Remember how every mom or grand mom always has a ready list of shops (the brick and mortar ones) to go to each time there is something to be bought? Be it that saree she always wanted or the mixer grinder you got to have in your kitchen, even doctors and astrologers. Wonder how the names got on to the list? A little genie we call Word –of-Mouth.
Yes, they chatter, they talk, they discuss and decide- customers (gender irrespective) always make shopping a social exercise.
So can today’s e-commerce shops that sell everything from soaps to heavy machinery and services like health wellness and lifestyle afford to ignore what the customers are talking about their products? Not in a million years.
Why Should You Listen?
Why is it important to listen to what your customers are talking about you? Frist since customers will talk, whether you like it or not. Second, this chatter weighs heavily on their purchase decisions.
Online customers do not get to see, touch and feel the real products they are buying. Yet, they are as discerning as the shoppers of yore. In the absence of a physical examination of the purchase, they reply heavily on the age old Word of Mouth, which in the case of e-commerce sites, translates into Customer Reviews.
Since Amazon and eBay introduced these in the 1997 customer reviews have become integral tools for shoppers to decide what to buy and what not to. Studies have shown that a single negative review can sometimes lead to many lost conversions.
Don’t trust my word? Here’s some more math coming your way.
A study by Advances in Economics and Business says that 85.57% customers read reviews often and very often before an online purchase. Of these 83.65% compare positive and negative reviews with each other. Nielsen states that 40% customers read and trust online reviews before purchasing electronic items online.
While product ratings help the customer decide if a product on the site is worth their attention and time, it is the reviews (and more often than not a comparison of the good and bad reviews) that helps them decide on a purchase. About 75% of customers agree to reviews being very important in their purchase decision making on an online store.
The greatest thing after internet is that ability to comment and share opinions on it. It is free, anonymous and it makes you look good in others eyes. Shopping online takes opinion making to another level, where customers not only express their happiness (or disgust) at your product and service, but also inform (or warn) other fellow shoppers.
These opinions are very important in certain types of online goods, for example consumer electronics- where 57% online respondents to a survey by Nielsen consider reviews prior to an online purchase. Cars, software, travel are the other most reviewed items sold online.
I decided to check the merits of these figures myself.
A cursory look at any of the leading (and lagging) online stores in India prominently displays the “comments” section. Users are encouraged to share a comment/opinion or “recommend” the product or service to others. For the most part there were random replies like “great product!” or “this site s***s”. A little patient browsing down on the page got me to some really useful and interesting pointers to the product and its value. There are detailed descriptions of the Product, the service the store provided in the purchase process, the delivery, some even went ahead and did a Pro-Cons analysis to make my life easy.
I asked my friends about this. Are all of them this patient and diligent when shopping online? Did reviews really matter?
John Jethi, a software professional and avid online shopper vehemently agrees. “I first shortlist the product I want to buy… check and compare the specifications taking data from the company website… then check the customer reviews on multiple online stores…” he says.
Namisha Shrivastava, an “occasional” online shopper says a review of the product matters when she is “spending a lot of money” for it. She mentioned an example of this one time she wanted to purchase furniture on one of the more popular online stores and did not go ahead with the purchase based on negative reviews of the product on the stores page.
No wonder then majority of ecommerce sites are not only filled with reviews but also ask you to put in a few words before you leave them post a purchase. Do you always have a good word to say to them though?
The Negatives Bite Hard
The thing with customer reviews is that most of them are, like everything else on the internet, random musings with very little sense of responsibility or accountability. Yet, when it comes to online shopping there are some serious pointers shoppers can gather from product reviews on the site other shoppers have left. Negative reviews especially stick faster and sometimes can be a real deal breaker.
John for instance loves that “most reviews have pros and cons” of the product and purchase process on the site. He diligently compares the two and makes a decision. The cons though are factored in by him only if “they really matter”.
The Global Online shopping survey by Nielsen also corroborates this trend, where a single negative review (or a few of them) might not harm conversions on your site, but a serious inflow of “damaging” opinion can have a heavy bearing on sales.
A good online shopping site should ideally have a healthy mix of good and bad reviews. All good comments make you look like a scam dealer trying to pull a fast one (like one of those teleshopping marathons on the tube that never seem to have anything wrong with any of their stuff). Bad reviews in fact make you and your site more real, more trust worthy and help build a relationship with the customer. Studies have shown a 23% jump in sales on sites with negative reviews as opposed to all positive chatter.
Talking customers help your site too.
What customers discuss about your products does not just help their fellow shoppers, but you too. Reviews help you with your product SEO as well. Review content can be readily indexed for search results. While your product descriptions target specific keyword or set of words, a review by the customer (written organically without any specific language pattern) serves to target long tail keywords and boost your SEO.
Then of course is the idea of loyalty. Encouraging customer reviews by asking them to comment or recommend make them feel included and valued. Many online sites have reported about 50 % increase in purchases and average transaction sizes and greater lifetime on the site. Engagement always works online and making your store “social” via user comments just gets the engagement levels soaring.
Can you tame the Reviews Shrew?
Of course you can. You should, in fact. And there are easy ways to do it.
1. Getting started would of course entail allowing user comments on your product pages.
- Get your users to login before they comment
- Encourage them to leave a recommendation/suggestion/share an opinion after every purchase without fail
- Use customer comments in your marketing
A simple gift certificate for every comment shared goes a long way in getting the users invested in what they are writing. Responding to them makes them feel “heard” and “acknowledged” hence bringing them back to the site with more reviews (hopefully better than before). Make them feel special by getting their comments to feature in your ads and they will have all but good things to say about you.
2. A customer service team is paramount to manage reviews.
Not all reviews need to be on the site, since not all are worth being there (case in point the funny reviews of products on amazon and play store that we love to read on Monday mornings). Allow the ones that matter, good or bad, and make sure they are acknowledged and answered (especially the bad ones).
3. You could invest in third party reviews providers like Reevoo or Bazaarvoice, that would help you make your product pages more persuasive to shoppers.
4. Emailing customers post the purchase
Thanking and congratulating them along with seeking an opinion on the purchase (could be as simple as a rating out of 1 to 10) goes a long way in sprucing up your product reviews too. These can then be cumulatively displayed along with the product ratings on the site for customers to see.
5. Engage with the reviews
It is always important to respond to reviews. Thank the good ones, address the complaints, even if it is just a sorry that you have to say. Making the customer feel heard is very important for him to come back to the site irrespective of how good or bad the previous experience was.
A bad review should be addressed off the site as well. Get in touch with the customer ask him or her of the problem faced and find a means to address it. Could be even a simple discount coupon for the next purchase on the site that does the trick, and you have a satisfied customer who feels you care and would come back to cash in on the discount.
There are tools to help you too
There are plenty of tools that help you engage customers and seek reviews from them. Automating the effort saves time and ensures every single visitor on the site is targeted.
- Email marketing tools like MailChimp provide you with easy way to manage subscription lists, track campaign performance and send out newsletters. Some like the AWeber manage opt-in email marketing services that help you not push away customers by spamming them with newsletters.
- Yotpo is a social reviews tool for ecommerce stores that helps generate reviews and use them to drive traffic and sales via social media, email and other means. This also provides you with analytics to bolster your marketing strategy.
- Product Reviews, a fee app from Shopify, lets you easily add product reviews to your online store. It also provides you with SEO-friendly review scores, theme-adaptive design and easy customization making life easy for you too.
So if you thought that getting the store design, product catalogue and marketing strategy in place would drive sales on your store beyond the atmosphere into the space, you have a second thought coming. Customers are a chatty lot and you cannot afford to not listen to them.