Imagine yourself at a dinner party. You’ve been actively looking for a car. You’ve identified one that’s within your budget and to your liking. You can’t explain it, but you notice that you’re holding off just a bit from that final purchase. You just aren’t sure about it. At the dinner party, a friend owns the very same car you’ve been thinking about. He loves it, and now you do too. All the doubts you had simply disappeared . E-commerce reviews are the equivalent of a personal recommendation.

A significant challenge within e-commerce is its inability to allow a customer to preview products in person. Traditional retail enables a consumer to walk into a store, view a product first hand, and even test it before buying. The same consumer would have a difficult time trying to make a similar purchase with the same amount of confidence in e-commerce, where all they have is a product description and a few images. Reviews, by verified customers, often answer the nagging questions that hold potential customers back from purchasing.


TRUST

Reviews naturally describe a personal experience through the eyes of another consumer, something that conspicuously lacks in salesy product descriptions. That’s why several studies have shown that online customers consult reviews or ratings before buying products online. Other studies state that customers are more likely to purchase from sites with user reviews than those without them.

All businesses will sing unending praises of their products’ quality and unmatched usefulness. The competition couldn’t possibly come close to what you come up with. The effect of the million dollar ad campaigns businesses invest in is strong enough to get customers to your door (website), but is not sufficient to get them to click that buy button.

Consumers these days are very sceptical about ‘salesy’ rhetoric. That’s probably why studies also show that the majority of online customers read several reviews before they trust a business well enough to buy from them.


MORE THAN TRUST: SEO BENEFITS AND LESS RETURNS

Search engines are increasingly punishing websites that generate low-quality content. Dry and similarly phrased product descriptions are the basics, but do not ‘excite’ them. Continuous fresh user generated content, in the form of reviews, is perceived as relevant high quality content by most search engines. The result is a significant boost in search engine ranking.

Beyond search engines, reviews can also be redistributed through social media.

Another benefit from reviews is their effect on returns. Reviews highly contribute to true and balanced customer expectations. Thus, when customers receive their package, they know what to expect and are less likely to return it because of disillusionment.


DEALING WITH BAD REVIEWS

The main reason most sites refrain from including reviews on their sites is the possibility of receiving negative feedback. Businesses are afraid bad reviews will put a dent in sales or ruin their brand. One thing that is for certain: if you don’t include reviews on your site, people will review your products on some other forum that you have no control over. And then what?

There is value in having bad reviews. Firstly, a site with only 5-star reviews isn’t as convincing as many would like. It raises a few concerns by consumers. A few bad reviews every now and then have the effect of authenticity. They help your users to trust that even the 4 and 5-star reviews are given by authentic users.

Secondly, bad reviews offer you the opportunity to demonstrate your quality customer service. Openly responding to negative feedback and admitting fault shows potential clients that they have nothing to worry about if anything goes wrong. Respond like a human and offer to replace a product.

Of course, you will receive the occasional obscene and impolite slurs. Having reviews on your site means you can take them down as you wish. So don’t shy away from taking down reviews that are simply of poor taste and not related to your product.


HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO WRITE A REVIEW?

While you have your eyes set on gaining new customers, do not underestimate how valuable your already existing customer base is. Ask them to review your product with a simple follow-up e-mail that’s automatically sent a few days after every purchase.

There are several tools for online reviews. Most e-commerce platforms have their own proprietary review system, you can also simply include Facebook or Google Reviews or choose for a (often paid) dedicated review service like Trusted Shops. Most importantly, choose for a system that only allows customers to write a review, otherwise you will soon see some pseudonyms of your competitors passing by with fake 1-star contributions.

As online retail grows to overtake traditional retail, it is becoming ever more clear that reviews aren’t just an accessory you simply like or dislike, they are a necessity for healthy business and online profits. E-commerce sites shouldn’t be scared of getting reviews; they should be terrified of not getting them.

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