The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the retail landscape. Stores have been forced to close, consumers are more hesitant to shop in the ones that are left, and eCommerce is exploding. 

As of August, eCommerce growth was up 259% year over year. For some retailers, as many as 50% of those online orders were picked up via BOPIS at a local store.

BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) has grown steadily over the past decade. It combines the efficiency of online shopping with the immediacy of buying an item in-store. But few retailers have managed to get it completely right. Most BOPIS processes have kinks and ultimately deliver poor experiences. And yet, consumer demand for local pickup hasn’t slowed. It’s only accelerated during the new COVID environment, with “curbside pick up” offering a no-contact BOPIS option. Just look at the latest Google Trends data for “curbside pickup”:

Why the sudden surge in popularity for curbside pickup? 

Two words: turnaround times. Assuming a product is in-stock, customers can often pick it up the same day they place the order — or faster. Major retailers like Best Buy, Staples, and Apple offer pickup times as short as 1 to 2 hours. That near-instant gratification makes it even better than buying online.

The no-contact nature of curbside pickup has only made BOPIS more attractive to customers. As everyone shifted to online shopping during the pandemic, shipping times suffered. The demand for eCommerce has grown by so much — and with such speed — that carriers simply haven’t been able to keep up. Even Amazon Prime has had difficulty meeting their 2-day shipping times. 

What’s the solution for shoppers who can’t wait? Bypass longer shipping times completely and go to the store. Over half (55%) of consumers anticipate making more holiday purchases via curbside pickup this year, according to our consumer survey of 5,383 shoppers. In fact, two-thirds of shoppers said curbside or in-store pickup would make them feel most comfortable shopping in-store during the 2020 holiday season. According to a survey from Adobe, 30% of online buyers actually prefer curbside pickup or BOPIS to traditional home delivery.

3 elements for successful curbside pickup

Create frictionless curbside experiences and you could lock these customers in for life. But what does a great curbside pickup experience look like? There are three key elements: 

  1. Intuitive online shopping experience.

    How easy is it for your customers to shop for curbside pickup?

  2. Frequent order updates and communication.

    How well do you communicate to customers when their order is ready, and where they can pick it up?

  3. Foolproof fulfillment and pickup process.

    How seamless is the pickup process once customers arrive to pick up their order?

Nail all three, and you’ll have your customers singing your praises. Let’s break down the process.

1. Designing an Intuitive Online Shopping Experience

What makes curbside pickup attractive is its ease and expediency. That seamless experience needs to begin on your website, as customers are browsing for items and adding them to their cart.

Highlight curbside pickup throughout your website.

As customers browse, they should be able to see at-a-glance whether a product is available in the store nearest them. Clearly communicate which products are available for curbside pickup. 

Bonus points if you can highlight the value of BOPIS at the same time, like Best Buy does. The very first filter on their category page is for curbside pickup, with a special call out of “Get it fast.” Shoppers can check the box to “Pick up today.” They’re also transparent, making it easy for the customer to identify which items are available for store pickup and which are not. In the case that they do not have the item available at your local store that day, they’ll provide an estimate of when items can be picked up at a later date.

Best Buy emphasizes the speed of curbside pickup again on the product page. If customers want their product today, they can get it in as little as 1 hour. Talk about convenient.

Set clear expectations.

Make sure that fulfillment times are communicated throughout the browsing and purchasing experience. 

Customers choose curbside pickup because of its immediacy and convenience, so they need a time frame they can rely on. Should they plan on picking up their order during the workday, or can they do it before they start making dinner? 

Be as explicit as possible. “Typically ready within 2 hours” is more informative than “same day pickup.”

Meet those expectations.

Let’s say you’re like Best Buy. For same-day pickup items, they promise a 1-hour pickup window regardless of product. 

If you’re going to make a promise like that one, you need to meet it. Carefully consider what your in-store teams are actually able to commit to during this time. It’s possible you’ve scaled back your staff in-store, and now they’re responsible for more than they were pre-COVID. 

It’s critical that you understand their capacity, and realistically evaluate whether they can commit to a shorter window. Should you offer a longer window, or hire more staff? Get the balance right so you can meet your SLA.

Ensure accurate inventory.

Your inventory must be updated in real-time, so that customers cannot purchase something for pickup that isn’t actually available in that store. No one wants to show up for their curbside pickup and discover their product is nowhere to be found. 

Staples goes an extra step and displays how many of an item they have in-stock, increasing customer confidence in their ability to fulfill an order.

2. From Cart to Curbside: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Once shoppers complete checkout, they’re relying on you to regularly update them on their order status, so they know when to pick it up. Curbside pickup is still relatively new to many shoppers, so it’s better to over-communicate than under.

Set up your email series.

Emails should be automatically sent as a customer’s order progresses through fulfillment. 

At a minimum, customers expect that they’ll receive an order confirmation email and an “Your item is ready for pickup” email. Go the extra mile with additional status updates and confirmation of pickup emails.

Remind customers what they can expect. 

Take every opportunity to remind customers when they can expect their order to be ready, how you will notify them, and what they need to do upon arrival to pick up their order. 

This communication begins on your website. For example, if an item isn’t available at a selected store, Target suggests the closest available option. Target also gives customers a quick idea of where and when, specifically, they’ll be able to pick it up: “tomorrow inside the store.”

Once a customer places their order, you should remain in regular contact with them until they pick up their order. Email notifications are table stakes at this point, but many customers prefer the option to also receive SMS notifications for more real-time updates. Let the customer choose which notification method they prefer for a great experience.

Outline the curbside pickup process.

Tell customers exactly what they need to be able to drive off with their purchase. Do they need their ID and credit card, or is an order number sufficient?

Offer directions on where customers should go to pick up their item when they arrive. Are there dedicated parking spaces in your lot, or do they need to go inside to a special pickup counter? Be sure to address other concerns about in-store shopping during the pandemic, like required face coverings and updated cleaning processes. For example, Target has an entire landing page dedicated to their curbside pickup process, which emphasizes key aspects that appeal to those shopping during COVID:

3. Preparing Your Store for Curbside Pickup

Finally, you need to prepare your store and your staff for fulfilling curbside pickup orders.

Develop staff guidelines.

How do you make sure each curbside order is in-stock, packed, and tied up with a metaphorical bow for each customer? You’ll need to determine:

  • Who will be responsible for packing curbside pick up items? Will you have dedicated staff or cross-train?
  • How will staff be alerted that an order has come in? What are their next steps? Define the process for gathering items, packaging them, and completing orders. 
  • How will you ensure the right orders go to the right customers? Outline requirements for validating both the customer’s identity and the products so the customer doesn’t have to come back.
  • How can you anticipate incoming order volume while balancing the needs of in-store customers? Don’t let a busy store impact the curbside customer’s experience.
  • Will you provide a way for shoppers to modify their orders after they complete checkout? Determine timeframes and product limits.

Have a back-up plan.

There are going to be times when your curbside fulfillment team is running behind. When this happens, you want to be ready. 

Think out your communication plan now so you can dynamically react to a backup in orders if you are over capacity. Your goal is to adjust customers’ fulfillment expectations as soon as possible. Will you send an email alerting customers to a delay with their pickup order? 

You can also add a banner to your website, so shoppers are aware of potential delays before they even place their order. For example, Home Depot notifies customers during checkout that their pickup window may be delayed:

Allocate space and signage.

Make sure signage is clear, so that there’s no question for customers of where they should go and what they should do upon arrival. 

Will you have dedicated parking spaces, or do you need to print signage directing customers toward a pickup counter inside? Be thoughtful that your curbside pickup process may operate differently depending on location. A store located in an urban crowded area will have different needs than one in a suburban area with a huge parking lot.

Set up a dedicated place inside your store to handle online orders so that curbside customers don’t need to be commingled with regular customers during peak time. Again, you don’t want their experience to suffer if things are busy.

Curbside Pickup and Your Store

In large part, the success of your curbside pickup hinges on how well you meet the expectations you set with your customers. But customer expectations for curbside pickup aren’t just based on their last experience with you. It’s about their last retail experience, period. 

If they just had a really great, smooth experience with curbside pickup elsewhere — regardless of whether it was with a competitor or a business in a completely different vertical — they’re now going to expect the same smooth experience with you, because they know it can be done. 

And it can be. With these tips, you’ll be set for success.

Interested to know how your curbside experience measured up? Ask your customers for their feedback.

Emily Kolodner

As Product Manager, Emily manages PowerReviews’ client facing reporting tools for both Ratings & Reviews and our newest product, Store Experience Feedback. Over the last 8 years, Emily has worked with dozens of brands and retailers to evaluate their store experience and identify areas that need attention. She is passionate about leveraging the voice of the customer to inform both operational and brand strategy, as well as the NYT crossword.

This is the seventh edition of our monthly snapshot, an analysis consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

The impact of COVID on ecommerce has been fairly clear to pinpoint. A huge initial surge led to an overall 3x increase in online purchase volumes between February (pre-pandemic) to May. However, the subsequent four months through to September led to a steady decline and then stabilization, with purchase volumes consistently between 40% and 70% higher than they were pre-pandemic. 

Due to this stabilization, we re-aligned this month’s report to show the last three months.

The general story is yet more month-on-month stabilization, as we would see in more “normal” years. This means ecommerce sales volumes are higher than where we would typically expect them to be pre-pandemic, but there are also no real major fluctuations indicative of major market shifts.

With this being the case, the Holidays is likely to be the next major event on the horizon when we see any meaningful change.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

“New normal” continues as Holidays loom

02

Review submission volumes flat for three straight months

03

Reviews more important than pre-COVID, will become increasingly critical for Holidays

“New normal” continues as Holidays loom

Consumer behavior has clearly become more predictable, with purchase volumes consistently consistently at around 1.4x to 1.7x where they were at the start of the pandemic.

Why? Most likely because the entire population has settled into a “new normal”. People are no longer buying in the bulk they were because they have confidence in supply chain and product availability. They know they will be able to source whatever items they need at short notice. Pandemic life has become normal. We are now used to buying our groceries and other everyday items online. This is reflected in our recent survey, which highlighted how 33% of consumers say their shopping habits have changed forever.

We expect the next major shift to be the Holidays. It’s difficult to predict what these will look like this year but – and this is perhaps not the most groundbreaking observation – we are predicting significantly more spending occurring online than in previous years. In fact, the survey highlighted above illustrated how 64% will spend more online than the last Holiday season. Perhaps of more significance is the timing of this Holiday spend. Our survey also shows that three-quarters will start Holiday shopping earlier than they usually do. So we anticipate notable increases in activity to start over the next month.

Continued stabilization in both online sales and site traffic
Continued stabilization

Review submission volumes flat for three straight months

After reporting a giant 2.3x leap in review submission levels from April to May, we subsequently highlighted a consistent drop through to August  to the point where levels are now consistent with what we saw pre-pandemic. This again continued for the last month.

We hypothesized previously that this is most likely because consumers have now got to the point where they are no longer buying items they hadn’t tried before. Instead, they now have established product preferences so are less inclined to be motivated to submit reviews.

In terms of the actual content of reviews, there have not been any huge shifts over the past six months. Both have been unaffected by the pandemic, which is unsurprising because overall product catalogs themselves will not have shifted too significantly. 

No significant variations in review submission levels
No significant variations
Review length and sentiment flat throughout pandemic
Review length and sentiment

Reviews more important than pre-COVID, will become increasingly critical for Holidays

Review content is  more influential in driving purchase decisions than it was before the pandemic. A higher proportion of those who interact with reviews are going on to purchase than were doing so pre-COVID.

The August high of 45% above pre-COVID levels was virtually identical to the July high (43% above). As you will note from the scale of this chart, we saw similar numbers through September.

As thoughts turn to the Holidays, this trend is only likely to be accentuated. Our Holiday Survey highlights how 37% of shoppers will pay more attention to ratings and reviews this year than last when making purchases. 

When we segmented out consumers who will increase spend this year, this trend was even more pronounced. 25% of this group will be more influenced by ratings and reviews this Holiday season (this is compared to the 19% who say they will increase spend overall).

Reviews still convert shoppers to buyers more than they were pre-COVID
Reviews still convert shoppers

Summary

The story for the October snapshot is that it has proven to be the fourth month of continued stabilization. Trends are now very flat so we can confidently say we are now in a COVID-driven “new normal”.

However, the Holidays – the biggest time of year for ecommerce and retail – loom large. Our research indicates, predictably, that this will be the biggest Holidays ever for ecommerce.

Two other key findings in our Holiday report are particularly worth noting though:

  1. 73% say their Holiday spending will either be consistent with or increase in comparison to last year. In the context of overriding economic conditions and uncertainty, this is surprising. But the reality is people have not been spending money this year (e.g. bars, restaurants, movie theatres and other entertainment outlets have been off-limits) and are looking for a lift. Either way, this is good news for brands and retailers.
  2. Shopping will start earlier than normal – given this has been an objective of the entire industry for years, it will be music to the ears of brands and retailers looking to cash in after a difficult year for many.

With this being the case, we expect ecommerce traffic and sales to increase through October in the run-up to the Holiday season.

Ecommerce traffic and purchases have risen to previously unfathomable heights, fueled by the pandemic and new habits formed during the stay at home orders. This transformation is really laid bare in our Holiday Consumer Survey, which shows that a massive 64% will spend more online this year than last.

During this period, engagement with review content has surged. Again, our Holiday Consumer Survey fully endorses this trend (37% of consumers say they will pay more attention to ratings and reviews when making purchase decisions this year than last).

Why is this? Well, first and foremost, it’s the fact more shopping is occuring online than ever before. However, consumers are also buying products they’ve never bought before and are looking for validation before buying.

Either way, there has never been a better time to acquire new customers.

One of the most critical channels for doing this is how you rank and appear on search engines, and more specifically how you as a business are rated and reviewed on there. 

Google is obviously the preeminent search engine that pervades all aspects of digital life. So how you show up there is incredibly important. In fact, 35% say they begin their purchase journey on a search engine – when they will see your Seller Rating.

For those that advertise on Google, Google Seller Ratings are an easy and highly effective way to add social proof to your ads. This blog is meant to provide a quick overview of Seller Ratings so you can determine if they are right for you.

What are Google Seller Ratings? 

Google Seller Ratings is a Google Ads extension that displays a rating between one and five stars that shows up on search ads. It’s an automated extension that is calculated by aggregating customer reviews from various sources that Google trusts. The resulting rating is then displayed within the body of the ad.

If you’ve ever typed into Google’s search bar, you’ve seen Google Seller Ratings.

It is the star rating that displays underneath the URL on Google ads. While Seller Ratings are most often used by ecommerce companies, any company with a digital presence can use Google Seller Ratings.

Note: Seller Ratings are for the entire site, not individual products.

What are the benefits of Google Seller Ratings?

If they are not already, Seller Ratings should be a critical part of your digital strategy. Why? According to Google, they can increase the click-through rates (CTR) of your ads by up to 10%. This is super important because a higher CTR means a higher quality score — which reduces your CPC (cost per click) and improves your ad rank.

Bottom line: Seller Ratings optimize the performance of your Google Ads. More click throughs, more eyeballs on your site and – in turn – more sales.

Which makes complete sense. Your Seller Ratings are determined by a cumulative and aggregated volume of trusted customer reviews. They are a direct reflection of the experiences your customers have had while dealing with your business.

This provides social proof for your brand right on Google search results pages, increasing shoppers’ trust in your business and giving them the confidence they need to click through to your site.

How to get Google Seller Ratings

The following criteria must be met for Google Seller Ratings to show up next to your ads: 

  • There must be at least 100 verified site reviews in the country of the searcher
  • Those reviews must have been collected within a the last 12 months 
  • The reviews must have an average star rating of at least 3.5 stars

Once you have collected the number of reviews required, Google will (after a period of indexing time of up to 6 weeks) display Seller Ratings next to your paid Google Ads and Google Shopping listings.

Pro tip: We recommend collecting more than 100 reviews in every 12 month period on a recurring basis. Google values recency and authenticity, as do your customers.

Note: we have a best-in-class authenticity policy, meaning anything that meets our standards is nearly always accepted by Google.

Another thing to note: Google works with trustworthy authorities – such as PowerReviews – to collect seller ratings that are then displayed when users search on your company name. This means Google accepts reviews from other sources, which in turn makes capturing content in the volumes required easier as it means no reviews go to waste.

How do I check if my Seller Ratings are working properly?

First, check if you have met all of the criteria listed above. Assuming this is the case, there are a number of ways to check if your Seller Ratings are working.

Here are a couple of tests you can try: 

  • Go to Google shopping and type your store domain into the search bar. When looking at the results, check to see if Google Seller Ratings are showing. Make sure you are in “list” view since the grid view may not have enough room for the Seller ratings to show.
  • Edit the following URL to replace “{yourwebsite}” with your homepage URL: https://www.google.com/shopping/ratings/account/lookup?q={yourwebsite}.
    • For example, PGA Tour Superstore would be: https://www.google.com/shopping/ratings/account/lookup?q=https://www.pgatoursuperstore.com/
There are a number of ways to check if your Seller Ratings are working.

You’ll be able to view information about your store and a seller rating if your site meets the minimum seller rating thresholds. A country selector will allow you to view this information per country. Use the dropdown menu to see your seller ratings in different countries.

How to improve your Google Seller Ratings

There are a number of ways to improve your Google Seller Ratings.

  1. Provide a good customer experience

    At the risk of stating the obvious, it starts with the quality of the experience you deliver your customers. There’s really no way of gaming or hacking this.
    The whole point of customer reviews is that they are intended to provide authentic “social proof” or guidance to help other consumers make decisions. So focus on your customers and reap the rewards.

  2. Ask!

    Although some customers are super motivated to provide their opinion to the world, this isn’t true of all. Many have a great perception of your brand but need some encouragement to share it so prominently. Asking in the right way at the right time is therefore critical.

  3. Choose when you make the ask

    Again, may sound obvious but make sure you make the ask at an appropriate time after a successful engagement (i.e. after a customer buys a product, rather than if they return it following a bad experience). Obviously, automation is critical to scaling this to a level that Google looks for.

  4. Optimize how you make the ask

    Think about the content of the email. There are a few fundamentals you need to get right. They include: 

    – Keep it short: no one reads long marketing emails

    – Be clear on the ask: you are asking for a review of your entire business, not a specific product. Also provide specific and brief guidance on the content you are seeking, why you’re asking, and deliver a clear call to action.

    – Add an element of personality: Asking in a robotic and transactional manner is unlikely to get the result you want.

    – Simplify the entire process: Make sure the actual process of providing the review is easy and straightforward.

Conclusion

Google Seller Ratings are a critical component in the purchase journey for brands. They help to get more eyeballs on your site and drive new traffic to product pages to generate new sales. However, Google has strict guidelines in place to ensure it accurately ranks businesses that you need to be aware of. To make sure they display properly, you need to meet these. As with generating product reviews, there are some key best practices you need to follow to generate more and better Google Seller Ratings. Implement these and make Google a critical and lucrative sales generation channel.

The PowerReviews Ratings & Reviews platform enables you to seamlessly capture and display Google Seller Ratings. If you’re one of our customers and would like to find out more, reach out to your Client Success Manager or our Support team today.

Brandon Matthies

As Head of Product Management at PowerReviews, Brandon is focused on building products that help brands and retailers solicit, showcase, analyze, and manage UGC content to improve consumer path to purchase and drive more sales.

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. As marketers, there’s no shortage of things on your to-do list.  

However, considering 70% of shoppers won’t even buy products online before reading reviews, your holiday UGC strategy should undoubtedly be on that list.

UGC in the 2020 Holiday Season

And UGC will be even more important this Holiday season. The focus on ecommerce this year has been widely publicized. Our Holiday Survey conclusively backs this up: 64% of the 5,000+ consumers we surveyed say they will do more shopping online this year than last. And what’s more, 83% of those who expect to increase their overall holiday spend this year will do more of that shopping online than in previous years.

In this environment, ratings and reviews will be critical to converting browsers to buyers. In fact, our survey also reveals that 37% say ratings and reviews will be more important this year than last (61% say they will be of equal importance, only 2% say they will be less important).

You need to be ready for this. You will make more money online this year than ever before. There is no doubt of that. But in order to maximize your share, UGC will be absolutely critical.

How to ensure you’re ready for Holiday 2020

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.

There are four areas we’ll focus on to get you ready for your best holiday season yet:

Optimize Your Review Collection Methods

The holidays are a big sales season. That means you can expect to see a surge in reviews (especially if you follow these best practices!).

Now is a good time to audit your review collection processes and consider if there are any improvements you can make — before the holidays are in full-swing.

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! Our consumer survey found that 88% of users want to see more user photos and videos. When just one image is added, it can increase conversion as much as 69%. 

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 engage with any old review.

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, with a link to your review channels.

People can get busy during the holidays. Make your shoppers’ lives easier by inviting them to submit their review right from the email itself (for PowerReviews customers, our 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. 

For example, our Review Your Purchases feature lets customers 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.

We’ve seen exceptional results from clients who implemented Review Your Purchases — one client saw a 54% increase in collection in just 30 days!

Share Reviews Across Channels

Once you’ve taken care of reviews on your own website, consider how you can grow your review coverage across other websites and social media.

Do you sell your products on Amazon? 

How are you currently funneling your customers to write reviews? Ideally, you should provide them with an option to replicate their review content to your product pages on Amazon.com too (for example, our Share Button makes this whole process super easy. On average, 31% of customers click this button. That’s a lot of reviews!)

How about social media? 

60% of online shoppers discover new products through Instagram alone. It’s therefore super important that you enable your customers to share review content to this social platform and beyond (we do this through our “Share to Social” button, which quickly syndicates to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest). This ultimately increases the reach of your UGC, driving organic traffic to your product pages, and boosting your conversion rates. We track clicks and coverage so you can measure impact.

Increase Review Content

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.

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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.

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.

Remember, negative reviews aren’t all bad. Our research shows 44% of Centennials (ages 13-18) would not trust a product that had no negative reviews. In fact, 60% of Centennials read negative reviews first.

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

By now you’ll have tons of positive reviews coming in, so put them to good use!

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

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

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Gather Post-Holiday Insights

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 looking at:

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.

As you’re reading through your reviews, make notes of any trends in customer sentiment. 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, 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.

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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!

This is the sixth edition of our monthly snapshot (most recent versions here and here), originally established to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on consumer behavior. This is our September version of the same report, analyzing consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

This time, we focused on a six-month period (starting February 24 2020 and ending August 23 2020). Each report, we specifically analyse review submission levels, review length and sentiment, overall conversions/sales volumes and review consumption (both absolute and among those who go onto purchase).

After some unprecedented and drastic extremes were evident over the course of March through May, we experienced continued stabilization for the third month running. We’ve been talking about a “new normal” for some time now in these reports, and we are only seeing continued confirmation of that trend.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

Ecommerce purchase volumes and site traffic now consistent for a full quarter

02

Review submission volumes now consistent with pre-pandemic levels

03

Reviews still converting more shoppers to buyers than before pandemic

Ecommerce purchase volumes and site traffic consistent for a full quarter

COVID has had a huge impact on consumer behavior, with unprecedented growth in ecommerce purchase volumes at the start of the pandemic. We consistently saw 3x increases in purchase volumes during April and May. However, for the last three months, we have seen continued stabilization.

Consumer behavior is clearly becoming more predictable, with purchase volumes consistently consistently at around 1.5x to 1.75x where they were at the start of the pandemic during this period.

Why? Most likely because the entire population has settled into a “new normal”. People are no longer buying in the bulk they were because they have confidence in supply chain and product availability. They know they will be able to source whatever items they need at short notice.

Traffic and purchase volumes stable for third month running
Traffic and purchase volumes stable for third month running

Review submission volumes now consistent with pre-pandemic levels

After reporting a giant 2.3x leap in review submission levels from April to May, we highlighted a slight drop over the past two months. This continued to the point where levels are now consistent with what we saw pre-pandemic.

This is most likely because consumers have now got to the point where they are no longer buying items they hadn’t tried before. Instead, they now have established product preferences so are less inclined to be motivated to submit reviews.

In terms of the actual content of reviews, there have not been any huge shifts over the past six months. Sentiment – in the form of average rating – remains flat, which makes sense given the products themselves are unlikely to have changed significantly in this period. Review length is down slightly on pre-pandemic levels but has rebounded notably in recent months. This may be because reviewers have become accustomed to the “new normal” and are approaching the task with renewed focus and mental capacity. 

In our June webinar, we focused on review length in detail and offered some tips how to improve review quality. Check out our blog for a summary of that webinar.

Review submission volumes now comparable to pre-COVID
Review submission volumes now comparable to pre-COVID
Review length and sentiment flat throughout pandemic
Review length and sentiment flat throughout pandemic

Reviews still convert shoppers to buyers more than they were pre-COVID

As with the other trends we highlight, the impact of review content on consumer behavior remains relatively consistent with what we saw in previous months. In other words, review content continues to be more influential on the path to purchase than it was before the pandemic. 

However, while the June and July high in total review interactors were identical (at 66% above the end of February levels), the proportion of review interactors who went onto purchase is actually down (the July peak was 63% below the equivalent figure for June). So consumers are interacting with review content at the same rate as they were last month but are then going onto purchase less than they were then. This is consistent with July’s decrease in orders overall and aligns with the idea that shoppers are becoming more comfortable browsing online, and are less “decisive” in their shopping habits.

But the bottom line remains: Shoppers are still heavily relying on review content to assess product quality and make purchase decisions.

Reviews still convert shoppers to buyers more than they were pre-COVID
Reviews still convert shoppers to buyers more

Summary

The story for the September snapshot is that it has proven to be the third month of continued stabilization. Trends are now very stable so we can confidently say we are now in a COVID-driven “new normal”.

We have been talking about this for the last two months, and it has completely borne out in this report.

As we pointed out last month, the wild and almost out of control growth patterns we saw at the start of the pandemic appear now to be a drastic reaction to drastic and unprecedented circumstances.

Given market conditions are unlikely to change any time soon, this “new normal” will soon simply become “the normal”.

You can literally win and lose on the speed of your site

By now, you are most likely crystal clear on the critical importance of a quick-loading webpage for your customers’ experience and your site’s conversion rate.

Consumers have high demand when it comes to site performance and load speed. In case you’re not sure what all the hype is about, here are some particularly compelling data points:

As you can see, consumers don’t have the patience for slow-loading sites. And with an endless aisle of options, they don’t need to.

Why PowerReviews wins

When it comes to displaying UGC on your site, it’s important to know if your reviews are slowing down your website and ultimately hurting conversion rates. 

We know how important this is to the success of your business. This is why our ratings and reviews code is 2.5 times lighter than our competitors, leading to way faster page load times.

How we do this

One of the most important aspects impacting site load speed metrics is Javascript size.

And it’s for this reason that PowerReviews has consistently made reducing Javascript size one of our primary goals.

The updates we have made over the past 18 months have reduced Javascript size throughout every touchpoint on our customers’ product pages.

Here’s a breakdown of content types and their size reduction:

Page Type Percent Size Reduction
Product Listing Page (Category Pages) 61%
Product Details Pages 20-26%
Write a Review & Review Your Purchases 40%

What changed?

In order to reduce the size of our Javascript, we added logic to the code to analyze configuration in real-time. Now, PowerReviews only loads the components of pages that are absolutely necessary. This basically means our Javascript is working smarter, not harder. Although this may seem obvious, driving these valuable efficiencies requires a lot of sophisticated technical background work.

We are also constantly iterating and improving. On top of this, PowerReviews has added sophisticated measurement capabilities to monitor the size of our Javascript code each time we make enhancements and updates. If we are increasing the size we are alerted during the development phase so we can proactively make any necessary adjustments prior to release.

This is how we will keep your page load speeds fast.

How do you compare to Bazaarvoice?

One thing we get asked a lot is: how do you compare on site speed to your main competitor?

We can state with complete confidence that the PowerReviews solution is significantly lighter than Bazaarvoice. For example, the most recent data shows that Bazaarvoice loads at least ten javascript files for a total of 385.31KB whereas PowerReviews loads only two javascript files amounting to 204.62KB.

When it comes specifically to PDPs (Product Detail Pages), BazaarVoice needs to render seven urls on all its customers’ PDPs before the Javascript appears. PowerReviews needs to render two. Big difference resulting in way quicker load speeds.

Bazaarvoice

0 +
javascript files
3 0 KB
total file size

PowerReviews

0
javascript files
200 KB
total file size

Another component that affects load time is DNS resolution. DNS resolution can add significant latency to requests. And for websites with open connections to many third parties, this latency can significantly reduce loading performance. Bazaarvoice’s network requests span over six different DNS names, but PowerReviews is limited to three.

All well and good. But what does this mean when applied to actual site speed? Well, the 2019 eCommerce Third Party Technology Index shows Bazaarvoice technology consistently in the “red zone” when validating code – which consistently negatively impacts site performance time and time again.

The experts agree

Site speed experts YOTTAA analyze this sort of stuff everyday. They are constantly evaluating and advising which third party applications most slow down ecommerce websites in order to drive overall optimization.

As Beth Moriarty, VP of Product & Corporate Marketing, YOTTAA, explains: “Because YOTTAA accelerates over 1,500 ecommerce sites, we have the unique visibility to analyze detailed information on the performance of almost 1,000 third parties. We also understand the importance of working with third parties that are always pushing themselves to be better — and faster.”

Content + Speed = More Sales

UGC is meant to help not hinder. So the absolute last thing your UGC provider should be doing is negatively impacting the performance of your site. What’s the point of even bothering with UGC if your customers don’t even see it?

Our streamlined Javascript code – optimized to strike the perfect balance between product page speed and content – is available as a standard part of our core solution. It has been developed to deliver the best possible customer experience to drive conversions and sales.

If you want to understand how we enable faster load times with optimal customization, speak to one of our experts.

Alison Krakowiak

In her role as Product Marketing Manager at PowerReviews, Alison leads new product launches by focusing on communicating the value of our technology to our clients and partners. Alison is excited to bring the voice of our PowerReviews clients into everything she creates.

PowerReviews is excited to announce that we have today entered into a partnership with Bazaarvoice to enable our customers to reach and influence more shoppers on their path to purchase.

What has happened?

PowerReviews customers are currently able to distribute UGC to a significant and growing network including the likes of Target, BJ’s Wholesale, Amazon, and many others. The addition of the Bazaarvoice network grows this reach to 2,000+ retail sites in total.

This – combined with the most accurate product matching and syndication capabilities available – enables us to significantly expand the reach of your UGC.

The agreement highlights our dedication to helping shoppers make more confident purchase decisions and helping brands succeed in today’s ever-evolving ecommerce world. This new partnership is centered around a streamlined process for getting brands’ customers’ content live at retailers’ websites as quickly as possible, while still maintaining the best-in-class authenticity standards that shoppers, brands, and retailers depend on.

What does this mean for PowerReviews customers?

We entered into this partnership because we want to provide our own customers with more ways to succeed. Through our partnership, PowerReviews customers can now syndicate UGC (ratings, reviews, images, videos, questions & answers) to more North American retailers, reaching more buyers and leading to more sales.

With our focus on exceptional service, analytics, ease of use, and doing the right thing by our customers, we believe this agreement further strengthens our position as the best UGC solutions vendor in the market. To find out more about how PowerReviews enables you to get your UGC in front of more shoppers to drive more sales, check out the dedicated section on our website.

If there’s one thing we feel we can speak authoritatively on (if we do so say ourselves), it’s best practices for showcasing User-Generated Content (UGC) in your product display pages.

Specifically: Exactly what information should you include and why?

To answer this question effectively, it’s worth explaining the point of UGC. Before making a purchase, consumers want validation for their decisions from a trusted source. And what could be a more trusted source than an independent third-party (i.e. customers) who have already experienced the product in question?

UGC weaves the Voice of the Customer throughout your site, for greater authenticity and customer-centricity. UGC adds functionality and utility to your website to support the buyer journey, and in doing so, it provides critical social proof that turns shoppers into buyers. In other words, the main benefit of UGC is that it maximizes conversions and drives sales.

At PowerReviews, we analyze extensive volumes of web traffic to understand what types of UGC have the most impact on the buyer journey. More than three-quarters of online shopping traffic across all our clients consume at least some form of UGC (i.e. visual media, Q&A, reviews, ratings), and the results of those interactions are quite compelling. In fact, across all this web traffic, online shoppers that interact with some form of UGC are actually 103% more likely to make a purchase.

I work with a bunch of leading brands that leverage a range of UGC to drive conversions. Here are the UGC that have the biggest impact, along with some real-life examples.

UGC Type 1:
Questions & Answers (Q&A)
Q&A Display Example Featured Image
What is Q&A?

Q&A provides the opportunity for customers to provide specific questions about a product on your product pages. You can then answer these questions yourself or allow other customers to provide responses.

Why is Q&A valuable?

Q&A gives shoppers answers to the very specific questions they have before making a purchase. In doing so, it boosts confidence and removes hesitations to buy – absolutely critical when aiming to convert browsers to purchasers.

Q&A also enables you to bridge the content and contextual gaps often not covered in standard online product descriptions. Think questions about various use cases, product compatibility, warranty and how the product performs in given scenarios. You 1) can’t cover all these topics in your product descriptions and 2) can’t anticipate every question your customers may have. So crowdsourcing these questions in a mini and highly specific online forum is the next best thing.

Our research shows Q&A is the No. 1 most impactful type of UGC content. Consumers engage with this content convert at 153% the rate of overall site traffic.

Real-life best practice example of Q&A

If you’re looking for a retailer with a solid Q&A foundation, check out global footwear mega brand UGG. The retailer has 34 questions in its Q&A for its 5-star rated Fluff Yeah Slide. Shoppers can ask a question, sort responses by various criteria – newest, oldest or most answers – and also search by keyword.

UGC Type 2:
Size/Fit Snippet
size and fit example of powerreviews
What is the size/fit snippet?

The ability to sort review content according to consumer sizing reactions. Is the item coming up smaller than anticipated, larger or just right? Receiving this information from people who have actually bought and tried the item provides authentic guidance you simply cannot replicate.

Why is the Size/Fit snippet valuable?

Consumers who interact with review content drive a 115% increase in visitor conversion rate per our research. The Size/Fit Snippet is a great way to facilitate this interaction. Why? It gives shoppers the ability to filter reviews to bring the most relevant review content front and center.

Studies show consumers will pay a premium for products that are personalized to their specific needs. Think of the Size/Fit Snippet in the same manner – consumers place a premium on user generated content that is personalized to their specifics.

If you’re an apparel or footwear brand in particular, the Size/Fit Snippet is a “must have”. Presenting reviews in this manner is a win-win for retailer and for the customer. It elevates consumer confidence whey they can’t touch or try on a product but want to ensure it will still look and feel great; as well, it acts as an excellent qualifier thereby significantly reducing the likelihood of return.

Real-life best practice example of size/fit snippet

To see a great use of the Size/Fit Snippet in action, check out Bonobos. The men’s clothing designer and retailer’s claim to fame is that it offers “the most fits in pants – Skinny, Tailored, Slim, Standard, & Athletic – across sizes 28-54 so you’re bound to find the right fit.” To support this value proposition, the company offers copious size and fit information resources on its website.

On its Stretch Washed Chino product display page, 155 reviews can be sorted by Size (Too big, too small or true-to-size fit), Height (options from 5’4” to over 6’4”), and Weight (options from under 150 to over 300 pounds).

UGC Type 3:
Imagery
What is imagery?

In a UGC context, photos from actual customers of the product “out in the wild”. These show what it looks like in reality

Why is consumer imagery valuable?

Real-life customer photos trump corporate glossy product images taken in a controlled lighting environment. Why? They are far more authentic and reflective of the actual reality of buying the item in question.

 According to surveys, some 88% of shoppers polled want to see authentic product photos and videos. Our tracking data shows that engagement with this user-generated imagery results in an 81% increase in visitor conversion rates.

 They say a picture is worth a thousand words; most of us are very visually oriented and images can convey information in a much more nuanced and detailed way than text. (e.g.  how a duvet looks in the bedroom, or the specific grey color of a belt etc.). 

Real-life best practice example of consumer imagery

One brand leveraging user-generated imagery to its advantage is casual apparel and accessory retailer Aéropostale. Its product display page for its Real Denim High Rise Slim & Thick Curvy Jegging features an image carousel with images from reviews and social media channels showing real people in all shapes and sizes modelling and styling the jeans.

UGC Type 4:
Review Faceoff
What is the Review Faceoff?

The Review Faceoff showcases the most liked positive and negative review for a specific product.

Why is the Review Faceoff valuable?

This review feature gives prospective buyers a read on the most valued product and pros/cons quickly and easily. This reduces effort while promoting authenticity.

While it may seem counterintuitive to showcase a negative review, our research shows 85% of shoppers seek out negative reviews prior to purchase. A full two-thirds of visitors filter for 1-star reviews and yet these visitors still convert at 108% the rate of general web traffic.

After all, no product is perfect and customers are realistic to know that; a jacket is super warm and waterproof, but maybe the zipper breaks easily. Customers want to know the full scoop – all the pics and pans, what people love and what people hate. They’ll want to see the worst and realize to see if they can live with it. And this also mitigates future disappointment down the road because it helps manage expectations

Real-life best practice example of Review Faceoff

One example of a brand reaping the rewards of the Review Faceoff is Learning Resources. On its Review Snapshot on the Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog, shoppers can clearly see the pros and cons of the product as cited by reviewers and view the Most Liked Positive Review and the Most Liked Negative Review.

UGC Type 5:
Sort and Filter/Search Bar
review search example of powerreviews
What is the Sort and Filter/Search Bar?

A bar at the top of your review content in your product page that provides the ability for customers to sort and filter your review content. This helps them personalize their own research process to get the information they need on the product before hitting the “buy” button.

Why is the Sort and Filter/Search Bar valuable?

Consumers like options, so giving shoppers the ability to sort and filter and slice and dice UGC as they desire is a big win. By adding Sort and Filter/Search Bar functionality, you can offer the flexibility to sort by reviews with images, highest rated, lowest rated or most recent reviews, a certain size, or other keywords. They get the information they need to make informed purchase decisions.

Real-life best practice example of Sort and Filter/Search Bar

The Sort and Filter/Search Bar on home furnishing retailer Hayneedle’s product display page for its Algoma 11-ft. Cotton Rope Hammock with Metal Stand Deluxe Set, is a solid example. It’s also clearly a very helpful feature given the product has over 225 reviews!

Do You Have the Data to Drive UGC Decision Making?

While these types of UGC are tried and tested by our customer community and proven to help drive conversions, your results may vary. It’s important to consider what is important to your audience when devising your UGC strategy.

And as with any eCommerce tactic, it’s important to benchmark efforts to determine what is working. Small shifts can produce big results when it comes to UGC, but you need to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of your current efforts to understand what, if anything, needs to change.

Unfortunately, many brands have little to no insight into their UGC efforts and as a result, are unable to size or even define this impact. They have no way of knowing the nature or extent of consumer interactions with UGC. To address this issue, we recently released a new analytics product that provides very precise recommendations based on data (i.e. what interactions with UGC content lead to conversions/purchases).

This new offering enables brands to establish the impact of their UGC investments across their eCommerce environment, including analysis across all UGC on product pages; engagement data, such as viewing of, filtering of and clicking on specific elements on each product page; key related site analytics, such as time on page, and critically subsequent actions and outcomes – i.e. whether shopper bought the product or not.

As online shopper behaviors are shifting drastically, now is the time to make sure your product pages are capturing customers’ attention. What type of UGC content results in better outcomes? Understanding which types of UGC will drive the most impact will allow you to prioritize efforts to give your customers more of what they want and need and in turn maximize conversions.

Not sure your review display is giving you the highest conversion rate? If you are a PowerReviews customer,  reach out to your Customer Success Manager who will tell you have the right setup in place. If you are not a PowerReviews customer, we’d love to tell you more.

Adrienne Harmon

Adrienne, a Sr. Enterprise Customer Success Manager, has been with PowerReviews for 2 years and focuses on strategic initiatives to help drive PDP conversion utilizing user generated content for some of the globe's largest brands and retailers. When she's not mining through reviews, you can find her at the gym where she is staunchly passionate about health & fitness or online shopping for white sneakers. Seriously, she has 6 pairs.

This is the fifth edition of our monthly snapshot (most recent versions here and here), originally established to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on consumer behavior. As always, we draw our analysis from consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

This time, we focus on a five-month period (starting February 24 2020 and ending July 26 2020). Each report, we specifically analyze review submission levels, review length and sentiment, overall conversions/sales volumes and review consumption (both absolute and among those who go onto purchase).

After seeing drastic extremes over the course of March through May, we experienced continued stabilization for the second month running. Again, the overriding theme seemed to be that the market had well and truly settled into a “new normal”.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

Ecommerce purchase volumes and site traffic consistent over the past month

02

Review submission volumes continue to trail off, but still at higher levels than pre-pandemic

03

Reviews still converting more shoppers to buyers than before pandemic

Ecommerce purchase volumes and site traffic consistent over the past month

Over the past four months, we have reported aggressive growth in ecommerce purchase volumes since we started measuring at the back end of February. We consistently saw 3x increases in purchase volumes during April and May. However, this started to tail off in June, a trend that continued in July.

If you analyze the last two months, a very slight but notable decrease is actually evident. It’s too early to tell how significant or long lasting this will prove to be. However, there certainly appears to be clear overall stability with less drastic fluctuations evident. July ecommerce purchase volumes still peaked at almost double where they were at the end of February.

Traffic too has stabilized, remaining consistent over the past two months. As we mentioned last month, customers are now far more comfortable shopping online but have become less decisive over the course of the COVID era – perhaps due to broader economic uncertainty, job insecurity, and associated pressures.

Both traffic and purchase volumes stabilize throughout June and July
Both traffic and purchase volumes stabilize

Review submission volumes continue to trail off, but still at higher levels than pre-pandemic

In the June snapshot, we reported a giant 2.3x leap in review submission levels from April to May before highlighting a slight drop last month. These levels were maintained through July 2020.

However, it’s important to note that review submission volumes are still around 20% higher than where they were pre-pandemic. This is despite an initial drop off throughout March, when review submission actually fell right at the time “Stay at Home” orders kicked in. Consumers probably had bigger concerns at that time than writing product reviews.

In terms of the actual content of reviews, there were not any huge shifts. Sentiment – in the form of average rating – remains flat, which makes sense given the products themselves are unlikely to have changed significantly in this period. Review length is down slightly on pre-pandemic levels but, given the average review length is 154 characters, a decrease of 10-20% is not particularly significant or meaningful. In our June webinar, we focused on review length in detail and offered some tips how to improve review quality. Check out our blog for a summary of that webinar.

Review submission volumes continue to decline but up on pre-COVID
Review submission volumes continue to decline
Review length and ratings stable throughout COVID era
Review length and ratings stable throughout

Reviews still converting more shoppers to buyers than before pandemic

As with the other trends we highlight, the impact of review content on consumer behavior remains relatively consistent with what we saw in previous months. In other words, review content continues to be more influential on the path to purchase than it was before the pandemic. 

However, while the June and July high in total review interactors were identical (at 66% above the end of February levels), the proportion of review interactors who went onto purchase is actually down (the July peak was 63% below the equivalent figure for June). So consumers are interacting with review content at the same rate as they were last month but are then going onto purchase less than they were then. This is consistent with July’s decrease in orders overall and aligns with the idea that shoppers are becoming more comfortable browsing online, and are less “decisive” in their shopping habits.

But the bottom line remains: Shoppers are still heavily relying on review content to assess product quality and make purchase decisions.

Reviews interaction levels stable from June to July
Reviews interaction levels stable from June to July
Reviews still convert shoppers to buyers at higher rate than before pandemic
Reviews still convert shoppers to buyers at higher rate

Summary

The story for the August snapshot is stabilization. There are slight declines in many of the metrics we capture but they are not significant. Last month’s assessment that consumers have settled into a “new normal” when it comes to ecommerce seems to have largely borne out.

However, the declines in activity are certainly worth watching. Will they continue into something more significant or will they creep back up to what we saw in May and June?

The crazy numbers we saw at the start of the pandemic appear now to be a drastic reaction to drastic and unprecedented circumstances. It seems to be a safe bet that the more stable trends of May, June, and July will continue into August and beyond given there’s no end to the pandemic in sight.

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.

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