Whether online consumers buy your product or not, depends on several factors. Pricing, return policies and delivery options are all pretty important. But one thing's for sure: if they don't trust you, consumers won't buy from you at all.
Trust is one of the five most important influencers in the decision stage of your customer's journey. Imagine you are about to spend your hard-earned money on a new pair of headphones. You know exactly what you need and you are researching on an e-tailer platform to find the best offer.
What are you looking for?
I would seek as much advice as possible before whipping out my credit card. I'd want to be reassured, warned and tipped off by my peers. I want to trust you. And if I can't find peer recommendations on your product page, I'd assume your product is unpopular and I probably skip to your competitor's page.
Trust can make and break sales
To earn consumer trust on your product page you could do a number of things. You could include pictures and videos to provide more context. Most products need this context to assure customers they’re not ordering something much smaller or larger than they wanted.
But having peer recommendations really tops the list. Regardless off how you get them, you need online reviews to prove that people have already taken the leap of faith before you, to provide honest customer feedback, to show consumers that you care about their opinion. All of this contributes to building the trust that your customer needs before purchasing your product. The pricing of your product could be the lowest ever seen on the world wide web, but without those reviews on your page, people just aren't going to be confident enough to buy from you.
But wait, you say, reviews come in many shapes and sizes. Short, long, positive, negative and so on. Surely each "shape" must influence your online sales in their own unique way?
Spot on! So luckily for you, we've done some research.
5 factors that influence the effect of reviews
Reviews contribute to consumer trust, which in turn, contributes to your sales. But to what degree can reviews have this effect? This depends on five key factors:
- Review quality
- Review length
- Average rating
- Number of reviews
- Review date
The beautiful part of it all is: as a brand, you can influence all of these factors without jeopardizing your customer’s best interests, or compromising your brand's integrity.
1) REVIEW QUALITY
This is especially important when the consumer is actually on your product page and only one click away from buying a pair of those headphones. At this point it boils down to the quality of the reviews presented.
A quality review reflects the personal experience of a consumer and is:
- authentic (stories from real people)
- helpful (enough user information)
- honest and unbiased (no incentives)
Quality reviews are helpful when they can provide additional information. For instance, how the headphones fit over your ears. Is it comfortable enough to wear for two hours? This is something you typically learn from an experience-based review.
A client of ours - Plantronics - also understood the value of quality reviews.
Whether the product is perfect for you, really depends on who you are, what you value and how you plan to use the product. Consumers therefore look for reviewers they can identify themselves with. The more personal, authentic and honest a review is, the more likely consumers discover common values and ultimately rely on their peers' judgement.
Tip: If you are currently participating in some kind of review program or you are in close contact with your community, ask consumers to focus on some specific USP's of the product when writing reviews.
WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT: Quality of reviews or volume and rating?
2) Ideal length of a review
Does the word count of a review have any impact on the consumer's purchase decision? There's been some research carried out into the length of reviews, showing that each additional word increases review credibility on average by 0.04 per cent (when all other factors remain constant). Another study proved that a higher word count has a positive effect on the credibility of the review as it can be more helpful.
Essentially, the length of a review contributes to the quality of a review.
In the past years at Stars and Stories, we have witnessed that the best reviews usually total 150 words. But the ideal length of a review is hard to determine and depends heavily on the type of product, the personal experience of the reviewer and the quality of the writing as well the website the review is posted on.
Long essays on umbrellas are probably not as much appreciated as long essays on the latest computer. And what about condoms? One of Holland's biggest online retailers approached us last year because they didn't know how to get in-depth consumer generated content on their product pages. Read this case study to discover how we helped them increase sales by 245%.
3) A PERFECT AVERAGE RATING
Positive reviews enhance credibility, giving the consumer more confidence that the product they're about to purchase is of good quality.
But do we now start looking for insanely enthusiastic consumers to write reviews about our product?
Because the last thing you need is a 5 star product. What you need is a perfect average rating.
Consumers look for social proof. They need authentic and unbiased reviews to help them with their purchase decision. An average rating of 5 stars will only make them suspicious, thinking the ratings are 'too good to be true'. Scientific research shows those reviews are perceived as less credible, possibly written by the brand itself or by people who received money or gifts in return.
The perfect average star rating is 4.2.
4) THE IDEAL NUMBER OF REVIEWS
Of course the price, type of product, novelty etc. affect how much review information shoppers actually want to see (varying greatly, from less than 10 to more than 50 reviews), but studies show that 65% of online shoppers need to read at least 10 reviews before making a purchase.
So if you want to make a difference in the decision making stage of your consumer, make sure your product page hosts at least 10 reviews. But beware: more reviews do not infinitely lead to higher conversion.
5) The expiry date of a review
Yes, reviews actually have an expiry date. At least 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant. In other words, the impact of online reviews on sales will decrease.
This attitude towards old reviews is called "recency bias" and makes people want to skip the next 21 review pages. A waste of your large collection of reviews? That all depends; if you've had some fiery reviews criticizing your product in the past, you might be better off with people only reading the first page.
How to use this information to improve your online sales
First: If you want to increase consumer trust around your product, you should avoid empty review pages. This is rule number one. Second: If you want to control to what extent the reviews influence your sales, you might want to start thinking strategically.
Determining your goals is essential. Which product needs reviews? Who is the target group, where do I want reviews? If you know what you want, you can find a marketing campaign that suits you best.
Sending follow-up emails to customers who just purchased your product is a great way to start. You could ask them to write about specific USP's of your product or to describe how this product has made their daily life easier.
If you need more guarantees about the quantity of reviews and the timing (for example you need them just before or right after your product launch) it is wiser to invest in a review campaign that lets real consumers test and review your product. Beware of incentives though, they could harm your credibility quite quickly.
Want to learn how you can use reviews in every stage of the buyer’s journey and increase your online sales? Download our latest white paper:
Ps. If you want to learn how you can get authentic reviews for your products fast, you can always schedule a quick chat with one of the Stars and Stories Review Consultants.