User-generated content is a gold mine of incredible insights just waiting to be discovered. But figuring out how to tap into this data source to drive impactful improvements can seem overwhelming.
If you’re not sure how to execute on this objective, you’re in good company. In fact, most brands and retailers do not effectively leverage the insights they receive from UGC. They typically see this form of feedback in a vacuum. It exists only to convince shoppers to buy products.
But the holistic analytic potential of this data is immense. If you fail to realize it, you are missing out. Big time.
Read this Guide to learn:
The key reasons why you are missing a huge trick if you don’t analyze the UGC you capture
How to analyze this data effectively when you’re not an analyst
Eight practical ways to leverage UGC to improve your business and drive growth
Last month, we published a blog that was essentially a beginner’s guide to Google Seller’s Ratings. Check that out if you want to learn more about how to get set up. Here we look in-depth at the most recent changes Google made to its Seller Ratings and explain how to know if you qualify.
Why are Google Seller Ratings so important?
With the continued explosion of ecommerce due to the pandemic, your company’s presence on Google has never been more important.
To recap – for any brand or retailer which purchases Ads on Google, Seller Ratings are a key way to add social proof to your ads.
If you’ve ever typed into Google’s search bar, you’ve seen Google Seller Ratings in action. In essence, it’s a star rating that displays underneath the URL on your Google Adwords ads. While most often associated with eCommerce companies, any company with a digital presence can take advantage of Google Seller Ratings.
These are important because the seller ratings extension benefits both searchers and businesses, as it increases click-through rate by 10% on average which can lead to a higher quality score.
The 4.9 rating in the below screenshot is a Google Seller Rating.
But, as we mentioned, Google recently made updates to their Seller Rating requirements. We wanted to quickly outline what these are to ensure you’re fully compliant so you can continue to reap the rewards of this key acquisition channel.
What are the new requirements?
These updated Google Seller Ratings requirements apply to reviews collected beginning July 2020. They are primarily focused on enhancing transparency and authenticity.
Businesses are not allowed to offer their customers financial incentives of any kind to write Google Seller Ratings. This includes anything of monetary value including free samples, gift cards, discounts on future purchases.
What this means: You need to focus on generating reviews by creating an exceptional brand and excellent overall experiences.
Customers must complete their review within 90 days of receiving an invitation
What this means: Make sure you send follow-ups to ensure you comply with this requirement.
Only reviews directly collected by a review provider should be sent through the Google feed or displayed and factored into ratings on a review provider’s merchant page. Scraped reviews are not allowed, and reviews collected on a merchant’s site must be directly collected by the review provider.
What this means: Ensure you are using an independent review provider who has been approved by Google (PowerReviews is one such review provider).
Each business must have a page that is public, visible, and discoverable via search engines with all reviews shown for Seller Ratings to be displayed. For example, the merchant pages should be included in the sitemap shared with search engines.
What this means: Transparency for consumers. This is standard for product reviews (as they are a key conversion generator). You can use PowerReviews display capabilities for this purpose.
Business Seller Rating pages and corresponding reviews should never be deleted after a business stops collecting reviews with a given review provider and the previous reviews should continue to be included in feeds to Google, except where reviews are deleted for content guideline violations or at a user’s request. For example, if a merchant switches review providers, the original reviews provider should maintain a page with the reviews previously collected for that merchant and continue to submit those reviews in their feed to Google.
What this means: Fairly self-explanatory. You need to build dedicated pages to highlight your Google Seller Ratings. If you do ever change vendor, you will need to combine the reviews collected from both new and old vendors or create separate pages displaying this content.
Businesses are not able to remove or moderate their reviews. Ensure your review provider has shared their moderation requirements with Google and are approved to continue sending content (PowerReviews has been approved)
What this means: As we’ve always advocated, the content of your reviews cannot be adjusted in any way, shape, or form. This ensures authenticity.
How do know if I qualify for Seller Ratings?
Aside from these new requirements, there are some baseline standards you need to meet to ensure compliance:
There must be at least 100 verified site reviews per country from a review platform
Those reviews have been within the last 12 months
The reviews have an average star rating of at least 3.5 stars
Up to six weeks have passed since the feed was first submitted (it may take less time)
Google Seller Ratings are a key tool for promoting and marketing your business. A good rating drives traffic to your site and gets more eyeballs on your products – which can only lead to more sales. But Google recently changed its requirements for its Seller Ratings, placing more of a focus on transparency and authenticity.
Complying with these rules should be fairly straightforward if you typically follow standard best practices. Our technology certainly ensures you meet all these new requirements. But if you are a PowerReviews customer and need support, please reach out to your Customer Success Manager.
We can all agree that user-generated content (UGC) like ratings and reviews is important.
But, why is it so important? What is it about ratings and reviews that drives customers to purchase? And what about other types of UGC, like videos, images, and Q&A?
How do customers interact with this type of content, and what impact does it ultimately have on their decision to click the “Buy Now” button?
At PowerReviews, we decided to find out. Our analysts mined the data from thousands of brands and retailers using our UGC Analytics technology to see how frequently customers interacted with UGC, how it impacted the buyer journey, and whether certain types of UGC were more effective than others in driving conversions.
Read on to discover what we found, along with pro tips for applying these insights to your own UGC.
Customers Who Interact With UGC Are 103% More Likely to Convert
That’s right. Customers who engage with some form of UGC — be it reviews, imagery, or Q&A — are twice as likely to convert than customers who don’t.
Here’s the better news. A majority of online shoppers (77%) interact with UGC when it’s available. Which type of UGC is most helpful to pushing customers through that barrier to purchase? Here are the results:
Q&A is the most impactful content (153% increase in conversion)
Reviews were in second place (115% increase in conversion)
Imagery rounded out the list (81% increase in conversion)
Let’s look at some examples of these types of UGC in the wild, and why they’re so impactful on customer purchasing decisions.
Ratings and Reviews
Ratings and reviews allow customers to share their experience with a product or service, and give it an overall star rating.
How important are reviews? After price, reviews are the second-most important factor to customers making a purchase decision. Displaying ratings and reviews on your product page can lift conversions by 115%.
Why? Ratings and reviews provide invaluable social proof to shoppers. They can’t see, touch, and smell a product they’re purchasing online. But when they read the reviews, shoppers can cross-reference with people who have already purchased your product, to verify that it looks and works like you say it does.
Reviews help answer questions shoppers have about your products. They can learn from others’ experiences, both positive and negative.
Yes, even negative UGC is helpful! Our data shows that two-thirds of visitors filter for 1-star reviews when interacting with UGC. Those visitors still convert at 108% the rate of your general web traffic. People want to see one-star reviews because it helps them better evaluate whether a product is the right fit for them. When it comes to UGC, a negative really can be a positive.
A lot of the time, something that is a negative, one-star-worthy dealbreaker for one shopper might not be a big deal for another.
For example, say a shopper is searching for a pair of slipper-type shoes that she can wear outdoors when running errands. She finds a pair of slippers that look perfect, but wants to look through the one-star reviews to see if there’s anything jarringly wrong with the slippers before buying.
She sees that some previous buyers gave the slippers 1-star because they don’t have enough fuzziness on the inside to keep their feet warm enough. The shopper, who lives in Miami, will be wearing the slippers in the hot Florida climate, so really this one-star review validates that these slippers are perfect for her.
WEBS – America’s Yarn Store makes it easy for customers to glean the information they’re looking for from their reviews. Their product pages feature a Review snapshot that captures the average star rating, ratings distribution, pros and cons, and a most liked negative and positive review.
And with PowerReviews’ UGC Analytics, they can understand the exact ROI of each of the features they are displaying on their site — from pros and cons to visual content.
This presentation of unbiased UGC increases customer trust. It also keeps customers on site, as WEBS eCommerce Manager Dena Childs shared. “You never want a customer to leave your website, hoping to find the information they need somewhere else. Customer content builds confidence, and PowerReviews has allowed us to showcase that social proof on our site, facilitating the path to purchase for our customers.”
Reviews help your shoppers make a more confident purchase decision. The more you can do to make your reviews more useful to customers, the better. For example, Briogeo added custom fields to their review form to better categorize and sort their review content.
When displayed on the product page, these fields help customers navigate to relevant information faster, increasing trust and satisfaction. The filters show the wide range of hair types Briogeo products work on, and enable customers to filter to read reviews from customers like them:
Reviews aren’t just good for customers. They’re good for brands, too. Room & Board has reviews or Q&A for nearly 80% of products on their site. The customers who interact with these features have a 95% higher conversion rate than those who don’t.
Q&A are like mini-FAQ sections for each of your products. Instead of reading every review, customers can find answers and ask questions related to the specific product they are considering. They can ask about anything: size, function, appearance, durability, shipping and delivery times.
How impactful is Q&A? Of all types of UGC, our research shows Q&A is the most impactful content, driving a 153% increase in conversions.
Why? Q&A helps your customers decide if they really want to buy your product. They might be wondering, “Are these rain boots good enough for Seattle to wear them all the time? Are they waterproof?” With Q&A, they can get those answers instantly — or ask themselves and get an answer in a timely manner. Best of all, their answers come from previous brand buyers, or actual brand experts from your company.
Duraflame’s Q&A are manned by brand experts like Jessica. Jessica’s answers demonstrate the knowledge the Duraflame team has, impressing shoppers and earning their trust. They’re also helpful for learning the answer to very important questions, like whether their firelogs are safe for s’mores! (They’re not — opt for their Campfire Roasting Logs instead.)
Pro Tip: Pre-seed Q&A for a new product page if there are questions you think will be asked. Add them before someone has to ask, so it’s already there and they don’t have to wait.
What should you do when new questions come in? Answer them quickly. Skechers commits to response times of 3 hours or less.
How’s that worked out for them? More than half (51%) of shoppers who receive an answer to their question ended up purchasing the product. “Because a customer who submits a question is already engaged, if we can give them the answer they want in a timely fashion, they usually buy the shoe,” shared Tim Lakin, Ecommerce Merchandising Manager for Skechers.
You can also use Q&A to cross-sell other products, like MAC Cosmetics does. In the Q&A for their Matte Lipstick, brand experts offer tips for getting more out of lipstick by using it with a matching lip liner and lip brush, with links to the respective product pages.
As an added bonus, Q&A happens to be great for SEO. It’s a really good way to get fresh content from your customers, which is something Google really prioritizes. With more fresh content, you increase your opportunities to rank for related search terms, and increase traffic to your site. “With Questions & Answers, we were able to boost [Skechers’] rankings in Google’s organic search for the keyword ‘shoes’ to be on the first page of results,” shared Lakin.
Image and Video Content
Image and video content bring UGC to life, whether customers upload their media directly through your website or you curate it from Instagram. It adds visual interest to your product page and motivates shoppers to convert.
How impactful is UGC imagery? Online shoppers who interact with UGC imagery are 81% more likely to convert.
Why? Image and video content is so important because it accomplishes three things:
1. It builds customer trust.
By browsing through customer-submitted photos, shoppers can see what an item looks like when it comes in the mail, and verify that it matches your product photos.
It also gets them excited to purchase the product, because they can visualize using it and imagine all the possibilities. Canyon Bakehouse encourages customers to share photos of dishes they’ve made using their gluten-free bread, giving future buyers fun recipe ideas:
2. It helps customers understand the size of the product.
Sleek as they may look, stock photography or product photos with white backgrounds give customers no reference for how big (or small) your product is.
One of my colleagues recently bought a basket on Amazon for raffle tickets. She thought it would fit 500 tickets, but when it arrived, it was so tiny it could fit in the palm of her hand. So, she had to return it. That return cost the retailer money that could have easily been avoided with a customer photo that put it on a coffee table.
Shure Incorporated has collected over 1,200 images from social media for their product pages. These show customers the size of the product and the type of packaging it arrives in, avoiding scenarios like what happened to my colleague.
3. For apparel and cosmetics, it helps shoppers see what the product looks like on different types of people.
A dress on a 6-feet-tall model will look different on a shopper who’s 5’4”. UGC photos help shoppers determine how well your products will fit them.
In addition to photos, you can ask questions in your review form to help shoppers assess fit, like Janie and Jack does. Shoppers can rate how “true to size” a product is, and describe the age of the child they purchased it for. Reviewers also have the option to upload a photo, which you can then display in shoppable visual content galleries across your website on product, category, hashtag, or homepages to increase sales and inspire other purchases.
In the end, it all goes back to helping your customers make confident purchase decisions. The more information you can provide your shoppers with — using actual customer images — the more likely they are to buy something they actually want. That means fewer returns (which can get expensive), and more successful purchases!
The Power of UGC
The most exciting thing about UGC is how quickly it works. When we look at our PowerReviews client data, the average online customer might have a super low conversion rate, say around 4%. But when that same customer simply interacts with UGC — even if they just click on an image or expand a Q&A — it skyrockets to something like 11%. It’s really powerful. Interested in how UGC can impact your conversion rates? Our PDP Site Analytics (where we mined this data) is available for all PowerReviews clients who use Ratings and Reviews. Find out how our UGC solutions can boost your sales by 92%.
Let’s face it: getting a negative review can feel like a punch to the gut. After all, your brand is laser-focused on developing products and experiences that your customers love. And it’s never fun to hear negative feedback about something you’ve worked hard to create.
But negative reviews are inevitable. Even the most well-loved businesses get them from time to time. That’s because it’s simply impossible to create a product that meets the needs of every single customer who comes your way.
Of course, negative reviews are never the end goal. But the good news is, there’s a positive side to negative reviews. Yes, you read that right. In fact, one and two star reviews can actually be good for your business.
Not convinced? Let’s explore how negative reviews can positively impact your brand — and three key actions you can take to get the most benefit from your one and two star reviews.
How Negative Reviews Benefit Your Brand
In an ideal world, every one of your customers would write glowing reviews for the products they purchase. But that’s not reality. And that’s OK.
Getting the occasional one or two star reviews doesn’t mean your business is going under. In fact, one or two star reviews can benefit your business in these four key ways.
Negative Reviews Help you Build Trust with Shoppers
Today, consumers have literally endless shopping options. Of course, there are dozens of things a consumer considers when determining which companies to do business with — and which to pass up. But one top consideration is trust.
Research from Edelman found that 81% of consumers say they must be able to trust a brand prior to making a purchase. And 70% indicate trusting a brand is more important now than in the past.
In order to earn that trust, brands must be transparent. And a key way to do that is to display feedback from other shoppers — including the negative kind. When shoppers see negative reviews, they see you have nothing to hide. And that lets them know you’re a brand they can trust.
Negative Reviews Increase Product Sales
You might assume that the higher the average star rating of a product, the more likely a shopper is to buy it. And that’s true — up to a point.
In fact, our research found that purchase probability peaks when a product’s average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 (it varies a bit by product category). If the average star rating surpasses 4.5, the likelihood of purchase actually drops.
Let’s look at an example. In the chart below, we can see that the purchase probability for salon haircare products peak at 4.4 stars. When the average star rating surpasses 4.4, the purchase probability goes down. In other words, a shopper is more likely to purchase a product with an average star rating of 4.4 than one with a five star rating.
But why is that the case? Because consumers perceive products with perfect five star ratings as too good to be true. If there are no negative reviews, a shopper may even jump to the conclusion that a brand is hiding something — and that they shouldn’t be trusted.
On the other hand, the occasional negative review can actually boost sales of a product, as this content brings your average star rating closer to that sweet spot of 4.2-4.5
Negative Reviews Help Consumers Make Better Purchase Decisions
Shoppers depend on negative reviews to determine which products fit their needs — and which don’t. Our research found that a staggering 85% of shoppers seek out negative reviews.
To elaborate on why this may be the case, our research also highlights that a third of shoppers say that poor reviews gave balance to their shopping research, stating that a negative perspective was either a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ factor influencing their decision.
In fact, when researching products, two-thirds of ecommerce shoppers filter for one-star reviews. These visitors still convert at 108% the rate of general web traffic (incidentally, this is the type of insight our PDP Site Analytics solution routinely surfaces).
But why is this the case? Here are three things we’ve noticed from speaking to brands and looking at this data day-in, day-out:
1. Based on the negative reviews, the shopper determines the product isn’t a good fit for their needs. They keep searching for a product that’s a better match — and you avoid an unhappy customer and an unnecessary return.
2. The shopper determines the feedback in the one and two star reviews isn’t relevant to them– so they disregard it. For example, let’s say a shopper is looking for shoes for their toddler. They scroll to the reviews and filter to see only one and two star content. Most of the negative reviews are focused on how the shoes aren’t good for kids with wide feet. The shopper’s daughter doesn’t have wide feet, so this feedback isn’t relevant. She decides to purchase the shoes anyway.
3. The shopper determines the worst case scenario isn’t a concern — so they purchase the product anyway. For example, imagine a shopper is researching dining tables. She filters to see only one and two star reviews to better understand the absolute worst case scenario. Most of the negative reviews are focused on difficult assembly. This particular shopper is very handy and enjoys building furniture — so she doesn’t find this concerning. In fact, she sees this feedback as a problem with the reviewers rather than the product itself
In each of these three situations, negative reviews helped a shopper make a more informed purchase decision. Of course, when shoppers are happy with their purchases, they’re more likely to become loyal — and a lot less likely to return the merchandise they bought.
Negative Reviews Shed Light on Fixable Issues
One and two star reviews can help you identify issues with your products or services that you may not have known about otherwise. This feedback can help inform improvements that’ll allow you to better serve your customers.
For example, let’s say you sell a children’s play kitchen that has a high return rate. Unfortunately, you don’t have much data on the reasons for the returns. However, you notice the product has a pretty low average star rating. And several of the reviews mention that the product was impossible to assemble because the pieces didn’t line up correctly.
So, you bring this feedback to your manufacturer to improve the quality control process for the product. And then, you observe how the average star rating goes up after this improvement.
Three Ways to Leverage Negative Reviews to Boost Your Bottom Line
So negative reviews can positively impact the performance of your brand. In fact, they should be viewed as an opportunity to do just that.
Here are three ways how:
1. Display Negative Reviews
It might be tempting to filter out negative reviews. But avoid the temptation. One and two star reviews add a layer of authenticity to your content and let shoppers know you’re a brand they can trust. What’s more, negative reviews help your shoppers make more informed purchase decisions, which will help decrease returns and boost loyalty.
So be sure to display all reviews, regardless of star rating.
In addition, allow shoppers to easily spot the “worst case scenario” — and determine whether it’s relevant or important to them. Our friends at Athleta do this in a couple different ways. First, shoppers can filter reviews by a specific star rating.
Shoppers can also sort reviews by the lowest rating.
Finally, consider displaying the most helpful positive review alongside the most helpful negative review for a given product, as our friends at ULTA do. Again, this is a great way to help shoppers easily identify the worst case scenario. And this helps them find the products that best fit their needs.
2. Respond to Negative Reviews
When you get a negative review, don’t just cross your fingers and hope it’ll quickly get covered up by positive reviews. Instead, face the review head-on by responding to it.
When you respond to a negative review, you have the opportunity to turn a bad situation around and salvage a relationship with your customer. If you’re able to fix the issue, the shopper is likely to buy from you again. What’s more, your response will show future shoppers that you value your customers and are committed to helping them resolve their issues. And that’ll give these new customers the confidence they need to make a purchase.
Remember: when it comes to responding to negative reviews, time is of the essence. If a customer is left hanging, they’ll only get more upset.
In addition, avoid using a generic, canned response — and don’t get defensive. Instead, personalize your response by using the shopper’s name and address the specific issues raised in the negative review. Our friends at Organic Valley do a great job writing personalized responses to negative reviews.
Finally, take things offline when needed. Sometimes you’ll need more details from the shopper in order to resolve their issue. But be sure to post a public response too, as it’ll let the customer (and future shoppers) know you’re taking action. Here’s a great example of a response from our friends at Clinique, inviting the reviewer to do a live chat to resolve their issue.
3. Analyze Negative Reviews to Identify Actionable Insights
In some cases, a negative review might mention an isolated issue. For example, a product might be damaged in transit.
But in other cases, a negative review can point to a larger issue that needs to be addressed. For example, one of our customers noticed several negative reviews for a watch that mentioned a broken clasp. They rectified the problem and their ratings subsequently improved.
Be sure you’re regularly analyzing your review content to gauge sentiment and identify issues early on. Then, use the insights you uncover to improve your products or messaging/marketing of those products or whatever else the data says needs adjusting.
With the right tool, you can also benchmark against your competitors. Compare by product rating, sentiment, key themes and so on by product, brand, and product category. This is critical insight to improving overall strategic direction and performance.
Start Embracing Negative Reviews
No business sets out to get negative reviews. But – if you are faced with a scenario where you do receive them – they are authentic and honest feedback from real customers. So the last thing you should do is brush them under a metaphorical rug.
Rather than being fearful of negative reviews, start embracing them. Not only are they a key tool that shoppers depend on to make confident purchase decisions, they’re full of insights that can help you improve your products and business, better serve your customers and ultimately generate more revenue.
This is the eighth edition of our monthly snapshot, an analysis of consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.
Due to this stabilization, we re-aligned our reports to three month periods. In this report, we wanted to see whether the early start to Holiday shopping that consumers had indicated in our survey had borne out.
Our data reveals a clear uptick towards the end of October, which is in somewhat line with these findings.
This month, we also take a closer look at the impact of consumer reviews on shopper buying decisions – and specifically compare our findings year-on-year.
Key ecommerce market trends
Uptick in purchase volumes and ecommerce traffic in advance of Holidays
Review submission volumes flat for four straight months
Reviews 25% more important on buyer journey than a year ago, will become increasingly critical for Holidays
Uptick in purchase volumes and ecommerce traffic in advance of Holidays
Generally, consumer behavior has clearly become more predictable, with purchase volumes consistently at around 1.4x to 1.7x where they were at the start of the pandemic.
Why? At the risk of using a very overused COVID phrase, this is most likely because the entire population has settled into a “new normal”. People are no longer buying in the bulk they were because they have confidence in the supply chain and product availability.
But the Holidays bring us into uncharted territory. Typically, we can predict online shopping volumes will increase but this Holiday period is completely unprecedented for obvious reasons.
In our recent survey, 92% said they would start Holiday shopping either earlier or at the same time as last year.
Toward the end of October, there was clear evidence of an uptick in activity. However, this isn’t especially any earlier than we’d normally expect to see it. And for the most part, both traffic and sales volumes are relatively consistent with where they’ve been since June 2020. So, although consumers were saying they’d spend more earlier this Holiday, this is only partly reflected in our data.
Continued stabilization in both online sales and site traffic
Review submission volumes flat for fourth month straight
We hypothesized previously that this is most likely because consumers have now got to the point where they are no longer buying items they hadn’t tried before. Instead, they now have established product preferences so are less inclined to be motivated to submit reviews.
In terms of the actual content of reviews, there have not been any huge shifts over the past six months. Product rating is also consistently flat. This is most likely because the products themselves don’t change significantly.
The fluctuations in length of review content submitted are more pronounced. Due to some fairly significant peaks and troughs, it’s difficult to pinpoint a clear trend here. But this is one we’ll continue to monitor in future months.
No significant variations in review submission levels
Review length fluctuates but sentiment flat throughout pandemic
Reviews more important than pre-COVID, having more impact on conversion
This month, we wanted to dive deeper into the impact of review content on the buyer journey. The three charts in this section highlight the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.)
Bottom line: review interactors are converting at around a 25% higher rate than they were a year ago.
According to the first chart below, the conversion figure is consistently around 5.25% over the last three months. A year ago, the same figure was consistently around 4.25%.
Looking ahead, reviews typically become even more influential in the buying process during the holidays. Our chart highlights how they soared in late November/early December last year. We anticipate the same happening this time out. Based on what we’ve seen so far this year, we’d expect them to be even more important during the imminent Holiday period.
Reviews significantly more important year-on-year
Reviews most influential in April, but now consistently more impactful than pre-Covid
Review importance likely to peak during Holidays
At the start of October, we saw continued stabilization. As the month wore on, purchase volumes did pick up – a trend we expect to continue in the build-up to the Holidays.
As we all know, the Holidays are the biggest time of year for ecommerce and retail. And our research indicates, predictably, that this will actually be the biggest Holiday season ever for ecommerce. We are therefore anticipating a huge surge in traffic and purchase volumes throughout November.
In this report, we explored the growth in the impact of review content on the buyer journey. Significantly, this is now roughly a quarter more important in driving sales on ecommerce product pages than a year ago – a notable shift. With this impact typically surging to its annual peak during the Holidays, ratings and reviews look set to be more important than ever for shoppers during the Cyber 5/BFCM and beyond.