Consumers depend on ratings and reviews

Mar 17, 2015

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

With ratings and reviews proving to be essential to online shopping, retailers are taking different approaches to the practice based on their target customers, their overall brand image and the products they sell, according to PowerReviews.

For example, Lands’ End is a PowerReviews client that uses branded symbols instead of stars to personalize the shopper experience. On the other end of the spectrum, bath and body brand Philosophy takes a standard text and star rating approach to reviews.

However, brands like ULTA Beauty are taking a more immersive approach to ratings and reviews. Shoppers can filter their experience based on makeup categories and top-rated products. In addition to allowing consumers to share their overall comments, the ULTA site also breaks down reviews by pros, cons and best uses. If consumers want to get to the point of the review quickly, the platform includes a "bottom line" section, where consumers say whether they would recommend a product or not.

Nearly all shoppers (94 percent) consult reviews during their browsing and buying journey, and 86 percent believe reviews are an essential part of the decision-making process, according to a report from PowerReviews based on a survey of 800 consumers.

More than half (57 percent) of online shoppers seek out websites with product reviews. While shopper feedback holds a lot of weight for all e-commerce shoppers, ratings and reviews most impact mobile users. In fact, 70 percent of mobile shoppers said they were more likely to purchase a product if the mobile site or app they were using provided seamless access to product reviews.

Other findings from the study:

  • Although positive reviews can help drive purchases, 82 percent of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews during their shopping journeys.
  • On average, 42 percent of consumers write reviews, while only 32 percent of shoppers aged 18 to 29 contribute. When asked why they did not write reviews, 55 percent said they needed some form of motivation, recognition or a reward.
  • During the browsing and decision-making process, approximately two-thirds of consumers read up to 10 reviews.
  • Up to 75 percent of consumers said they prefer "tag-based reviews," which provide a quick snapshot of review keywords and shopper sentiment.


How much benefit do you see in creating a unique or individualized approach to ratings and reviews for e-commerce sites? What aspects of online ratings and reviews should be standardized across e-commerce sites and which parts can be tailored?

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13 Comments on "Consumers depend on ratings and reviews"

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Chris Petersen, PhD
7 years 1 month ago

The rest of retail is discovering the power of reviews that Amazon realized a long time ago. Better late than never.

What ever format is used to display the ratings, the reviews need to be perceived by the consumer as “fair and balanced.” Even better if the reviews are in “consumer speak” and not heavily edited.

The fact that 82 percent of consumers seek out negative reviews is a strong indicator that they want to hear directly from actual consumers about their experiences, not from paid reviews or those incented to use the products.

Not sure how you would ever standardize online ratings … or if that is even possible. As long as there is a simple rating system, with comments that add consumer insight, shoppers will figure it out and use them.

Cathy Hotka
7 years 1 month ago

The format of a review doesn’t matter, but the review itself is becoming very important to purchasers who want the inside scoop before buying. Previous purchasers of the bath vanity I’m looking at, for instance, report that it can be difficult to install in certain situations. We’ve reached the point where any site that sells higher-ticket items will need to enable reviews to survive.

Adrian Weidmann
7 years 1 month ago

Ratings and reviews are only as valuable and powerful to support your brand as they are seamless, unfiltered and real. If the shopper feels (perception is reality) that the reviews are being filtered or abridged for the brand’s benefit the process will backfire. Too much manipulation simply takes the validity out of the process.

It would be relevant if the reviews had a keyword search. I may want to key in on reliability or durability when making a tool purchase. It would be convenient if I could search for reviews that address that aspect of the product or service.

Ryan Mathews
7 years 1 month ago

My honest initial response is that “professional reviewers” need to get a life. What is really important to me—being a tad egocentric—is what I think of a product or service, so I tends to use peer reviews for elimination more than for trial.

Even that always doesn’t work.

Let’s take Amazon, for example. One of my books was once given a one star rating by a reviewer who complained at length about the absence of an index. Fair point, if he had been correct—which he wasn’t.

The positive reviews often bear an equally tenuous relationship to fact.

If online reviews are here to stay—especially those with a simple rating system like stars or likes—I hope they develop some genuine and useful nuance. Otherwise they’re just little more than psychic spam to me.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
7 years 1 month ago

I do not have enough experience with different kinds of review systems to comment on the impact of differences. Reviews are used a lot. The amount of influence depends upon the person reading the reviews. Some people are interested in the total amount of support, some people want to read only the negative reviews to see if the negative comments are common or are related to anything important to them, and some people want to read all the comments. For those who actually read the comments, specificity is important. We may not know enough to talk about standardizing the processes.

Ed Rosenbaum
7 years 1 month ago

Seriously? What is the difference and why should we care? It is the results that are important. Not the vehicle that got them there.

Shep Hyken
7 years 1 month ago

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the coveted types of marketing and social proof that a company can hope for. People trust their friends, colleagues and family members. The next layer of this proof is the ratings attached to a product. People want to know the good and the bad. And bad reviews aren’t always as bad as one would think. A bad review may come from a customer who states the toy was hard to open. Has nothing to do with the toy, but the review was negative. A famous restaurant was given a negative review because the customer couldn’t get a reservation when he wanted it. The review had nothing to do with the food or the service. The customer had never even had the chance to eat there, but still gave the restaurant a negative review.

As for standardization, there should some type system that prevents false hype by the retailer or manufacturer about their own products and false reviews left about competitors’ products.

Brian Numainville
7 years 1 month ago

Reviews are all about the content and the perception (and hopefully reality) that they are fair, balanced and accurate. The form that this takes is much less relevant.

Lee Peterson
7 years 1 month ago

We did a study measuring what consumers like about online shopping vs store shopping and online reviews was number one with a bullet. Especially with young people. As a matter of fact, young people favored online reviews over both “touch and feel” of product and “instant ownership'” two huge factors for older consumers.

So, to the point, online reviews need to figure out a way to get into physical shopping, asap. Having peer reviews available for the products in your store would be true omnichannel: something people care about that helps them make the right choice.

Lee Kent
7 years 1 month ago

I have to agree that reviews are key, but the downside is getting people to write them.

I don’t know how one might go about standardizing, customizing or making simple but, anything that can be done to make it easy to add a simple review would be a plus. Of course, those who want to write something lengthy would be welcome also.

This sort of brings to mind an app we use around here for navigation called WAZE. Not sure how widespread it is. Since they are encouraging drivers to let other drivers what is going on on the road, they have automated as much as possible. Say you are driving onto the interstate entrance ramp and suddenly stop. WAZE detects that you are not moving and a pop up appears that says, are you in heavy traffic. You just tap yes.

Okay, so that is a stretch but maybe you get the picture. Some clever marketer can figure this out, I’m sure.

I’ll bet me 2 cents on it.

Arie Shpanya
7 years 1 month ago

I don’t think the customized aspect is quite as important as having the reviews in general. Branding could be a nice add-on, but first retailers must focus on getting high quality reviews from as many customers as they can. They will most likely have to offer a small incentive to get the ball rolling, like a discount on a future purchase.

James Tenser
7 years 1 month ago

There are lots of times where being unique is a differentiating advantage for a seller, but I don’t think the product review mechanism is one of them. To be perceived as trustworthy, reviews should work in familiar ways.

So go ahead and use sailboat icons or smiley faces instead of stars, if that suits your branding proposition. Remember that ratings will tend to be polarized between lovers and haters, so encourage written comments that explain the basis for an opinion.

I appreciate the rate the review feature (“X of Y people found this helpful”) found on Practical only where there is sufficient traffic, of course, so it may not be a best practice for every e-retailer.

Dan Frechtling
7 years 1 month ago

Lee Kent makes an important observation in the comments above. “Reviews are key, but the downside is getting people to write them.”

The truth is, no review program is worth its time to shoppers in case it contains a critical mass of reviews. Furthermore, no retailer can provide a tailored experience like ULTA unless there is a robust inventory of reviews. So how can retailers do this? Three ways:

1. Surveys. Retailers should send out request for reviews from all shoppers. Not only should they ask about product satisfaction, but also shopping experience. Sometimes all you have to do is ask

2. Partnering with PowerReviews, BazaarVoice or other aggregators. It can be near impossible for small retailers to produce a meaningful number of reviews based on their own shippers. Syndicated reviews give them a leg up.

3. Gamification. Yelp does a marvelous job of indicating which reviewers contribute a lot of comments, which have the most friends, and the like. Amazon does the same. Consumers prefer expert (though not “professional”) reviewers because they provide higher quality reviews.


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