Generate Longer 5-Star Reviews by Maximizing the Value of our new Capability

We get asked a lot by customers: how can we generate longer reviews?

At the core of our company ethos is the concept of authenticity. While our competitors are releasing functionality that enables brands to selectively delete review content they don’t like, we are focused on building capabilities that drive high quality and real content that performs.

So we recently rolled out a feature focused specifically on this goal: the Review Meter.

What is the Review Meter?

An interactive character count positioned under the review commentary section that increases as your customer writes his or her review. Here’s an example of it in action:

As you can see, a little green bar grows as the customer types. Some explainer text beneath gently reminds customers to keep writing until they reach the minimum number of characters (this length can be customized to your own specification). Nothing stops the customer from submitting at that shorter length. But this provides some encouragement to provide just a little more detail – particularly if that customer has just been primed by you to talk about best uses or where they are using a product and why.

Once the customer hits that minimum character count, the meter lights up excitedly. The text also converts over to a “keep it up” message, further reinforcing positive behavior.

It’s very simple. But that small visual can go a long way in helping to encourage customers to talk just a little more about their experiences and/or why they like something.

Here’s what McKenna Rowe from DRINKS (featured in the image above) thinks.

Taste in wine creates a lot of debate and opinion. Our sample reviewer (in the above example) is explaining how he or she usually likes red blends, and is typically not particularly enamoured with dry wine. Others reading then gain a sense for this reviewer’s preferences, taste, palate etc. If this matches theirs (or even if it doesn’t but they know enough to understand), the impact is huge.

Review content is all about relating and connecting with the reader. The more likely your content is to do this, the more likely it is to have the desired result.

If you’re a PowerReviews customer, this is super easy to enable. Your Customer Success Manager would be delighted to talk you through it so please reach out if you’re interested.

Longer reviews have deeper impact

To understand the value of the Review Meter, you need to understand the very real and tangible impact of review length.

As we mentioned at the outset, we get asked this a lot by brands and retailers. How much of a focus should it be? What does the data say in terms of the value and impact of longer review content over shorter review content? And, most of all, what can they do to inspire their customers to leave more detailed reviews?

Read on to find out a detailed data-backed take on why curating longer consumer review content is worth your while.

Based on our own PowerReviews review interaction data (taken from analysis of 1.5m+ product pages across 1,200+ brand and retail sites), we can see the distribution of “helpful” ratings according to review length. By this we mean the average number of “helpful” votes review content receives from shoppers. This acts as a good barometer of review consumption and engagement.

As you can see, helpfulness increases in line with review length growth. The trend is very clear. The longer the review, the more helpful it is. 500+ character reviews – in particular – evidently offer huge value to shoppers.

This makes complete sense: consumers like to consume longer review content because it includes more detail that is more likely to be relevant to them. Take a coat for example. A longer review might go into the fit, the material, the zipper, the color, the warmth, reasons for buying and so on and so on.

But what does a “helpful” review mean in terms of outcome? Quite a lot, it turns out.

Review Sort Conversion Lift
Conversion rate of visitors that engaged with each feature
Highest Rating
157.8%
Lowest Rating
105%
Images
167.3%
"Most Helpful" Reviews
192.1%
Most Recent Reviews
80.9%
Oldest Reviews
107.3%

Of all consumers sorting review content, those that sort by helpful rating convert at the highest rate. This actually amounts to 192% above overall average conversion rates. So longer reviews are more helpful and helpful reviews have a huge impact on whether that shopper then goes on to buy that item or not.

Something else to consider about longer reviews: they provide more information about the product for you to analyze (assuming you have the NLP and text analytics to do so…check out our UGC Analytics platform if you don’t). What do consumers like about your product? What do they hate? How can you improve it ? Now project this across your entire catalog. That’s a whole lot of high-value and actionable information for you to leverage to drive positive and meaningful change.

Why do longer reviews generate better results?

It’s not surprising that longer reviews generate better outcomes. As detailed above, the more information contained within a customer review, the more likely it is to clearly articulate a specific use case and answer whatever questions a customer has. It’s also more likely to enhance buyer confidence.

But this value has numerous levels. Think about it: unstructured product feedback is feedback in your customers’ own words. No BS. In this social media-influenced world where everyone is used to interacting and providing their opinions online in public forums, reviews offer an excellent outlet to provide feedback and recommendations for others.

Their verbatim nature mean you also really get to understand how an experience or product made a customer feel. The longer the review, the more customer emotion-type information you get. Reviews that highlight how products made a shopper feel something positive resonate and connect with customers. As a result, they can be extremely influential in the buying decision.

Longer reviews also make the product more likely to be found. Review content – like any other copy on a web page – contributes to SEO rankings, thereby increasing web traffic. More eyes on a product – particularly when the search is likely to be highly intent driven – means more sales.

The More Negative the Sentiment, the Longer the Review

We wanted to see if consumer sentiment affected review length. The answer is it does and significantly so.

To do this, we looked at the accompanying rating provided by the reviewer alongside their review content. It’s clear that – even over an extended period – five and four star rated reviews (out of five) are consistently shorter than one and two star reviews.

To spell this out, negative reviews are longer than positive reviews. Intuitively, this makes sense. You’ve probably seen a lot of review comments out there that say simply “amazing, love my new spatula”, “this coat is wonderful” or similar.

Negative reviews – on the other hand – tend to have more detailed explanations of why the reviewer didn’t like the product (e.g. “Bought the oven online, was a seamless purchase and delivery process. I wouldn’t buy it again though because it doesn’t heat to the temperature it claims at any given time, I’ve verified with my own oven thermometer. When I baked a cake, it didn’t rise. It ruined my son’s birthday. Such a shame as this brand is usually super reliable and this is the third oven I bought for them. I’m shocked and disappointed” etc.).

Negative reviews actually average more than 200 characters pretty consistently. But positive reviews track more closely to what we described across all our data. Why? Most reviews are positive. In fact, the bottom chart here highlights that a whopping 85% of product reviews are 4 and 5 star rated.

This is an especially important point for you to consider. What this means:

  1. Longer reviews are more impactful and drive better sales numbers
  2. Positive reviews tend to be shorter in length but greater in volume
  3. You need longer positive reviews.

You need to focus on generating longer 5-star reviews

We offer extensive guidance on how to generate more review content. Check out this guide or this blog for more on that.

Here we want to explain: how do you convert willing reviewers into longer, helpful review content?

By this point, you have commitment from your customer to provide a review. They are already invested in the process. But you have to remember that your customers are most likely not experienced reviewers. They are also unlikely to be expert copywriters and they are probably not product experts. They may not even know where to start when it comes to providing information other shoppers look for.

Start with the Review Meter

Our Review Meter was designed with this goal specifically in mind. This is a very easy way to start increasing the length of your review content and generating more impactful reviews.

It’s very basic human psychology. Most people want to please others and/or achieve an objective. The way the review meter is set up, it hits on both these points. The bar only turns green when the review submission hits a desired length.

Given your customers have already voluntarily chosen to provide content, they already have a certain amount of commitment to the process. So play on this to ensure the review they submit is as valuable to you as possible.

Also Encourage Quality with an Optimized Review Submission Form

To fully optimize the power of the Review Meter, we recommend also optimizing your review submission form.

Why? Your customers may not know exactly what to write or what other customers find valuable. However, they know why they bought the product and their specific use case. So you need to harness their enthusiasm to share their experience to tease this information out of them.

Our customer Room & Board offers a great example of how you can guide your customers through the review submission process (full form here for reference).

They do this by planting a number of ideas in the reviewer’s head before they get to the form.

Specifically, they ask customers to select from a series of multiple choice checkboxes. The review form is related to a furniture item, so Room & Board ask reviewers to choose their uses (options: accent, informal, lounging, small spaces, formal, large spaces, primary seating, watching tv) where they live (options: apartment, loft, townhouse, house) and so on.

This very smartly plants ideas in the reviewer’s head that they will take into their comment submission later in the form. So “love this couch” becomes “I needed a modern looking couch that is super comfortable (mainly for watching TV) to be the centerpiece in my one-bedroom New York City apartment. I love how flexible it is…it’s equally great for lounging and as a formal piece for hosting” etc.

The form in effect guides customers to provide helpful review content. The review meter in effect acts as “the convertor”, providing the motivation to create the sort of content that leads to sales. 

And of course the checklist approach also has other highly complementary purposes. Namely, they help populate Pro/Con lists, use cases and demographic information at the top of the review display that summarize information contained in the reviews. These can then be displayed in an easily scannable and filterable way for shoppers, providing super impactful social proof from “people like me”.

In Conclusion

If you don’t care about review length, you should. Longer reviews are proven to drive more sales.

Why? During the research phase of their purchase cycle, consumers want authentic validation. If they get this, they are far more likely to follow through and convert to a buyer.

The more relatable the review content, the more likely it is to resonate and have an impact. And the longer the content, the more likely it is to contain this relatable information.

The good news is that there are some simple actions you can take to encourage these longer reviews.

First and foremost, you should leverage our new Review Meter. We built this capability exactly because brands and retailers are struggling to generate quality and in-depth review content. This plays on the concept of gamification to encourage reviewers to continue by way of a live character content.

But you should also think about adjusting your review form to fully optimize the power of the Review Meter. By guiding customers through the submission process by asking for relatable tags before they reach the commentary box, you plant ideas in the reviewer’s head that they take with them to when they start to write in their own words.

This – in tandem with the Review Meter – will help you generate the more in-depth and detailed review content that drives sales.

If you’re a PowerReviews customer, you can activate the Review Meter today. If you’re not, request a demo to see it in action.

Andrew Smith

Andrew is an experienced ecommerce technology marketer. When he's not thinking about his day job, he's running around after two small children in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.

These are highly unusual, uncertain and unsettling times. The evolution of the COVID-19 story over the past 2-3 weeks has been so rapid that making predictions is tough.

But here are some observations so far:

  • Retail has changed forever. Digital is driving a large proportion of revenue by necessity right now but these shopping habits are quickly becoming normal.
  • The digital experience you provide is more important than it’s ever been – both now and once all this is over.
  • While digital is critical, everyone is struggling. Empathy, authenticity, and trustworthiness are increasingly vital for the foreseeable future.

Digital reliance skyrockets

Reliance on digital engagement has been a clear and predictable trend. Online shopping volumes have increased massively, particularly for household staples – which has been widely reported by now. Peapod experienced a 33% surge in demand in the first week of March (before the crisis deepened). Adobe has more recent figures and reports surges in a number of categories. Overall web traffic is also way up on normal. People are living their lives online right now and this period is only likely to accelerate the digital transformation that has been ongoing for a number of years.

Increased social media usage

Unsurprisingly, there has also been some noticeable shifts in social media activity. During the quarantine period, people can’t go anywhere and have a lot more time on their hands than they usually do. In such a scenario, it’s no surprise that the first thing they probably reach for is their phone when looking to fill their time.

Twitter usage is up, with 164 million people on average having visited that particular social channel in the past quarter – an increase of 12 million from the previous quarter and a 23% jump from a year earlier.

If you use Instagram, you’ll have noticed the addition of a “Stay Home” sticker in the last few days. This was created by the platform to encourage social distancing to stem the spread of the virus. Instagram campaigns generally are proving more successful too, with ad posts attracting 76% more likes than in more “normal” times.

Instagram’s “Stay Home” sticker has been shared broadly on the platform (Credit: Flipweb)

How can retailers and brands be successful right now?

While everyone’s first priority right now is of course the health of themselves and their loved ones, life and business still goes on – as much as that is possible.

Retailers and brands therefore need to figure out how to be successful in these new conditions. They can’t just drop everything.

With this being the case, digital offers the clearest opportunity – both now and whenever we get back to “normal”.

Above all else, though, you need to be empathetic, “real” and authentic. It should go without saying that you need to be sensitive to the emotional toil a lot of people are going through.

Before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, 90% of millennials said “authenticity” is the most important factor for them when choosing between which brands to shop with. It’s unlikely that figure would have declined in the last few weeks.

How to be more authentic

Outside of existing conditions, the appeal and effectiveness of sponsored content and celebrity influence were already decreasing.

Another study showed 57% of consumers believe less than half of all brands actually offer meaningful, authentic content. And 60% say content from friends or family influences their purchase decisions, while just 23% say content from celebrities and influencers are impactful. At the same time, brand trust has never been harder to earn. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer found only 34% of consumers have trust in brands they use.

Celebrity campaigns are becoming less and less effective, and are completely inappropriate right now

With all this now occurring against a backdrop of surging social media engagement and ecommerce revenue due to COVID-19, there is a clear opportunity for thoughtful and sympathetic digital engagement. 

Celebrity-based campaigns are already perceived to be disingenuous at the best of times, and that is even more likely to be the case in these uncertain times. Even though they can reach huge audiences, messages stemming from these “hired guns” simply come across as not believable. As a result, they do not provide the necessary inspiration to motivate customers to hit the “buy” button.

Celebrity and macro influencers are no longer hitting the mark

In fact, 25% of U.S. consumers do not trust celebrity product recommendations. Add in today’s environment and you actually risk coming across as crass, insensitive and potentially doing your brand more harm than good. More generally, social media influencing is at a critical inflection point: engagement rates are declining (down to 2.4% from 4% in 2016).

What are “everyday influencers”?

Instead, consumers need to be served up a wide array of customer-generated content. What does this mean? Online word-of-mouth style guidance and recommendations that they actually believe. Most importantly, this content must be created by those they trust most – friends and family and everyday ‘people like them’.

“Everyday influencers” are authentic, real and relatable. They are your neighbor, your brother, your mom’s friend, or your college roommate. People you trust and “word of mouth” for the digital age. Most importantly, they are an antidote to the skepticism of online communities.

But the information they share needs to be as emotionally relevant and/or personalized to each customer as possible. Now this may seem an impossible challenge. How can you scale such a personalized approach?

“Everyday Influencers” are real people who customers can relate to.

How to run “everyday influencer” campaigns

Non-paid “everyday influencers” with an authentic presence on social media are the key. But where do you start? Identifying the right people for your brand from a vast network, engaging them via sampling, and encouraging them to share images through their own personal social media accounts. The cost benefits of such an approach are obvious.

But to ensure ongoing authenticity and effectiveness, you must find the best methods to inspire these consumers, gather their content and use it in a meaningful way. This means targeting the right people with the right samples at the right time.

Certainly, you can leverage your own database and CRM data for this purpose. This should incorporate a lot of the information you need to execute one of these campaigns – from contact information and purchase history and potentially even social media activity.

Alternatively, there are vendors with the expertise to help with this process. We ourselves have a network of more than 480,000 “everyday influencers” who we can target precisely and with efficiency to ensure your products are endorsed in a sensitive and authentic way.

What do I do with this “everyday influencer” content?

The organic social media engagement generated should provide significant visibility and reach. However, promoting this content across your own digital properties provides additional impact (i.e. your social media channels, your website, and mobile app). At a time when people are really searching for a sense of community online, this type of authentic engagement is likely to resonate even more than usual.

In conclusion

COVID-19 presents huge challenges for companies still looking to make the best of a dire situation. They still have jobs to protect and revenue objectives to hit but a customer base that is struggling against a fast-evolving environment.

In these times of social distancing and quarantining, consumers are naturally turning to digital to meet their needs. For organizations figuring out how to be successful, digital is likely to provide any opportunities that do exist. But whatever marketing campaigns they end up implementing, they need to be executed thoughtfully with empathy and understanding.

All this is occurring against a backdrop of consumers generally becoming more suspicious of all content they see online. As a result, celebrity endorsements are not proving as effective as the voices of “real” and “everyday” people – which are deemed more trustworthy and authentic.

Social campaigns that leverage these new types of “influencers” are therefore extremely powerful – not to mention far more cost-effective – in today’s frenetic media market. COVID-19 presents a number of unique opportunities to create meaningful and emotionally-connecting digital engagement through these voices.

If you’d like to find out more about why companies are increasingly looking to the customer-generated content developed by “everyday influencers” in their marketing campaigns:

From everyone at PowerReviews, stay safe and healthy.

Andrew Smith

Andrew is an experienced ecommerce technology marketer. When he's not thinking about his day job, he's running around after two small children in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.

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