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eCommerce Insights: 3 Ways Brands Can Benefit from Ratings & Reviews

June 24, 2015
Yan Deng
Written By
Yan Deng

Shoppers increasingly trust their peers for guidance on what to buy, and ratings and reviews on eCommerce retailers’ product pages are a source of growing influence. In this post, Profitero analyst Yan Deng looks at why ratings and reviews are so critical to a brand’s presence on the digital shelf.

According to a survey in June 2015 by UPS and comScore, 73% of shoppers found product reviews are influential when shopping online.

Why are ratings & reviews so critical to a brand’s presence on the digital shelf, and what are leading practices for maximizing their impact?

Why Ratings & Reviews Matter

No matter the stage of a product or brand in its lifecycle, ratings & reviews can help reassure shoppers that they’re making a smart choice. Here are three reasons why ratings & reviews are important:

1. Shoppers trust them

For consumers, ratings & reviews help form their perceptions about a product before purchasing. According to a 2014 survey by BrightLocal, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 72% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more. Ratings & Reviews allow consumers to understand how the product aligns with their needs.

2. They provide a relatively low-cost marketing vehicle with which to activate brand advocates and amplify their loyalty

For brands, ratings & reviews can provide a low-cost marketing solution. Many shoppers leave online testimony for the products they purchase. In fact, a 2013 research paper by Advances in Economics and Business found that 58% of survey respondents have at least once written an online product review.  Harnessing online reviews gives brands the opportunity to receive free, unsolicited testimony.

3. They improve conversion rates, both online and offline

Ratings & reviews help drive high conversion rates. In fact, reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales. According to Buzzplant, an increase from 1 to 50 reviews increases the conversion lift from 10 to 30%.

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How to Benefit from Ratings & Reviews

Given the importance of ratings & reviews, here are three ways you can use them to your advantage.

Scenario 1: What should I do if I have a low review count?

Having a low review count can be worrisome; after all, it might suggest low product visibility. But how do you first determine if you have a low review count?

Using our Amazon FastMovers reports, we looked at the average review count for 7 CPG categories on Amazon in May 2015 and found that best sellers in Health & Personal Care and Grocery & Gourmet Food had an average review count of more than 2,000.

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Visibility is especially key during new product launches. Some retailers provide marketing campaigns to help brands increase a product’s review count, and we recommend you consider them to increase a product’s visibility.

For example, Amazon Vine campaign provides vendors an opportunity to receive authentic reviews from a pool of pre-selected Amazon reviewers. Amazon invites customers to become Vine members based on the helpfulness of their past reviews, which is determined by the Amazon community. Amazon provides Vine members with free products, and members must review the products they receive within one month to stay in the program.

Authentic reviews are important, and fake reviews are still a widespread issue. According to Business Week, up to 30% of online reviews may be unauthentic. Earlier this year, Amazon even filed a lawsuit against companies that allegedly sell contrived 4- and 5- star reviews. Recently, Amazon announced an improvement over their review system using machine learning, to reduce the likelihood of fake reviews. According to a spokeswoman from Amazon, the new machine learning component will give more weight to newer, more helpful reviews from Amazon customers.

Sometimes retailer programs like Amazon Vine may not be enough to get the visibility your product deserves. Consider launching a social media campaign on networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Jim Belosic of the Social Media Examiner provides “5 Tips for Running Social Media Campaigns”. Think about leveraging your own contact lists of brand loyalists and encourage them to leave ratings and reviews at a retailer of their choice.

Once you’ve begun a campaign to trigger more reviews, be sure to monitor your progress.

Scenario 2: What if I received a negative star rating?

“Nobody is perfect,” and this is especially true for online reviews. You can’t please everyone all of the time, and even the #1 best-selling product may receive negative reviews from time to time. The question is, what should you do when it happens?

Responding to negative reviews is an opportunity to showcase your customer service. In fact, a 2014 Forbes article recommends responding to a negative comment by acknowledging the comment and then highlighting the business’ strengths. Amazon offers an invitation-only Official Comment pilot program that provides manufacturers an opportunity to respond to customer reviews. To participate in the Official Comment pilot program, contact your Amazon account manager to request an invitation to the program.

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When analyzing negative reviews, pay special attention to reviews that violate the retailers’ review guidelines. For example, reviews that do not relate to the product, contain inappropriate content, or serve as promotional content violate Amazon’s review guidelines.

The negative review on Amazon, shown below, mentions a long delivery time and does not directly relate to the product. If you believe that a certain negative review violates the retailer’s review guidelines, contact the retailer to report the violations.

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Scenario 3: How can I mine text reviews for shopper and consumer insight?

Review text can also provide useful information about consumer sentiment and perceptions of a product and the experience of buying it. This information can then be used to improve existing products, launch new products, or further improve the way a supplier and retailer collaborate to market and merchandise.

Some leading brands use text reviews to analyze the most frequently mentioned topics, often considering the themes that are most commonly mentioned in favorable or unfavorable reviews.

The following example shows the most frequently mentioned topics in a leading skin care brand’s text reviews at a prominent online retailer.

Price, Fragrance and Moisture were the most common favorably mentioned characteristics, while Fragrance, Greasy/Oily and Shipping were the most commonly mentioned unfavorable characteristics.

In this example, the Skin Care brand might consider:

  1. Analyzing the negative reviews that mention Shipping to understand whether the issue is delivery speed or issues like leakage
  2. Improve the product formulation to address the greasiness issue

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With the right analytical tools, text reviews can be a powerful source of detailed consumer and shopper insight.

Get Started!

Clearly, Ratings & Reviews play a key role at the digital shelf. While brands don’t have total control, there are ways to benefit from ratings & reviews.

Use Profitero’s free Amazon FastMovers reports to benchmark the number of reviews that best-selling products have in your category.

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