Trust in word-of-mouth recommendations is at an all-time high. Public relations firm Edleman says in its 2008 Trust Barometer study that “a person like me” is still the most trusted source for information about a company and its services or products.
While the most influential form of word of mouth recommendations come from those you know personally, such as family and friends, online ratings and reviews can have significant influence as well. A study by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business examined the relationship between the number of online reviews and sales.
Reviews increase sales
“Using data collected from a large online retailer of electronic products over a six-year period, the researchers found that the number of reviews has a significant positive effect on sales of products that are perceived favorably by consumers, while volume has a significant negative impact on sales of products with poor consumer ratings,” the study said.
I personally experienced this benefit regarding a book I co-authored in 2006, entitled Realty Blogging. A number of positive ratings and reviews (and one negative one) were posted on the book’s page at Amazon.com and I can testify that they served to elevate book sales. Not only that, the book was favorably reviewed on real estate social network ActiveRain.com, and a number of the site’s members made purchases as a result.
Other benefits to ratings and reviews
Groundswell, the phenomenal new book by Forrester Research analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, suggest that rating and reviews allow you to “tap into customer’s enthusiasm.” The authors cite Ebags.com, a company that has experienced 30 percent annual growth year after year for the eight years it has been selling handbags and luggage online.
The company “turned customers into a powerful asset,” said the authors, and it now places their ratings and reviews “front and center” on the site.
The authors list two significant benefits to using ratings and reviews:
Reviews increase the buy rate. Seventy-six percent of customers use online reviews when making purchases.
Leverage with suppliers. eBags knows more about the products it sells than the people who manufacture them.
There are a number of benefits in addition to those mentioned in Groundswell:
Search engine optimization
Reviews increase the amount of original content on the site. If that content is topically-relevant, it stands to reason it will help increase SERPs.
Visitors will return more often to read recently updated reviews. It is even better if RSS feeds can be tied to product reviews so updated information is delivered to subscribers.
Increased traffic from return visits. If your ecommerce site offers a rating/review system and your competitor does not, it stands to reason the customer will visit you and not them. You gain competitive advantage.
Increased trust. If word of mouth is a highly-trusted source (and it is), the fact you offer a rating/review system will lend itself to increased trust in your site.
Word of mouth marketing.
Some rating/review systems also include a recommendation component, which allows site visitors to notify a friend about a product via email.
Vendors that offer "ratings and review" software
What if the shopping cart/ecommerce system you use does not offer a ratings and review system? There are a number of stand-alone software products that appear easy to use and to incorporate:
Review-Script.com. The Amazon-style system allows users to rank a product or service on a scale of 1-5 stars and make comments (reviews) related to the product for other users to read. Email notification allows the administrator to approve comments before adding them to the website. Cost for licensing: $125 USD one-time.
Rating System. This seems to be the more feature-rich of the two. Different types of ratings can be combined into one rating box. It offers an RSS feed and you can manage, modify and delete your customer ratings and reviews. Cost for licensing: Free up up to a maximum daily usage of 500 impressions. Above that, plans start at $10 per month.
Bazaarvoice. Bazzarvoice is another popular ratings/review system, but starting at $2,000 per month, may be a bit pricey for smaller ecommerce sites.
PowerReviews. While the services mentioned above charge a fee for use of their software, PowerReviews takes a different approach. They give merchants the ability to add reviews to their sites at no charge. The caveat is that the company reserves the right to aggregate review data to present on their own site, Buzzillions.
Consider incorporating a ratings/review system into your ecommerce site. Customers will love it, and you will love the increased traffic and sales that will likely come as a result.