A customer review system is one of the top features of an ecommerce website. It provides credibility through the word of others who have previously purchased the products or services. This singular feature differentiates the online shopping experience from brick-and-mortar stores more than any other. While many ecommerce websites prominently display customer reviews on their product pages, not all customer-review platforms are equally effective.
2 Options for Customer Review Platforms
There are two options when utilizing a customer review system: Use the one that is included with the shopping cart — if one is included — or use a third-party system. The former typically provides greater control, less cost, and faster time to market. The latter generally offers more comprehensive features. Choosing one approach over the other depends upon products being sold, the number of sales being generated, and the strategy to solicit the reviews.
Amazon.com's Customer Review System
Amazon.com is a pioneer in customer reviews technology. In analyzing Amazon's sophisticated use of reviews, I understand why it leads many other retailers in online sales.
As a key feature to the Amazon shopping experience, reviews are prominently displayed on nearly all category pages. The reviews are easy to access and offer a variety of different filtering and sorting options.
Amazon's customer reviews system is displayed prominently below the product name. It includes the number of stars, a drop down menu with a brief summary, quotes from selected reviews, and the overall number of customer reviews, which is linked to a more comprehensive reviews page.
If a customer were to scroll down the page — instead of clicking on the number of reviews in the above screenshot — the customer will be shown the “Most Helpful Customer Reviews” based on a simple yes/no voting system: “Was this review helpful to you?”.
Each customer review on Amazon.com offers the following standard items.
- Star rating (1-5, a user can click on any rating to see all reviews for that rating);
- Date of review;
- Customer name and location;
- A link to see all the customer reviews;
- Whether the review is verified — meaning, did the customer who wrote the review buy the product on Amazon.com;
- Specific version and variation of the product — e.g. hardcover, digital version, paperback;
- The actual written review.
An additional feature — which includes its own sub-set of features — is “Comments,” which allows others to respond to specific reviews and for the original author of the review to respond.
When submitting a review, users can choose to publish a video review (where they upload a video from their computer), and links to other products within their reviews.
Clicking on the customer reviews link on the top or bottom of the page will direct the user to the standalone reviews page, which offers many interesting and fun features, including a search feature and a side-by-side comparison.
When dealing with a popular product with thousands of reviews, it is helpful to sort them by “Most Helpful First” or “Newest First.” This, coupled with the ability to drill down into specific star ratings, allows for a comprehensive analysis of the product's strength and weaknesses — as described by other customers. Amazon has kept close to its original design, and has not expanded its system to include advanced customer review features like specific guided questions, such as pros and cons, and best uses.