Power Points

  • When collecting and displaying reviews, financial services companies have to be more thoughtful of industry regulations and privacy laws.

  • Despite these limitations, financial services companies have a number of creative options for collecting, displaying, and leveraging reviews throughout their marketing.

  • With strategic use of ratings and reviews, financial services brands can boost traffic, increase engagement, and convert more customers.

In financial services, marketers have unique limitations on how they can promote their services to clients and leverage user-generated content while still staying on the right side of privacy laws and industry regulations. 

Consider the following:

  • Customers who interact with ratings and reviews are 120% more likely to convert than those who don’t. 

  • Reviews have the single-highest impact on whether a customer decides to convert, even more so than price and brand. 

  • With more reviews, comes more conversions. Pages with just a single review experience a 52% conversion lift compared to a page with no review. Pages with over 100 reviews experience a 251% conversion lift.

Clearly, reviews are important for driving desired outcomes online and especially in ecommerce— but you already knew that. But how can YOU – as a financial services company – leverage this content?

Read on as we share ideas and best practices for financial services companies to collect, display, and leverage reviews throughout their marketing.

Collecting Reviews

To enjoy the benefits of reviews, you first need to collect them. Here are three proven tactics financial services companies can use to generate reviews.

1. Request reviews via email

Between 60% to 90% of all reviews come from an email request. Email is the singlehanded best way to collect reviews from customers.

All you need is a simple branded email with a CTA to leave a review. Encourage customers to share their experience to help future customers.

Emailing customers a review request can lift your review volumes instantly, and significantly — one PowerReviews customer saw a 1,000% increase in review collection within a month of implementing email requests.

2. Ask for reviews at key customer touchpoints

The feedback people share in a review can provide valuable insights for your company. Send out an email with a link to your review form after customers:

  • Meet with an account representative
  • Open a new account or loan
  • Open a new credit card
  • Complete an application online
  • Visit one of your banking centers

3. Customize your review form

Reviews are unlikely to be one-size-fits-all. Consider what customizations you can make to the standard review form to make the information more useful for potential customers — and make it easier for people to write a more detailed review. Our research shows longer reviews receive more engagement:

For example, you might ask reviewers to provide ratings for your banking app or customer service team, in addition to an overall rating. You could also ask them to pick their favorite benefit offered by your credit card, banking account, or insurance policy:

Then, on your Review Display front-of-site, this additional information can appear alongside their review, giving site visitors and potential customers more information to consider. 

Displaying Reviews

Future customers want to know what it’s like to work with your customer service agents, or get approved for a home loan or credit card. Give them the inside scoop with these creative ideas for displaying reviews.

4. Include star ratings on product landing pages

Build consumer trust instantly by featuring overall star ratings and review count at the top of your product landing pages. You can also include a stat of how many people would recommend your product or service to a friend:

5. Include a review snapshot

At the bottom of your service landing page, you can display all your reviews. Make the information easy to consume by including a Review Snapshot at the top. This includes:

  • Overall star rating
  • Overall review count
  • Ratings distribution
  • Pros
  • Cons
  • Most liked positive and negative review

This kind of transparency builds trust with consumers. Even the Cons list, which features common customer complaints about credit cards, reassures customers by showing the small number of reviewers who listed it as a con. 

6. Add search and filter functionality to your reviews

The Review Snapshot gives customers all the info they need at a glance. But any financial decision, whether it’s opening a new checking account or applying for a car loan, requires careful consideration. Make the research process easier for customers by letting them search and filter to find reviews from people like them, who share similar pain points.

For example, with the PowerReviews Review Display, the tags in the Pros and Cons lists are all searchable, so customers can simply click one to see all the reviews that mention “Great Interest Rates.” 

You can also let people enter their own search terms, like “phone support,” to find what they need. Finally, invite customers to filter to see only reviews from those who opened the same credit card or loan product that they’re considering.

7. Include star ratings on category pages

If you offer multiple credit cards or coverage options, consider adding reviews to your category landing pages. These review snippets share a key message instantly: customers can trust your products. 

A high star rating, combined with a high review count, conveys to customers that dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people like them have had a positive experience. 

8. Create a separate page just for reviews

Want to use reviews in an email or advertising campaign? Set up a dedicated landing page that features your reviews. 

Leveraging Reviews

Reviews don’t have to be siloed to your landing pages. Here are seven ways financial services brands can leverage reviews across their website, SEO, social media, and other channels.

9. Use reviews as customer testimonials on your homepage

Adding reviews to your homepage can boost consumer confidence in your service. 

You can even curate reviews related to a specific customer pain point. For example, an insurance provider may showcase reviews of their customer service and claims process on the homepage, relieving concerns about the speed of the process:

10. Syndicate your reviews

It’s common for retail brands to syndicate their reviews to all of their third-party sellers. If your insurance agents and partners operate their own websites, you can do the same. Syndicate reviews you collect on your website to those of the individual agents mentioned in the review. 

You can also feature review ratings in a provider locator tool, if you collect reviews on individual agents or office locations. Learn more about review syndication here.

11. Boost your SEO

When brands add reviews to their product page, they enjoy an average traffic increase of 108%. By adding reviews to your service landing pages, you (by way of your reviewers) provide Google with a fresh stream of keyword-rich content related to your service.

For example, a car loans page will have reviews that include keywords like “better rate,” “refinancing,” “vehicle,” “online auto loan application,” and more.

You can also enable product schema for these pages, which adds star ratings to your Google results. These stars help your website stand out in the search results, which leads to increased traffic.

12. Highlight reviews on social media

Is your social media team running into writer’s block? Encourage them to use reviews to create custom graphics. They’ll never run out of content again!

13. Use reviews to amplify hiring efforts

Reviews can even help out your HR team. By showcasing positive reviews on your Careers page, you can help job applicants get inspired to work for a company that makes a difference.

14. Feature reviews in your TV commercials and other media

Reviews can also be used to make your television commercials more impactful. Include an overall star rating, approval score, or short phrases from positive reviews.

Analyzing Reviews

Ready to power up your reviews? Analyze them. By analyzing your reviews, you can discover insights that apply to other parts of your business, from marketing operations to customer support.

15. Use reviews as keyword research

With PowerReviews Review Search Reporting, you can see the specific search terms people are looking for in your reviews. These often suggest key customer concerns and pain points, which you can address by including them in the rest of your marketing materials.

For example, if keywords like “roadside” or “roadside assistance” keep coming up for an auto insurance provider, they may want to speak to those benefits in more detail on their product page.

16. Gauge customer sentiment

Ever wonder how customers are feeling about your services? Supplement your surveys with Product Sentiment Analytics from PowerReviews. This data reveals how customers feel about your service offerings, and charts customer sentiment over time. Notice a big drop in your ratings? You can investigate what happened and fix it.

Whether someone is opening a new bank account, applying for a credit card, or purchasing business insurance, ratings and reviews are extremely important to the buyer journey. Use the tips above to get more value from your customer reviews, and convert more customers.

Kylie Sheehan

Kylie Sheehan is an Enterprise Customer Success Manager at PowerReviews. When she's not helping her clients optimize their Ratings and Reviews strategy to help them grow their sales, you can find her doing home renovation projects (and spending the majority of her time at Target and Home Depot)!

Where, when and how consumers will shop during the 2021 holiday shopping season -- and what will impact their purchase decisions -- based on insights from nearly 8,000 consumers

Survey at a Glance:

The PowerReviews Holiday Consumer Survey 2021 is based on survey responses from 7,743 consumers across the United States. Key findings include:

Total holiday spend in 2021 will be on par with last year.
  • 48% of consumers plan to spend the same amount during the upcoming holiday season as they did last year.

  • Just over a third (34%) plan to increase their holiday spending this year (by 48%, on average).

  • 18% plan to decrease their overall holiday spending this year (by 28%, on average).
Online shopping will once again take center stage.
  • Nearly all (99%) of consumers will do at least a portion of their holiday shopping online this year. 50% will do most of their holiday shopping online, and 13% will do all of it online.

  • 41% of consumers plan to do more holiday shopping online this year than last.

  • Top online shopping destinations this holiday season will be Amazon (93%), retailer sites (85%) and brand sites (58%).
Many will still shop in-store.
  • 37% of consumers plan to do half or more of their holiday shopping in-store.
  • 67% will do the same amount or more in-store shopping this holiday season, compared to last year. 
  • Over half (53%) are still concerned about shopping in-store due to the effects of COVID. However, certain measures such as mask requirements for shoppers, mask requirements for associates, frequent sterilization, and the ability to buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS, also known as curbside pickup) would increase the comfort level of many.

  • Many stores will serve as distribution centers during the holiday period. Just over half (51%) of shoppers will use curbside pickup as frequently as they did last holiday season. A third (33%) will use it more.
Myriad factors will impact holiday purchase decisions.
  • As expected, price is the factor that will have the biggest influence on what consumers purchase during the holidays.

  • Ratings and reviews are the second most impactful factor. 71% of consumers say that reading reviews impacts what gifts they purchase for others, and 68% indicate this content impacts what they buy for themselves during the holidays.

  • 35% of shoppers indicate ratings and reviews will have a bigger influence on their holiday purchases this year, compared to last. This number is significantly higher — 55% — among Gen Z shoppers.

Introduction

Holiday Shopping Has Changed -- Perhaps Forever

In the past, the phrase “holiday shopping” conjured up images of consumers lined up outside of a brick-and-mortar retail store on Black Friday to get access to the “best deals of the year.” But over time, a steadily increasing portion of consumers have traded late night lines and busy, chaotic stores for the convenience of shopping online.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, sending ecommerce growth into overdrive. And it dramatically changed the way consumers approached holiday shopping.  

In the latter months of 2020, the COVID vaccine wasn’t yet widely available. So many shoppers reduced their trips to brick-and-mortar stores during the busy holiday shopping season — or eliminated them altogether. As a result, U.S. online purchases during the 2020 holiday season grew 32.2% year over year and hit a record high of $188.2 billion

Today, vaccines are widely available in most parts of the country. Yet, due to a combination of factors, the pandemic continues. So the question is, what will the 2021 holiday shopping season look like for brands and retailers?

Brands and Retailers Must Adapt to Reach Consumers This Holiday Season

We surveyed nearly 8,000 consumers in the U.S. to better understand how they plan to approach their 2021 holiday shopping.

Our goal was to understand where consumers plan to shop, how much they plan to spend, and what factors will influence their purchase decisions. We also sought to understand how these behaviors have changed and evolved since we fielded a similar survey last year. 

The following report explores the key findings from this research. By understanding how consumers plan to shop this holiday season, brands and retailers will be better prepared to attract and convert them — wherever and however they choose to shop.

Who We Surveyed

Generations

Gen Z
(1997-present)
2%
Millennials
(1981-1996)
52%
Gen X
(1965-1980)
35%
Baby Boomers
(1946-1964)
11%

Household Income

Anticipated Total Holiday Spending for 2021

At the risk of stating the obvious, the pandemic has had a huge impact on the global economy. And today, many Americans remain un- or under-employed. How will these economic factors impact spending during the 2021 holiday shopping season?

Overall Spending Will Remain In Line with Previous Years

The largest portion of shoppers — 48% — plan to spend the same amount during the upcoming holiday season as they did last year. Just over a third (34%) plan to increase their total holiday spending, up significantly from 2020 when 19% of shoppers said this was the case. 

The remaining 18% will decrease their total holiday shopping spend this year, which is markedly lower than the 27% of shoppers who decreased their holiday shopping spend in 2020.

Do you expect your total holiday shopping spend to increase or decrease this year?
2020
2021

Younger consumers are more likely to indicate they’ll increase their holiday spending. 58% of Gen Z shoppers and 39% of Millennials will increase the amount they spend this holiday season, compared to 29% of Gen X’ers and 24% of Boomers. 

Consumers Who Expect to Increase Total Holiday Spend
Boomers
24%
Gen X
29%
Millennials
39%
Gen Z
58%

It’s also worth noting (but probably not surprising) that those with lower household incomes are more likely to decrease their total holiday spending this year. 29% of households with incomes ranging from $0-$30,000 plan to decrease their total holiday spend, compared to 11% of households with incomes of $100,001 or more. 

Consumers Who Expect to Decrease Total Holiday Spend
$0-$30,000
29%
$30,001-$50,000
23%
$50,001-$75,000
18%
$75,001-$100,000
16%
$100,001+
11%
Prefer not to say
17%

However, despite economic challenges, it seems many shoppers are ready to spend this holiday season. 

How Much Holiday Spending will Change

We know that 34% of consumers will increase their total holiday spending this year. But by how much? 

Those who plan to increase their holiday spending will do so by an average of 48%. On the other hand, those who will decrease their total holiday spending will do so by 28%, on average.

Average Increase or Decrease of Total Holiday Spending: 2020 vs 2021
2020: Increase
33%
2020: Decrease
36%
2021: Increase
48%
2021: Decrease
28%

Total Holiday Spending Will Vary Widely

Most shoppers plan to spend the same or even more this holiday season. And those who plan to increase their spending will do so, on average, by a significant amount. But what does that amount to in terms of dollar amount? 

The greatest portion of shoppers — 30% — plan to spend between $501-$1,000. Just over a quarter (26%) will spend $251-$500, and total holiday spending for 21% of shoppers will be between $1,001 and $2,000. 14% plan to spend less than $250, and 9% will spend more than $2,000.

Consumers’ Anticipated Total Spend this Holiday Season
How much do you estimate you’ll spend overall on the 2021 holiday season (including items for yourself and gifts for others in build up to holidays, any holiday sales etc.)?

When 2021 Holiday Shopping will Commence

The National Retail Federation (NRF) defines “holiday spending” as that taking place in November and December. But in reality, many consumers start thinking about their holiday shopping much earlier. And many start to check things off their holiday lists long before Black Friday rolls around.

Many will Start Thinking About Holiday Shopping Early

It seems it’s never too early to start thinking about holiday shopping. The largest portion of shoppers — 33% — start thinking about their holiday shopping in October. However, nearly half (48%) start thinking about it in September or earlier. 17% don’t think about holiday shopping until November, and the remaining 2% don’t give it a thought until December. 

Many Consumers Start Thinking About Holiday Shopping Early
When did/do you expect to start thinking about your holiday shopping this year?

Consumers Start Ticking Off Their Holiday Lists Early

Many consumers start thinking about holiday shopping long before Black Friday. But when will they actually start shopping? 

This year, just over a third (37%) plan to start their holiday shopping in November or later, and 30% plan to start in October. The remaining third (33%) plan to (or have already started) their shopping in September or earlier.

Interestingly, in 2020, significantly more — 41% of consumers planned to start their holiday shopping in September or earlier, likely due to concerns about shipping delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Holiday Shopping Start Date
2020
2021

Most Consumers Will Start Their Holiday Shopping at the Same Time as Usual

While some consumers will start their holiday shopping in September or early, others plan to wait until October or later. How does this compare to years past? 

Nearly three-quarters (73%) indicate they will start their 2021 holiday shopping at the same time they typically have in the past, compared to 68% who said this was the case in 2021. 20% plan to start earlier than typical (compared to 24% in 2020), and the remaining 7% indicate they’ll start later than usual (this figure was 8% in 2020).

This year, a smaller percentage of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping earlier than usual. Last year, consumers were concerned about COVID-related shipping delays and altered their shopping timeline to account for this. However, this seems to be less of a concern this year. 

Most Consumers will Start Holiday Shopping When They Typically Do
Do you plan to start your holiday shopping before or after you typically do?
2020
2021

Where Consumers will Shop This Holiday Season

The pandemic has ushered in a well-documented surge in ecommerce growth. And during the 2020 holiday season, online sales reached record levels. 

Will holiday shoppers continue to trade trips to the store for the convenience of browsing and buying online?

The Top Holiday Shopping Destination for 2021: The Internet

The vast majority of consumers plan to turn to the internet for at least some of their holiday shopping this year. 13% plan to shop exclusively online, and 50% will do most of their holiday shopping online.

Just over a quarter (28%) will do half of their holiday shopping online, and half in-store. A mere 9% of shoppers plan to do most or all of their holiday shopping at physical store locations. 

Where Shoppers Will Do Their Holiday Shopping
​​Approximately, where do you expect to complete your holiday shopping this year?

Interestingly, older generations are more likely to indicate they’ll do all of their holiday shopping online. 14% of both Boomers and Gen X shoppers indicate this is the case, compared to 5% of Gen Z’ers.

However, Boomers are also the generation most likely to do all or most of their holiday shopping in-store. 16% indicate this is the case, compared to 8% of Gen X and Millennial shoppers and 14% of Gen Z’ers.

Generational Comparison: Where Shoppers Will Do Their Holiday Shopping
​​Approximately, where do you expect to complete your holiday shopping this year?
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

How Consumers will Navigate Online Holiday Shopping

We know that nearly all consumers will do at least part of their holiday shopping online. And 63% will rely on the internet for most or all of their holiday purchases.

But how and where are they planning to shop online?

Shoppers will Turn to the Internet More Than in Years Past

When we surveyed consumers in 2020, the majority (64%) indicated they planned to do more holiday shopping online than in years past. This year, 41% say this is the case.

Though the percentage is smaller, it’s still significant. And it proves that a large (and consistently growing) number of consumers are embracing the convenience (and safety) of making holiday purchases online. 

Many will Shop Online More Than in Previous Holiday Season
Do you expect to do more or less holiday shopping (including items for yourself and gifts for others in build up to holidays, any holiday sales etc.) online than last year?
2020
2021

Of note, younger consumers are more likely to ramp up their online holiday shopping this year, when compared to their older counterparts. 54% of Gen Z’ers and 45% of Millennials plan to do more holiday shopping online this year than last. In comparison, 30% of Boomers and 39% of Gen X’ers incidicate this is the case.

Younger Consumers are More Likely to Ramp Up Their Online Holiday Shopping
Do you expect to do more or less holiday shopping (including items for yourself and gifts for others in build up to holidays, any holiday sales etc.) online than last year?
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

Online Spend will Vary This Holiday Season

This holiday season, many shoppers will spend the same amount or even more online than they have in the past. Exactly how much do they plan to spend online?

As expected, total anticipated online spend varies considerably. The largest portion of shoppers — 32% — plan to spend between $251 and $500 online this holiday season. Just over a quarter (26%) plan to spend between $501 and $1,000, and another quarter (25%) will spend less than $250. The remaining 17% plan to spend more than $1,001 online this holiday season. 

Anticipated Online Spend This Holiday Season
How much do you estimate you’ll spend overall online during the 2021 holiday season (including items for yourself and gifts for others in build up to holidays, any holiday sales etc.)?

Where Online Shoppers will Browse and Buy This Holiday Season

It’s clear that shoppers will be flocking to the internet to do their online shopping. But which ecommerce sites will benefit the most from this surge in online shopping?

It probably surprises no one that Amazon will be the top shopping destination this holiday season. 93% of those surveyed indicate they’ll shop on Amazon.com this holiday season, down just slightly from last year. 

However, retailer sites aren’t far behind. 85% of consumers will use retail ecommerce sites — such as Target.com and Walmart.com — during the 2021 holiday shopping season, slightly down from 88% in 2020.

Over half (58%) of consumers plan to patronize brand-specific sites — such as Nike.com and Levi.com. This increased tendency for direct-to-consumer shopping is great news for brands, as it’s a slight increase from 2020, when the comparative figure was 56%.

The ECommmerce Sites Shoppers Will Turn to This Holiday Season
Which websites do you anticipate using for online shopping this holiday period?
2020
Amazon
94%
Sites of large retailers with a range of brands (Target, Walmart, Macys)
88%
Specific sites of brands (Nike, Levi, LUSH)
56%
Other
13%
2021
Amazon
93%
Sites of large retailers with a range of brands (Target, Walmart, Macys)
85%
Specific sites of brands (Nike, Levi, LUSH)
58%
Other
19%

The Role of Brick-and-Mortar Stores During the Holidays

Sure, a large portion of consumers plan to shop online for the holidays. But make no mistake: brick-and-mortar stores are still alive and well. In fact, over a third (37%) plan to do half or more of their holiday shopping in-store.

What role will stores play this holiday shopping season? And are there any factors that would convince more shoppers to browse and buy in-store?

Consumers will Still Shop In-Store

During the 2020 holiday shopping season, COVID vaccines weren’t widely available and much was still unknown about the virus. As such, many consumers avoided trips to the store.

In fact, in 2020, 65% of consumers indicated they planned to do less holiday shopping in-store, compared to the previous year. 

This year, however, vaccines are widely available in most parts of the country. And pandemic fatigue has set in for many. So perhaps it’s not surprising that this year, just a third of consumers plan to do less in-store holiday shopping.

And 20% actually plan to do more holiday shopping in-store this holiday season, compared to last year. The remaining 47% plan to do the same amount of in-store holiday shopping as they have in the past.

Do you expect to do more or less holiday shopping in-store compared to last year?
2020
2021

Many Remain Concerned About the Risk of In-Store Shopping

While 20% of consumers plan to do more holiday shopping in-store this year, it’s important to remember that a full third plan to shop in-store less. 

Of course, there are many explanations for this; health and safety concerns are no doubt chief among them.

This year, just over half (53%) of consumers indicate they’re concerned about shopping in-store during the holidays due to the effects of COVID. In 2020, this number was significantly higher — 70%. However, it’s clear this is a lasting concern for many shoppers.

Half of Consumers are Concerned About In-Store Shopping
Are you concerned about shopping in-store during the holiday period due to the effect of COVID?
2020
70%
2021
53%

It’s interesting to note that consumers across all generational groups seem equally concerned about in-store holiday shopping due to COVID, whereas in 2020, older shoppers were more concerned than their younger counterparts. 

Consumers of All Ages Have Concerns About In-Store Holiday Shopping
Are you concerned about shopping in-store during the holiday period due to the effect of COVID?
Boomers
53%
Gen X
53%
Millennials
53%
Gen Z
51%

On the other hand, there are notable differences in concern on the regional level. 46% of consumers in the midwest are concerned about in-store shopping due to COVID, compared to 57% of those living in the south. This isn’t terribly surprising, because, as of this writing, the south is considered a COVID hot spot. 

Consumers in the South are Most Concerned with In-Store Holiday Shopping
Are you concerned about shopping in-store during the holiday period due to the effect of COVID?
Midwest
46%
Northeast
52%
West
55%
South
57%

The Right Safety Measures Help Assuage Customer Concerns

Just over half of consumers are concerned about shopping in-store during the holidays because of COVID. However, there are certain factors that would make them more comfortable in store.

Three factors tied as top ways to reduce in-store shopper anxiety: other customers being required to wear masks, associates being required to wear masks, and frequent sterilization of store premises. 55% of consumers indicated each of these factors would make them more comfortable shopping in-store during the holidays. 

The ability to buy online, and then pick up in store (often referred to as curbside pickup or BOPIS) was a close second; 52% of consumers said the availability of this service would make them more comfortable shopping in store.

Other top factors for assuaging concerns about shopping in-store during the holidays include restricting the number of customers allowed in a store (37%), contactless payment capabilities (38%), and plexiglass screens at checkout (28%).

It’s interesting to note that the percentage of consumers indicating any of these factors make them more comfortable shopping in-store has significantly decreased from 2020.

For example, in 2020, 67% of shoppers said they’d be more comfortable in-store if other customers were required to wear masks. But this number dropped to 55% this year.

And while 56% of shoppers indicated they’d be more comfortable shopping in-store during the 2020 holiday season if the number of people allowed to be in the store was limited, only 37% would be comforted by that measure this holiday season.

Factors That Would Make Consumers More Comfortable Shopping In-Store During the Holidays
2020
Other customers being required to wear masks
67%
Associates being required to wear masks
64%
Frequent sterilization of store premises
63%
Curbside pickup
67%
Contactless payment capabilities
45%
Restricting number of customers allowed in store
56%
Screens in place at checkout (N/A)
N/A
2021
Other customers being required to wear masks
55%
Associates being required to wear masks
55%
Frequent sterilization of store premises
55%
Curbside pickup
52%
Contactless payment capabilities
38%
Restricting number of customers allowed in store
37%
Screens in place at checkout
28%

Many Plan to Ramp up Their Use of Curbside Pickup

This year, over half (52%) of shoppers indicate they’d be more comfortable shopping in a physical store if they had the ability to buy online, and then pick up their purchase in-store. How will the use of BOPIS compare to years past?

This year, 33% of shoppers anticipate doing more holiday shopping via BOPIS than in the past. This is significant; however, it’s smaller growth than last year, when 55% of shoppers indicated they’d use curbside pickup more than they had the previous year.

Half of shoppers (51%) plan to use BOPIS the same amount this year as they did last year. And 16% plan to leverage curbside services less this holiday season.

Many Shoppers will Take Advantage of BOPIS This Holiday Season
Do you anticipate doing more or less holiday shopping via a buy online, pick up in store method (e.g. curbside pickup) this year?
2020
2021

Boomers are the generation least likely to ramp up their use of buy online, pick up in store services. 19% plan to do so, compared to 37% of Millennials. Interestingly, the youngest generation — Gen Z’ers — are the group more likely to reduce their use of BOPIS this holiday season. 23% of Gen Z shoppers plan to use BOPIS less this holiday season, compared to 16% of Millennials who say this is the case.

Many Shoppers will Take Advantage of BOPIS This Holiday Season
Do you anticipate doing more or less holiday shopping via a buy online, pick up in store method (e.g. curbside pickup) this year?
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

For many shoppers, BOPIS offers the best of both worlds. They get the convenience of ordering online, and they can experience nearly instant gratification by getting the item in-hand sooner than they would if it were to ship to their homes. Brands and retailers must make it a priority to optimize their BOPIS process — both for the holiday season and beyond.

The Factors Expected to Influence Holiday Shopping Behavior

Consumers consider many factors when making holiday purchases for themselves or others. But which factors are expected to be most influential during the 2021 holiday shopping season? 

Shoppers Will Weigh Many Factors When Shopping for Holiday Gifts

Consumers will consider myriad factors when purchasing gifts for others during the upcoming holiday season. As expected, price will be the top consideration; 82% of consumers say price will influence which products they purchase for holiday gifts.

Ratings and reviews are a close second. 71% of shoppers say that reading reviews from those who have already purchased a given product will influence which gifts they purchase for others. 

Other impactful factors include shipping or delivery costs (65%), ease and speed of shipping (60%), the trustworthiness of the brand (58%), and whether or not the shopper has personal experience with the given product or brand (57%). 

It’s interesting to note that in 2021, all factors ranked in the same order of importance as 2020 — although there were slight shifts in the percentage of shoppers who indicated each factor was influential. 

Factors Impacting Which Products Consumers Purchase for Others During the Holidays
Which of the following factors will influence the items you buy as gifts this holiday period?
2020
Price
87%
Ratings/reviews from people who have purchased the item
71%
Shipping/delivery costs
68%
Ease/speed of shipping
60%
Trustworthiness of brand
56%
Products or brands you’re personally familiar with
54%
Recommendations from family or friends (N/A)
Refund and returns policy
43%
Values of manufacturing brand that align with yours
33%
Brands or influencers I follow on social media (N/A)
How highly products rank in search engines
18%
2021
Price
82%
Ratings/reviews from people who have purchased the item
71%
Shipping/delivery costs
65%
Ease/speed of shipping
60%
Trustworthiness of brand
58%
Products or brands you’re personally familiar with
57%
Recommendations from family or friends
46%
Refund and returns policy
44%
Values of manufacturing brand that align with yours
35%
Brands or influencers I follow on social media
24%
How highly products rank in search engines
18%

Consumers Weigh the Same Factors When Shopping for Themselves

It’s not uncommon for shoppers to purchase items for themselves during the holiday shopping period. What factors influence what shoppers buy for themselves?

As it turns out, the factors that influence “self-gifts” directly mirror those that influence gift purchase for others.

Again, price tops the list, with 79% of shoppers indicating this influences what items they buy for themselves during the holidays.

But ratings and reviews from others who have already purchased the item in question is a close second; 68% say this content influences what they purchase for themselves during the holiday period.

Factors Impacting Which Products Consumers Purchase for Themselves During the Holidays
Which of the following factors will influence the items you buy for yourself throughout the holiday period?
2020
Price
85%
Ratings/reviews from people who have purchased the item
67%
Shipping/delivery costs
63%
Ease/speed of shipping
56%
Trustworthiness of brand
52%
Products or brands you’re personally familiar with
51%
Refund and returns policy
41%
Recommendations from family or friends (N/A)
Values of manufacturing brand that align with yours
33%
Brands or influencers I follow on social media (N/A)
How highly products rank in search engines
19%
2021
Price
79%
Ratings/reviews from people who have purchased the item
68%
Shipping/delivery costs
59%
Ease/speed of shipping
54%
Trustworthiness of brand
53%
Products or brands you’re personally familiar with
53%
Refund and returns policy
43%
Recommendations from family or friends
39%
Values of manufacturing brand that align with yours
34%
Brands or influencers I follow on social media
25%
How highly products rank in search engines
18%

Let’s take a closer look at how the impact of some of these top factors has changed since the last holiday shopping season.  

For Many Consumers, Price Will be Even More Influential This Year

The pandemic has obviously had a huge impact on the global economy, leading many to scrutinize purchases more than before. So it’s not surprising that price remains the factor that most influences what consumers will purchase for themselves or others this holiday season. 

What’s more, nearly half (48%) of consumers indicate that price and the ability to apply a discount will have more of an impact on their holiday purchases this year than it did last year. In 2020, 54% indicated this was the case. 

49% of consumers say that price will have the same influence as it did last year. And the remaining 3% indicate price will have less of an impact on holiday purchases this year. 

How the Impact of Price is Evolving
Will price and ability to use vouchers and/or apply discounts have more or less of an impact on your purchase decisions this year compared to last?
2020
2021

Price sensitivity will be paramount this holiday season. Brands and retailers must benchmark appropriately to ensure their products are priced appropriately to sell, while still preserving profits.

Reviews are Becoming Even More Impactful on Holiday Purchases

Reviews will have a heavy influence on holiday purchases, whether consumers are buying gifts for others or themselves. But how does the impact of this content compare to last year? 

This year, over a third (35%) of shoppers say that ratings and reviews will have more of an impact on holiday purchase decisions than they did last year.

How the Influence of Reviews is Changing
Will ratings and reviews from people who have already bought the item in question have more or less of an impact on your purchase decisions this year compared to last?
2020
2021

Gen Z shoppers are the generation most likely to say reviews will have a bigger impact on holiday purchases this year. 55% say this is the case, compared to far fewer — 25% — of Boomers. 

Generational Comparison: The Growing Impact of Reviews on Holiday Purchases
Will ratings and reviews from people who have already bought the item in question have more or less of an impact on your purchase decisions this year compared to last?
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

We know from previous research that the vast majority of consumers (99.9%) read reviews at least sometimes. And our most recent research tells us that the influence of this content on holiday purchases is only growing.

Brands and retailers must make it a priority to ensure they have a steady stream of reviews coming in for their products — especially those featured during the upcoming holiday season. 

Ease and Speed of Shipping Continues to Grow in Importance

The ease and speed of shipping is one of the top factors influencing holiday purchase decisions. 60% of consumers say it influences what gifts they buy for others — and 54% indicate it influences what they buy for themselves during the holiday period.

But will ease and speed of shipping have more or less of an impact on holiday purchases this year, compared to last?

This year, nearly half (48%) of shoppers indicate that ease and speed of shipping will have a greater impact on their purchase decisions compared to last. 49% say it’ll have the same amount of impact, and for a mere 3%, shipping ease and speed will have less of an impact on holiday purchase decisions this year compared to last. 

Shipping Ease and Speed Will Have a Larger Influence on Many Holiday Shoppers
Will ease/speed of shipping/delivery have more or less of an impact on your purchase decisions this year compared to last?
2020
2021

Return and Refund Policies Continue to Influence Holiday Purchases

There’s no sure way of knowing that a gift will be the right fit for the recipient. So it’s probably not surprising that 44% of consumers indicate that return and refunds policies influence what holiday gifts they purchase (and 43% say it influences items they purchase for themselves during the holidays). 

In addition, just over a third (34%) say that refund and returns policies will have more of an impact on holiday purchase decisions this year. 62% indicate this is a factor that’ll have the same level of impact as last year. The remaining 4% say that refund and returns policies will have less of an impact on holiday purchases than last year. 

For Many, the Influence of Refund and Returns Policies is Growing
Will refund and returns policies have more or less of an impact on your purchase decisions this year compared to last?
2020
2021

Brands and retailers must establish refund and return policies — and ensure these policies are clearly communicated to shoppers.

The Lasting Impact of COVID on Shopping Habits

The pandemic has impacted just about every aspect of life, including our shopping habits, both during the holidays and throughout the year.

Will these new habits (namely, less trips to the store and more online shopping) stick around after the pandemic is over? Or will consumers revert to their pre-pandemic shopping behavior? 

For Some Consumers, COVID-era Habits will Stick

About a third of consumers (32%) indicate that their shopping habits have changed forever as a result of COVID. Namely, 34% say they’re more comfortable shopping online than they were pre-COVID, and 26% don’t think they’ll ever store in-store as much as they did before the pandemic.

However, there are some who plan to revert to their pre-pandemic shopping habits. 10% of consumers anticipate returning to their “normal” shopping habits as soon as they’ve been vaccinated.

Notably, just over a third (34%) say that COVID hasn’t had an effect on their shopping habits — and they don’t anticipate that changing. 

COVID’s Lasting Impact on Consumer Behavior
Which of the following best describes the impact of COVID on your shopping habits?
2020
I am more comfortable shopping online than before COVID
39%
My shopping habits have changed forever as a result of COVID
39%
I don’t think I’ll ever shop in stores as much as I did pre-COVID
30%
COVID has not affected my shopping habits at all. This will remain the case in the future.
My shopping habits (online vs. in-store) will go back to exactly the way they were pre-COVID, as soon as I have been vaccinated.
2021
I am more comfortable shopping online than before COVID
34%
My shopping habits have changed forever as a result of COVID
32%
I don’t think I’ll ever shop in stores as much as I did pre-COVID
26%
COVID has not affected my shopping habits at all. This will remain the case in the future.
34%
My shopping habits (online vs. in-store) will go back to exactly the way they were pre-COVID, as soon as I have been vaccinated.
10%

Key Takeaways

The upcoming holiday shopping season will look different than years past. Brands and retailers must understand how consumers plan to navigate holiday shopping this year — and then adapt their plans accordingly to meet (and exceed) the ever-evolving expectations of shoppers.

Here are five key takeaways from our research on consumers’ anticipated holiday shopping habits during 2021.

One
The internet will be the top shopping destination

50% of consumers will do most of their holiday shopping online and 13% will exclusively shop online this holiday season. What’s more, 41% of consumers plan to do more holiday shopping online this year than they did last year. Now, more than ever, brands and retailers must make it a priority to deliver great digital experiences to the growing number of consumers expected to shop online this holiday season.

Two
Price is key

While shoppers weigh many factors when shopping for themselves or others during the holiday, price is the most impactful factor. 82% say price influences what gifts they purchase for others, and 79% say it’s a factor that impacts what they purchase for themselves during the holidays. It’s important to benchmark appropriately to increase the likelihood of sales — while still preserving profit levels.

Three
Reviews are essential

Ratings and reviews from others who have already purchased a product are the second most influential factor when it comes to holiday purchases. 71% indicate this content influences holiday gift purchases, and 68% say it impacts self-gift purchases. Furthermore, over a third of shoppers expect that ratings and reviews will have more of an impact on their holiday purchases this year, compared to last. In order to compete (and win), brands and retailers must collect a steady stream of reviews for all items in their product catalogs, especially those featured during the holidays.

Four
Stores still have a critical role to play

The rise of ecommerce doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar is dead (in fact, all the data indicates the majority of consumer dollars is still spent in a store environment despite continual ecommerce growth). 37% of shoppers plan to do half or more of their holiday shopping within the four walls of a physical store. What’s more, many stores will serve as distribution centers this holiday season, as 33% of shoppers plan to take advantage of BOPIS service more this year than last.

Five
Health and safety remains a key concern

Over half (53%) of consumers are concerned about shopping in-store during the holidays because of COVID. Though this is a smaller percentage than last year, it’s still a significant number. However, with the right safety measures in place, including masking, frequent sterilization, and curbside pickup, many shoppers would be more comfortable shopping in-store. 

If you’re like us, you’re savoring every last minute of summer. But we all know the holidays are just around the corner, and it’s time to start planning. There are emails to draft, product catalogs to update, and sales to promote.

If you work in ecommerce, you are likely bracing for what’s to come in the rest of the year. Keeping your head above water may be your primary concern.

Clearly, prioritizing your efforts in line with what will have the biggest revenue impact will be critical.

But considering 99.9% read reviews before making an online purchase, those who read them convert at 120.3% of those who don’t and 70% say access to reviews before purchase makes them less likely to return an item, your holiday UGC strategy should undoubtedly be on that list.

UGC in the Holiday Season

And UGC will be even as important as ever this Holiday season.

Our Holiday Survey conclusively backs this up. Nearly all (99%) of consumers will do at least a portion of their holiday shopping digitally this year (50% will do most of their holiday shopping online, and 13% will do all of it online). 41% of consumers plan to do more holiday shopping online this year than last (when we asked the same question last year, the comparative figure was 37%  – for context, that was right at the heart of the pandemic pre-vaccine availability).

Bottom line: how you show up online will be crucial to how your Holiday 2021 shakes out.

In this environment, ratings and reviews will be critical to converting browsers to buyers. In fact, our Holiday survey highlights how it’s second only to price in enabling consumers to determine whether to follow through with a purchase – with 71% saying they have an impact when considering gifts for others and 68% when buying Holiday items for themselves.

You need to be ready for this. In order to maximize your share of dollars for the Holiday and thereafter, UGC will be absolutely critical.

But – although this is undoubtedly the case – the Holidays also represent a fantastic opportunity to enhance your existing program. Make sure you’re doing the right things now, and reap the rewards in 2022 and beyond.

Get ready for Holiday 2021

As someone who works with leading brands and retailers on their UGC strategies day-in day-out (and has worked through my fair share of holiday seasons), I wanted to share some helpful recommendations for optimizing your ratings and reviews program at this time of year. 

Given you are likely to have a bunch of competing priorities for the Holiday season, we have tried to focus purely on four things you can realistically achieve for this blog.

Consider this a checklist to make sure you are doing the right things. If not, consider making some tweets. Because a few small adjustments can really go a long way.

Pre-Holiday Season
During the Holidays
Post-Holidays
Pre-Holiday Season

Optimize your current review collection methods

The Holidays are a big sales season. Like we very clearly outline above, ratings and reviews are proven to drive conversions. So to be successful this Holiday season, you’ll need a healthy volume of ratings and reviews on your site.

At the time of writing, we are a matter of weeks out so realistically – given time constraints combined with the likely resources you have available – you probably aren’t equipped to significantly alter your own review volumes.

Although – as an aside – there are ways you can do this should you want to: in fact, PowerReviews product sampling and “Receipt. Review. Collect.” programs are designed to enable brands and retailers to generate significant review volumes in short time periods.

Here, though, we wanted to focus on things you can and should do given the likely resources at your disposal.

And this means looking on the Holidays as an awesome opportunity to generate a ton of new review content to convert more shoppers down the line.

But you need to make sure you are best placed to capitalize: now is a good time to audit your review collection processes and consider if there are any improvements you can make.

Review Your Review Form

Take a look at your review form. 

Is there some type of feedback you are looking to collect for specific products that you aren’t currently gathering? 

The holidays are the perfect time to edit your review form as your review volume will be increasing. Instead of just comments and an overall star rating, ask additional questions specific to your product or consumer to get more detailed feedback. 

Are you currently collecting images and videos on your review form? 

If visual content strategy is going to be a focus for 2021, you might want to start. After all, our recent consumer survey highlighted the growing importance of this content to shoppers: 99% now actively seek out imagery and video content from other customers (this is up from 88% in 2016). And consumers who interact with user-generated imagery are 91.4% more likely to convert than those who don’t.

Would you like your reviews to be longer? 

Based on our own review interaction data (taken from an analysis of 1.5m+ product pages across 1,200+ brand and retail sites), longer reviews are more likely to receive “helpful” ratings by consumers. Consumers who engage with “helpful” reviews convert at higher rates than those who don’t. 

Consider Your Post-Purchase Email Strategy

Your shoppers’ email inbox is the perfect place to gather new reviews. If you aren’t currently, follow up with customers soon after they receive their purchases, and ask them to write a review.

People can get busy during the holidays. Make your shoppers’ lives easier by inviting them to submit their review right from the email itself. An In-Mail Submission enables customers to provide review content directly within review invitation emails.

inmail-review
Ulta Post Purchase Email

What about customers who purchase multiple gifts from you?

You can make their lives easier, too. Invite them to write multiple, shorter reviews all at the same time. 

Enable customers to write multiple product reviews on one form through the post-purchase email. These reviews collect the star rating, headline, review comments, and an image or video for multiple products from a single email.

Brands I’ve personally worked with have experienced exceptional results when implementing this capability — in fact, one generated a 54% increase in reviews displaying on site in the first 30 days of it being in use. Quite a shot in the arm for the entire program.

Now that your customers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of shopping in store, consider maximizing your post-purchase email by providing an in-store order feed. We recently surveyed shoppers on their feelings about shopping in store post a vaccination being available. 

Over 70% of consumers have no concerns about returning to in-store shopping, a 2.4x increase from our September 2020 holiday data.

Share Reviews Across Channels

To stand out during the Holiday season, you don’t just need to provide compelling validation on your own site. You also need to show up digitally wherever you are selling or people are talking about your products. So consider how you can grow your review coverage across other websites and even social media.

Do you sell your products on Amazon? 

Like it or not, it’s the first stop for most shoppers (93% of consumers anticipate doing at least some Holiday shopping there). How are you currently funnelling your customers to write reviews? At PowerReviews, our Share Button makes it very easy for your customers to syndicate their review content to your product page on Amazon and other major retailers. On average, 31% of customers click this button. That’s a lot of reviews!

Syndicate your review content 

Review syndication is by now a well-established practice for most brands – and for good reason. If you sell on Target.com – for example – you are competing against a ton of other brands. So you need to stand out.

How do you convince folks to click through from a main listings page – where consumers have the entire Target.com product inventory to choose from – to your product? Reviews are a highly compelling mechanism for driving this action. We offer the full breakdown on syndication here.

How about social media? 

81% of people use Instagram to research products and services.

At PowerReviews, our Share to Social button allows your customers to share their review content to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest — ultimately increasing your UGC on social media platforms, driving organic traffic to your product pages, and boosting your conversion rates. We even track clicks and coverage so you can keep an eye on things!

During the Holidays

Get More Out of Your Holiday Reviews

You want to be prepared once the reviews start flowing in. Bring your customer service team up to speed on review moderation best practices. Identify key opportunities to feature top-rated products on your site banners and gift guides during the holidays.

Finally, amplify the impact of your existing reviews content through email marketing and social channels.

Let’s start with moderation best practices.

Respond to Reviews

Always respond to reviews, positive or negative.

This simple task builds credibility with shoppers by demonstrating you care about what they have to say. Check with your Customer Success Manager to ensure that merchant response notifications are enabled.

Remember, negative reviews help to build credibility. Our research shows 96% of consumers specifically seek this content out and 46% are suspicious of products with average 5-star ratings.

Customers know things can happen. Something broke during shipping, or the wrong item was sent. What’s more important to them is how you deal with it. Your review response is the place to share that information. Showing customers that you are there to support them and make it right is just as powerful as the experience with the product.

By responding to your reviews, you have the opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive. Then, you can ask customers to update their review.

Leverage Your Review Content

Let’s concentrate on all the positive reviews you collect during the holidays. Think about how you can put them to good use.

You can include star ratings and review quotes in your Instagram posts and stories throughout the holidays.

You can also highlight reviews in your marketing emails as customer testimonials to build credibility.

bissell-email
During the Holidays

Increase Review Volumes

With your review collection methods all in order, it’s time to drum up more reviews — and all the sales that come along with them. Engage your followers on social media and leverage your email list to collect more reviews. Here are a few creative ideas to get you started. 

Generate Reviews Through Social Media

Have you considered asking for reviews on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? 

You may already have a community of engaged followers across your social channels, so why not ask these customers to write reviews for specific products?

Taking that a step further, do you have customers who are already raving about your products on social? Lucky you!

Rather than simply responding with a generic “Thank you, we’re glad you loved it,” why don’t you point the happy customer directly to your website to write a review? They are clearly impressed with your product, so this is the perfect opportunity to gather a positive review!

Ask for Reviews Through Other Emails

Do you plan to highlight specific holiday products within your newsletters or other marketing communications? 

If so, we recommend embedding your review form (or link) within these communications. This is especially impactful for non-eCommerce sites that are unable to send a post-purchase email. You could also highlight a product with low review volume to increase coverage prior to the holiday.

Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 10.21.10 AM

Host a Review Contest

We have had many clients find success with creating and promoting a giveaway contest to collect reviews. In this example, Bumble and Bumble offered ten $100 gift cards for customers who wrote a review within a specific time period. All the customer had to do was sign into their account and submit a review on any product that they’ve used. 

Once the contest was over, Bumble & Bumble was able to use our reporting to identify customers who had written a review within that time period, and they picked the winner randomly with that data. This specific campaign increased review collection by 1400% month over month.

Post-Holidays

Analyze Your Review Content to Iterate and Improve

Now that you’ve made it through the holidays, I’m sure you are ready for a much needed vacation but don’t head to a tropical beach just yet. We’ve got some essential things for you to consider when planning for the New Year.

Your holiday reviews are chock full of useful customer feedback and sentiment. You want to gather this content so you can share it with your internal teams for product enhancements, marketing, and more. 

At a minimum, we recommend thinking about the following:

4.5/5
4 & 5 star reviews
These can supply your product managers and marketing team with sound bites to leverage in campaigns.
1.5/5
1 & 2 star reviews
These can alert customer service and product development teams about common issues and complaints.
The Impact of Your Review Displays
Understand how visitors interacted with UGC on your site and how that impacted conversion. This should then be factored into any site redesign planning.

Take notice of the main trends you see in your reviews. Which products get the best (or the worst) reviews? Are any products having a harder time generating reviews, despite having similar sales numbers to other, more-reviewed products? If you made changes to a product during the holiday season, did it affect the reviews positively or negatively? 

Don’t forget your competition. Take time to review your competitors’ reviews, too. For similar products, how do your reviews match up against the competition? Is there anything you can learn from how your competitors respond to their reviews? 

When you’ve got thousands, hundreds — or heck, even dozens — of products, it can be tough to answer these questions without turning it into a full-time job. As you head into the next year, it might be time to consider looking into reviews analytics software. These platforms use AI to analyze reviews at scale, surface the most impactful trends, deliver competitive insights, and spin up smart, actionable reports for you to use when crafting your UGC success plan for 2021.

If you’re a PowerReviews customer, talk to your Customer Success Manager about your goals and objectives for UGC in 2021. We can be a partner throughout this process.

jakob-owens-o0OnkkvJHrg-unsplash

Wrapping Up

We hope that these UGC best practices were informative and will help you to prepare for the holidays. Start by reviewing your review collection methods now. Then work on generating reviews before and throughout the holiday sales season. Finally, gather actionable insights you can apply to next year’s goals. 

Good luck this holiday season. We wish you happy holidays, and lots of positive reviews!

Kelli Seaquist

Kelli manages the Enterprise Customer Success team at PowerReviews. Over the past four years, she has worked with our largest brands and retailers to provide strategic recommendations for collecting, analyzing, and leveraging user-generated content. Her passion for ratings and reviews has truly helped her thrive at her number one hobby: online shopping. Seriously, she rarely has to return a purchase!

Power Points:
  • Product sampling is a common tactic brands and retailers rely on to generate quality review content quickly

  • Consumers love it because it makes them feel special and exclusive

  • But a phenomenal product sampling campaign will always incorporate specific key elements – all of which are covered here

  • Due to the complexity, brands and retailers often rely on vendors to manage these campaigns for them

By now, the majority of brands and retailers recognize the huge role ratings and reviews play in the purchase journey. But in case you still need convincing, a recent survey found that ratings and reviews have actually become the top factor impacting purchase decisions, surpassing other elements including price, free shipping and brand.

Top Factors Impacting Purchase Decisions
Ratings & Reviews
94%
Price of the product
91%
Free shipping
78%
Brand of the product
65%
Recommendation from friends/family
60%
Imagery provided by people who have previously purchased the product
52%
Imagery provided by the brand or retailer
46%

What’s more, the presence of ratings and reviews is proven to drive bottom line results. Recently, we analyzed 1.5MM product pages across more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites throughout the entire year of 2020 and found there was a 120.3% lift in conversion when visitors interacted (think clicking, searching, filtering and sorting) with ratings and reviews.

Consumers have high expectations when it comes to reviews. For starters, they want plenty of reviews available for the products they’re considering. A third of consumers say that ideally, a given product should have more than 100 reviews!

Shoppers want to find fresh, recently-written reviews. Nearly three-quarters (71%) consider recency when reading reviews. And 51% say they’d be less likely to buy a product if all the reviews were over a year old.

Older Reviews Hold Less Weight for Half of Consumers
If all reviews for a product were over a year old, would you be less likely to purchase it?

Brands and retailers must make it a priority to continuously generate a high volume of reviews for the products in their catalogs.

Product Samples Motivate Consumers to Write Reviews

Although most consumers — 99.9% to be exact — read reviews when shopping online (and 57% do so when shopping in a physical store location), far fewer write them on a regular basis. A recent survey focused on what motivates consumers to contribute user-generated content found that just over half of consumers write reviews more than once per month. The remainder submit this content far less frequently — if ever.

The good news is, there are certain strategies that can motivate more consumers to write reviews. One of those strategies is product sampling. In fact, 86% of consumers indicate that receiving a free sample would motivate them to write a review. That’s probably not terribly surprising. After all, who doesn’t like receiving things for free?

How Product Sampling for Reviews Works

The concept of product sampling isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s an age-old strategy employed by brands and retailers to get people to try a product — with the hope they’ll love it so much they’ll purchase it on their own when the sample runs out. For example, pre-COVID, a beverage brand might distribute free samples of a new product at the grocery store. Or a CPG brand may mail out samples of a new laundry detergent to try to get consumers hooked.

Product sampling for reviews is a similar concept — with a different end goal. 

A brand sends out free samples of a product to a specific audience. The product can be as small as a travel-size toothpaste or as large as a vacuum cleaner. And it doesn’t have to be the product itself; it could also be a coupon or gift card that the consumer redeems for a free product in a store.

After the consumers have had a chance to try out the product, they’re asked to share their honest opinion by writing a review. Those consumers can also include a photo or video of the product in action as part of their reviews.

It’s a relatively simple strategy — but it works. Here at PowerReviews, we’ve found that 85% of our consumer community – BzzAgents to give them their proper brand name – that receive a free sample go on to write a review.

And while some may be concerned that the reviews are poor quality, this simply isn’t the case. We’ve found that reviews that result from a product sampling campaign are actually 83% longer than those captured via other methodologies.

The 9 Key Elements of a Great Product Sampling Campaign

Of course, simply sending out product samples doesn’t guarantee a high volume of reviews (or visual content, if that’s what you’re after). Instead, there are certain elements that are essential to a successful product sampling campaign. 

Based on our extensive experience managing product sampling campaigns for brands and retailers of all sizes, here are the nine key components of a great product sampling campaign that yields a high volume of quality content. 

1. A Solid Goal

The first step of any product sampling campaign is to determine your goal. Without a clear goal, it’ll be impossible to execute a successful campaign — and measure its success or failure.

So, think about what you hope to accomplish with a product sampling campaign. Here are a few goals we see frequently from our customers.

Example Goal #1
Generate Reviews Prior to a Product Launch

When new products are launched, brands typically invest heavily in digital marketing to drive traffic to the product pages. But if a shopper lands on a product page and there’s no user-generated content available, they’re a lot less likely to convert. In fact, nearly half of shoppers won’t purchase a product if there aren’t any ratings or reviews for it. 

With product sampling, you can collect reviews prior to a launch. That way, reviews will be pre-populated when the product officially hits store (and digital) shelves. 

If you’re launching a product that’s highly visual in nature (think cosmetics, apparel or home goods), you might also want to ask samplers to submit photos or videos of the product alongside their reviews. Research tells us that 85% of shoppers are more likely to purchase a product that has user-generated visual content, in addition to written text.

Example Goal #2
Generate More Reviews for Targeted, Existing Products

There are likely products in your catalog that could benefit from additional review coverage. For example, you might have product pages with high traffic, but low conversion rates. Displaying more reviews can help boost shoppers’ confidence — and increase the likelihood that they’ll convert.

Or, you might have products with significantly fewer reviews than similar products from a competitor. A higher volume of reviews might be just the ticket to getting more consumers to choose your products over that of your competitors. 

Remember: a third of consumers think that a given product should have more than 100 reviews. When you collect and display more reviews, shoppers are more likely to find content that’s relevant to their own unique needs. 

Example Goal #3
Generate Fresh Reviews for Target Products

You might have a product with a ton of reviews. But the thing is, all of the reviews were written months — or even years ago. That’s a problem, as a third of shoppers want to find reviews that are between a week and a month old. And 21% want to read reviews posted within the last week!

"How recently would you like to see review content was left on a product you're considering?"

Product sampling is a great way to “freshen up” reviews for targeted products.

2. The Right Number of Samples

If you’re considering a product sampling campaign, you’re likely wondering how many samples you need to send out. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer here. It really depends on your campaign goal, as well as your budget. 

First, you’ve got to determine the number of reviews (or pieces of visual content) you want from a given campaign.

For example, perhaps you want to generate 500 reviews prior to launching a new makeup product. Then, consider how many of your samplers will actually go on to write a review (here at PowerReviews, our sampling campaigns yield a 85% average review submission rate. That means out of every 10 samples sent, a brand or retailer can expect about 8.6 reviews. This is far higher than competitors, whose review submission rates are typically in the 40-60% range).

3. The Right Audience

It’s not an effective approach to send samples to a random group of consumers. For example, you don’t want to spend money sending makeup samples to consumers who don’t wear (and have absolutely no interest in) cosmetics. You’re better off throwing the samples into the trash!

Instead, you’ve got to ensure your samples go to the right audience. A great way to do that is to send a survey to potential samplers with questions relevant to the product to determine if they’re a good fit.

For example, if you’re doing a sampling campaign for a baby monitor, you’ll likely start by targeting adults aged 30-40. But don’t stop there! Instead, send these consumers a survey to determine whether they have a young child. If they don’t, they’ll have no use for your product — and probably won’t write a review (at least, not a relevant one). 

Working with the right product sampling vendor is the best way to ensure your product samples get into the right hands.

These vendors typically have curated databases of consumers that represent a wide range of demographics (including age, gender and geographic location, among others) and niches (such as foodies and beauty enthusiasts).

That way, you can get your products into the hands of shoppers that meet your specific criteria. 

Some product sampling partners will tout the size of their database. But be sure to ask them how engaged the consumers in their database are. A large database of consumers is meaningless if they’re not engaged and actively writing reviews!

4. A Means for Fulfillment and Distribution

Once you’ve determined how many samples you’ll send and who you’ll send them to, it’s time to get those samples in the mail. Sounds simple enough, right?

The reality is, manually distributing product samples is inefficient and time consuming when you handle it internally. This is especially true if you’re planning a high volume sampling campaign.

A better approach might be to partner with a product sampling partner who is equipped to handle your entire campaign — including distribution. Your only “to-do” as far as distribution goes should be to send a shipment of samples to the vendor; they handle the rest. 

5. The Right Communication Cadence

The ultimate goal of a product sampling campaign is to generate as many reviews (or visual content) as possible. Of course, there will be some consumers who will submit content soon after receiving their sample. But that won’t be the case for everyone. 

So, be sure to send regular communications to your samplers to ensure the highest collection rate possible.

For starters, include a letter in the product sampling package that reminds consumers to submit a product review — and details how to do so. Then, send reminder emails to those who haven’t yet submitted their review. 

And don’t be afraid to send more than one reminder email. Nearly a third of consumers indicate they need to be asked two or even three times before they write a review.

In all of your communications, make it extremely clear exactly what you want the consumer to do. For example, if you want them to submit photos or a video alongside their written review, spell it out for them.

6. Tools to Measure Campaign Performance

Measuring the performance of your product sampling campaign is essential. If you don’t, there’s no way to determine if your campaign actually achieved what you set out to do. It’ll also be impossible to understand where your campaign fell flat — and identify ways to improve future campaigns. 

But don’t wait until the campaign has wrapped up to measure your performance. Instead, check your progress throughout the campaign. That way, you can make real-time adjustments as needed to improve outcomes. 

If you’re working with a product sampling vendor, be sure to ask what tools they provide to allow you to continuously measure campaign performance.

7. Tools to Identify Actionable Insights

Reviews generated from product sampling campaigns give brands and retailers unique insight into what consumers love (and don’t love) about a given product. These insights can be used to improve products and customer experiences.

For example, let’s say a beauty brand is launching a new face cream in the next few months. The brand executes a pre-launch sampling campaign so there are plenty of reviews in place when the product hits the shelves.

The brand analyzes the reviews and notices that there are several written by consumers with sensitive skin that indicate the product caused a rash. Armed with these insights, the brand reworks the product description to make it clear that the product isn’t a good fit for consumers with sensitive skin. And, the product development team gets to work creating a similar product for sensitive skin. 

Reviews are a treasure trove of actionable insights. But the thing is, combing through each individual review to identify trends and uncover insights isn’t exactly effective or efficient. 

Be sure to ask your product sampling partner about the reports and analytics that are available to you.

8. Authenticity and Transparency

Shoppers trust reviews because this content comes from others like them. In order to preserve that trust, brands and retailers executing product sampling campaigns must make authenticity and transparency a priority.

Of course, it’s important to moderate reviews that result from product sampling campaigns to ensure the content is authentic, written about the correct product, and free of slander and profanity. But reviews should never, ever be filtered out simply because they’re negative. 

Negative reviews are an important tool that helps shoppers make better purchase decisions. In fact, 96% of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews at least sometimes. This content allows shoppers to easily identify the worst case scenario of a product — and then decide whether they can live with it. 

What’s more, the presence of negative reviews actually helps you boost trust with shoppers. After all, nearly half (46%) of shoppers say they’re suspicious of products with a perfect five star rating.

In addition, be sure to display a badge or a small print disclosure alongside reviews that are generated as the result of a product sampling campaign. It’s an important way to maintain transparency — and meet FTC guidelines.

9. The Right Product Sampling Partner

It’s certainly possible to plan and execute a product sampling campaign on your own. But a great product sampling campaign has a lot of moving parts. And managing these moving parts is time consuming, with a lot of room for error. 

The vendors you’re considering should have extensive expertise with product sampling, as well as the ability (and experience) to manage your entire campaign end-to-end.

In order to generate the best results, be sure to find a partner that has a highly engaged community and a high average submission rate. Also, ensure your chosen partner can execute quickly. Ideally, you should have reviews rolling in within four weeks of a project kickoff call.

Start Generating More Reviews with Product Sampling

More than ever before, consumers depend on reviews to make informed purchase decisions. In fact, a whopping 99.9% of consumers read reviews when shopping online at least sometimes. And 57% do so when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. 

Brands that consistently collect and display reviews are better positioned to meet customer expectations — and drive bottom line results. The pressure’s on to collect and display as many high quality reviews as possible.

If you’re looking for an effective strategy to generate more reviews, consider product sampling. It’s a simple, proven way to generate a high volume of high quality content — fast. 

The role of ratings and reviews in the customer journey, according to research of more than 6,000 shoppers in the UK.

Survey at a Glance:

Reviews have never been more important to UK consumers.
  • 99.75% of UK consumers read reviews at least sometimes when shopping online;  nearly 89% do so regularly or always. 

  • 65% of shoppers in the UK read reviews about purchases they’re making in a physical store.

  • 98% of UK consumers view reviews an essential resource when making purchase decisions.

  • Reviews are the top factor impacting purchase decisions for shoppers in the UK, ranking above other factors including price and recommendations from family and friends. 
The presence of reviews impacts where consumers in the UK browse and buy.
  • 69% of shoppers in the UK seek out websites with reviews. This number is even higher — 73% — among Millennials.

  • Consumers most commonly read reviews on sites including Amazon.co.uk (88%), retail websites (85%), search engines (67%), and brand websites (58%).
Consumers in the UK consider many factor when reading reviews
  • 75% of consumers consider the average star rating when reading reviews; however, 53% don’t trust star ratings alone as much as they do star ratings accompanied by written reviews.

  • Three-quarters of shoppers consider how recently reviews were written. And they have high expectations when it comes to recency. Just over 70% want to access reviews written within the last month.

  • 73% of shoppers consider the quantity of reviews available. The largest portion of shoppers (38%) read between six and 10 reviews. However, 62% say that in an ideal world, they’d be able to find at least 26 reviews for a given product.
Negative reviews have an important role to play.
  • 95% of consumers in the UK seek out negative reviews. Reading negative reviews doesn’t guarantee a shopper will pass up a product. In fact, our previous research found that there’s actually a 120.3% lift in conversion when site visitors filter to see only one-star reviews on a product page.

  • Nearly half (45%) of consumers are suspicious of products with an average star rating of five out of five. This number is even higher — 52% — among Boomer shoppers.

Introduction

Reviews Have Never Been More Important to Consumers

Regardless of what they’re shopping for, consumers have seemingly endless options. And thanks to the internet, they have easy access to plenty of information to aid their decision-making.

Of course, brand-provided information, such as product descriptions, specs and photos are valuable. But shoppers also want to hear about the experiences of others like them.

In the past, consumers would seek out such feedback by asking family members and friends. Of course, traditional word of mouth is still alive and well. However, increasingly, consumers seek out feedback from others by reading reviews. Our most recent research found that nearly all shoppers in the UK consult reviews when shopping online. What’s more, 98% of UK consumers consider this content to be essential. Clearly, reviews are no longer “nice to have.” They’re a must-have.

Reviews are an Essential Component of a Successful Ecommerce Strategy

By now, most brands and retailers recognise the tremendous value consumers place on reviews. As such, they’ve made it a priority to collect and display this content.

Businesses that incorporate reviews into their overall ecommerce strategy are rewarded. Product pages with reviews attract a higher volume of visitors. And a larger portion of visitors convert. A recent analysis found that conversion rates more than double when shoppers interact with ratings and reviews on a product page. 

There’s a 120.3% lift in conversion when a shopper interacts with ratings and reviews on a given product page.

On the flip side, brands and retailers that fail to provide consumers with the reviews they seek out are sure to lose customers. As you’ll read in this report, nearly half of UK consumers simply won’t buy a product if there aren’t any ratings or reviews for it. 

Now’s the Time to Leverage Reviews to Drive Revenue Growth

Brands and retailers must effectively leverage reviews if they expect to attract and convert customers in an increasingly competitive landscape. But in order to build effective strategies, businesses must first take a step back to understand shopper expectations when it comes to reviews. 

PowerReviews surveyed more than 6,000 UK consumers to understand how consumers use reviews when shopping online and in-store — and how the presence or absence of this content impacts where consumers shop and what they buy. This report explores the findings from this survey and provides recommendations for brands and retailers seeking to maximise the impact of ratings and reviews.

Who We Surveyed

Generations

Gen Z
(1997-present)
1%
Millennials
(1981-1996)
45%
Gen X
(1965-1980)
44%
Baby Boomers
(1946-1964)
10%

Household Income

The Growing Importance of Reviews

The idea of consumers seeking out feedback from others prior to making a purchase decision isn’t exactly a new concept. For example, a consumer might ask for feedback from family and friends before choosing a hotel for their next vacation or purchasing a new washing machine.

But now, more than ever, consumers access feedback from others by reading reviews.

The Vast Majority of Consumers Read Reviews When Shopping Online

Over the last decade, eCommerce has experienced steady growth. The COVID-19 pandemic further fueled that growth.

Today, a large (and growing) number of consumers enjoy the benefits of online shopping. However, shopping online does come with a certain level of risk. Namely, consumers can’t touch and see a product in person before committing to a purchase.

To bridge the gap, consumers seek out as much information as they can before making an online purchase. One way they do this is by consulting reviews. In fact, nearly all (99.75% to be exact) of consumers in the UK indicate they read product reviews when shopping online at least sometimes. 

And many consumers consult reviews far more regularly. Nearly 89% of consumers read reviews regularly or always when shopping online.

How Frequently Online Shoppers Read Reviews

Shoppers Consult Reviews in Brick-and-Mortar Shops

Reviews are a valuable tool for online shoppers. But a growing number of shoppers also consult reviews when they’re shopping within the four walls of a brick-and-mortar shop.

In fact, 65% of shoppers in the UK indicate they read reviews about purchases they make in a physical shop or store. 

Consulting Reviews In-Store
Do you ever read reviews about purchases you make in a physical shop or store?
Overall
65%
Boomers
60%
Gen X
64%
Millennials
66%
Gen Z
61%

Interestingly, Millennials are the generation most likely to consult reviews in-store. 66% do so, compared to 60% of Boomers. 

But make no mistake: a large portion of shoppers across all generations depend on reviews when shopping in physical store locations. The onus is on brands and retailers to ensure this content is easy for consumers to access, whether they’re shopping online or within the four walls of a store. 

Reviews are Essential

There was once a time when reviews were considered novel. But they’ve quickly become a key part of the purchase journey for just about all shoppers. 

Today, 98% of consumers agree that reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions. Over half (55%) strongly agree with this sentiment. 

Reviews are an Essential Resource When Making Purchase Decisions

How Reviews Influence Where Consumers Browse and Buy Products

A staggering 98% of UK consumers consider reviews to be essential. So it’s probably not surprising that the presence (or absence) of reviews has a large impact on where online shoppers browse and ultimately, buy. 

Consumers Seek out Websites with Ratings and Reviews

Consumers want websites to provide all of the information they need to make informed purchase decisions. That includes plenty of reviews for plenty of products. In fact, 69% of consumers actively seek out websites with ratings and reviews. 

Consumers Seek Out Websites with Reviews
When shopping online, do you specifically seek out websites that have product reviews?
Overall
69%
Boomers
66%
Gen X
67%
Millennials
73%
Gen Z
67%

Notably, Millennials are the generation most likely to seek out websites with reviews; nearly a quarter (73%) do so. In comparison, 66% of Boomers, 67% of Gen X’ers, and 67% of Gen Z shoppers say this is the case.

Consumers in the UK Read Reviews on Various Websites

Sure, 69% of consumers in the UK actively seek out websites with reviews. But where exactly are they consuming reviews? 

It probably shocks no one that Amazon tops the list; 88% of consumers indicate they read reviews on Amazon.co.uk. However, retail websites, such as JohnLewis.com and Boots.com (among others) are an extremely close second. 85% of consumers read reviews on these and other retail websites. Brands can also take comfort in the fact that over half (58%) of consumers read reviews directly on the website of the brand that manufactures the given product — for example, Nike.com or Apple.com.

Where Consumers Read Reviews
Amazon.co.uk
88%
Retail websites (JohnLewis.com, Argos.co.uk, Boots.com etc)
85%
Search engines
67%
Brand websites (Nike.com, Boden.co.uk, Apple.com, etc.)
58%
Independent review sites
50%

Shoppers consume reviews on a number of different online destinations. Brands must ensure consumers can always find reviews for their products — wherever they choose to purchase them.

Many Consumers Visit Brand Websites

A large portion of consumers read reviews on Amazon and retailer sites. However, that doesn’t mean brands should depriotise their own websites.

When deciding whether to purchase a product online, nearly all consumers (97%) visit the brand site directly, in addition to retail websites, at least sometimes. 66% do so always or regularly. 

Many Consumers Visit Brand Websites
When assessing whether to purchase a product online, how often do you visit brand websites, in addition to retail websites, Amazon and so on (where you might end up buying the product)?

And, as previously noted, 58% of consumers read reviews on brand websites.

Brands must ensure they’re delivering great ecommerce experiences via their own dot com. A big part of this is ensuring consumers have easy access to all of the information they need to make informed decisions — including ratings and reviews.

How Reviews Impact Purchase Behaviour

Just about all consumers seek out reviews. But how exactly does the presence (or absence) of this content impact purchase behaviour

Reviews Have Become the Top Purchasing Consideration

Consumers weigh a variety of factors when determining which products to purchase (and which to avoid). But our most recent research found that ratings and reviews surpass all other factors in terms of importance. In fact, ratings and reviews have an even larger impact on purchase decisions than the price of the product — or recommendations from family and friends!

Reviews are the Top Purchasing Consideration
Which of the following impacts whether or not you decide to purchase a product?
Ratings & Reviews
94%
Price of the product
92%
Recommendation from friends/family
63%
Free shipping
56%
Free returns or exchanges
49%
Imagery provided by people who have previously purchased the product
43%
Imagery provided by the brand or retailer
36%
Brand of the product
35%
Same day or 1-day shipping
33%

A Lack of Reviews is Enough to Deter Many Shoppers

Consumers actively seek out reviews — regardless of what they’re shopping for. And if they’re not able to find the content they seek, many will abandon the purchase.

Nearly half (46%) of consumers in the UK indicate they won’t buy a product if there are no ratings or reviews available for it.

Younger shoppers are more likely to steer clear of products without reviews than their older counterparts. 54% of Gen Z shoppers and 48% of Millennials won’t buy products that don’t have reviews, compared to 45% of Gen X’ers and 39% of Boomers. 

Consumers of all Generations Steer Clear of Products without Reviews
If there are no ratings and reviews for a product, I would still buy it
Overall
54%
Boomers
61%
Gen X
55%
Millennials
52%
Gen Z
46%

It’s true that over half of shoppers will still purchase a product even if there aren’t reviews for it. However, it’s important to note that the presence of reviews is proven to significantly boost sales. Our own analysis found that there’s a 120.3% lift in conversion when shoppers interact with ratings and reviews on a given product page. 

A Solid Reputation Can Help Shoppers Overcome Their Doubts about Products Without Reviews

We know that a good portion of shoppers will avoid products that don’t have reviews. But interestingly, 56% said they’d be more likely to buy a product that didn’t have any reviews if other products manufactured by the same brand had a high overall average rating.

An even larger portion of Gen Z shoppers — 72% — indicate that they’d be more likely to buy a product lacking reviews if other products from the same brand had great overall ratings.

A Strong Online Reputation can Increase the Likelihood of a Sale -- Even When the Product Lacks Reviews
I am more likely to buy a product that doesn’t have any reviews if other products manufactured by the same brand have a high overall rating
Overall
56%
Boomers
57%
Gen X
56%
Millennials
55%
Gen Z
72%

Obviously, brands should focus on generating reviews across the entire product catalog. However, it is encouraging that a great online reputation can boost trust and shopper confidence — even if you don’t have any reviews for the specific product the consumer is considering.

When Reviews are Most Impactful

We know that just about all consumers turn to reviews when they’re shopping online — and 65% do so when shopping in brick-and-mortar shops. But are there certain circumstances when reviews are especially important?

Reviews Matter for Expensive Products

There’s a certain amount of risk associated with purchasing a product sight unseen. This is especially true when the product comes with a higher-than-average price tag. No one wants to purchase an expensive product — and then be disappointed when it arrives!

For many shoppers, reading reviews helps reduce the risk associated with purchasing an expensive product. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of consumers indicate that the more expensive the product, the more they read reviews.

Younger shoppers are much more likely to read more reviews for expensive products; 94% of Gen Z shoppers do so. In comparison, far fewer Boomers — 60% — agree that the more expensive the product, the more they read reviews. A possible explanation for this is that younger shoppers — specifically those who identify as Gen Z — haven’t been in the workforce as long as their older counterparts and thus have less disposable income. Therefore, they scrutinise expensive items more.

Consumers Rely on Reviews When Purchasing Expensive Products
The more expensive the product, the more I read reviews.
Overall
74%
Boomers
60%
Gen X
73%
Millennials
78%
Gen Z
94%

Income also seems to have a bearing on whether someone reads more reviews for expensive products…but perhaps not in the way one might think. The higher a consumer’s income, the more likely they are to agree that the more expensive the product, the more they read reviews. 

Reviews Matter for Expensive Products: Comparison by Household Income
The more expensive the product, the more I read reviews.
0-£25,000
71%
£26,000-£50,000
75%
£51,000-£75,000
78%
£76,000-£100,000
82%
£100,001 and up
85%
Prefer not to say
69%

Consumers across all generations and income brackets depend on reviews even more when they’re considering an expensive item. So make it a priority to collect plenty of reviews for the items in your product catalog that are higher priced.

Consumers Consult Reviews for Various Product Categories

Modern shoppers depend on reviews. But are there any product categories for which they find reviews particularly helpful?

Electronics is the top category; 97% of consumers find reviews to be helpful when purchasing products in this category. Appliances come in at a close second at 90%. This makes sense, as products in these categories are typically higher priced — which aligns with our finding that reviews are especially important for more expensive items.

Consumers also find reviews to be helpful when purchasing products across a variety of other categories, including health & beauty (70%), computers (69%), home & garden (68%), clothing (66%), shoes (49%), toys (45%), groceries (35%) and baby (24%). It’s important to note that the baby category is lowest, likely because items in this category are purchased by a specific group of consumers — parents — rather than the general population.

Reviews are Valuable for Myriad Product Categories
Electronics
97%
Appliances
90%
Health & Beauty
70%
Computers
69%
Home & Garden
68%
Clothing
66%
Shoes
49%
Toys
45%
Groceries
35%
Baby
24%

Consumers value reviews across a wide array of product categories. Make it a priority to collect reviews — regardless of the types of products you sell. 

The Review Elements that Matter Most to Consumers

By now, it’s clear that reviews play an essential role in the purchase journey — whether a consumer is shopping online or in a brick-and-mortar shop. But there are many things to consider when reading reviews, such as star rating, recency and quantity, among others. Which of these elements matter most to consumers? 

Consumers Consider Many Review Elements

Shoppers consider many factors when they’re reading reviews. The average rating and the recency of review content are tied for the top spot. 75% of consumers consider each of these elements when reading reviews. The quantity of reviews is a close second; 73% of consumers consider how many reviews there are for a given product. 

Other less popular, but still significant elements, include the length, depth and detail of the review content (51%) and the grammar and spelling within the review content (26%).

Shoppers Weigh Many Different Elements of Reviews
When reading reviews to assess a purchase, which of the following do you consider as part of that process?
The average rating of the review content
75%
Recency of review content
75%
The number of reviews
73%
The length, depth and detail of the review content
51%
The grammar and spelling within the review content
26%

Let’s dig deeper into a few of these top considerations. 

Star Ratings Alone Aren’t Enough

Three-quarters of consumers consider the average star rating of a product when reading reviews. That’s probably not surprising. The star rating provides a great high level overview of the satisfaction of those who have already purchased the product.

Some websites, including Amazon, allow shoppers to leave a star rating for products they’ve purchased — without an accompanying written review.

There’s no doubt this helps the retailer generate a high volume of reviews quickly. However, many consumers don’t trust a star rating alone as much as they do a star rating accompanied by a written review to provide context for why the rating was assigned. In fact, 53% of consumers don’t trust a star rating as much as they do a star rating with a written review. 

The older the consumer, the more likely they are to trust ratings less than ratings accompanied by reviews. 60% of Boomers and 54% of Gen X’ers feel this way, compared to 51% of Millennials and 49% of Gen Z’ers. 

Many Consumers Don’t Trust Star Ratings Alone
Do you trust star ratings as much as you do ratings accompanied by reviews?
Overall
47%
Boomers
40%
Gen X
46%
Millennials
49%
Gen Z
51%

Star ratings matter. But a large portion of consumers also want written reviews. By collecting reviews alongside ratings, you’re fostering trust with shoppers — and helping them make the best purchase decisions.

Shoppers Expect Recently Written Reviews

Recency is one of the top factors consumers consider when reading reviews. And they have high expectations.

Just over 70% of consumers want to find reviews posted within the last month. And over a quarter (28.5%) want to be able to find reviews written within the last seven days.

Consumers Want to Find Recent Reviews
In an ideal world, how recently do you like to see that review content was left on a specific product when assessing whether to purchase it?

Consumers pay attention to how recently a review was written. And old reviews may carry less weight than newer ones. As such, brands and retailers must focus on generating a steady stream of reviews so shoppers can always find fresh, relevant reviews for the products they’re considering.

Review Quantity Matters

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers consider the quantity of reviews when reading this content prior to making a purchase. But how many reviews is enough?

The largest portion of shoppers — 38% read between six and 10 reviews, and 28% read between 11 and 25. 16% read 26 reviews or more, and just over 17% are satisfied with just 1-5 reviews.

Number of Reviews Consumers Typically Read Before Making a Purchase Decision

Of course, it’s important to remember that the number of reviews a consumer reads likely varies greatly based on the product they’re purchasing. For example, as we noted earlier, 74% of consumers read more reviews when a product is more expensive. So it’s safe to say a consumer would read more reviews when purchasing a big ticket item like a refrigerator, than they would when considering a new kind of soft drink.

Shoppers Want to Access a Large Volume of Reviews -- But They’ll Settle for Fewer Than Ideal

While the greatest portion of shoppers reads between six and 10 reviews for a given product, they ideally want to find a lot more content. In fact, 62% ideally want to find at least 26 reviews for a product. And nearly a quarter (24%) feel that ideally, a product should have more than 100 reviews! 

Why do shoppers want access to so many reviews — when they typically read far fewer? Likely because when there’s a large volume of reviews, it’s easier to find content relevant to their unique needs. 

The Ideal Number of Reviews for a Given Product
What is the IDEAL number of reviews a product should have in your opinion?

Ideally, consumers want to find quite a large volume of reviews for the products they’re considering. However, many feel they can make confident purchase decisions with fewer than the ideal number of reviews.

The greatest portion of shoppers (29%) indicate that a product must have between six and 10 reviews in order for them to feel comfortable purchasing it. 19% need to be able to find 11-25 reviews and 18% indicate they’d be comfortable with between one and five reviews. Nearly a third (32%) indicate that a product must have at least 26 reviews before they’d feel comfortable purchasing it. 

The Minimum Number of Reviews That Would Satisfy Shoppers
What is the minimum number of reviews a product needs to have for you to feel comfortable purchasing it?

The Important Role of Negative Reviews

No brand or retailer strives for negative reviews. But the good news is, the occasional negative review isn’t the end of your business. In fact, negative reviews are an important tool shoppers depend on to find products that best fit their needs. And the absence of negative reviews raises a red flag for shoppers.

Consumers Look for Negative Reviews

The vast majority (95%) of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews at least sometimes. And many look for this content far more frequently. 30% always look for negative reviews, and a third (33%) seek out this content regularly.

Consumers Frequently Seek out Negative Reviews
When you read reviews, how often do you specifically seek out negative reviews?

Gen Z shoppers are the generation most likely to always seek out negative reviews. 33% say they do so, compared to just over a quarter (27%) of Boomers.

How Frequently Different Generations Seek out Negative Reviews
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

Resist the urge to delete negative reviews. Consumers depend on this content to determine the worst case scenario of a product — and whether it’s something they can live with. 

What’s more, negative reviews won’t necessarily deter shoppers from purchasing a product. In fact, our recent analysis of the impact of myriad UGC features found that many site visitors specifically filter to read one-star reviews. And those who do convert at a rate 108.8% higher than the average page visitor!

Shoppers Distrust Products with Perfect Ratings

Consumers know that even the best products can’t be all things to all people. So if a product only has glowing reviews, it can raise suspicions. 

Nearly half (45%) of shoppers in the UK say that they are suspicious of products with a perfect average rating of five out of five stars. 

Boomers are the group most likely to be suspicious of products with a perfect rating; 52% say this is the case, compared to 44% of Millennials.

Many Consumers are Suspicious When No Negative Reviews are Present
Are you suspicious of products with a perfect 5 star rating?
Overall
45%
Boomers
52%
Gen X
45%
Millennials
44%
Gen Z
46%

Consumers of all ages perceive perfect star ratings as too good to be true. On the other hand, businesses that display negative reviews show shoppers they’re a trustworthy brand that has nothing to hide. 

6 Tips for Leveraging Reviews to Grow Online and Offline Sales

Reviews are a key part of the purchase journey. Today, nearly 100% of consumers in the UK consult reviews when shopping online — and 65% do so when shopping in a brick-and-mortar shop. There’s never been a more important time for brands and retailers to collect and display reviews. By doing so, these businesses will be better positioned to attract and convert shoppers. After all, there’s a 120.3% lift in conversion when site visitors interact with reviews.

Read on for our six recommendations for leveraging ratings and reviews to the fullest, based on the findings of this report.

One
Consistently Generate More Reviews Across Your Product Catalog

A staggering 98% of UK consumers consider reviews to be an essential resource when making purchase decisions. And nearly half simply won’t purchase a product if there aren’t any reviews for it. 

So start collecting more reviews. The best way to do this is to send post purchase emails or SMS messages (or both) to your customers, asking them to submit reviews. Make sure the entire process for submitting a review is quick and can easily be completed on a mobile device. And make it easy for shoppers to leave reviews for multiple products on a single page, as many transactions include multiple items.

Also, remember that while quantity matters, so too does recency. Consider doing an audit to identify products that have mostly older reviews. And then focus on generating fresh content for these products.

Two
Put Reviews Front and Center

69% of shoppers in the UK say they specifically seek out websites with reviews. So make sure this content is easy to find and consume on your ecommerce site — whether your customers are browsing on their laptop at home or their mobile device while in the store. At a minimum, display the average star rating and review count “above the fold” on product pages.  And be sure to include features in the full review display that allow shoppers to sort, filter and search to find the content that’s most relevant to them.

Three
Share Reviews Across Your Key Sales Channels

88% of consumers read reviews on Amazon.co.uk and 85% do so on retail websites. If you’re a brand, it’s important that shoppers are able to find plenty of review content — wherever they ultimately end up purchasing your products. Ask your ratings and reviews supplier if there’s a way for you to share the reviews collected on your own website with your top retail partners, as well as Amazon.

Four
See the Bright Side of Negative Reviews

Getting a negative review is never the goal. But the occasional negative review isn’t the end of the world. In fact, there’s a positive side to negative reviews.

95% of consumers seek out negative reviews. By displaying negative reviews, you’re meeting their needs — and making it easier for them to identify the products that’ll work best for them. And the good news is, those who filter to see only one-star reviews actually convert at a rate that’s 120.3% greater than the typical website visitor. 

Also, displaying negative reviews let’s shoppers know you have nothing to hide — and therefore, are a brand they can trust. After all, almost half of UK shoppers indicate they’re suspicious when a product has a perfect average star rating of 5.0.

Five
Measure Performance and Optimise Accordingly

Creating a beautiful, on-brand review display is for naught if it doesn’t have a positive impact on sales. Instead, focus on creating a review display that drives results. 

This shouldn’t be a case of “one and done.” Instead, measure the performance of your review displays on an ongoing basis. And use your findings to consistently make impactful optimisations. Ask your ratings and reviews provider what tools they offer to help you measure performance and make data-based optimisations.

Six
Discover Actionable Insights in Your Reviews

Reviews (especially those pesky negative ones) are a great source of insight into what shoppers love (and don’t love) about your products. Be sure to analyse your reviews on a regular basis to shed light on opportunities to improve your products and experiences. 

Ask your ratings and reviews partner what analytics capabilities are available to you to identify insights from reviews — and then take action on them.

Shopper opinions on returning items bought online and in-store, based on a survey of 7,688 consumers

Survey at a Glance:

  • Consumer interest in free shipping and returns is at an all-time high. Consumers said that free shipping (96%) and free returns (76%) are important consideration factors when shopping online.

  • Higher-income households are more likely to be interested in returns than lower-income households. 83% of consumers with a HHI > $100,000 reported that returns are important vs. 75% of consumers with a HHI <$25,000.

  • Return behavior hasn’t changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. 72% of shoppers said they return products purchased online at about the same rate as they did prior to the pandemic.

  • Clothing (88%), shoes (44%), and electronics (43%) top the list of the most returned product categories.

  • The top three reasons people gave for returning an item was that it didn’t fit (70%), the item was damaged or defective (65%), or the item didn’t match the description (49%).

  • Access to UGC has a significant impact on a customer’s likelihood of returning an item. Two in three shoppers agreed that they would be less likely to return a product if they had been able to view user-submitted reviews, Q&A, or image and video prior to purchasing.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things, especially in retail. 

The makeup of the type of products people purchased changed dramatically, with groceries and household supplies experiencing unprecedented demand while other industries suffered. Shoppers now prefer to shop in stores with comprehensive cleaning policies, curbside pickup, and BOPIS, all things they may not have cared about prior to 2020. And, they rely on reviews more than ever when making purchasing decisions.

As we head into the fall of 2021 and look toward 2022, inquiring retailers want to know: how else have shoppers’ habits changed? Has the pandemic impacted return rates? What makes a shopper return something, and what can retailers do to prevent it? (Hint: UGC goes a long way toward preventing returns.)

We surveyed 7,668 shoppers from age 18 to 80 to find out.

Free shipping still tops consumer demand, followed by free returns

We know that product and price are persuasive when it comes to getting a shopper to click “Buy Now.” (We also know that ratings and reviews are the single most influential factor when considering an online purchase.)

But, after the basics, what matters most to people when shopping online? Is it free shipping, or an excellent returns policy?

As you might have guessed, free shipping reigns supreme. At 96%, nearly all shoppers consider free shipping to be important. At 79%, free returns was second most important.

When shopping online, which of the following options are important to you?
Free shipping​
96%
Free returns​
79%
Fast shipping​
74%
Buy Online, Return In-Store
48%
Buy Online, Pickup In-Store
48%

Free returns are generally quite popular, across both income buckets and generations. However, there is a clear correlation between household income and interest in free returns. The more money you make, the more likely you are to be interested in a free returns policy.

Percentage of shoppers who said free returns are important, by income
Under $25,000​
75%
$26,000-$50,000​
76%
$51,000-$75,000​
77%
$76,000-$100,000
80%
over $100,000
83%

The takeaway? Luxury retailers catering to higher-income shoppers should consider implementing a free returns policy, if they don’t have one already. It’s possible that high-income households have more discretionary income to spend on nice-to-have items, and they want the option to return the item if they change their mind, while lower-income households could be primarily online shopping for necessities that they don’t plan on returning.

Returns are just as common as ever

Clearly, customers like the option of being able to return a purchase, especially if they can do so for free. You might think, then, that they frequently take advantage of return policies. 

They do. 88% of consumers report they make returns at least “occasionally.” This aligns with industry reporting that says returns were up 70% year-over-year in 2020.

How often do you return products ordered online?

Only 12% of shoppers said they “never” return a product. Gen Z were the most likely to say they would never return something, with 1 in 5 Gen Zers (20%) saying so, compared with only 12% of all shoppers.

At 22%, those making under $25K were also the most likely to say they would never return something, while those making over $100K were the least likely (only 5%). This isn’t a surprise, considering the stronger preference for free returns among those with high household incomes.

Interestingly, a near-majority of shoppers said they return products they purchase online at about the same rate they do for items they purchased in store. Only 20% of shoppers said they returned products purchased online more often than those they purchased in-store.

Do you return products you purchase online more or less often than products you buy in-store?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, at 28%, Gen Zs were the most likely to say they returned items they purchased online more frequently, and Boomers, at only 13%, were the least likely to say so.

Fortunately for retailers, the majority of people say the frequency with which they return items purchased online has not changed since the start of COVID-19 pandemic. Among those who do return items more or less frequently, the responses were fairly equally split.

Although, there were a few outliers. Both Gen Zs and those with household incomes under $25K were significantly more likely to say they return online purchases less often now, at 24% (compared with 15% across all respondents).

Comparing today to before the COVID pandemic, do you now return online purchases more or less frequently?

Apparel, shoes, and electronics top the most-returned product categories

Some retailers are more susceptible to returns than others, due to the type of products they offer. At 88%, clothing was far and away the most common type of product people returned. Coming in second and third place were shoes (44%) and electronics (43%). 

Which types of products have you returned in the past?
Clothing
88%
Shoes
44%
Electronics
43%
Home & Garden
24%
Health & Beauty
21%
Toys
19%
Appliances
18%
Groceries
14%
Baby
11%
Computers
8%

To reduce returns in these top categories, the answer may be as simple as UGC — user generated visual content, specifically.

These top product categories exactly match the product categories where consumers most value user-generated images, including clothing (78%), electronics (70%), home and garden (62%) and health and beauty (60%). By generating more images and videos from customers, retailers can help lower return rates for products in these categories.

“Poor fit” is the most common reason for making a return

We also asked our survey respondents why they return items.The most common reason people gave was that an “item didn’t fit,” at 70%. Given that clothing represented 88% of all returns, this number makes sense.

Bracketing, or buying multiple sizes of the same item, is a big hurdle for these retailers — leading to higher return rates, driving up costs, and tieing up inventory that could otherwise be sold.

The next two common reasons for returns were the “item was damaged or defective,” at 65%, followed by the “item not matching the description,” at 49%.

What have been your reasons for returning online purchases in the past?
Item doesn't fit
70%
Item is damaged or defective
65%
Item does not match description​
49%
Don't like the item(s)
32%
Ordered multiple items/sizes
13%
Item delivered late
10%
I haven't returned an online purchase
4%
None of the above (reason not listed)
1%

UGC: A retailer’s answer to lower return rates

Even though returns may not be a regular occurrence for most shoppers, each return they do make comes at a significant cost to the retailer.

Experts estimate the average return costs a retailer between 15% to 30% of the original purchase price. Cumulatively, returns cost retailers $550 billion every year.

Given these numbers, it’s obviously in a retailer’s best interest to lower return rates when they can. This is especially true for retailers in product categories that have high return rates, like clothing and shoes.

Overwhelmingly, shoppers said that having access to user-generated content — including reviews, Q&A, and images and video — would have made them less likely to return a product. 

In fact, across the board, two-thirds of shoppers agreed that they would be less likely to return a product if they had been able to read or view this type of content prior to purchasing.

UGC decreases the likelihood of returns
Which forms of UGC would make you less likely to return products you buy online if you’ve viewed them prior to purchasing?
Image & Video​
67%
Ratings & Reviews​
70%
Q&A
68%

UGC even more influential for younger shoppers

As we reviewed the data, a clear trend emerged: the younger a consumer is, the more likely they are to be swayed by UGC. This is especially true for image and video.

For example, user-generated image and video content has the biggest impact on Gen Zs. 82% of Gen Zs agreed that viewing UGC imagery prior to purchasing a product online would make them less likely to make a return. 

Customer images & videos decrease the likelihood of returns (Generations)
Do you think you are/would be less likely to return products you buy online if you’ve viewed images or video from other customers prior to purchasing?
Boomers
51%
Gen X
61%
Millennials
73%
Gen Z
82%

When it came to reviews, Millennials and Gen Zs were equally likely to agree that reviews would make them less likely to return a product, but there was still a big jump between younger and older generations. 

Reviews decrease the likelihood of returns (Generations)
Do you think you are/would be less likely to return products you buy online if you’ve viewed ratings and reviews from other customers prior to purchasing?
Boomers
59%
Gen X
64%
Millennials
75%
Gen Z
75%

When it came to Q&A content, there was less of a stark difference between the generations, but you can still see a clear preference for UGC among younger consumers compared to older ones.

Q&A decreases the likelihood of returns (Generations)
Do you think you are/would be less likely to return products you buy online if you have either read Q&A from other customers, or submitted your own question, prior to purchasing?
Boomers
59%
Gen X
64%
Millennials
72%
Gen Z
74%

Are you set up to lower returns?

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot about how we browse and buy, but one thing’s for sure: returns are a necessary evil for brands and retailers. Fortunately, they have a highly effective tool at their disposal to reduce return rates, and increase conversions at the same time: user-generated content

Our results demonstrate how shoppers who consume ratings and reviews, Q&A content and user-generated imagery and video before buying an item are less likely to return it. This is a fact clearly evident in the data.

However, UGC also incorporates another critical element that can also reduce return rates – something we haven’t explored at length here: the consumer insight in the actual reviews themselves. By treating your UGC as a consumer insight channel, you can get to the bottom of why your customers feel compelled to return items in the first place.

So – instead of treating UGC purely as an online conversion mechanism – think about how you can further maximize its potential. Display it in a way that facilitates in-depth and accurate buyer research prior to purchase and then extensively analyze the information it contains to drive impactful product improvements.

Research Methodology
The PowerReviews Consumer Survey: Returns in Retail in 2021 is based on insights from more than 7,688 U.S. consumers in June 2021. Throughout the survey, we defined Boomers as born in the years 1946 to 1964 (aged 57-75 on Jun 1, 2021), Gen X as born in the years 1965 to 1980 (aged 41-56 on Jun 1, 2021), Millennials as born between 1981-1996 (aged 25-40 on Jun 1, 2021) and Gen Zers born in or after 1997 (ages 24 and younger on Jun 1, 2021).
USAUK

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