Face facts, virtually every business is now an online business. Whether you trade directly through the internet or not, online reputation and reviews are becoming more critical to success. As an eCommerce business, the internet is your lifeblood so you cannot afford to ignore the impact that online reviews of your service and your products have on your business.
If you want to understand how what people are saying online about you or what you sell can affect your business results, ask any restaurant or hotel about Tripadvisor. See how much harder it is to book a table at a restaurant with great online reviews compared to one that’s mainly rated average. Add the multitude of social media networks (especially with Facebook currently rolling out Graph Search) to the mix and the opportunities for people to use the internet to find out about you and comment on the quality of your products or service are there in abundance - and they’re not always under your control.
The fact is that people increasingly research the things they want, and who they want to buy them from, through the internet. That applies whether people go on to complete the purchase online or decide to visit a shop.
The trick is to see the influence of online reviews as an opportunity rather than a threat. If people want to use ratings and reviews to make up their minds, then offer them ratings and reviews on your eCommerce website. And recognise this as a crucial feature of the purchase process.
We’ve helped clients achieve impressive improvements in conversion rates by integrating 3rd party review platforms from partners such as Feefo into their eCommerce sites. The fact that reviews are on a 3rd party site, not controlled by the retailer, has a significant impact and carries more weight than reviews that could be open to manipulation.
The power of product reviews
In January 2013, Cisco surveyed 5,000 shoppers in the USA, UK, Brazil, Mexico and China to investigate consumer behaviour across a range of channels. What they found should make sobering reading for any business that doesn’t understand how reviews and ratings should be a key feature of its eCommerce strategy:
- Online ratings and reviews on retailer websites were rated the most influential factor in purchase decisions by 52% of respondents.
- In the last two years, the ‘purchase influence’ of expert online reviews by consumer groups, expert buyers, and bloggers, increased by 13% to 42%.
- Shoppers prefered online ratings and reviews by a 4:1 margin over advice from store employees.
Staying focused on the positives, that means there’s a huge opportunity for you to use ratings and reviews - whether hosted on your site or, ideally, on 3rd party review sites - to help customers make up their minds. People want to see reviews before they make a decision. So if you offer the information and make the decision-making process as easy as possible for people while they’re on your site, there’s more chance they will stay on your eCommerce site to complete their purchase.
What you really don’t want is for them to search for reviews and then end up on a competitor’s site.
Confidence and reassurance
The aim with any eCommerce site is to answer all of a customer’s queries and convince them that they are doing the right thing when they click on the Pay Securely button. Wondering whether anybody else bought the same thing and how they got on with it is bound to be a consideration.
What we usually recommend is to display user ratings on product selection pages alongside each product. It’s often a good idea to give users an option to arrange the products displayed by user ratings so that they see the most highly rated ones first.
More detailed reviews can then be displayed when somebody clicks on a particular product or can be selected by clicking on the user rating score on the product selection page.
For company reviews, customers are looking for reassurance that your delivery service is reliable, that goods turn up in good condition, you deal with queries efficiently and effectively, and that your returns policy is clear and fair.
We know from extensive testing with a large number of eCommerce sites that this type of trust has a direct and positive impact on conversion rates. So you need to deal with these issues in your content and monitor and manage what is being said about you online. Ideally you need to encourage customers to leave unbiased and genuine feedback about the service they have received on your site or through a 3rd party reviewer.
Show people that you are proud rather than nervous of your customer reviews and you’ll do a lot to build confidence and conversions.
Google Trusted Stores - Coming Soon to the UK!
Another development to look out for is the Google Trusted Stores programme. Currently only available in the USA, Google has signalled its desire to roll the certification out in the UK. It looks like invite-only testing will begin in Q4 with roll-out from early 2014.
The criteria on which businesses are measured to see whether they qualify are relatively straightforward:
- High percentage of orders with on-time shipping.
- Low average days for product to ship.
- High percentage of issues resolved quickly.
- Low number of customers needing assistance with an issue.
Accredited businesses will have a small Google Trusted Store logo displayed on their website. Hovering your mouse over this logo will expand the badge to show key statistics on shipping and customer service, as well as the number of transactions the data is based on.
Experience so far indicates that being a Google Trusted Store will improve traffic and conversion rates significantly. For consumers there are 3 clear benefits: the process is overseen by Google (a name they recognise and which has authority), it is independent of the retailer, and it is data driven, so not subjective. These sum up the critical aspects of good practice when it comes to online company reviews.
More details on the Trusted Stores program can be found here:
Conversion is all about trust and confidence - getting and using positive feedback from people who’ve used your service is surely the best way to create that confidence.