Power Points

  • Product reviews drive conversions and revenue. They also provide unique benefits for category managers.

  • Category managers interact with customer review data to drill into specific products, categories, and custom product groupings to understand customer sentiment and trends.

  • With these insights on hand, category managers can optimize their product mix, spot trends early, and develop more effective relationships with suppliers. 

From understanding market trends and consumer purchase drivers to managing product portfolio and supplier relationships, category managers have a lot on their plate. But at its core, category management is about driving revenue and margin by putting the right products, in the right place, at the right time and right price.

There are a lot of tools that can help category managers achieve these goals, but one that often goes underlooked is user-generated content (UGC) like product reviews. 

Product reviews can give you unique insights that make your product mix more attractive, spot trends faster than your competitors, and help your vendors and private label brands better meet consumer demand.

The Power of Reviews for Category Management

Consider this: After price, reviews are the second-most important factor to customers making a purchase decision.  

When you add ratings and reviews to a product page, conversions lift by 115% on average. Customers who engage with any form of UGC, whether it’s reviews, Q&A, or an image gallery, are twice as likely to convert than customers who don’t. 

The takeaway? If you’re not prioritizing reviews as a category manager, you’re missing out on conversions.

The good news for category managers is that while more reviews are always better, you don’t need a ton to start seeing the benefits in your conversion rates. Just going from 0 to 1 reviews can increase conversion rates.

Clearly, reviews are good for revenue, but they also provide unique benefits for category managers. Here’s how you can use reviews to build out your category according to consumer demand, maximize revenue, and respond to trends before the competition.

1. Fix Your Mix

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, has been a cornerstone of retail strategy for decades, and while it is certainly effective, it also has its limits. Just because products aren’t in the top 20%, doesn’t mean they don’t have value. The bottom 80% of your products likely fall into a niche category, which is very important to a certain customer. 

At the same time, some of those bottom 80-percenters may not even be worth offering. So, how do you know whether a lower-volume product satisfies its niche, or is sitting stagnant on your shelves? You guessed it — reviews. 

When you analyze your product reviews for customer sentiment, you may discover that the reason a product isn’t selling is because consumers dislike several things about it. Moreover, there could be another product you’re not currently offering that they much prefer. That’s the kind of information you’d never find in a product rank report.

SuperPower Success Story
When Hammacher Schlemmer started using review analytics to inform their product mix, their conversion rates increased nearly 400%

With the information you’ll find in reviews,  you can make changes to your product mix that lift your category as a whole. You can optimize your product assortment by exiting unsuccessful products, elevating “hero” products, and adjusting your messaging and space allocation.

2. Identify Product Opportunities

Mining the reviews can reveal what products your portfolio is currently missing. It’s common for shoppers to compare and contrast a product they just purchased with a similar one they’ve used before. 

From this analysis, you may expand your partnerships with new vendors. Or, you might see an opportunity for a private label product. You can see the features your customers are looking for, and the words they use to describe them, and then use that to inform your own private label product development — filling gaps in your current assortment, without cannibalizing your current suppliers

3. Supercharge Your Display

Reviews offer you direct access to the voice of your customer, and what matters to them. Beyond optimizing your product mix, you can use their feedback to adjust the way you display those products in-store and on your website to grab their attention when they’re ready to purchase. 

Here’s a hypothetical example from Advance Auto Parts. Multiple customers rave about the usefulness of Scott Shop Towels in extreme weather and against coastal elements. Based on this information, the Category Manager in charge of Car Accessories may decide to feature the towels more prominently in-store during the winter season, or include them in a dedicated landing page that targets people living in beach cities.  

The North Face asks reviewers to select the pros of a product (e.g. lightweight, stylish), identify conditions it’s best for (e.g. hiking, casual wear), and describe themselves. Filters like these can give shoppers a ton of information quickly, even if the review itself isn’t very detailed.

4. Spot Trends Early

As a category manager, it’s up to you to keep a pulse on both market conditions and consumer behavior. Review analytics allows you to accomplish both simultaneously by distilling insights on consumer and industry trends from the source — the consumers themselves. 

You can hone in on what features matter most to shoppers. Do certain attributes keep coming up again and again? Perhaps customers love that a product is organic, or that it keeps their child entertained. When you know what matters to customers, you can optimize your marketing accordingly. 

For example, Ulta’s Hair category page features all the typical sections you’d expect to see on a category page, like best sellers. It also features sections for curly hair and ethical hair brands, likely as a response to customer trends.

5. Power Up Your Partnerships

Don’t keep all the review goodness to yourself. That information can help your vendors, too! Use what you learn to nurture your vendor relationships and help them help you, by identifying opportunities for innovation early on. 

Sentiment analysis of your review content can help you understand how customers feel about your category overall. What are the common words customers use to describe products? What makes them satisfied, or unsatisfied? What are they looking for that your partners aren’t offering? 

Having this type of analysis in hand makes you a better partner to your vendors. It gives you the tools to be proactive about negotiating changes in their products, to better align with their customer needs. When they perform better, you perform better. 

For example, a brand might be unaware that their products are shipping with a defect, and all they can see from a top line sales report that it’s just underperforming. Your review analytics may explain why those products keep getting returned, so you can come to them with something actionable.

SuperPower Success Story

Better for Your Category, Better for You

Analyzing your reviews can help you build a stronger category. They can also help you build a stronger career. 

Owning insights on your category positions you as a thought leader. It increases your clout internally with cross-functional teams. Present your insights as evidence to back up your recommendations, and you may win more shelf space as a result. 

Get started with UGC Analytics from PowerReviews, the #1 UGC-dedicated analytics platform on the planet.

Alyson Fischer

Alyson Fischer is our Product Marketing Manager, obsessed with using data-driven storytelling to deliver a best-in-class customer experience and inspire dynamic engagement across channels. When she’s not agonizing over writing this bio, you can find her exploring Chicago with her furry sidekick or watching a true crime documentary on Netflix.

An analysis of how different elements of UGC impact conversion, based on the activity of 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites throughout the course of 2020.

Power Points

  • Consumers who interact with Ratings & Reviews convert at 108.4% the rate of those who don’t; respective figure for Q&A is 157.1% and imagery is 91.4%

  • Consumers who click the “Helpful Yes” button within individual reviews convert at the highest rate of review interactors (314.7% conversion lift), followed by those who click “Foot Page Previous” (288.2% conversion lift)

  • When it comes to star filtering, 62.4% of star interactors filter on 1 star reviews (compared to 30.3% for 5 star reviews, the next most commonly filtered). These consumers still convert at 108.8% the rate of typical web visitors

  • Consumers who click the “Show More Answers” button convert at 164.7% the rate of general web visitors, making it the most impactful Q&A display interaction feature

  • Become outcome obsessed: Become data-led and conversion-first by analyzing your own data and optimizing your UGC strategy accordingly
Introduction

User-Generated Content Benefits Consumers and Businesses Alike

Today’s shoppers have come to depend on user-generated content (UGC), including ratings, reviews, Q&A, photos and videos — regardless of the type of product they’re shopping for. And if they don’t find the content they’re looking for on a brand or retailer site, they won’t hesitate to shop elsewhere.

0 %
of consumers typically read product ratings and reviews before making a purchase.
0 %
of shoppers abandon their online purchases if they can’t find quick answers to their questions.
0 %
of shoppers specifically look for photos and videos provided by other consumers before committing to a purchase.

On the other hand, businesses that do provide shoppers with the content they depend on to make smart purchase decisions are rewarded. Collecting and displaying UGC is proven to drive traffic, conversion and sales, while also providing brands with actionable insights they can use to improve products and experiences.

Focus on What’s Important

The positive impact of UGC is no longer debatable. As such, a growing number of customer-centric brands and retailers now make collecting and displaying plenty of this content integral to their ecommerce shopping experience. 

But all too often, businesses become so focused on creating brand-aligned, visually appealing UGC displays that they lose sight on what really matters: driving conversion.

So what’s the difference between a great review display that positively impacts conversion — and one that doesn’t?

Myriad UGC Features Impact Conversion

Each UGC display is unique and consists of different features and functionality. For example, while some review displays include a review “faceoff” highlighting the most helpful positive and negative reviews about a particular product, others don’t.

But how are consumers interacting with all of these features? And are these interactions impacting conversion? 

PowerReviews analyzed consumer activity during the entire year of 2020 across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 brand and retail sites to find out. Throughout this report, we’ll explore how user-generated content drives conversion for these brands and retailers. And we’ll drill it down all the way to the feature level.

Measure and Optimize Your UGC Display to Drive Bottom Line Results

Remember: There’s no magic, “one size fits all” display that’ll drive conversion across all brands. A feature that’s particularly impactful for one brand or category might not be as effective for others.

As such, it’s important to continuously measure the performance of different components of your own UGC display. You can then use that data to drive optimizations that’ll positively impact your bottom line.

Defining Conversion for this Report

Before diving deep into the data, it’s important to level set how we define the different metrics cited.
All analysis is taken for the period January 1, 2020 thru December 31, 2020.
Analysis is based on activity on Product Detail Pages (PDPs) from 1,200 ecommerce websites (totalling more than 1.5 million PDPs in total). These ecommerce websites exist across the full gamut of ecommerce categories.
The visitor conversion metric we use as a baseline for this report is calculated based on conversions from individual visitors in a 24 hour period. In other words, a new visitor session will start after every 24 hours with all accompanying downstream implications on the conversion metric.
Calculated for any consumer visiting a Product Detail Page running PowerReviews UGC technology. This means that page will display Ratings & Reviews in at least some format. The overwhelming majority of these highlight Ratings & Reviews for the product concerned (e.g. an average rating summary).

Calculated based on unique visitors who have scrolled the page enough to be served an impression of at least one type of UGC (review, image/video or Q&A). We EXCLUDE what we call our review snippet (the UGC element typically used at the top of PDPs to display a summary of the rating distribution, average rating and so on) from the UGC Impression metric. Throughout this report, we also use this metric to examine the different forms of UGC, specifically reviews, Q&A and visual media (i.e. video or imagery).

Calculated based on visitors who interact with UGC. Examples of interactions include clicking “read more” on a review, Q&A comment, opening a user-submitted image or using the search option to search review content. A full list of what we define as interactions can be found here.
The Overall Impact of UGC on Conversion

Before we dive into the individual features of UGC displays, let’s take a step back and look at the overall impact of UGC on conversion.

The Presence of UGC Positively Impacts Conversion Rates

During 2020, 3.4% of site visitors converted on the 1,200 sites we analyzed using PowerReviews UGC/Ratings and Reviews technology.

This is above typical benchmark conversion rates of the Product Detail Pages (PDP) you may have seen from other sources. There are two main reasons for this.

  1. How we calculate conversion rate: we base conversion on visitors rather than sessions (see above for our specific methodology).
  2. Assuming the PDP is built this way, which the overwhelming majority of them are – all shoppers in the data we analyzed are served some form of UGC above the fold (typically, a summary of rating distribution and average rating at the very least). Again, see above for more information on what we classify as a UGC impression or UGC interaction.

Regardless, when visitors scroll a page to the point they are served some form of UGC OR interact with UGC, they are MUCH more likely to convert.

There’s a 4.3% lift in conversion when a visitor is served at least one type of UGC (i.e. our Analytics platform records a visitor UGC impression as per the above definition, which excludes our top-of-page review snippet summary). And there’s a 108.4% conversion lift when a visitor interacts with UGC. We’ll go into more details about the different ways a visitor can interact with UGC later on.

Impact of UGC on Conversion
Ecommerce UGC Page Visitor Overall Conversion Rate
3.4%
UGC Impression Conversion Rate
3.6%
4.3% conversion lift from UGC Impression
UGC Interaction Conversion Rate
7.2%
108.4% conversion lift from UGC Interaction

The message here is quite clear: displaying UGC including reviews, Q&A and visual content in itself has a notable impact on conversion. But consumer interaction with UGC has a transformational effect.

But does presenting this information in different formats make a difference? Let’s take a closer look at how different features of each type of UGC can make a difference.

How Review Interactions Drive Purchase Behavior

As previously mentioned, 97% of consumers read product ratings and reviews before making a purchase. And as it turns out, when a shopper consumes this content, it significantly impacts their likelihood to purchase.

Reviews Double Conversion Rates

Purchasing a new product is risky. Even if a shopper reads all of the details provided by the brand or retailer, it’s impossible to know with certainty that a product will meet their needs. But when consumers read reviews written by others like them, this feedback often gives them the confidence they need to convert. 

In fact, there’s a 120.3% lift in conversion when a shopper interacts with ratings and reviews on a product page.

The Impact of Reviews on Conversion
Ecommerce UGC Page Visitor Overall
3.4%
Conversion for Those Who Interact with Reviews
7.6%
120.3% conversion lift when visitors interact with reviews

How Different Review Features Boost Customer Confidence -- and Conversion

Each review display a consumer comes across consists of different features. Let’s examine how some of these key features positively impact a shopper’s likelihood of converting. 

The Impact of Various Review Features on Conversion
Conversion lift among visitors that engaged with each ratings and reviews feature (in comparison to standard conversion figures for the same pages)
Helpful Yes
314.7%
Footer Page Previous
288.2%
Filter Merchant Specific Questions
270.6%
Review Search
202.9%
Helpful No
182.4%
Footer Page Next
182.4%
Faceoff Positive
138.2%
Review Snippet
129.4%
Footer Back to Top
129.4%
Faceoff Negative
120.6%
Filter Stars
111.8%
Review Sort
109.7%
More Details
105.9%
Filter Tag
35.3%

Helpful Votes

When a shopper reads a review, they can indicate that the content was helpful (or not) by clicking on the thumbs up or thumbs down icons.

The conversion rate increases by 314.7% among visitors who click the “helpful” icon. And interestingly, there’s a 182.4% conversion lift among those who click the “unhelpful icon”.

Footer Page

At the bottom of a review display, visitors can typically take a few different actions. They can navigate to the next page of reviews, go back to the previous one or return to the top. 

Here’s the conversion lift for shoppers that take each of these actions over those who do not:

Previous
288.2%
Next
182.4%
Back to Top
129.4%

Merchant Specific Question Filtering

Some brands and retailers ask merchant-specific questions in their “write a review” forms. For example, a beauty brand might ask a reviewer to include information about their skin type and beauty routine in a review for foundation.

Sometimes, brands also allow shoppers to filter reviews based on the answers to these questions. For example, a visitor can filter reviews to only see content written by those with dry skin. 

Shoppers who filter by these merchant specific questions end up converting at a rate that’s 270.6% higher than general visitors to the same Product Detail Pages!

Review Search

Many review displays allow shoppers to search for reviews that include specific terms relevant to their needs. For example, a shopper might seek out a vacuum cleaner that’ll effectively clean up her pet cat’s hair. They can type “cat” into the search feature and see all reviews that mention cats.

Once the shopper finds reviews relevant to their use case, they’re more likely to make a purchase. In fact, there’s a 202.9% conversion lift among visitors who use the search feature (over general visitors to the same page).

Review Faceoff

A review “faceoff” shows the most liked positive review alongside the most liked negative one. It’s a great way for shoppers to quickly understand the positives and the negatives of the product that have been most helpful for other shoppers to learn about.

There’s a 138.2% conversion lift for those who expand the positive review in the faceoff over general visitors to the same Product Detail Page.

And interestingly, there’s a 120.6% conversion increase among shoppers who click to expand the negative review. This once again proves the value of negative reviews in empowering shoppers to make informed purchase decisions.

Review Snippet

Many brands and retailers display a review “snippet” at the top of the product page. The snippet provides an overview of the reviews available for that product, and typically includes the average star rating, as well as the number of reviews that have been written for that product.  

If a shopper interacts with the snippet (aka they click within it), they’re taken to the full review display to get more details. In fact, there’s a 129.4% conversion lift for those who do.

Star Filters

Many review displays provide a breakdown of how many reviews have been written for each star rating. Shoppers can then click on any of the bars to see only reviews of a certain star rating. There’s a 111.8% conversion lift among those who do (in comparison to those who visit the same page and do not). 

Here’s an even closer look at how many shoppers filter reviews by specific star ratings — and how that behavior impacts conversion.  

Conversion Lift by Star Filtering

Of note, choosing to see only one-star content is the most common way shoppers filter by star rating.

However, it’s worth noting that visitors who take this action still convert at a rate that’s 108.8% higher than average.

Negative reviews are an important tool shoppers depend on to make informed purchase decisions. This content allows them to understand the worst possible scenario — and determine if they can live with it. And clearly, many don’t let the occasional negative review stand in the way of making a purchase.

Review Sorting

Typically, visitors can sort review content in a number of ways. For example, a visitor can sort reviews by recency — or they can choose to display reviews that include images first. 

Among those who sort reviews, there’s a 109.7% increase in conversion.

Let’s take a look at how different types of sorting behavior impact conversion.

Conversion Lift by Review Sorting Behavior
(Compared to General Visitors to the Same Page)
Review Sort Most Helpful
200%
Review Sort Images
170.6%
Review Sort Highest
158.8%
Review Sort Oldest
108.8%
Review Sort Lowest
102.9%
Review Sort Most Recent
73.5%

More Details

Once a shopper has zeroed in on a specific review, they can often expand that review even more to get additional details. For example, when a shopper clicks “more details” on this review for a jacket, they can see the pros and cons of the product, as well as more information about the fit and use cases. 

Based on our analysis, there’s an average 105.9% conversion lift for shoppers who click to get more details compared to visitors to the same pages who don’t do so. 

Tag Filtering

Some businesses ask reviewers to select the pros, cons and best uses for a specific product.

Future shoppers can then filter review content by specific best uses.

There’s a 35.3% increase in conversion among visitors who take this action. Although this is a notable increase, it’s far less impactful than the 120.3% lift in conversion for all review interactors.

This once again highlights the importance of building your review display according to what the data tells you.

Boost Trust (and Conversion) with Reviews

Reviews drive a 120.3% lift in conversion. And certain review features can impact conversion even more. Be sure you’re measuring the effectiveness of your review display regularly — and use the insights you uncover to make improvements that’ll drive conversion.

How Q&A Interactions Lift Conversion

No matter how comprehensive your product descriptions, some shoppers will still have questions. When this happens, a shopper is likely to navigate to the Q&A portion of your product page to see if a fellow shopper has gotten an answer to a similar question. And if that’s not the case, the shopper can submit their own question. 

And when shoppers interact with Q&A, it has a big impact on their purchase behavior.

Q&A is the Most Impactful Type of UGC

Of all the different types of UGC we analyzed for this report, Q&A is the most impactful. In fact, there’s a 157.1% conversion lift when shoppers interact with the Q&A on a product page! 

Impact of Q&A on Conversion
Overall Visitor Conversion
3.4%
Conversion for Those Who Interact with Q&A
8.8%
157.1% lift in conversion when visitors interact with Q&A

Various Q&A Interactions Impact Purchase Likelihood

Now, let’s take a look at some examples of different Q&A features shoppers engage with — and how each of these features drive purchase behavior.

The Impact of Q&A Features on Shopper Behavior
Conversion lift among visitors that engaged with each Q&A feature
Show More Answers
164.7%
Click Read Answers
158.8%
Answer Helpful
141.2%
Ask Question Snippet
137.1%
Answer Question
111.8%
Ask Question Header
79.4%

Show More Answers

A certain number of questions and answers appear on the product page for a given product. If there are more available, the shopper must click on the text that reads “Show more Q&A” to access them. 

A shopper that scrolls through this additional Q&A content is obviously committed to learning as much as they can about a product. And these shoppers convert at a higher rate than typical. There’s a 164.7% conversion lift when shoppers click “show more answers.” 

Click Read Answers

Typically, a single answer is automatically displayed for a question submitted via Q&A. If there are multiple responses (for example, an official brand response as well as one from a previous customer), the shopper must click “show 1 more answer” to see it.

There’s a 158.8% conversion lift among those who take this action. 

Answer Helpful

When a shopper reads an answer that’s been provided to a customer question, they can tap or click the thumbs up icon to indicate the answer was helpful to them. 

Those who do convert at a level that’s 141.2% higher than average for the page. 

Ask Question Snippet

Some brands and retailers display a “snippet” at the top of product pages that gives visitors a high level overview of the UGC available for that product — and provides a link they can click to ask their own product question. 

There is a 137.1% increase in conversion among shoppers who click “ask a question” in the UGC snippet. 

Answer Question

Some brands and retailers allow different experts to answer the questions submitted via Q&A — including existing customers. A visitor can answer an existing question by clicking on the “add your answer” text. 

There is a 111.8% conversion lift among shoppers who take this action.

Ask Question Header

Another way shoppers can ask questions is to click on the “ask a question” button of the Q&A header. 

There is a 79.4% increase in conversion when page visitors do this. 

Empower Shoppers to Ask Purchase Blocking Questions

Q&A is the most impactful form of user-generated content, driving a 157.1% lift in conversion. If you’re not already, add Q&A to your product pages. Being able to get quick answers to questions (and reading answers to questions that have already been asked) will give your visitors the confidence they need to convert. 

Remember: analyze the performance of your Q&A features — and use the data to make impactful optimizations that’ll increase conversion.

Find out how Skechers achieves a conversion rate of 80%+ for customers who have their questions answered by Q&A.
The Role of Imagery in Conversion

Many shoppers look for photos and videos of a product before making a purchase. And increasingly, they’re seeking out this content from others like them. 88% of shoppers specifically look for images and videos provided by other consumers before making a purchase.

And as it turns out, consuming this content positively impacts purchase behavior. 

Shoppers Who Interact with Imagery are More Likely to Convert

The overall conversion rate across the brand and retailer sites we analyzed was 3.4%. But when a site visitor interacts with user-generated photos and videos on a product page, the conversion rate goes up to 6.6%. That’s a 91.4% lift in conversion!

Impact of User-Generated Imagery on Conversion
Overall Visitor Conversion
3.4%
Conversion for Those Who Interact with Imagery
6.6%
91.4% lift in conversion when visitors interact with imagery

Of note, visual content has an even larger impact when a consumer is shopping for products in certain categories that are more visual in nature.

For example, there’s a 119.1% conversion lift when consumers shopping for apparel interact with user-generated imagery. And those who interact with imagery when shopping for home and garden products convert at a rate that’s 149.9% higher than average.

Different Imagery Interactions Drive Conversion

We know that those who interact with user-generated photos and videos convert at a higher level than average. Now, let’s take a closer look at different times of imagery interactions and how they impact conversion. 

Impact of Imagery Features on Shopper Behavior
Conversion lift among visitors that engaged with each imagery feature
Image Gallery
94.1%
Image Gallery Next
91.2%
Image Gallery Previous
79.4%

Image Gallery

It’s a best practice to display photos and videos submitted by shoppers in a gallery on the appropriate product page. Our analysis tells us there’s a 94.1% conversion lift among shoppers who click on any image within that gallery.

Image Gallery Navigation

Once a shopper has enlarged an image or video in the gallery by clicking on it, then can then navigate to other imagery by clicking on the arrows on either side of the image. Those who click to see the next image convert at a rate that’s 91.2% than average. And there’s a 79.4% conversion lift among shoppers who click the “previous image” arrow. 

Convert More Shoppers with User-Generated Imagery

User-submitted photos and videos can help you convert more browsers to buyers. This is especially true for categories that are highly visually in nature — such as apparel and home and garden — just to name a few. 

If you’re not already, start collecting photos and videos from your shoppers. Then, display the imagery you collect in galleries on your product pages and elsewhere on your website to boost shopper confidence and conversion. Finally, be sure to measure the performance of different imagery features — and make data-based optimizations to improve performance.

Find out how WEBS has natively collected and displayed over 4,000 images on their site since partnering with PowerReviews.
4 Tips for Boosting Conversion with UGC

It’s undisputable: shoppers who interact with user-generated content convert at higher than average levels. And certain features of UGC displays drive even larger conversion impact.

But remember: there’s not a one size fits all display that’ll work for every business. That’s why it’s critical to continuously measure the performance of your UGC displays — and then use that data to make optimizations that’ll drive an even bigger impact on conversion.

Read on for four recommendations for converting more shoppers with UGC, based on the findings of this analysis.

1
Prominently Display Reviews

Nearly all consumers read reviews. And there’s a 120.3% conversion lift among visitors who interact with this content. Make it easy for shoppers to find and consume the reviews that are most relevant to them. And consider adding features to your display that are proven to boost conversion, such as the ability to filter by star rating or search existing content. But don’t focus solely on creating an aesthetically pleasing display. Instead, continuously measure the performance of each feature of your display and use that data to drive impactful optimizations.

Empower Shoppers to Get Quick Answers to Purchase Blocking Questions

Q&A is the most impactful form of UGC, driving a 157.1% lift in conversion. So enable your shoppers to read the answers to questions that have already been asked — and submit their own questions too. Consider adding features to your Q&A display that have positively impacted conversion rates for other businesses. Then, measure the performance of these features on your own conversion rate, and use the data to further optimize your display and drive more sales.

2
3
Showcase Visual Content from Your Shoppers

88% of shoppers seek out photos and videos from others like them before making a purchase. And there’s an 91.4% lift in conversion when visitors interact with user-generated imagery on a product page. Ask shoppers to share photos and videos of your products in action. Then, feature this content on your product pages where it’s easy for shoppers to find and consume and elsewhere on your site. Measure the performance of your display, and follow the data to make changes that’ll impact conversion. 

Become Data-Led and Conversion-First

Remember: there’s no one UGC display that’ll work well for all businesses. In fact, features that drive conversion for one brand may have little to no impact for another. That’s why it’s critical to continuously measure the performance of your UGC program. Your UGC partner should make it easy for you to see which display components are driving conversion — and which are falling flat. And then you can use that data to make changes to your display that’ll yield even better results. 

4

97% of consumers consult reviews before making a purchase. Simply adding one review to a product page that previously had none lifts sales for that product by 65%. Consumers who interact with reviews are 115% more likely to convert, and the more reviews you have, the higher your conversion rates

Clearly, reviews have a huge impact on conversions. The data tells us this. 

The problem is, too many brands — however unintentionally — delay adding reviews to their site. Conversations become hyper-focused on making the review display “on brand,” forcing developers through endless rounds of deployment to simply adjust a font size here, or change the shade of a star color there. 

Worse, in an effort to be a thought leader, some brands try and reinvent the wheel. They start asking questions like, “Should we use our brand icon instead of stars? That could help us stand out.” (The answer, by the way, is absolutely not. You’ll only confuse your customers, which leaves you with less reviews, and less conversions.)

We’re writing this article to stop this fearsome scenario from happening to you. The research shows that the presence of high quality reviews in large volumes — not some vanity feature — is the largest determining factor in driving page traffic and conversions. 

Why? It’s the information contained within the reviews that is the key, not how that information is presented. As a brand, your goal is to provide attention-short shoppers with the confidence to buy from you. So focus on what’s important.

Over the years, we’ve collected data from hundreds of brands, and thousands of end-customers, to analyze what really drives conversions. From the data, we can clearly see what works, what doesn’t, and what really matters when it comes to displaying reviews.

It’s not worth obsessing over the branding of your review display to the extent that you lose sight of what you’re doing. Your goal is to generate conversions. Focus on the best practices we share below — all proven by our data to actually drive more conversions — and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Review Display Best Practices: The Official Checklist

What makes a top-performing review display? There are some elements that are more important for certain industries over others. For example, an apparel retailer needs to add size and fit to their review display, but that wouldn’t be applicable for a food and beverage brand. 

It all comes back to focusing on providing the information shoppers look for and building credibility fast.

In general, however, we’ve honed in on a set of best practices that work well for nearly everybody. When adding reviews to your site, these are the 7 elements we typically recommend to include in your review display.

Other options tend to be unnecessary luxuries that won’t move the needle when it comes to converting shoppers.

Review Snippet

This is a simple visualization of a product’s review rating and volume that sits at the top of the product page, above the fold.

Review Snapshot

Further down the page, the complete review display includes a visual overview of the review content for a given product, including average star rating and rating distribution.

Search and Filter

This functionality helps shoppers find content relevant to their needs. They may click on pre-set filters or search for a specific phrase to find reviews or Q&A content that is most relevant to them.

Demographic Information

These help shoppers find relatable content from someone with similar characteristics and use cases to themselves.

Verified Buyer Badge

These badges build trust, by communicating to shoppers that a review was written by someone who actually purchased the product.

Visual Content Display

These photos and videos from your shoppers can be collected both natively and through social media.

Q&A Display

Customer questions displayed alongside the appropriate (and accurate) answers.

Now, the specific order in which these appear, or even the content (in the case of demographic information, for example) may vary from brand to brand. Here are a few review snapshots that show how brands from different verticals implement their review display:

Make it on-brand, but don’t overthink it 

We know, we know: we said don’t obsess over your review display. And we still stand by that.. You don’t want to eat up all of your developers’ time on customizing every bit of your review display. The more stylistic changes you make, the longer it takes them to launch reviews — and the longer you go without reviews on your site, the longer you’re missing out on sales.

We’re not saying that brand isn’t important. It is. But, a few, very minor changes can take your review display from generic to on-brand. At PowerReviews, our out-of-the-box solution is designed to be flexible enough to meet 99% of a client’s requirements for review display. When integrating our solution, we recommend making CSS changes to the font style, star color, and background color. These are all pretty simple and quick, and go a long way toward making it feel on-brand.

Still not convinced that a generic review display can really work? Look up your favorite product on Amazon and check out the reviews. You’ll see Amazon uses the regular orange stars with their brand font, and there’s some drop shadowing here and there.

Amazon has tons of money and engineers, but they’re not spending those resources on CSS and branding their review display. They’re focused on review volume and getting the most pertinent information to their customers. Be like Amazon.

Display Q&A first

This is another thing that Amazon gets right — and many brands don’t. Amazon shows Q&A content above their reviews.

The data favors Amazon. Q&A Content has a higher conversion rate than reviews and images. Customers who interact with user-generated Q&A content are 153% more likely to convert, and products enjoy a 600% sales lift when a customer’s question is answered via Q&A.

Think about it: People are not going to ask a question about a product they’re not interested in.  If they’re interested and there’s just one outstanding question keeping them from buying, a quick informed answer from your brand can really help them convert. 

Still, many marketers have been conditioned to focus on reviews and reviews alone. Don’t be like those marketers. Position Q&A content above your reviews, and you’re likely to enjoy more conversions as a result. 

Help customers find reviewers like them

Reviews are not one size fits all. Your shoppers care most about the reviews that come from shoppers like them, who share their style, use case, and unique situation. That’s why it’s important to give shoppers the ability to filter for reviews from people like themselves. When demographic filters are available, 47% of consumers will use them to seek out information most directly relevant to them. 

Even better, we’ve found adding demographic filters translates to more sales. Our clients see an average 52% increase in conversion when consumers interact with filter tags (e.g. sort reviews from users with a particular hair color). 

More importantly, this demographic information increases buyer confidence and makes your brand feel relatable — because shoppers recognize people like them among your customer base. 

The demographic questions you choose can vary based on your industry. For example, Wander Beauty asks age, location, and skin type, while Bonobos asks about size, height, and weight.

Add an image carousel

People no longer trust the image carousels shown at the top of a product page, full of perfect stock images carefully chosen by the brand. Instead, they want to see real products in real life, from a person like them. 

Some brands shy away from user-generated images, but again, we encourage you to look at the data. User-generated images build trust, traffic, and most importantly, sales. 

  • 88% of consumers specifically look for photos and videos submitted by other consumers prior to moving forward with a purchase decision. 
  • 72% of shoppers say they’re more likely to buy a product that has reviews with photos and videos in addition to written text, and 40% of Centennials won’t even consider purchasing a product if it has no photos. 
  • Adding user-generated images to a product page results in an 18% uplift in daily traffic.
  • Adding just one customer-generated image to a product page boosts conversions by 69%.

It’s important to display user-generated images in very prominent places. You can collect this content natively. We also recommend pulling in content from Instagram because the content quality is usually higher than what people add to a native review form where no one else sees it. People view their Instagram accounts like a personal brand, so the images they upload are carefully curated — and more likely to align with your brand standards.

Images are almost always a good idea, but again, there are exceptions to every rule. Images are essential for makeup and apparel, but for credit cards, they’re not necessary. 

Don’t shy away from negative reviews

When implementing a review display for our clients, the #1 question we get is about one-star reviews. Understandably, brands worry about bad reviews scaring customers away.The thing is, negative reviews actually help your brand. 82% of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews. Our data shows the top three things people interact with in a review display are all related to negative reviews (i.e. sorting by 1-star reviews, filtering the most helpful negative review, and searching for the most negative reviews).

Of the shoppers who click on star ratings, 63% click on the 1-star option. Moreover, those shoppers are more than twice as likely to convert than shoppers that don’t click on anything (7.8% conversion for 1-star filter clickers vs 3.7% conversion for non-clickers).

Shoppers want to confirm use cases and biases they might have about a product, and one way to do that quickly is to see what the unhappy people said about it. They use that negative content to inform their purchasing decisions, and remove barriers and hesitations they might have had previously. 

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid of negative reviews. Trust that most customers can connect the dots. If the negative review is from someone with a completely different use case than themselves — such as a grandma buying a tricycle as a gift vs. an experienced dad who’s bought several tricycles before — it’s not going to affect their behavior. Rather, it can be an opportunity for you to win customers over and validate your brand. Show them that you are listening and responding to customers. 

Get Started Now

We saved the easiest, and perhaps the most obvious, tip for last. The best thing you can do for your review display is to launch it as quickly as you can (assuming everything’s been QAed, of course). Consider the brand experience, and use the best practices as your guide, but don’t lose sight of what’s important: conversions conversions conversions. 

When implementing your review display, use common sense and be thoughtful. Think about what’s going to have the biggest impact on shopper behavior, and prioritize that. Everything else can wait. You can always make improvements later, once you have more data to inform your decisions. Get more tips for success in our Complete Guide to Ratings & Reviews for 2021.

Josh Weisman

Josh Weisman currently heads up our Solutions Consulting team but has been at PowerReviews since 2014 advising brands and retailers on their user-generated content. When he’s not talking or thinking about UGC, he’s watching Peaky Blinders or being the worst active golfer in the Chicagoland area.

This is the PowerReviews monthly snapshot trends report for April 2021, an analysis of consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

We started measuring at the start of Covid. To recap, a huge initial surge led to an overall 3x increase in online purchase volumes between February (pre-pandemic) to May 2020. However, the subsequent four months through to October led to a steady decline and then stabilization, with purchase volumes consistently between 40% and 70% higher than they were pre-pandemic (we actually re-aligned our reports to three month periods due to this stabilization).

We then saw a slight uptick in preparation for the Holidays (remember: shopping was expected to start early this year).

Then onto the Holidays, when the typical marked seasonal increase materialized, before a return to Covid-era normality despite the continuing vaccine rollout.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

More of the same as online purchase volumes and site traffic continue at Covid norm levels

02

Review Submission Volumes Consistently Up on Pre-Holiday Levels

03

Reviews driving purchases more than they were pre-Covid

More of the same as online purchase volumes and site traffic continue at “Covid-norm” levels

Prior to the Holidays, consumer behavior had clearly become more predictable, with purchase volumes consistently around 1.4x to 1.7x where they were before the pandemic (this was after a giant surge in April, May and June). So remember that is the baseline we’re dealing with in the chart below.

After the Holiday surge, ecommerce purchase volumes settled to similar levels to where they were pre-Holiday in January, February and this continued into March (i.e. in the range of 1.4x to 1.7x where they were pre-Covid).

Review Submission Volumes Consistently Up on Pre-Holiday Levels

In our Post-Holiday snapshot, we highlighted a giant surge in review volumes – largely to be expected given the seasonal purchase increases that occur at this time of year.

However, overall review volumes are up slightly on where they were before the Holidays – and this has consistently been the case over the past three months (i.e. after the end of the Holiday period).

Review length and sentiment continues to be stable

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, review length and sentiment (in the form of average rating) remains flat. This has been the case since we started our analysis a year ago.

So although Covid’s impact on ecommerce generally has been transformational, it has not affected the content of reviews submitted by consumers.

Reviews driving purchases more than they were pre-Covid

Over the last few monthly snapshots, we have included a deep dive into the impact of review content on the buyer journey – paying particularly close attention to year-on-year comparisons during the Holidays.

To recap, the 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.)

We found that review interactors consistently converted at around a 25% higher rate than they were a year previously (the conversion figure is typically around 5.25% in the three months prior to Black Friday 2020 compared to around 4.25% in the same period in 2019).

For context, this figure had come down from its Covid peak (as also demonstrated below) of 6.85% in April 2020. This is in line with when we saw the highest ecommerce purchase volumes (when they hit a peak of 210% above where they were pre-COVID at this time).

Through March, the influence of reviews on the buyer journey climbed steadily, peaking at 4.86% of review interactors going on to make a purchase. As a reminder, the figure for March 2020 – highlighted for year-on-year comparisons – was the start of Covid when we saw unprecedented growth across all our ecommerce metrics.

For context, this is between the pre and mid-Covid norms (4.25% and 5.32% respectively, as illustrated above).

Summary

In summary, we noted the following clear trends:

  • Purchase volumes and product page traffic stabilized at similar levels to pre-Holidays (at around between 1.4x and 1.7x where they were pre-Covid)
  • Review impact on purchase behavior crept back up after a temporary post-Holiday lull.
  • Steady overall increase in review submission levels since early November

As we mentioned in last month’s report, 2020 is likely to have accelerated the transition online like no other event in the Internet age. More sustainable growth is likely post-Covid – as the below projected chart from eMarketer outlines.

In fact, eMarketer predicts that ecommerce growth in 2021 will be significantly less than half of where it was in 2019. However, coming off the back of the biggest year of ecommerce growth in history (32.4% year-on-year according to eMarketer), the overall trend of an increasing share of dollars being spent online (compared to instore) is a continuing and unpreventable process.

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