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We Reviewed Online Reviews - With Surprising Results

by Jonathan Kennedy October 27, 2017

A guest article by Chris Stainthorpe, a co-founder of CustomerSure. They help teams improve customer service by providing usable advice and software to simplify how they deal with customer feedback.

Reviews. No list of eCommerce “must-haves” is complete without them. Everyone’s heard a statistic like “Reviews produce an average of 18% uplift in sales”, which is why you have them in your store, right? They’re essential.

Well, my completely-not-made-up statistic is that “50% of what you’ve been told about online reviews is rubbish." What if a focus on reviews could be bad for business?

It’s common knowledge that the most successful businesses are the ones that zig when everyone else zags, so if everyone else is building their business on reviews, shouldn’t you be trying the alternatives?

Let’s look at the dark side of reviews, and discuss some other ways you can grow your business.

What’s being reviewed?

First of all, let’s establish what we’re talking about. We’ll look at some of the bigger “reviews” providers, and see what they’re selling.

Trustpilot wants you to review companies.

Revoo gives you reviews and ratings.

reviews.co.uk promise to make “review collection and publishing simple”

Well, that’s great… But what exactly do you want me to review? The product I bought, or the experience I had?

Product reviews are powerful for driving conversions in niches where many competitors sell similar products – especially niches where it’s hard to spin a compelling brand story about those products.

If the product is to “do a job” rather than a “lifestyle” purchase, product reviews are almost essential. Trust, I’m not going to buy an impact driver without solid reviews – preferably from contractors as well as DIY enthusiasts.

However, if I’m buying a sweater – if it looks great, I’m less worried about reading the opinions of 40 other sweater-buyers.

What about experience reviews? If a store has a great design, solid trust factors, and the right product at the right price, no customer will walk away from a purchase because they can’t see a stream of reviews saying “5*, enjoyable sweater purchase, thanks”.

Nothing Added

When people buy a product (especially in the “do a job” examples), they spend time with it. Their purchase was motivated by a need (even if it’s just the need to feel great wearing a new sweater), and they can evaluate their purchase against how well it meets that need.

Because of this, they can contribute a content-rich review of how the product meets their needs, which adds value to your store.

Compare this to experience reviews. People come to your store, they browse, they check out, you ship. If any of that goes wrong, you’ve got a big problem. If that all goes right, it doesn’t matter how the customer word thing, the content of their review has essentially met the minimum basic standard of an online transaction.” How does that help buyers?

Do you love me?

The problem with experience reviews, is that, just like “Do you love me?” on a first date, it’s the wrong question at the wrong time.

Asking for reviews is asking your customers to do you a favour. For a first-time buyer, that’s a big ask. For a repeat buyer, who you’ve consistently delighted, that’s more reasonable. But in both cases, there is a better question you can ask,

“Was it good for you?”

Give buyers the chance to tell you what they did and didn’t like about purchasing from you. Lots of people will have nothing to say… And that’s fine. Some people will be extra-polite, and tell you they had a great time. And in one or two cases, people will have had problems. But because you asked for feedback at the right time, you’ve got the chance to put it right before it ends up as a 1-star review or a social media blowout.

Alternatives

We’ve seen that product reviews have their place, and of course, social proof is important. It’s just that “experience reviews” are a bland form of social proof which won’t make people rush to buy from you.

But if you’re taking steps to ask for feedback and cultivate genuine two-way conversational relationships with your customers, your time and imagination are the only limiting factors on the rich social proof you can co-create.

If your products are very ‘functional’, in-depth case studies of your best customers are great social proof. And they add value to you and the customer. If you’re more of a lifestyle brand, help your best customers create and share content about you on social media. They provide you with social proof far beyond the confines of your website and provide your customers with social capital and nice sweaters.

Whatever you do, just don’t ask “do you love me?” on a first date.



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