When 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).