The benefits of customer reviews on your ecommerce site

Author: memeburn

By now, unless you’ve been spending the vast majority of your time hankering around the Gobi Desert, sans internet, you’ll have noticed the abundance of ecommerce sites that have sprung up, especially in emerging market regions. There’s no disputing it, ecommerce is a booming industry, and if the latest stats are anything to go by, we can assume that it’s going to develop into even bigger and better things over the next few years.

An interesting success story around ecommerce is in South Africa. To give you an idea of just how successful it’s proven to be so far, let’s take a look a few of the latest ecommerce stats (courtesy of stats curators at Heavy Chef):

  • In 2011, online spend in South Africa was expected to reach R2.8 billion.
  • 17% of the 5.3 million users online in South Africa in 2011 made purchases online
  • Online retail growth in 2010 was 30%, compared to bricks and mortar retail growth of 9%
  • 46% of ecommerce website owners stated that they were ‘very profitable’, compared with only 1% who reported a ‘small loss’.

Clearly ecommerce is the way forward for many, especially for those who aren’t able to or who don’t get the chance to shop at traditional retail stores. Or for those who can’t stand the thought of trudging through shop after shop in the vague hope that they’ll find the specific product they’re looking for. I, for one, fall into the latter group.

If ecommerce is anything, it’s highly convenient, but the one vital factor that it tends to lack is customer engagement. Before they buy anything, your customers want to know as much about your product as possible, and unfortunately your own write up might not be enough to persuade them to part with their hard-earned money.

The online customers of today are switched on and informed. They want to read what other people have to say about your products or services and what their experiences have been. Here’s what a report from eConsultancy had to show about customer reviews:

  • 61% of customers read online reviews before making a decision to purchase
  • User reviews are proven to drive sales and increase conversions
  • UK stats reveal that 47% of all people who purchase online have written a review

Potential buyers aren’t just looking for good reviews however, because let’s face it, if all reviews were positive, they’d start to wonder if they were legitimate. In support of this, it’s interesting to note that a study by Reevoo revealed that 30% of consumers suspect fake reviews if there aren’t any negative reviews to be read. The same study reported that bad reviews actually help improve conversions by 67%, so don’t be afraid to publish negative reviews, especially if it’s going to influence potential buyers into making a favourable decision. It’s clear that a healthy mix of positive and negative feedback helps improve consumer trust.

Here are a few more vital stats from the Reevoo report:

  • 50+ reviews per product can result in a 4.6% increase in conversion rates
  • 63% of customers are more likely to purchase from a site which has user reviews
  • Website visitors who interact with reviews and customer questions/answers are 105% more likely to make a purchase
  • Genuine customer reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions by the manufacturers

But how can you encourage your customers to write reviews? Forget ‘canned’ testimonials or promises of incentives and discounts, which can quickly leave you short. Simply ask them to take a moment of their time to share their product experience with you. According to a Marketing Charts survey, the main reasons customers gave for writing reviews were:

  • To help other consumers make good decisions
  • To share experiences with others
  • Because you rely on consumer reviews and posting reviews yourself as a way of giving back

So try appealing to your customer’s sense of ‘goodwill’ and tell them that you really do want to use their feedback to help better your products, services and customer engagement, because it’s clear that offering this feature on your ecommerce website, and being honest about the feedback, is a win-win situation for both you and your customers.