, allowing consumers to justify their scores. Written considerations substantially influence buyers because they help identify critical features, discuss or resolve issues, improve knowledge, and evaluate the overall experience. This is an example of a review on Shopify’s very own review app:

The buyer is expressing satisfaction but, at the same time, highlighting a hiccup. This is the perfect opportunity for Shopify to show support by educating the reviewer (and other consumers) on possible solutions. This enhances user experience and helps Shopify identify gaps – a win-win for all.

The Video

Another powerful kind of review is a video review. These are usually submitted by experts or those highly interested in the product.

In this video review, Chris Winter, The Friendly Entrepreneur, discusses Shopify in 2019. It does not focus on his opinion but gives a detailed description of his experience. This review is helpful to any entrepreneur who wants to migrate to Shopify or build a new site. It’s thorough, educational, and allows space for Q and A in the comment section. The public controls the conversation, which drives engagement and reveals a rich insight into the audience.

Your next step

…is to get started. Update your online accounts and make yourself present again. Focus on content marketing and give people a reason to spend valuable time getting to know your brand. Listen to the crowd and always analyze feedback with a fine-tooth comb. Start creating your conversations, and if you need any help, call us. This is what we love to do.

Our friends initially published this article at Eastside Co.

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