At the start of the month, we released our Market Trends Snapshot – an overview of what’s going on in ecommerce right now. As we all know, these are unprecedented times and the data continues to very vividly speak to that.

We hosted a webinar last week presenting a deeper dive into the findings. During this, we provided in-depth analysis of the overall sales, web traffic and review engagement/submission trends highlighted in the original snapshot data. We also looked at what has happened to consumer review length over the past few months – and provided some tips on how you can encourage longer 5-star content.

You can check out the recording of the webinar here. Otherwise, read on for an in-depth overview of all we covered plus the answers to questions posed by webinar participants.


What is the PowerReviews Market Trends Snapshot?

These insights come from analysis of consumer behavior across more than 1.5m product pages on more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites throughout between February 24 and April 24 2020. So they can be considered highly representative of existing market trends. It is published on the first of every month at

Summary recap

Traffic up, while order volumes hit a “new normal”?

As a reminder, we started this series to measure the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior. All growth rates are therefore pegged relative to levels recorded at the end of February (pre-pandemic timing). 

After seeing skyrocketing ecommerce order volumes at first in March and then continuing through April, things started to level off through May. We haven’t surpassed the 212% increase we saw in mid-April, although we did cross the 200% increase threshold once in May (around Memorial Day).

For the most part, ecommerce orders were up between 150%-200% throughout the month. Of course the big question on everyone’s mind is will it last as stores reopen? It’s difficult to predict. We know that many regions in the US began to reopen at some point during May, particularly in the back half of the month. And yet it was then we saw the highest increases. This could potentially be explained by the fact this is typically a popular time for start-of-summer promotional activity. So one to watch for sure.

As for site traffic, that is slightly higher in May than previous months – but overall also appears to be pretty steady.As we have already mentioned in previous months’ reports, shoppers were doing a lot of buying rather than browsing at the beginning of the COVID era. We put this increase down to the return of more typical shopping habits.

Review submission volumes up 2.3x in May

Review submission volumes are a lagging indicator (because they aren’t usually solicited until a few weeks after orders are placed). So the increases we see above are in line with our expectations.

However, the extent of the increase is significant and worthy of note. The movement from 36% (in April) to 81% above late-February levels represented a 2.3x jump in review submission volumes in a month.

Next month, we may see this stabilize a bit more. However, this still highlights what a major opportunity this existing period represents for brands and retailers to continue to solicit customer content.

Review engagement increases

The above chart highlights consumer engagement with review content. Not only are customers writing reviews at an increased rate, they are reading them in greater volumes too.

For clarity, we define engagement as any sort of interaction with the review display (clicking a filter, sorting, etc). As you can see, engagement peaked at 89% (above late February levels) in late May. This took them way above what we saw prior to the pandemic.

It seems that as browsing becomes more prevalent in the shopping journey, review engagement is playing an increasingly more important role in the purchasing decision.

Review content continues to have big impact

To underscore this point, we isolated review engagement among purchasers only. Among this group, you can see that the increase in engagement has been huge. It doubled early in March, in line with increased order volumes. This engagement then remained consistently high, up 60% relative to pre-Covid times throughout May.

Again, this just underscores the importance of offering review content on your site. It provides exceptional validation and social proof to enable shoppers to make the best purchasing decisions possible.

Spotlight: Product Ratings, Customer Sentiment, and Review Length

Given that reviews continue to be a huge factor in the digital customer journey – whether shoppers end up purchasing or are just browsing – we wanted to take a deeper look. So for the rest of this blog, we focus primarily on review length.

How are existing market conditions affecting review length? Has it gone up or down as folks have flooded online? Do review ratings correlate to review length and in what way? And most, importantly, what can you do to create better review content that will convert browsers to buyers?

Review length stabilizes, ratings unchanged

With consumers at home with a ton of time on their hands, you may think they may be investing more time in creating review content. But that’s not actually proving to be the case.

Since our analysis began three months ago, we’ve found that the star ratings have remained stable but review comments are getting shorter. When we first saw that 24% dip in commentary length in March we said we’d keep an eye on it. In April, we saw a slight rebound. However, in May, this upward trajectory did not continue. So we thought it was time to dig a little deeper and also offer some tips about what you can do to reverse this trend in your business.

Review length in real terms...

This chart is the same as the one above but converted to looking at review length by character count. A character count that has decreased 20% may seem a pretty drastic change. As we reported in last month’s webinar, we know that the average review length of all the data ever captured by all PowerReviews clients comes in 154 characters. The average for the last three months: 133 characters.

When we dig a little deeper, you see the peak of 159 characters at the start of the tracking period. This figure falls to 117 in mid-March, a 42 character drop. But this then rebounds to around 140 characters before stabilizing in the 130 range.

These differences are fairly miniscule in real terms. 40 characters typically works out at 4-6 words. This may not seem like a lot but let’s take a closer look.

Low ratings correlate to long reviews, and vice versa

What happens when we start cross-referencing rating with character count? Note: we call any 4-5 star rating a promoter, 3 star rating neutral and 1-2 star rating a detractor.

Based on the above, positive-rated reviews clearly tend to be shorter than negative reviews. Intuitively, this makes sense. You’ve probably seen a lot of review comments out there that say simply “exactly as described”, “this thing is great” or similar. Negative reviews – on the other hand – tend to have more detailed explanations of why the reviewer didn’t like the product.

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.

Now let’s look more closely at the context of these character counts and how they’re being impacted.

If we go a little deeper, here you can see the distribution of review commentary length (at 30 character) intervals by positive, neutral and negative ratings (as per the definitions outlined in the previous section).

You can see that the peak of the positive review curve in green is narrower and shifted more to the left than the other two lines. Nearly 10% of positive reviews are 60-90 characters in length.

But what does this actually mean? Here is a real review from one of our customers that would fall into this bucket. It states: “Love this jacket! Super comfortable and flattering. Fit was perfect too!” That three sentence review is just 72 characters and probably sounds pretty typical of the review content you analyze day to day.

As a shopper, this may well be helpful. You know that this person thought the product was comfortable and flattering, and the fit was good. But there really isn’t much underlying context (particularly obvious: what size are they?). If the reviewer had added just a few more words about why the fit was great or it was comfortable, then readers might have a better sense for whether they want the jacket.

When it comes down to it, the point of reviews is to help shoppers make the best purchasing decision possible. There needs to be meaningful information in that commentary in order to help your shoppers do that. Does review length automatically correspond to helpfulness? Let’s see what the data says.

Impact of Review Length

Here we look at the distribution of review comment length. However, instead of sorting by rating, we examine the number of helpful votes each review received from other shoppers.

Reviews that were 80-100 characters long received 2.5 helpful votes on average. This gradually increases to 500+ characters, which receives more than double the number of helpful votes (5.3). So a huge difference.

While we don’t have the data to vividly and tangibly track helpfulness to sales and conversions, it’s hardly a giant leap to assume this relationship. Why? As we mentioned, reviews exist to help consumers make purchase decisions. Period. The more helpful the review, the more likely it is to do that.

So how do you help your customers write longer reviews? How do you motivate customers writing positive reviews to say more? We know that negative reviewers already have more to say, so how can you encourage customers that are happy to elaborate?

How to get longer 5-star reviews

Structure Review Form With This Goal in Mind

In this example, you can see Room & Board’s (which happens to be a PowerReviews customer) “write a review” form. As you can see, there are a series of prompts that a customer goes through before they are asked for their open-ended commentary.

These questions serve a few purposes: 

    1. They help populate Pro/Con lists at the top of the review display that summarizes information contained in the reviews.
    2. They gather information about the customer that might be helpful to readers, like what type of home do you live in? Shoppers can then filter review responses that are most relevant.
    3. They plant seeds for the verbatim review commentary, which comes later in the form. Let’s look at this in a little more detail…

I specifically love the best uses option here. One of the most helpful topics to address in commentary is how consumers are using the product. By prompting customers to think about that by answering the question up top, you are helping them remember to include it in their free-text submission below.

Essentially, what Room and Board is doing here is guiding customers to provide better-quality reviews. Reviewers are not typically copywriters, product experts or even know the information other customers want. However, they are typically passionate about the product and motivated to provide content. So planting these ideas in their head before they get to the comment helps ensure they develop reviews that will actually help those consuming them.

Review Meter

We’ve been talking about review length a lot lately with our customers. We and they know how important it is. So we thought how can we help them generate the more detailed content that will drive more conversions?

In response, we developed our latest product innovation: the review meter.

As you can see in this interactive example, 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.

"I love it! It’s elegant AND I don’t have to bug my engineers to enable it on my side! Since we implemented this, we’re already seeing much better quality reviews."

McKenna Rowe, Product Design Lead at DRINKS

Now, wine is HIGHLY subjective. So our sample reviewer (in the image) is providing context around how they usually like red blends, and they don’t usually like dry wine. Others reading then gain a sense for this reviewers’ palate. Really critical context.

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.

Your Questions Answered: Webinar Q&A

During the webinar, we got asked a handful of questions from our live audience. Thanks if you did ask us a question, we had some good ones. Here are my responses:

Is there data about where buyers are coming from (ie. ads, google searches, affiliate links)?

Great question. Unfortunately, we don’t have the data to go into how a reviewer ends up leaving a review if they organically visit a product page to do so. This is not the sort of thing we see our customers use digital advertising for though. They focus all that spend on converting consumers to buyers and driving product sales. Also, if you think about the dynamics of product reviews, a customer needs to buy an item in order to leave authentic and credible content. They can’t review a product without experiencing it.

For this reason, the most common method for soliciting product reviews is email. Between April 3 and June 7 2020, 60% of reviews were generated this way across all our customers (although at some ecommerce businesses, this can be as high as 90%). By comparison, 39% came in via organically navigating to the product page. A further 1% was solicited as a result of an SMS invitation. Why? The most common methodology for asking for reviews is following up a purchase with a request email.

Any idea why length is decreasing? Too much work to type?

Very difficult to say. If I had to venture a guess, you could perhaps put it down to the higher review submission levels. Perhaps individuals are providing multiple reviews as their ecommerce purchase volumes have risen. We also may be seeing more reviews coming from customers who aren’t used to buying online, and therefore aren’t used to sharing their experiences. But we don’t have the data to back that up, unfortunately.

As we say above, the change in real terms is not significant. You are talking a matter of a handful of words. So, in that sense, it’s not a big deal. But the reality is only a handful of words can make a huge difference. With review volumes up, we think this is a great opportunity to encourage better quality content, especially for your shoppers that might be new to providing this feedback.

How long is the minimum recommended review length?

It’s not black and white. This again is hard to say. It’s about finding the right length for your own business. Shoppers of higher consideration items are of course going to have more questions. So, in these cases, longer reviews will be of incrementally more value.

More generally, short reviews can still be valuable if they provide good information to convert browsers to buyers. But it’s just that longer reviews are more likely to be more valuable because they are more likely to provide this good information.

The data says 500+ character reviews are the most helpful. It’s not realistic for every review to be this detailed but this should be the aspiration.

I think if you look at where we are now as an industry (we have average review lengths of 130-140 characters), an increase of say 60ish characters to around 200 characters overall would make a big difference to conversion levels.

Is % change a comparison of YoY?

As mentioned above, the data we present starts at the end of February. We wanted to see the impact of the pandemic on ecommerce sales and review trends. Given when this was when the effects really started to kick in, this seemed a logical place to start.

With that being said, you are right we haven’t accounted for seasonality in these numbers so this may be an impacting factor. But we will try to call it out where we can - for example, the increase in volumes around Memorial Day, which tends to be a highly promotional time for retail.

For your totals and results are you using gross number of reviews or a truer number of reviews that removes duplicate and non-product related reviews?

All the reviews we analyze are product reviews. This is where our expertise is. Our analysis is on ratings and reviews content across an extensive and highly representative volume of product pages (1.5m+ product pages across 1,200+ brands).

We do help companies share the same content the same reviews across multiple sites (e.g. their own brand site, Amazon, Target etc.). In these instances, each review is only counted once in our analysis.

We support our customers with extensive human moderation resources primarily to ensure authenticity. This is actually a key difference between us and our main competitors. We exist to drive fully informed consumer purchase decisions and create transparency levels.

Our human moderators ensure no duplicate reviews are published as part of their checks.


Check out the recording of our webinar here or come back to next month for our July Market Trends Monthly Snapshot.

Carol Krakowski

As Director of Insights, Carol Krakowski partners with the Customer Success and Analytics teams at PowerReviews to maximize client value using PowerReviews data. With a passion for telling stories with data, she has more than eight years of experience analyzing ecommerce companies and datasets to power insights for internal and external audiences.

At the start of the month, we released our Market Trends Snapshot – an overview of what’s going on in ecommerce right now. As we all know, these are unprecedented times and the data really spoke to that.

We hosted a webinar last week presenting a deeper dive into the findings. During this, we provided in-depth analysis of the overall sales, web traffic and review engagement/submission trends highlighted in the original snapshot data. We also looked at some super interesting health and beauty-specific trends, including sales volumes and review insights in this vertical.

You can check out the recording of the webinar here. Otherwise, read on for an in-depth overview of all we covered plus the answers to questions posed by webinar participants.


What is the PowerReviews Market Trends Snapshot?

These insights come from analysis of consumer behavior across more than 1.5m product pages on more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites throughout between February 24 and April 24 2020. So they can be considered highly representative of existing market trends. It is published on the first of every month at

Summary recap

As I mentioned, we originally released this information here. But we explain in more detail in the webinar. Here are some highlights we discussed:

Sales volumes increase 210%

We tracked growth rates from Feb 24 to demonstrate how consumer behavior has shifted during the pandemic. In March, we saw a massive spike in order volumes but page visits remained relatively flat. The massive 101% growth in sales volumes seemingly coincided with the timing of many states implementing “stay at home” orders. Our hypothesis back then was that shoppers were “stocking up” on lower-consideration items. People were buying, not shopping. 

But growth has continued at the same rapid rate. Orders peaked at a 210% increase on April 15. By the end of the month, sales were still up 150% on pre-pandemic levels.

We also are now seeing a more meaningful increase in page visits as well. These are up 63% above pre-pandemic levels in late April. This can be attributed to channel shifting, as customers who would never shopped online before are now starting to do so. But given that order increases still outpace traffic increases significantly, shoppers are doing far more buying than browsing.

Volume of reviews submitted starts to rise

We know purchase levels are increasing. But throughout March, review submissions had actually remained fairly steady. As we moved into April, however, these began to climb too – peaking at up 36% in late April.

This obviously pales in comparison to the rise in order volumes. But it’s super important to note that this is a percentage figure based on a much larger denominator of larger order volumes generally. So, total volumes of  customer generated content are at much higher levels than two months ago.

To put it in context, our moderation team is working on review submissions levels close to those they would typically expect in peak Holiday season. This is obviously the busiest time of the year in ecommerce bar none. So quite the statement.

Review length up around 10% since low at end of March

In terms of review submissions, ratings have been stable. This is no real surprise because the products themselves have not changed in the short period we are analyzing.

In our last snapshot, we reported that review length had seemingly cratered after stay at home orders came into effect. In April, this rebounded and increased around 10%. But you should keep this in perspective: the average review length is 154 characters. A decrease of 10-20% therefore isn’t particularly meaningful in terms of impact on consumer behavior.

Regardless of what’s driving this trend, we’re hearing a lot about review length these days from our customers. It’s proven that longer reviews generate more sales. Our product team is actively working on some cool features to encourage customers to write longer reviews. More on that within the next month.

Review content has doubled in importance in driving purchases during pandemic

Now let’s look at review engagement among purchasers (we define review engagement as someone clicking on a filter, sorting, clicking a key word etc.). These numbers are staggering as well. Among consumers who purchase, engagement has doubled – peaking at 105% right at the turn of the month. 

Keep in mind that this is review engagement as a percentage of purchasers. Purchasers are up 210% the last two months. This is important when considering the dip that occured around April 10. Remember, it was around this time when purchases shot up to that peak of 200%+. So this still represents a hugely meaningful level of interaction with review content.

This really reinforces just how important this review content is when it comes to driving purchasing decisions. Even with shoppers behaving more decisively online than we’ve ever seen before, they are still relying on product reviews to inform their decision making.

Spotlight: Health and Beauty

Why did we focus on health and beauty? Well, we saw some pretty marked trends among these brands when crunching the data. When we dug a little deeper into specific product categories, we found some super interesting storylines – particularly revealing and indicative of different consumer buying patterns in this period.

Pandemic has huge impact on health and beauty consumer shopping levels

Above, we talk about a vast surge in overall sales volumes of 210%. This is merely amplified in health and beauty, where order volumes peaked up 450% in April. Traffic, too, increased significantly across these brands and doubled compared to February. Again, consumer decisiveness is clearly in evidence with a far higher proportion of visits converting to purchase than we would typically expect.

Extreme and fluctuating demand for specific products

Let’s look a little deeper at different types of health and beauty product groups. Here, we specifically focus on three: Bath and shower (light green), hair color (dark green) and makeup (in gold). The thick gray line highlights the health and beauty vertical average.

Although clearly not the only product categories in this industry, they all tell a very distinct story that’s indicative of broader consumer trends. Buying behaviors clearly vary depending on product, with peaks and troughs at various times. Now we’ll look at each in detail.

Bath & Shower product demand peaks in Mid-March after staggering 2200% increase

The bath and shower product category includes hand soap so this accounts for this insane jump in sales volumes in mid-March (2200%+). This is a clear story of stocking up. Back in early/mid-March, CDC guidance urged the population to wash hands for 20 seconds or more multiple times per day. So, in this context, perhaps this is unsurprising to some extent. But the number is still mind-boggling.

After that, orders level off as the population settles into those “stay at home” orders. A somewhat more consistent increase of around 300-500% in orders. Still very high, but a little more steady. 

And similar to every other trend highlighted above, jumps in page visits are not nearly as meaningful as the order volumes. Certainly, there are increases (600% in mid-March) but these are dwarfed by purchase increases. 

Although these numbers come down, you should remember you’re looking at a scale going up to 2000% here. However, increases in traffic throughout April can likely be attributed to increased browsing once preferred products sold out or were subject to delivery delays.

Demand for hair color products grew to astonishing levels

While increases in demand for hair color products never quite reach the same level of intensity as bath and shower, order volumes remained consistently high throughout April. But the jump from early March is what’s interesting. Overall, it’s an increase of way over 1000% (or 11x) over the course of about 20 days.

So, what’s going on here? Here are a few suggestions:

  • People thinking they could ride it out for a couple weeks and would get back into the salon sooner than expected
  • Strong loyalty to salon colorists and/or hesitancy to try DIY products
  • After a couple of weeks, this went out the window and panic set in – hence the surge.

Again, as we’ve seen with pretty much every category so far, the increase in page visits simply does not keep pace with the increase in order volumes.

Makeup spikes later and increase not as pronounced as other health and beauty products

Makeup is the last product category we explore. Interestingly, there is a minor spike caused by some normal stocking up in late March. And then there’s a second wave as presumably people begin to run low. These increases are still significant but just nowhere near as vast as trends we see for other product categories.

Review submission volumes rise significantly in bath and shower and hair color

But what about consumer review content? Is this important in the health and beauty vertical?

This chart explores review submission levels across these three same product categories (we don’t ask for reviews until a week or two after the order was placed, which explains the lag).

For the two product categories with those huge surges, review submissions are also trending way up (100-200% in late April for both bath and shower and hair color). For makeup products, review levels actually fell compared to before the pandemic.

Most likely, consumers are focused on assessing products that have the biggest immediate emotional impact. Given how all-consuming the coronavirus has been on everyone’s way of life, it seems that mental toll has affected how they approach providing review content.

Huge review engagement in health and beauty

As explained, the above highlights the percentage of interactions with reviews (i.e. filters, sorting, etc.) for purchasers. We already know health and beauty product order volumes are way up. But the percentage of these purchases that involve a review interaction has also jumped massively.

The peak hits in late March at 313% above the end of February. This is on top of a giant 300% increase in orders during this period. When it comes to health and beauty, review content is simply critical to shoppers’ decision-making. The engagement levels remain super high, well over 100% throughout the rest of April (this was when the industry-wide order volumes shot up 450%).

This makes a lot of sense: the in-store health and beauty product experience tends to be extremely tactile. Shoppers can typically touch, smell or test prior to buying. In lieu of that capability, consumers are relying on the experience of other customers to inform their online purchases.

What does all this mean?

The numbers are pretty clear both across the board, and especially within health and beauty:

  1. Order volumes are up, 
  2. Review submissions are up
  3. Review engagement is up

As a ratings and reviews company, we are particularly interested in the fact that customer-generated content has become even more important during the Covid-19 era.

Given this combined with increased order volumes, brands and retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that their shoppers are more informed than ever.

How? By leaning into existing market trends to generate better quality reviews in higher volumes. While we can’t go into huge detail here (check out this blog post for more), here are three quick cost-effective tips:

  1. 80% of reviews originate from a review solicitation email. So think really carefully about what goes into that messaging. As a best practice, don’t dilute your request. Instead, use standalone emails that only ask for reviews
  2. Send at least two emails. Consumers have enough on their minds, don’t expect them to read every email you send them. Check out this blog for some tips on how to ask for more review content.

Consider incentivizing customers either with loyalty points or a sweepstakes entries. Just be sure that if you do incentivize, you badge the reviews accordingly to ensure maximum transparency.

Your Questions Answered: Webinar Q&A

During the webinar, we got asked a handful of questions from our live audience. We answer those here:

Are these all written reviews— or video submissions as well?

Our analysis is based completely on written reviews. That is our speciality. However, we are huge proponents in the power of imagery to tell a story. We know for a fact that review content with customer-generated photographs drives more conversions. We go into detail on how to solicit more customer imagery in our blog on the topic.

Did you see any interesting trends in nutrition (i.e. within the health category)?

In the webinar, we focused on products that we thought highlighted the biggest impact of current market trends. We did not see as big an impact for nutrition products.

Do you have any predictions for future months?

Honestly, no. We have been surprised at the figures. We could’ve predicted the increases, but the extent has been beyond anything we would’ve predicted. We are happy that we will be able to continue to tell you what we’re seeing on a month-by-month basis. Check back at on the first of every month for our latest report.

How do you help brands and retailers generate more effective reviews in higher volumes in these times?

Mainly through advising and consulting them. We obviously have a lot of experience in this area so feel we offer valuable perspective and expertise. As we mention, with so much focus on ecommerce, this is a great opportunity to create a bigger and more impactful review footprint.

There are many things that brands and retailers can be doing that don’t cost anything and we talk about some of these above. We also provide some links to further information there too. In addition, we have extensive sampling services.

How do you feel consumer behavior will change post pandemic and what impact will this have on customer-generated content?

All the data indicates that the pandemic has massively accelerated the transition online. We talked a lot in the webinar and above about how some of the data was indicative of consumers who typically shop offline engaging with ecommerce for the first time. The smart money is on at least some of this sticking. The store will never die. It might need to reinvent itself but there are certain things the online experience will just never be able to imitate.

But increasingly, and particularly for specific low consideration product items, consumers are appreciating the convenience and ease of online shopping. Once they’ve got a taste, they might never go back.

In terms of impact on Customer-Generated Content, our data would indicate more shoppers = more review submissions and more interactions with those reviews. So, essentially, we see ratings and reviews content growing in importance. It’s difficult to see how this trend would not play out given everything we see above.

Carol Krakowski

As Director of Insights, Carol Krakowski partners with the Customer Success and Analytics teams at PowerReviews to maximize client value using PowerReviews data. With a passion for telling stories with data, she has more than eight years of experience analyzing ecommerce companies and datasets to power insights for internal and external audiences.

This site and our services use cookies and other technologies to collect and/or store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work while others improve your experience. Read our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy to learn more.