Should your website have product reviews?

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y2.d7 | that edit girlWhen I set up my own ecommerce sites to run alongside my eBay Shops, one of the biggest reliefs was not having the daily, heart-stopping look at my feedback to see if any random customer had chanced to neg me overnight. It’s tempting to run with that freedom and skip any kind of feedback on your own website, but it’s a mistake. Most ecommerce packages come with the facility to allow product reviews, and there are lots of good reasons to switch it on: reviews help your new customers, honour your existing customers, and help with SEO too.

Reviews are real product feedback
One of the things I’ve always really disliked about eBay feedback is that it doesn’t distinguish between *seller* feedback and *product* feedback. Most of us have had that moment of fury when a buyer says “shoes didn’t run true to size” or “DVD sealed but scratched” – where we were blamed for something the manufacturer did. Amazon’s Marketplace distinguishes between these two types of feedback: seller feedback for sellers, product reviews on product pages, and if sellers get product feedback, they can request its removal. Asking buyers for product feedback makes it more likely that you’ll get just that (asking them for service feedback is something we’ll cover in another post).

Reviews let you know if you have a problem
If you get product feedback, it tells you about your own products. However well you know your own product range, you’re not going to know it as well as the sum total of the people who use it. If shoes consistently run narrow, or baby clothes come up large, having your customers talking about that helps other people make informed purchasing decisions: I won’t buy those narrow shoes if I have wide feet, so I won’t need to return them and you won’t have a customer service problem to deal with. If there’s a product that consistently garners negative reviews, you know it’s time to drop that line.

Reviews build better descriptions
However good the descriptions you write are, there’ll be things you’ll miss. You can put in as many measurements of clothing as you like – but a customer saying “it runs larger/smaller than a normal size xx” is a lot more helpful to other customers.

Reviews let you know if your description is wrong
Likewise, if your description is off, reviews can highlight that. One customer saying “this turquoise sweater is more green than it looks in the picture” might just be their monitor settings, but more than one might indicate that your photo needs some editing.

Reviews build credibility
Bear with me on this one, because it feels counter-intuitive: negative reviews build credibility. No one has 100% customer satisfaction: everyone knows that, so if your reviews are 100% positive, the assumption will be that you’re removing the negative ones. Use non-positive reviews to improve your product offering (removing poorly-performing lines or improving descriptions), but don’t be tempted to delete them. A mix of negative and positive reviews helps make your site feedback look honest, and mean that other customers not only trust your reviewers, but trust you as well.

Reviews build trust
Allowing reviews tells your customer that you value their opinion. This is especially true if you don’t moderate reviews, and let them appear immediately on your site. This may have spam implications, though, if you leave reviews open to everyone. If you’re going to moderate, do it quickly – otherwise you undermine the whole exercise.

Reviews help SEO
One of the biggest problems of ecommerce sites is generating enough wordy content to satisfy the search engines. User-generated reviews really help with that, particularly because your customers will use the words *they* use to talk about your products – the same words they’ll be using to search them out in the first place (they may not be the same keywords you’re optimising for). Maximising review content, therefore, is a decent SEO strategy. This certainly means you should solicit review content from your customers; whether it also means you should follow Amazon’s strategy and open up reviews to all-comers, not just those you know have purchased from you, is a tougher decision. Personally, I’d say go for it.

Does your website have product reviews? Do your customers leave them? Leave us a comment (and, preferably, a link).

Creative Commons License photo credit: B Rosen

13 Responses

  1. We don’t currently allow product reviews as we’re wary of allowing customers to write graffiti up on our website. However, we are in the process of thinking if there’s a viable way of adding this feature that keeps the trolls at bay.

    We do currently put good customer comments up on our site (here: plus we drive customers to review us with (results here: where they at least have to have placed an order AND they can only leave one review, not troll us if they are unhappy.

    However, we are considering shifting from Shopping to one of the review engines that Google uses to determine your score for the stars that sometimes show in your ad copy for adwords. That start rating would appear to be important in getting clicks and driving conversions, so putting in place initiatives to boost that seems sensible, so we are considering ways of driving happy customers to write good reviews, to make up for the fact that most reviews are written by disgruntled customers.

    Anyway, a complicated question we think, to be approached with care!

  2. I’ve been told that search engines love product reviews as its third party feed back. I’ve got a few places where customers can place feedback on my site. I’ve got a Safebuy customer review button, Google Chechout review button and an Alexa review button and EKM have a feature where customers can leave product reviews on your listings page. Plus I’ve got a whole load of business directory listings where customers can leave reviews. The only problem is I’ve not got any customers on my website. Lifes a bitch.

  3. I can’t decided which side of the fence to site on with this. I know it is important but some of the things I have seen customer write as a review on Amazon concern me as a lot of the time the issues they have could be solved by contacting the seller or are just nothing to do with the product, these are not just reviews on our products either.

    Also a main competitor of ours has customer reviews on their site, oddly nearly every single product has a review and when you really start to look nearly every single product has a five star rating…..hmmm very odd!

    I think it may be worth a trial run at using it on one of our sites and then go from there.

  4. we wonder if anyone reads these reviews or take any notice of them until they have a problem?
    and to anyone who has sold on ebay and suffered the bollocks and tripe you get a review on a website is childs play

  5. I’ve noticed with my limited expericence with websites, that some websites with short product discriptions rank high in search results because of the reviews left on their products. So going by the work the owners are putting into their websites, the reviews are working for them.

  6. WEE
    a couple of comments saying a problem has been resolved to a buyers satisfaction ,
    are worth 100 of the blithering 5 stars, A plus, Awesome ,seller type dribble


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