by Hugh Hinkson, Insights Manager at One Click Retail

A lot goes into a successful brand. First and foremost, your product must be good, but even the best, most bang-for-your-buck product on the market won’t succeed unless people KNOW that it’s good. And the best way to get the word out is with customer reviews.

Building your strategy around reviews is a critical component of success. For most brands, this will mean making Amazon your top priority. 38% of shoppers begin their path to purchase on Amazon – that’s a larger share of traffic than Google – and most consumers cite the high volume of reviews as a reason why. Because Amazon has a reputation for having a lot of high quality reviews, it is frequently used a reference by consumers researching products even if they’re not planning to buy them from Amazon. For this reason, having a high proportion of positive reviews on Amazon has a tangible impact on brand success not only on that platform but across all sales channels, including brick-and-mortar.

 

Why (Good) Reviews are Key

On Amazon:

  • A direct positive impact on conversion.
  • Positive impact to organic search rank, driving traffic and sales.
  • Products with rating averages above 3 stars qualify for a broader selection of marketing and promotional campaigns.

Beyond Amazon:

  • Reviews convey brand integrity and instill consumer confidence, strengthening your reputation.
  • When shopping in-store, consumers often consult Amazon reviews when making a purchase decision.
  • A consistent flow of customer feedback can help you improve your product development and solve fulfillment issues as they arise.

 

How to Drive Review Volume

When leveraging reviews to drive sales, there are two places you can begin. First, identify your “High Consideration” SKUs, including items that are expensive (relative to the category), may have safety concerns (such as power tools), leverage self-expression (including fashion), or are newly released. Reviews have a greater impact on these types of products since they can mitigate the potential risks in the eyes of the consumer.

Secondly, you should prioritize raising the review count of any SKUs that have less than 21 reviews. While 65% of shoppers have stated that they would not be confident buying a product with less than 10 reviews, the ideal number varies by category, price, and other factors (it can be as high as 50 for high consideration products). An Amazon study produced in 2013 identified 21 reviews as the point of diminishing returns – on average, products with 21+ reviews will have 2x the conversion rate of those with 20 or fewer, so we recommend targeting that as your minimum.

1st Party Tactics:

Variate: You can link product variant pages (such as different sizes and colors) to a single “parent” page, which collects all reviews together in one place, increasing the total number of reviews that appears on a single page.

Use Third Party Review Programs: Programs such as Influenster will send your products for free to their subscribers, who in turn write reviews on Amazon and other retailers and post about the products on their social media pages.

Leverage the Vine Program: Amazon offers its own review service that sends free products to trusted reviewers and can be used to generate consumer reviews even before a new SKU goes live on Amazon.

Launch with Reviews: The most valuable review is the first one – when a page’s review count goes from 0 to 1, traffic more than doubles and conversion increases by an average of 65%. When releasing a new product, use Vine (on Amazon) or third party review programs and take advantage of page variations if applicable to the new SKU. Some retailers also offer syndication, allowing you to push reviews from your brand site to the retail platform.

3rd Party Tactics:

Follow-Up Emails: 3rd party vendors may not have the same control over their product detail pages or access to review programs that 1Ps have, but reviews are no less crucial. A great way to drive review volume is with a well thought out email campaign.

DOs:

  • Begin by sending a simple thank you message; don’t ask for a review in the initial email.
  • Time your follow-up email (which includes the request for a review) after a reasonable amount of time has passed, giving the customer enough time to have thoroughly used the product (this may vary by product type).

DON’Ts:

  • When you do email the customer, make sure not to spam; quality over quantity.
  • Do not ask for “positive” feedback; let the product speak for itself.
  • Don’t rush your content; your emails should convey professionalism and confidence, not desperation.

Marketing Inserts: You can also encourage people to review your products by including marketing inserts within the product packaging. These inserts should highlight the value of the product to the buyer and encourage happy customers to share their experiences. Include a short URL that directs customers to the product review page (take note that it’s against Amazon policy to incentivize a review, for example by offering a coupon in exchange for a submission).

 

Managing Your Reviews

Ratings and reviews have a major impact on purchasing decisions, ranking as the second most important factor to consumers after price. 95% of shoppers consult reviews, 86% consider them “essential”, and 82% actively seek out negative reviews. So bear in mind that volume isn’t everything, the quality of your reviews is just as crucial to conversion.

The “sweet spot” for driving consumer confidence is an average customer rating of 4 stars. When a product breaks the 4 stars threshold, conversion improves by 1.5 times on average, with diminishing returns beyond that point. But shoppers don’t just consult the rating, they also read the top customer reviews appearing on your page.

Amazon ranks the top customer reviews based on numerous factors, including recency, star rating, whether it was a verified purchase, and how many shoppers have labeled the review as “helpful”. Recency is very relevant on Amazon: more recent reviews hold more weight both from the consumer perspective (old reviews are perceived as less reliable) and from Amazon’s perspective (the star rating is biased toward newer reviews). So even if you already have 21+ reviews and a 4+ star rating, you need to keep driving positive review traffic because a few negative reviews can bring down your average rating very quickly.

Product pages also include a highly visible “Most recent customer reviews” section, as seen in the screenshot below, so if your most recent review is negative it can seriously impact your conversion. This is less relevant on other retailers like Target, where recency is not taken into account when identifying the “most helpful” reviews and therefore reviews that are 5 or 7 years old can appear at the top of the list. But don’t forget that people shopping from other retails often read reviews posted to Amazon as part of their path to purchase; even if Amazon is not your most important sales channel, your Amazon rating and reviews can and will impact your conversion.

eCommerce Insights: Creating a Strategy Around Reviews

Another factor is the length of the review. Shoppers place more value on a long review than a short one; 5 long reviews can be more valuable than 10 short ones. When shoppers decide which reviews they deem “helpful”, review length is the most highly correlated characteristic, more important than recency. That said, a review generates a third of its total helpful “votes” within the first 10 days and almost 60% within the first 30 days on average, so brands that generate a steady stream of reviews will create a more helpful and positive shopping experience for consumers.

To further improve the customer experience, it’s important to engage with customers. Being an active participant in Amazon’s Q&A section has several benefits:

  • Speaking directly to shoppers conveys brand integrity.
  • Answering questions about your product can prevent shoppers from buying something that doesn’t suit their needs, mitigating the risk of future negative reviews.
  • You can use the questions to identify which features are most important to consumers and what aspects of your product may not be clearly depicted in your page content and photography.

Thanking positive reviewers can encourage repeat purchases and responding to negative reviews can drive a positive brand perception and can even cause the reviewer to change their rating for the better. Use this critical real estate to quickly, professionally and publicly convey brand integrity.

A high proportion of negative reviews, however, can indicate issues with your product. This is very valuable feedback. Read through the comments carefully to identify the source of the problem: issues can arise in shipping and fulfillment; can be due to unclear, inaccurate or exaggerated marketing copy; or there could be flaws in the product itself. Based on this feedback, you can make real improvements to how you do business.

There’s a lot that goes into brand success, but in this day and age you can’t afford to ignore Amazon. No matter how low it is on your list of preferred sales channels, consumers everywhere, from eBay to your neighborhood hardware store, are using Amazon ratings and reviews to choose which products to buy. Creating a strategy around reviews is critical to brand success – and it begins with Amazon.

 

About One Click Retail

One Click Retail is the industry’s most accurate source of sales data for the world’s top eCommerce marketplaces. Using a combination of website indexing, machine learning and proprietary software, OCR estimates weekly online sales figures with market leading accuracy in order to deliver the best insights, analytics and strategies to their brand manufacturer clients. To catch a glimpse of how OCR gives brands critical edge on online platforms with our unique data and expertise, subscribe to our weekly eCommerce insights blog, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you are a brand manufacturer who would like to learn more about how you stack up to the competition—or would like to see your market share and category growth insights—email us at info@oneclickretail.com for a free capabilities demo.

About Clavis Insight

Clavis Insight is a global leader in online channel insights for product manufacturers, and a principal innovator at the forefront of the eCommerce analytics revolution. The company has developed a powerful framework – 6Ps eCommerce Intelligence™ – for organizing and prioritizing eCommerce analytics and actions to drive online channel success for brands. Global manufacturers use their daily eCommerce analytics and insights to drive sales in their categories online, to optimize content for brand equity enhancement, protection and product information compliance, and to deliver consistent, unified reporting on online retailer brand presence and performance.

For more information on Clavis Insight 6Ps eCommerce Intelligence™ visit www.clavisinsight.com. www.clavisinsight.com.