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

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

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

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

Key ecommerce market trends

01

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

02

Review Submission Volumes Consistently Up on Pre-Holiday Levels

03

Reviews driving purchases more than they were pre-Covid

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

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

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

Review Submission Volumes Consistently Up on Pre-Holiday Levels

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

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

Review length and sentiment continues to be stable

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

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

Reviews driving purchases more than they were pre-Covid

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

To recap, the charts in this section highlight the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.)

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

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

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

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

Summary

In summary, we noted the following clear trends:

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

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

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

You know you need to ask for reviews. You also have ideas for how to ask for reviews.

There’s only one piece of the puzzle left for you to figure out: when to ask for reviews.

Congratulations — this is actually the easiest part, especially since we’ve already done the research for you. We’ve analyzed the data from hundreds of thousands of review requests and post-purchase emails from PowerReviews clients to determine the optimal time for asking reviews. 

What we found may surprise you. Certain days of the week perform better for review collection. Ultimately, however, the best time to ask for reviews depends on the types of products you sell, as well as the demographic makeup of your audience.

Let’s dig in.

The Best Day(s) of the Week to Ask for Reviews

In general, we’ve found that Wednesdays and Saturdays have the highest conversion rate for review request emails. Maybe people are looking for a way to break up hump day, or they have more time on the weekend.

Whatever the reason, emails sent on these days tend to lead to more reviews. This is not to say requests aren’t effective on other days (we’ve seen plenty of evidence to suggest this is the case). But scheduling your post-purchase emails on a Wednesday or Saturday seems to give it the best possible chance of generating a review.

What Time Should You Email Your Review Request?

The best time to send your review request emails depends on your customer base, and their past interactions with your email campaigns. Review your email analytics. Based on that data, you can determine when your customers will be most likely to open and engage with your review request emails. 

If you’re starting fresh with a review collection email program and looking for some general best practices, however, the best time slot is between 10am and 2pm. This timeframe captures people on their lunch break, when they have a little extra down time to leave a review. 6pm can be another peak time, when people have finished their workday.

When to Ask for Reviews, Depending on What You Sell 

Now you’ve got two days of the week you can dedicate to sending your post-purchase emails. But how many Wednesdays, or Saturdays, should you wait before sending your review request? 

You don’t want to send your email too early. You could come off as too eager, but worse, the person may not have even had a chance to try out the product yet.

The vast majority of people prefer to leave a review after they’ve used a product at least once or twice, and 34% of people would like to use it even more before writing their review.

Younger generations, in particular, prefer to be able to vet a product a bit longer before leaving their review. While 40% of Boomers are happy to write a review after using a product once, only 27% of Gen Zers are.

At the same time, you don’t want to wait too long either. People prefer to leave reviews while the product is still top of mind. 77% of people will write a review within a week of receiving or using the product, and 8% will write a review the same day.

There’s also a risk that if you wait too long, your email will get lost among all the other review request emails they’re getting. People order a lot of things online these days, and that shopping behavior has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1 in 5 people buy something at least once a week. For 6% of Amazon Prime members, they purchase something every single day

Getting the timing just right is key to maximizing your review submissions. You want to give people enough time to be able to leave a detailed review (customers rate longer reviews as more helpful), without waiting so long that they lose interest.

How long should you wait before sending your review request? Between 7 to 21 days, depending on the type of product the customer purchased. 

Hard Goods – 21 Days

When we talk about hard goods, we’re referring to products that last a long time, such as refrigerators, washing machines, and computers.

We recommend waiting 21 days before sending your review request for these products. Why so long? With products like these, the person is expecting to use them for a long time. They want to make sure it works as expected, and they need time to confirm that.

Send your review request too early, and they may have only used the product a few times. With some of these products, like a new computer, they may have not even had a chance to set them up yet! 

Soft Goods – 14 Days

Soft goods describe items that are used immediately and only last a few years, such as apparel, cosmetics, and personal care items.

We recommend waiting 14 days before asking for a review on these products. That’s a perfect amount of time for a person to have received the product and used it at least once or twice. With the purchase still top of mind, they’ll be in a good place to write a thoughtful review.

Perishable Goods – 14 Days

Perishable goods are used immediately and have a short lifespan. These may include food and beverage items, as well as flowers and plants.

Like soft goods, we recommend waiting 14 days before sending your review request email. Perishable goods are used quickly, and you want to ask for a review before the person has already forgotten about how much they enjoyed it! 

Seasonal Goods – 7 Days

Seasonal items include holiday and seasonal products. They could be perishable, like holiday-themed foods and beverages. Or they could be a soft good, like apparel or decor. Regardless, many of these items are put to use as soon as they’re out of the box. 

As a result, you don’t want to delay your review request longer than a week. 7 days is the ideal time for sending a post-purchase email on seasonal goods. The person has probably already used the product, if not multiple times, and you want to make sure you ask for a review before the holiday is over.

There’s another reason why you don’t want to wait too long to ask for reviews on seasonal products.

Reviews increase conversions by 115%, and there’s only a short window of time your seasonal products will be available. You have to make the most of that window to boost your review count — and your sales.

When to Send a Review Follow Up Email

If a customer doesn’t respond to your initial review request, how long should you wait before sending them a follow up? A good rule of thumb is 1 additional week, or 7 days. The product will still be fresh in their mind, but you’ve given their email inbox a little breathing room.

Do you really need to send a followup email? Yes, not everyone will leave a review the first time you ask them. In fact, only 68% of customers will. An additional 28% leave a review the second time you ask them. But 4% of people, you’ll need to nudge them a third time before they write a review. That’s why we recommend sending at least two emails as a best practice. 

How many requests you’ll ultimately need to send can depend on the demographic makeup of your customer base, however. Our research shows that older generations are significantly more likely to leave a review after the first request. 74% of Boomers will write a review the first time you ask them, as will 70% of Gen Xers. For Gen Zers and Millennials, however, that percentage drops to around 60%.

The takeaway: If your customer base skews younger, always send at least two emails asking for reviews, if not three. Learn more about what drives customers to leave reviews

Worried about being a pest? Don’t be. Our data shows that up to 80% of all reviews come from post-purchase emails. Asking for reviews over email can work wonders for your review collection, especially if you ask more than once.

Just take a look at the chart below. These are the review collection numbers for one of our clients, before and after they started sending post purchase emails. Can you guess what month they started asking for reviews?

That’s right. Simply starting a post-purchase email campaign skyrocketed this client’s review collection numbers to the tune of 900%.

It’s Always the Right Time to Ask for Reviews

Do what you can to get more reviews, by asking at the right time, and asking more than once. It’s worth it! Why? 97% of consumers typically read reviews before making a purchase and 81% of online purchases take place on pages with ratings and reviews content.
Timing your ask is just one part of a successful review collection strategy. From collecting and displaying reviews, to managing and responding to negative ones, there’s always more you can do to squeeze more value out of your customer reviews. Learn more in our Complete Guide to Ratings & Reviews for 2021.

Riley Smith

Riley Smith is a Senior Solutions Consultant at PowerReviews where he works with existing and prospective clients to translate their eCommerce goals into innovative and powerful solutions. When Riley isn't chatting with clients or fielding technical questions from other PowerPeople, he's usually running on the lakefront or scrolling endlessly through Netflix.

They say all you need to do to collect reviews is ask. It’s simple advice, and it works. But, it also feels easier said than done. How, exactly, are you supposed to go about asking for reviews? Should you email your customers, tweet them on social media, or host a contest?

All of the above — and more. The truth is, the more creative you are with asking, the more reviews you’ll receive. Customers respond to different requests for reviews, so the more ways you can ask for reviews, the more successful you’ll be.

Today, we’re sharing 18 proven strategies for collecting more product reviews, with real-world inspiration from our own clients at PowerReviews. Let’s dig in.

1. Ask for reviews in your post-purchase emails

This one’s an essential best practice. Our research has found that nearly 80% of all reviews content is generated from email requests. Personalize your post-purchase emails with the customer’s name and the products they purchased, with direct links to write a review.

Not convinced an email can really make that much of a difference? Take a look at the chart below. The blue bars represent how many reviews one of our clients collected each month. In December 2020, they started emailing customers asking for reviews. As a result, their review numbers skyrocketed by around 600%. When we say asking for reviews works, we mean it!

2. Collect reviews from the email itself

Want to wow customers with your review collection technology? Let them complete their review directly within the email. 

3. Collect multiple reviews at once

60% of orders include more than 1 product. That’s a lot of reviews to write. Make the process quick and painless by letting customers review multiple products in one click. One of our clients saw their review collection rates increase by 54% in just 30 days after implementing this approach.

4. Add a review request form to your product pages

Add review forms to your product pages, so customers have a place to leave a review no matter if they purchased your products from your site, another retailer, or in-store. 

Pro Tip: Encourage longer reviews by gamifying the process! Add a Review Meter link that shows a progress bar and cheers customers on to keep writing.

5. Create a landing page for reviews

Maybe you don’t sell your products through your website. Good news: you can still collect reviews. Create a page on your website that’s just for reviews. Feature each product with a link to write a review. This gives you a handy URL you can share on social media, email newsletters, and other marketing communications.

6. Ask for reviews on receipts and invoices

Post-purchase emails are great, but you need a customer’s email in order to send them. For in-store purchases, you can add a call-to-action on your receipts and invoices asking shoppers to write a review. Take every opportunity you can to remind shoppers that their feedback is valuable and you’re always looking for reviews. 

7. Include review requests in your email newsletters

Do you send a marketing email newsletter to your customers and subscribers? That’s another great spot to ask them to write a review. Remind customers of the value of reviews in a short and sweet callout, or feature some of your products along with links that take people right to the review form. One PowerReviews client collected 175 days in just 2 days with this review collection campaign; another collected over 1,000 in just 5 days!

8. Ask for reviews via text message

For younger generations, email feels so old school. Stay hip and connected by asking them to leave reviews via text message. You can send them links to your review form after their purchase.

9. Host a sweepstakes or giveaway

Among shoppers who don’t write reviews, 55% said they need an incentive or reward to do so. So, give the people what they want! Throw a review sweepstakes, where each review counts as an entry. One of our apparel clients saw a 290% increase in review collection in just 45 days thanks to this strategy!

Pro Tip: Promote your review contest far and wide, including on your website, email newsletters, and social media channels.

10. Include your review request on the product packaging

It’s common to include rave reviews on product packaging. Why not also ask for reviews while your customers are in a positive frame of mind, and excited to start using your product? Print a QR form on product packaging. Once the customer scans it from their smartphone, they’re taken directly to your review form.

11. Collect more reviews via QR codes

Speaking of QR codes, they’re a review collector’s best friend. As long as they’re linked to your review form, you can use QR codes in a variety of places to collect more reviews. Do you attend trade shows? Print a QR code on a business card with instructions on how to write a review and hand it out at your booth. Do you ship products directly to your customers? Include a product insert with a QR code and instructions to write a review.

12. Award loyalty points for writing a review

If you offer a customer loyalty program, make writing a review one of your point-earning activities. Allow customers to earn points each time they leave a review for one of your products.

13. Share product samples to drum up new reviews

Are you launching a new product, or reintroducing a seasonal product line? Generate new reviews fast by offering product samples. You can share physical products, or distribute physical or digital coupons for specific items. Tell customers that you are looking for their feedback. Because you’ve already given them a free product, they’ll be more likely to return the favor with a review. We’ve found that review submission from a sampling campaign can range from 60% to 90%. Not too shabby!

Pro Tip: Supercharge your product sampling campaign by partnering up with influencers. Talk to your notable influencers or register with a micro-influencer platform to expand your reach.

14. Reward reviews with a product discount

Keep the positive momentum going. After a customer writes a review, thank them with a discount. It can be a percentage-off discount or something as simple as free shipping. Offering a discount not only encourages the customer to make another purchase, but to keep writing reviews to score more discounts.

15. Ask for reviews on your Order History page

Customers often review their Order History to reorder their favorite products. That’s an excellent time to remind them to write a review. Include a CTA to write a review next to each product in their order history.

16. Ask for reviews on social media

Your most loyal customers are following you on social media. These are folks who love your products and want to see you succeed. Activate your social media army and tell them they can help by writing you reviews. Ask for reviews on Facebook and Twitter, and include swipe-up links in your Instagram Stories. 

Pro Tip: Prevent writer’s block and inspire your followers by retweeting, reposting, and resharing positive reviews from other social media users.

17. Follow up on Facebook comments

Are customers raving about your products on social media? Join the conversation. Respond to positive Facebook comments with your appreciation and a link to leave a review. Social media is a perfect place to collect review content when you don’t have customer emails — sometimes you just need to do a little digging!  

18. Include review requests on product warranties and registrations

After customers complete their product registration or warranty, ask for a review. These folks care enough about their product to want to keep it protected, so they probably have some pretty good things to say. This is an excellent way for non-ecommerce brands to collect reviews.

Bonus: Syndicate reviews to other retail partners

We’ll include this last tip as a bonus. If you sell through retail partners in addition to your own website, you need to be thinking about how to collect reviews not just for yourself, but for those other partners, too. One easy way to accomplish this is to share reviews from your website out to your retail partners through review syndication. By boosting your review counts on other retailers, you can increase sales there as well. 

As you can see, you’ve got lots of options for collecting reviews. All it takes is a little creativity. Get started by putting these tips into practice today. Collecting reviews is the foundation of any UGC strategy, but there is so much more you can do. Learn more in our Complete Guide to Ratings & Reviews for 2021.

Jen Murphy

Jen is a Customer Success Manager at PowerReviews, where she helps brands and retailers focus on the customer site experience. She provides guidance on how to maintain the client’s branding and voice throughout the UGC collection experience. When she isn’t talking through new strategies with clients, you can find her trying out new restaurants all around Chicago and “patiently” waiting for the world to get back to pre-COVID times.

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

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

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

Then onto the Holidays, when the typical marked seasonal increase materialized.

Read on to find out the key trends post-Holidays as the Covid vaccine began to be rolled out across the country.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

Purchase volumes and site traffic return to pre-Holidays “norms”

02

Review submission volumes increase

03

Reviews still driving purchases more than they were a year ago

Purchase volumes and site traffic return to pre-Holidays “norms”

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

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

Review Submission Volumes Increase

In the last snapshot, we noted a surge in review submission volumes – when we saw the biggest increase in review collection of the year, with a giant surge evident at the end of November.

This trend – broadly speaking – held throughout the entire month of December – and on December 28 actually peaked at a level 90% higher than where it was at the start of October.

Interestingly, this broad trend continued throughout January and February – this is potentially a hangover from the significant increase in sales volumes over the Holidays. But – as our recent survey proved – most consumers leave reviews within a week of receiving a product having used it once or twice.

Despite the increase in volumes, trends evident in review length and sentiment were broadly consistent with everything we saw throughout 2020. However, there was a very slight dip in length – fluctuating at a maximum of -10% and +15% of where they were at the start of November – during this period.

Review length and sentiment continues to be stable

Reviews still driving purchases more than they were a year ago

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

To recap, the charts in this section highlight the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.)

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

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

However, the influence of reviews surged to their highest rate of the year during the 2020 Cyber 5, with 7.41% of review interactors going on to purchase (an increase of 30%). As you can see from the charts, this is entirely in line with typical trends. Reviews always become more impactful on the buyer journey during the Holidays.

During January and February 2021, reviews continued to be more influential on the buyer journey than they were a year prior. But the difference was much less marked. We’ll wait before calling this a trend in light of what we saw pre-Holidays.

Summary

In summary, we noted the following clear trends:

  • Purchase volumes and product page traffic stabilized at similar levels to pre-Holidays (at around between 1.4x and 1.7x where they were pre-Covid)
  • Reviews are still having more of an impact on purchase behavior than this time last year but the extent to which this is the case has fallen compared to what we saw pre-Holidays
  • Review submission levels have increased steadily over the past three months

Realistically,  as we look ahead to the rest of 2021, it’s likely that 2020 accelerated the transition online like no other event in the Internet age. More sustainable growth is likely in a post-Covid world – as the below projected chart from eMarketer outlines.

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

By now, we’re all aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a transformational impact on ecommerce.

According to eMarketer, ecommerce sales have surged at a completely unprecedented rate – not just where I’m based in the UK, but globally everywhere.

If anything, these figures may downplay the overall impact. According to the US Census Bureau, for example, the first three quarters of 2020 saw a 32% increase in sales compared with the same period in 2019.

Regardless, those numbers are in line with what we saw across our own customer base at PowerReviews. At the start of the pandemic, between February and May 2020, purchase volumes among our customer set increased 3x.

Even though purchase volumes have now stabilized, they’re still consistently 40% to 70% higher than they were pre-pandemic.

But the pandemic’s impact on ecommerce isn’t limited to sales growth. COVID-19 has radically changed people’s reliance on ecommerce, what ecommerce looks like, and how they make purchasing decisions online.

Anecdotally, we have heard from a number of the brands we work with how COVID-19 has accelerated their ecommerce strategy at an unprecedented rate. We hear time and time again how they have done work previously planned to take five years in a matter of months.

At PowerReviews, we have been exploring the effect of COVID-19 on reviews monthly in our snapshot series (check out our Insights section for our back catalog). Almost a year in, we wanted to pause to summarize our findings.

Do ratings and reviews matter more or less in a global pandemic? Do they have a stronger impact on conversions than before? Here’s what we found.

Review interaction up 50% from pre-pandemic levels

Review interaction includes actions like searching, filtering, and clicking to expand and read an entire review.

Based on our data, people are engaging with reviews more than ever before. In the early months of the pandemic, review interaction was up 89% compared with pre-pandemic levels:

Once people settled into their “new normal,” these numbers lowered somewhat. Still, the appetite for reviews remained healthy, with review interaction eventually stabilizing at a level 50% higher than pre-pandemic times.

Reviews build confidence in uncertain times

The pandemic upended several industries. Product categories like food and home decor have soared, while travel and hospitality have suffered.

But, as the eCommerce data tells us, it’s not that consumers stopped shopping. Rather, they just shifted their spend.

For example, in our 2021 survey of over 10,000 beauty shoppers, we’ve found 54% of beauty shoppers wear less makeup now, but just as many have shifted their focus to skincare.

The pandemic also strained supply chains, leaving many items out of stock. As a result, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, many shoppers found themselves forced to try new brands. 

With so many shoppers shifting their spend (both online and to new sectors), many of them are purchasing products for the first time. They could be trying something completely new, or buying something they previously would have purchased in store (like apparel or cosmetics).

Reviews are critical to building their confidence during this decision. It’s no surprise, then, that 41% of beauty shoppers say they rely on ratings now more than they did before the start of the global health crisis. 

When in-store shopping is either unavailable or feels unsafe, shoppers need alternatives for validating that a product looks and functions as a brand claims it does.

Reviews describe functionality, but nothing beats a photo when it comes to appearance. It’s essential to collect visual content from your shoppers, and all the more so in a pandemic.

Over a third of beauty shoppers say they are now more reliant on user-submitted visual content than they were prior to COVID-19. 

Juvia’s Place displays product photos next to user-submitted content. Shoppers can see how various shades of eyeshadow look on other customers who look like them.

Reviews have 25% more influence on conversions

Clearly, people are finding reviews more helpful than before. But is all that review consumption translating to more sales? Good news: the data suggests yes. A year ago, around 4.25% of shoppers who interacted with review content would go on to purchase an item.

In the first months of the pandemic, that percentage surged to rates between 6.45% to 6.86% — more than 2 percentage points above typical conversion rates.

As people settled into the new normal, that number stabilized to 5.3%. Still, that’s a full percentage point higher than it was in 2019. In other words, people who interact with reviews are 25% more likely to convert today than they were pre-pandemic.  

That jump in conversion rates is significant. But what about impact during the Holidays?

Our research shows that reviews are even more influential historically during this period.

The conversion rate actually peaked at about the same level year-on-year. During the 2020 Holiday season, the influence of reviews jumped to a massive 7.41%:

The bottom line? Not only have shopping volumes increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, so has the proportion of those purchases being impacted by UGC. Imagine what that can do for your conversion rates. 

Reviews may be impacted by BOPIS/Click and Collect

There’s no doubt that ecommerce growth has skyrocketed thanks to COVID-19, but what we think of as ecommerce has also grown. 

For some retailers, as many as 50% of their online orders were picked up via Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) at a local store. With BOPIS and curbside pickup, shoppers have a different set of expectations than they do with a traditional online order. They expect that:

  • It will be easy and intuitive for them to complete their purchase.
  • The retailer will provide clear communication about when their order is ready and where they can pick it up.
  • The actual pickup process will be smooth, and was worth picking up in person vs. having delivered to their home.

That’s a lot — both for brands to live up to, and for shoppers to keep in mind when they review their purchase.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, shoppers may have focused solely on the product they received, and whether it arrived on time. Now, they’re thinking about your product, their personal safety when they shop in-store, and any inconveniences they encountered when they arrived for their curbside pickup. These new in-store experiences present another opportunity for brands to either delight or disappoint them. 

Do what you can to ensure the comments shoppers leave in their review reflect a positive experience, and any in-store photos they upload look clean. Download the Guide: Reinventing the Store Experience.

Reviews are up to 20% shorter

Here’s one data point that surprised us. In the first few months of the pandemic, review length plummeted by 24%. It eventually stabilized, but reviews are still about 15% to 20% shorter than they were pre-pandemic.

We measure review length by character count, so a 20% drop only equates to a handful of words. Shorter reviews still hold a ton of value, as our conversion data highlights.

However, our data also tells us that longer reviews tend to be voted “more helpful” by other shoppers. Reviews that are 80-100 characters long receive 2.5 helpful votes on average, while a review of 500+ characters receives more than double that number, or 5.3 helpful votes. 

Considering that reviews exist to help consumers make purchase decisions, the more helpful a review is, the more likely it is to drive someone to convert. 

As for why reviews are shorter, we can only speculate. Perhaps, with all the online shopping they’re doing, people may simply have less time to dedicate to each of their reviews. Or maybe they just don’t know what to write. 

Regardless, this presents an opportunity for brands to find ways to encourage customers to leave longer reviews. The best way to do that? Make it easier for them. 

Take Action: 5 Ways to Make the Most of UGC In a Pandemic

With more shoppers turning to eCommerce, reviews have become even more important. Here’s what you can do to generate more reviews and purchases this year.

1. Revamp your review form so it’s easy to complete and generates the most helpful information for shoppers.

Provide a series of prompts for customers to quickly answer before they get to the open-ended commentary. Let them select pros and cons, suggest best uses for a product, and provide demographic information that helps other shoppers identify with them. Not only do these questions help shoppers provide more info, but it also primes them to leave more helpful information when it comes time for them to write the actual review. 

Here’s an example from Room & Board:

2. Encourage people to leave longer, more helpful reviews with a progress bar. 

At PowerReviews, we call this the review meter. As shoppers type their review, a little green bar grows at the bottom, with explainer text that gently reminds them to keep writing their review. Once they hit a minimum character count, it lights up and tells them to “Keep it up,” reinforcing positive behavior.

3. Make it easier for shoppers to consume your review content.

Display ratings and review content both online and in-store. Online, feature reviews prominently on your product pages, and share positive customer feedback on social media. In-store, display QR codes or print them on your product packaging with links that take users directly to your online reviews.

4. Complement reviews with visual content from verified purchasers. 

Visual content builds trust. It helps customers visualize using your product, and imagine the size, scale and basically enables them to envisage how they would use it. They’re especially important for personal products like health and beauty. So, display images from real customers on your in-store displays, social media, and product pages.

5. Ask for reviews. 

Seriously. Often, all you have to do to get a review is just ask. 70% of people are willing to write a review if asked. On average, sales double when a product goes from having 0 reviews to just 1 review. Frame feedback as easy and quick (people are strapped for time), but hugely valuable to you. Here’s an example from Vistaprint:

Reviews have always mattered, but they matter even more in the age of COVID-19. Don’t wait to seize the moment. Check out our Complete Guide to Ratings and Reviews for 2021, and develop a growth-busting UGC strategy for this year.

Virginia Muller

Virginia Muller is a Senior Client Success Manager at PowerReviews, where she has been helping her clients reach their UGC goals for the last 5 years. She's enjoying living in the UK to support our EMEA market and she is very much looking forward to the pubs opening back up (soon please!)

Reviews provide important feedback for brands, helping them shape and improve their products. Having review content on your website is also good for SEO, providing fresh content to Google and lifting organic traffic by 20% on average. Most importantly, customers who interact with reviews are 115% more likely to convert.

The ROI of UGC is clear. 

But for non-ecommerce brands without checkout data, the path to collecting reviews isn’t. 

If you don’t collect orders like a traditional ecommerce site, there’s no automatic way of sending a follow up email with your customers to solicit reviews. 

The challenge of review collection affects a large number of non-ecommerce companies, from B2B brands who primarily sell to contractors to those who sell primarily through large retailers. You may be a food and beverage brand, a home supply company, or a personal care brand. 

If your website showcases your products with a button that says “Find a Store” instead of “Checkout Now,” we’ve got good news. 

You don’t need a transactional website to collect reviews. There are plenty of success stories from non-ecommerce brands who collect real, positive reviews from their customers, brand advocates, and fans. You just have to get a little creative.

8 Creative Ways Non-Ecommerce Brands Can Collect More Review Content

What’s the #1 thing non-ecommerce brands can do when it comes to collecting reviews? Make sure your customers know that you have a website (we know, it seems obvious), that your website offers the ability for them to write reviews, and that you want their feedback. 

Are you ready to collect reviews for your non-ecommerce brand? Get started with these eight proven strategies.

1. Leverage Your Email Marketing

Again, one of our biggest tips is simply to let your customers know that you want reviews. What better place to do that than in your email communications?

Ask for reviews in your email marketing newsletters. This campaign from sports drink brand BodyArmor collected over 1,000 reviews in just five days!

Ready-made cocktail brand BuzzBallz took a similar approach, offering free merch to the first 50 people to leave a review.

To ensure authentic reviews, send these emails to verified customers in your CRM. Offer an incentive for writing a review, or just let people know their feedback can help others. Then, include a link that takes them straight to your review form.

2. Create a Landing Page Just for Reviews

Don’t know which customers bought which products? Take a cue from Skippy Peanut Butter. They put all four types of peanut butter they sold on one landing page and added a “Write a Review” link beneath each one. 

This approach is really effective because you can send customers straight to this page and they don’t have to navigate. There’s just one call to action for them, and one link for you to include in your emails. 

3. Use QR Codes to Gather Reviews

When it comes to getting reviews, QR codes are a brand’s best friend. Use promotional labels with QR codes to drive customers to your site to leave a review. 

For example, you can attach a promotional card insert or tag to your product that has a QR code on it, or print the QR code on the product packaging itself. When customers scan it, they’re taken directly to your review form. 

You can also print QR codes on cards you hand out at different events with a note like “Let us know what you think.” Get inspired with these business-sized cards from gluten-free bread brand Canyon Bakehouse.

QR codes make it easy for your customers to leave feedback. They don’t have to type anything in; they can just scan the code and leave their feedback right there on the spot. 

4. Exchange Coupons for Reviews

Coupons are a great way to get people to try your products. They’re also a great way to get people to review your products. 68% of shoppers who receive a digital coupon are likely to leave a review. That number goes up to 76% for shoppers who receive a physical coupon. 

Many non-ecommerce brands use this strategy to drum up reviews for new products. For example, organic dairy company Horizon Organic invited customers to sign up to leave a review. Once they signed up, they received a coupon to use on their purchase of cheese sticks, a new product that needed reviews. 

This approach builds loyalty, as customers feel like they’re part of the process of helping you towards a successful launch. When customers know you need their feedback, they’re often happy to give it. 

5. Pair Product Sampling with Review Requests

If you thought our statistics on coupons were impressive, wait until you hear about our research on product sampling. Brands who send customers a physical product see an 85% average review submission rate.

So, share product samples with your brand advocates and customers. Add a QR code on the product packaging or as a product insert and ask for feedback in that way. The key is letting  customers know about the ability to write a review on your site. This will drive traffic and prompt them to share their feedback.  

For example, Hormel sent five packs of their Compleats entrees to customers with clear, two-step instructions. Try them all, and then leave a review!

Like with coupons, asking for reviews with your product samples invites customers to be a part of your success. This earns reviews, builds loyalty, and drives more purchases!

6. Follow Up on Product Registrations and Warranties

One challenge non-ecommerce brands face in collecting reviews is knowing whether a customer has actually purchased the product. 

If this sounds familiar, consider asking for reviews on printed receipts, emailed receipts, and even your product warranties and registrations. For example, Simonton, a non-ecommerce brand that sells windows and doors, follows up with each customer who registers their product and asks them to leave a review.

7. Run a Sweepstakes or Giveaway

55% of customers who don’t write reviews say they need an incentive to leave a review. Enter sweepstakes and giveaways to save the day. Target specific products for a review generation campaign, and then promote your contest via email and social media communication. 

Offering an incentive is always a surefire way to get people to write reviews. Here are a few examples from The North Face and Duraflame.

After one PowerReviews client implemented a sweepstakes, they saw a 290% increase in collection rates — in just 45 days! They now run sweepstakes sporadically throughout the year and have more than doubled the amount of reviews they collect than they did previously.

8. Ask for Reviews on Social Media

When people rave about your products on social media, it’s the perfect time to ask them to leave a review. These customers were already excited enough to write a positive comment, so they obviously love the product. They may just need an extra push to write a review. That’s where you come in. 

If you respond and say thank you and ask them to leave a review (with a link that takes them directly there), they’re probably going to because you engaged with them and they love your product. 

Proactively reaching out to customers can quickly increase your review count. Make this a part of your customer service routine on social media, like men’s care brand Just for Men does:


Regularly ask for reviews in posts across your social media channels, like the below example from Exmark Mowers

You can also include swipe up links in your Instagram Stories to your Write a Review form, asking customers to engage. Explain the value of reviews, and people may just respond. 

Start Collecting Reviews Now

Since they purchase your products elsewhere, a lot of customers don’t even know that non-ecommerce brands collect reviews. Letting them know that you do collect feedback, and that you want theirs, can be a powerful first step in generating positive reviews.

Don’t wait. Try one (or all) of the strategies above and start collecting reviews for your brand.

Sydney Sek

Sydney is a Customer Success Manager at PowerReviews, where she has been focusing on driving ecommerce growth and executing strategic initiatives to increase conversion with user-generated content for brands and retailers. When she's not talking through a best practice, you can find her working on her fitness or scoping out her next athleisure outfit to create her own UGC!

This is the post-Holiday special edition of our monthly snapshot, an analysis of consumer activity on the weekend from Thanksgiving thru Cyber Monday across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites. This is old news but worth reiterating due to knock-on Holiday impact: the effect of Covid on ecommerce activity has been immense.

To recap, 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 October led to a steady decline and then stabilization, with purchase volumes consistently between 40% and 70% higher than they were pre-pandemic (we actually re-aligned our reports to three month periods due to this stabilization).

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

Then onto the Holidays. No one really knew what to expect given the unique conditions created by the pandemic.

Last month, we commented how our data at that point showed a bigger increase in 2020 than 2019 (of course coming off a bigger baseline in 2020). However, this proved premature.

Read on to find out more.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

Traffic and sales surge over Holiday weekend

02

Holidays lead to review submission surge

03

Reviews consistently more important than pre-COVID

Traffic and sales surge over Holiday weekend

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

But the Holidays brought us into uncharted territory. Typically, we can predict online shopping volumes will increase, but this Holiday period is completely unprecedented for obvious reasons.

Below we compare the increase in online purchase and traffic volumes for the Cyber 5 weekend over the past two years.

Last month, we commented how surges in purchase volumes were more pronounced in 2020 than 2019. This proved to be a little premature. The relative increase (from pre-Holidays to the Holidays)  was actually higher in 2019 than 2020. But – again – this jump is coming off a baseline of between roughly 1.4x and 1.7x higher in 2020. The post-Holiday drop off proved consistent year-on-year.

Relative to the 1st of October, there was a bigger spike in the first week of December in 2019 vs 2020. Purchase volumes were consistently higher year-over-year prior to that date, indicating that shopping was happening earlier and consistently higher during holiday 2020. The spike in last minute December shoppers seen in 2019 wasn’t as pronounced in 2020.

Online purchase volumes actually leap further in 2019 than 2020
Site traffic surge mirrors purchase levels year-on-year

Holidays lead to review submission surge

After reporting a significant leap in review submission levels from April to May, we subsequently highlighted a consistent drop through to September to the point where levels were on par with what we saw pre-pandemic.

In last month’s snapshot, we again reported little change but noted that this would be one to watch post Cyber 5 weekend. Our theory being that a leap in overall purchase volumes in this period would be reflected in review submission volumes in the days and week afterwards.

This conclusively proved out, with a giant surge evident at the end of November. This trend – broadly speaking – held throughout the entire month of December – and on December 28 actually peaked at a level 90% higher than where it was at the start of October.

Notably but perhaps unsurprisingly, this was the biggest and most significant increase in review submission volumes we saw all year.

Despite the increase in volumes, trends evident in review length and sentiment were broadly consistent with everything we saw throughout 2020. However, there was a very slight dip in length – peaking at -10% – during this period.

Review submission levels climb in wake of Holiday purchases
Review length and sentiment stable, but slight fall in length evident

Reviews consistently more important than pre-COVID

Last month, we did a deep dive into the impact of review content on the buyer journey – paying particularly close attention to year-on-year comparisons over the Cyber 5 weekend.

To recap, the charts in this section highlight the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.)

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

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

However, the influence of reviews surged to their highest rate of the year during the Cyber 5, with 7.41% of review interactors going on to purchase (an increase of 30%). As you can see from the charts, this is entirely in line with typical trends. Reviews always become more impactful on the buyer journey during the Holidays.

But – interestingly and despite their generally increased importance during COVID – they topped out at an almost identical level to for the same period in 2019. Given the clear long-term trends evident  in the data indicates a clear trend both this and last year, we would expect stabilization at the 5.25% level we’ve consistently seen throughout 2020 as we move out of the Holiday period.

Fast forward to the end of December and review interaction is back at comparable levels year-on-year. Because this runs counter to what we saw throughout the entirety of 2020, we would hesitate to call this a long-term trend. The bottom line is: reviews have become a more influential factor in the buyer journey than before the pandemic.

Review influence almost identical on 2019 and 2020 Cyber 5 weekend

Summary

Having pulled this data at the end of December, these results provided a clear picture of the entire Holiday period.

Ecommerce purchase volumes and traffic have been consistently trending at levels between 1.4x and 1.7x above where they were at the start of the pandemic. What this ultimately meant: a less pronounced Holiday-generated increase in 2020 than 2019. Remember this does not speak to the overall difference in volumes, just how much they changed during the Holidays.

Notably, review submission volumes surged on the back of Holiday purchases. For brands and retailers, this post-Holiday period represents an unrivaled opportunity to generate user-generated content.

User-generated content (UGC) — including reviews, Q&A, photos and videos — is proven to drive sales growth for brands and retailers. Our own data tells us that once a product starts displaying reviews, the conversion rate for that product increases by 65%, on average. The same goes for imagery: on average, a product experiences a 69% increase in conversion when just one customer-generated image is added to the product page.

While sales growth is certainly an important benefit of UGC, it’s far from the only one. In fact, there’s another huge plus of collecting this content. And it’s one that’s often overlooked by even most progressive brands and retailers.

UGC is full of rich data that — when leveraged — can drive positive change throughout your entire organization.

Of course, you probably use other tools — including surveys —  to capture feedback from your customers that you can then take action on. But the beauty of UGC is that you can easily map feedback to specific products. And that makes it a whole lot easier to take meaningful action on the data. 

Why eCommerce Managers Should Analyze UGC Data

Constant analysis of UGC data is key to uncovering impactful ways to improve the ROI of your UGC program. 

For starters, this data gives you a very clear picture of what types of content is driving sales. For example, you might discover that website visitors who engage with reviews convert at a much higher rate than those who don’t. Based on this data, you determine it’s important to have plenty of reviews for plenty of your products — including any offerings you’re launching in the future. So you decide to execute a series of pre-launch product sampling campaigns to generate reviews before your new products hit the shelves. 

Data can also help you understand how shoppers are interacting with the different components of your content display — and how it’s impacting sales. You can then use this information to optimize your display  — and drive even better results.

For example, our friends at Clinique might notice that a lot of shoppers filter reviews to see only the one-star content. Surprisingly, though, these folks go on to convert at a higher level than those that don’t. 

There might be an opportunity here for Clinique to make this filtering functionality even more prominent. That way, shoppers can easily identify the “worst case” scenario and determine if it’s something they can live with.

5 Other Teams that can Leverage UGC to Drive Positive Change 

So the data from your user-generated content can help you optimize your overall program. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

UGC is full of actionable insights that can drive meaningful change throughout your company. 

But data without action is pointless. The key is to get the right data into the right hands to put the data into action.

Who can benefit from the insights in UGC? Let’s take a closer look at how five of the likely key teams at your company can leverage the data from UGC to make impactful improvements — and boost your company’s bottom line. 

The Product Innovation Team

Innovation teams are constantly looking for opportunities to develop new products — or even entire product lines. The data from UGC is a great resource to uncover these. 

For example, let’s say there’s a CPG company that sells protein drinks. The company’s product innovation team is always on the hunt for new ideas. The team analyzes their UGC for existing products and discovers that shoppers frequently suggest a pumpkin pie flavored product. They also notice that a competitor offers a pumpkin spice protein drink, and it seems to perform well with shoppers. So the team starts putting together a proof of concept (POC).

The R&D Team

Coming up with a great product idea isn’t enough. Instead, it’s critical to iterate and improve on that product to ensure it’s in line with market demand. The data from UGC can help your research and development (R&D) team do that. In fact, UGC is full of actionable insights you can use to discover and fix problems with your products — or identify and implement ways to take your product to the next level.

Let’s take a look at an example of these insights in action.

Clif Bar & Company, a food and beverage brand, recently developed a new product formula. Before officially launching, the company conducted a sampling campaign. They found that the average rating on the new bar was 2, and sentiment around the word “taste” was particularly negative. After digging into the content, they found that one of the ingredients wasn’t mixing well with the others. They made a quick change to the formula and ran another product sampling campaign prior to launch. The result? The average star rating jumped to over 4. And the company launched a product they knew would resonate with their customers. 

The Merchandising Team

Merchandising teams are responsible for ensuring a retailer sells the right mix of products that meet the needs of its customers. Typically, a merchandise manager oversees buying for a specific category or set of categories. But in order to make informed buying decisions, they’ve got to understand why a product did (or didn’t) sell.

Your merchandising teams can analyze the UGC from your own eCommerce site — and benchmark this against your competitors — to uncover great insights. The result: better purchase decisions. For example, merchandisers might leverage data from UGC to eliminate products, add new offerings, negotiate better deals, and even work with merchants to improve products.

Let’s take a look at a couple real-life examples. 

Room&Board had a lounge chair that sold well but had the occasional poor review. Looking at those reviews as a whole, a criticism that kept coming up was that the fade-resistant chairs weren’t living up to those claims. After identifying the issue as a material defect and making exchanges for those customers, the merchandising team used this data to negotiate a major price break on a large new order they were placing.

Room&Board identified a manufacturing defect in one of its products.

Gardener’s Supply Company is another PowerReviews customer whose merchandising team depends on the data from UGC. Recently, this retailer found that one of their top-selling watering cans had several reviews that noted leaking. The merchandising team was able to share specific data with the merchant to make improvements to the watering can.

Gardener’s Supply Company uses UGC to improve products.

The Customer Insights Team

Customer Insights teams are focused on better understanding current and prospective customers. UGC can be a powerful source of data to enhance their analysis, and it can even lead to improvements of the overall customer experience.

For example, Discount Tires is a PowerReviews customer that collects ratings and reviews not only for products — but also for store experiences. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the company implemented some store-specific policy changes, including mask requirements and the option to self park in order to allow for social distancing. When analyzing the store reviews, Discount Tires determined these safety measures were well received by customers. Based on this data, they made the decision to make these company-wide policies. 

The Marketing Team

Marketing teams are tasked with developing messaging and campaigns that attract the right shoppers. The data from UGC can make their initiatives even more effective.

In fact, there are countless ways marketing teams can leverage the data from UGC to better position, differentiate and promote a product. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

One way marketers can leverage the insights from UGC is to get a better understanding of what matters to shoppers who have purchased a specific product. For example, a skincare company can determine whether shoppers care about an item being fragrance-free. If it’s a feature that’s frequently mentioned in reviews, the team may want to make this a more prominent message on the website and other marketing initiatives. 

Analyzing your UGC (and that of your competitors) is also a great way for your marketing team to understand what words your shoppers are actually using when describing products. Your marketing team can then use this information to improve campaign performance. For example, New Balance, a PowerReviews customer, analyzes UGC to understand how their customers are talking about their products. Then, they use the words and phrases they uncover to power SEO and paid search ads. 

Maximize the Impact of Your UGC

User-generated content — including reviews, Q&A, photos and videos — is full of powerful insights that can position your business to better serve its customers. But all too often, this rich data source isn’t used to its full potential. And its impact can stretch way beyond your ecommerce team alone.

Ensure you fully explore all the different insights it generates and make an active effort to get these into the hands of the different teams around your business which can take action on them. In doing so, you make yourself a hugely valuable resource. Why? Because doing so enables meaningful, data-driven changes to products and experiences — which can have a significant and measurable impact on your company’s bottom line.

Arend Henderson

Arend is the SVP, Analytics for PowerReviews. He is responsible for leading the analytics team, which develops behavioral insights and other optimization and measurement solutions for our clients.

This is the Cyber 5 special edition of our monthly snapshot, an analysis of consumer activity on the weekend from Thanksgiving thru Cyber Monday across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

This is old news but worth reiterating due to knock-on Holiday impact: the effect of Covid on ecommerce activity has been immense.

To recap, 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 October led to a steady decline and then stabilization, with purchase volumes consistently between 40% and 70% higher than they were pre-pandemic (we actually re-aligned our reports to three month periods due to this stabilization).

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

We expected shopping volumes to be much higher over the Black Friday – Cyber Monday weekend. But due to the unprecedented nature of Covid, we had no idea how much higher.

So let’s see what our data said about the recent Cyber 5 weekend.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

Cyber 5 ecommerce volumes surge at far more pronounced rate in 2020 than in 2019

02

Review submission volumes unaltered by Holiday

03

Reviews consistently more important than pre-COVID, but peak at almost identical height as 2019 Cyber 5

Cyber 5 ecommerce volumes surge at far more pronounced rate in 2020 than in 2019

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

Why? At the risk of using a very overused Covid phrase, this is 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 the supply chain and product availability.

But the Holidays brought us into uncharted territory. Typically, we can predict online shopping volumes will increase but this Holiday period is completely unprecedented for obvious reasons.

Below we compare the increase in online purchase and traffic volumes for the Cyber 5 weekend (again: bear in mind this jump is coming off a baseline of between roughly 1.4x and 1.7x higher in 2020 than in 2019).

The increase was significantly higher in this period in 2020 in comparison to 2019, with purchase volumes surging 210% this year compared to 169% last. This represented a vivid Covid-driven difference.

Online purchase volumes surge far more pronounced in 2020 than 2019
Online purchase volumes surge far more pronounced in 2020 than 2019
Note: This chart shows the volume increase difference through stated months, it doesn’t speak to the overall/total volume differences year on year
Site traffic surge mirrors purchase levels year-on-year
Site traffic surge mirrors purchase levels year-on-year
Note: This chart shows the volume increase difference through stated months, it doesn’t speak to the overall/total volume differences year on year

Review submission volumes unaltered by Holiday

After reporting a giant 2.3x leap in review submission levels from April to May, we subsequently highlighted a consistent drop through to September to the point where levels are now consistent with what we saw pre-pandemic. The Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend had little impact on review submission volumes or length.

This makes sense: review submission typically lags behind purchase. We would therefore expect these to start rising in mid December.

In terms of the actual content of reviews, there have not been any huge shifts over the past seven months. Product rating is consistently flat. This is probably because the products themselves don’t change significantly.

The fluctuations in length of review content submitted are only very modest (bear in mind the scale here is between +10% and -10%). This has been consistent since we started measuring back in April.

No significant variations in review submission levels
No significant variations in review submission levels
Review length relatively stable through Thanksgiving weekend
Review length relatively stable through Thanksgiving weekend

Reviews consistently more important than pre-COVID, but peak at almost identical height as 2019 Cyber 5

Last month, we did a deep dive into the impact of review content on the buyer journey.

The charts in this section highlight the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.)

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

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

However, the influence of reviews surged to their highest rate of the year during the Cyber 5, with 7.41% of review interactors going on to purchase (an increase of 30%). As you can see from the charts, this is entirely in line with typical trends. Reviews always become more impactful on the buyer journey during the Holidays.

But – interestingly and despite their generally increased importance during Covid – they topped out at an almost identical level to for the same period in 2019. Given the clear long-term trends evident in the data, we would expect stabilization at the 5.25% level we’ve consistently seen throughout 2020 as we move out of the Holiday period.

Review influence hits year high in Cyber 5, but now consistently more impactful than pre-Covid
Review influence hits year high in Cyber 5
Review influence almost identical on 2019 and 2020 Cyber 5 weekend
Review influence almost identical on 2019 and 2020 Cyber 5 weekend

Summary

Analysts speculated extensively about the potential Covid impact on ecommerce Holiday trends. Well, now the results are in.

There were significant surges in both online purchase volumes and traffic, the likes of which we only saw right at the start of the pandemic (when the 3x increase came off a lower baseline figure). It being the Holidays, this increase was more expected. But the extent and velocity of the surge is still breathaking.

Ratings and reviews have become more influential on the buyer journey throughout the pandemic. In fact, interactors with review content have consistently converted at around a 25% higher rate than in 2019.

The Holidays is also historically a time when consumers rely more on ratings and reviews to make purchase decisions. This year was no exception, with 7.41% of review interactors going onto purchase (compared to 5.41% at the end of October). This is an almost identical Cyber 5 peak to 2019.

However, we don’t expect this to alter the overall trend we’ve seen throughout this year. More people are spending more money online – and they rely more on ratings and reviews to make their purchase decisions than ever before.

a gift for everyone on your list

50

Top-Rated Gifts for the Holiday Season

Need help finding the best products to gift your loved ones (or yourself) this holiday season?

 

Look no further. We’ve rounded up the best-rated products from our outstanding PowerReviews customers. This gift guide is filled with all of the best Top-Rated, Five-Star, Would-Recommend-To-A-Friend goodies spanning all categories and price ranges.

 

Let’s dive right in.

Contents:

Apparel & Accessories

Elation 7/8 Tight

4.8
4.8/5

$89

Best legging/tight I own!
@Patti_S
Read More
These tights are truly my absolute FAVORITE. They are extremely soft and the fit/length is perfect. They are dense and not see-through at all (as are all the Athleta tights I've tried). They breathe and yet are warm and cozy in the winter months.

Saffiano Domed Zip Satchel

4.8
4.8/5

$248 $179

Dooney's "IT BAG FOR 2020"
@ Michelle
Read More
I cannot say enough wonderful things about this bag. The exterior front zipper holds iPhone with plenty of room to spare. Do not hesitate getting this beautiful bag, for you will be like me, you will LOVE it and only want it in more colors !

Derrick Sliding 2-in-1 Wallet

4.3
4.3/5

$54

Loving this Wallet
@ Will_V
Read More
The durability so far seems to be very good. If you like having the option to be able to carry only the cards you need but still have the option to include all your cards in one wallet then this is a great choice for you :^)

Full-Coverage Accordion Mask (3-Pack)

4.3
4.3/5

$15 $7

Love the patterns!
@Amy
Read More
I really like these masks. They're my favorite! I love my white one with the pink roses. I've washed them and they wash well. I do iron my masks because I like them to look new. A 5 second touch of the iron and they look brand new.

VIP MED Zip Clutch

4.9
4.9/5

$295

Great Everyday Bag
@Sophie
Read More
Love this bag! I have had for 5 years and you wouldn't know it! Still looks brand new. I liked it so much I bought the large also so I can carry more items! Love both of them!

Earhart Aviators

4.9
4.9/5

$315

I'm so happy I stumbled across these
@Amy
Read More
I've been looking for a pair of black aviators with gold hardware forever! They're exactly what I was looking for—chic, versatile, and simple. The replacement guarantee also makes me feel better about bringing them out more often!

ATMOS AG 65 Backpack

4.5
4.5/5

$270

Best Pack Ever!
@WB_Sprinter
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Had this pack for 3 years now. Been on multiple different backpacking adventures with my wife, kids and friends. This pack has preformed excellent. All my stuff fits perfect, plus my kids when their stuff gets "heavy".

Summits Women's Shoes

4.4
4.4/5

$55

Best shoes ever!
@Bestmimi
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I'm a nurse so I'm on my feet all the time. Skechers are the only shoe I've found to provide comfort all day. I'm a big fan and they have such a great selection of styles.

Grinch Crew Socks

4.9
4.9/5

$17

BOUGHT 4 PAIRS
@Chantal
Read More
Super comfortable socks!! And I love the grinch so the whole family received a pair.

Classic Messenger Bag

4.5
4.5/5

$79

LOVE THIS BAG!
@Jackie_G
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This is the second Timbuk2 classic messenger bag I have purchased. Perfect size, carries all that I need plus knitting, kindle, and a water bottle. Perfect color(s). I feel I can carry this bag into any meeting. Very pleased with the new bag!

Baby

Shaggy-Lined Hoodie

4.5
4.5/5

£34

Snuggly Hoodie
@Cat
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The first thing my son said was, "Choo Choo" when he saw it! He loves it, so I'm very happy that there will be no squirming trying to get him dressed to go out! A well made piece of clothing and so warm and snuggly.

Boss Backpack Diaper Bag

5
5/5

$160

Beautiful, quality product!!
@Amanda
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The pockets are plentiful and amazing! The vegan leather is so soft. This looks, and feels, like a fancy, quality backpack. We upgraded from an off-brand bag, and I have no regrets. Worth it!!

Electronics

iRobot Roomba i3+

4.3
4.3/5

$600 $400

Easy to use, program, and a must have at home.
@Paul_Brown
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The iRobot Home is just like having an extra set of hands. It has been so nice to have a device vacuum the house at a tap of an app.

Air Mini

4.6
4.6/5

$399 $319

Must-have for the home or office
@Dardan_O
Read More
Molekule is no joke - from the science & research-backed product through to the company's customer support. The product works better than words can do it justice, and customer support is fantastic. Definitely recommend to others!

Move Smart Speaker

4.4
4.4/5

$399

Kicks the pants off my old portable Bluetooth speaker
@Kate
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I love this! Bought to replace my old Bluetooth speaker. It's a little larger and heavier than other Bluetooth speakers but the sound is so good that I'll take the chonk over portability any day!

Entertainment

Playfoam® Pals™ Unicorn Magic 2-Pack

4.8
4.8/5

$12

Fun surprise and open ended play
@Stay-home-parent
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My kids really enjoy playfoam pals and this is a fun twist that appeals to the magical-sparkly-unicorn-loving hearts, while still being open ended, developing the imagination and fine motor skills.

Alesis Nitro Mesh Special-Edition 8-Piece Electronic Drum Set

4.5
4.5/5

$379 $320

Great for practice at home
@Cole
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I'm unable to practice my actual kit at home, as I live upstairs and share a wall with neighbors. This kit is perfect and fulfills all of my needs, I'm able to practice all of my bands songs at home. Perfect for the price, has all of the essentials. Would absolutely recommend this to anybody.

Primary Science® Lab Set

4.6
4.6/5

$30

Fantastic Resource!
@Annie_M
Read More
As a former educator I LOVE this product. I having been using this product with my two girls and they are so excited about science! The tools are durable, kid friendly, bright and fun. The experiments provided in the set are super easy and simple.

Slice and Bake Cookie Set - Wooden Play Food

4.9
4.9/5

$20

Fantastic
@Carole
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My three and five year old grandchildren adore this set. They love "baking" and playing bakery. Really develops their creativity and imagination. Love all the Melissa and Doug purchases I've bought for the kids.

Drone Home

4.6
4.6/5

$22

Lots of fun!!
@DS
Read More
We had a ton of fun with this game. Easy to play but make sure you have plenty of room - the drone really flies high. Definitely a game that will be played often.

Fitness & Sports

Callaway Mavrik Driver

4.8
4.8/5

$650 $530

Total game changer
@anonymous
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I have never written a review of a golf club before, but this club is so amazing, I just had to do it. Got professionally fitted, tried all three heads and a variety of shafts. I'm hitting it 20 to 35 yards longer and with the same or better accuracy. I never dreamed I would ever hit drives as long as I do with this beast!

Bowflex Xtreme 2 SE Home Gym

4.6
4.6/5

$1,499

We absolutely love our BowFlex Xtreme!
@Doan
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My wife and I are using the Xtreme 2 for weight loss primarily but also enjoy building lean muscle mass. Very happy with all the different workouts the Xtreme 2 offers.

Food & Beverage

Jim Beam Black Bourbon Whiskey

4.7
4.7/5

$23+

Absolutely love JB
@Sandman
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I have tried a lot of bourbons but Jim beam is my absolute favorite. I just got a bottle of the black and I definitely was not disappointed! This is definitely my new clean sipping bourbon!!!

Original Peanuts - Party Size Jar

4.7
4.7/5

$15

SAME BEER NUTS THEY'VE ALWAYS BEEN
@Gizmo
Read More
I've been enjoying Beer Nuts for many, many years. Stores in my area don't carry them, but they're available mail-order. The great thing is I can now get them in a much larger size. A win-win.

Trial Pack

4.7
4.7/5

$25

Must try!
@Shanna
Read More
Lots of good products! The snacks are great and such a blessing for people with food allergies. Hard to believe it's all allergy-friendly, they are so delicious!

Crème Liqueur, Premium Chocolate Assortment Box

4.8
4.8/5

$30

Fabulous!
@Mark
Read More
Ordering was easy and only exceeded by the speed of product consumption. The best choice anywhere, anytime. Nobody else comes close!

Magic Morsel 24-Piece

4.9
4.9/5

$36

My first choice gift - to others and myself!
@Myra
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I give these brownies for every occasion, especially for a "thank you" gift. The quality is top-notch, better than any delivery baked good. Even the logo is happy!

Local Roaster Gift Box

4.8
4.8/5

$42

BEST COFFEE EVER!
@Debbie
Read More
We purchased the gift pack Frogtown, Fishtown and Bucktown. Three of the best! Every day we make a different one and sometimes twice a day. I would definitely buy again. Thank you La Colombe.

Lobster Party Gift Bucket

4.6
4.6/5

$115

A superb gift!
@Stephanie
Read More
Customer service was prompt. Quality of the product was better than expected. A gift that was devoured, and thoroughly appreciated!

Grilling Tool Set

4.4
4.4/5

$85

Great BBQ Tools
@Karyn
Read More
This is the cadillac of BBQ tools! It makes my old stuff look like it belongs in a little tykes kitchen center. Super durable! Well weighted.

Health & Beauty

They're Real! Lengthening Mascara

4.2
4.2/5

$25

Please never discontinue
@ Mitchelina
Read More
This is one of the only mascaras that works flawlessly for me - even while wearing lots of moisturizer to combat Wisconsin winters, or during warm humid summers. This stuff looks amazing and stays PUT. Love, love, love!

Happy™ For Men Cologne Spray

4.8
4.8/5

$53

Cleanest. Scent. Ever.
@Shawn
Read More
I've been wearing this cologne since high school after my mom gifted me a bottle for Christmas. 20 years later... I'm still wearing this. It's absolutely the smartest, freshest, cleanest smell, and although I tried other fragrances, I always come back to this.

hum smart toothbrush

4.5
4.5/5

$70

Sleek and powerful
@Lori
Read More
This small and compact electric toothbrush is well accompanied by an easy to use app. Not everything needs an app these days, but a brushing helper improves overall oral health. We only get one mouth, take care of it.

Skin De-Stress Calming CBD Serum

4.8
4.8/5

$23

Will be rebuying this and the entire collection 🙂
@Tally
Read More
This product has helped so much along side the moisturizer and facial wash. My keratosis pilaris that appears at times on my cheeks that cause me to get red has gone away entirely 🙂

Hand Sanitizer Spray
(6 Pack)

4.9
4.9/5

$18

This is my favorite hand sanitizer
@Mallory
Read More
I love everything about EO's Lavender & Aloe hand sanitizer spray. I love the ease of use and the smell, and with what's going on in the world today I carry one with me everywhere I go.

Advanced Night Repair

4.4
4.4/5

$105

Night repair
@Dot
Read More
I'm at that age where I'm seeing lines and wrinkles. I've been using the night repair for 2 weeks and the lines are smaller and my skin is so soft now.

Fruity CBD Gummies

4.8
4.8/5

$20

These are so GOOD
@Scott
Read More
The watermelon flavor is the bomb! I try not to use them every night, but only for when I need that extra "mmph"

The Nudes Peaches Lipstick Bundle

4.9
4.9/5

$56 $48

Beautiful Colors For My Skin Tone
@Sunny
Read More
I love the packaging, the formula is smooth and it looks really good with a brown lip liner. Every color is nice in the Nude Peaches set, don't hesitate to purchase this bundle.

Lavender Hand Cream Trio

4.6
4.6/5

$29

my absolute favorite hand cream, ever.
@Jennifer
Read More
Perfect scent, great for 'just before bed' soft hands, not greasy, absorbs quickly, A+. I always take it in my carry-on bag on trips!

Ocean Salt

4.5
4.5/5

$22

Great for trans masculine skin!
@Lu
Read More
this is the first product that has actually helped exfoliate my skin during my unprecedentedly intense facial outbreaks since I started testosterone last year.

FlashMasque® Sheet Mask: Perfect Weekend Trio

5
5/5

$20

Great mask collection!
@Traci
Read More
Used this mask set on vacation. I used the hydrate mask after flying for added moisture, the illuminate mask for a mid-week refresher, then I used the milk peel prior to coming home. My skin felt great!

Ulta Contour Kit

4.3
4.3/5

$18

Perfect for a contouring beginner!
@ Shannon
Read More
I wanted to try contouring and I had no idea where to start. This palette comes with 6 colors and some VERY handy directions for skin tones. I tried it for the first time and LOVED it. This is a foolproof kit.

Home & Office

Sleigh Ride Fragrance Oil

4.6
4.6/5

$4+

It actually smells like Christmas in a bottle!
@Debby
Read More
Easy to use, good value. None of the Brambleberry scents are acrid or synthetic smelling like other scent vendors. They are all rich smelling and appealing.

Rosewater Driftwood Linen & Room Spray

4.5
4.5/5

$14

Amazing Scent!!!
@Victoria
Read More
This product is super clean and freshens every fabric in your home, office, hotel room, luggage etc. I am on my third bottle and can't live without it. If you love a clean, musk, sandalwood scent with a bit of a modern edge you will love this scent.

LaCrosse Down Comforter

4.6
4.6/5

$189

Best Comforter Ever
@Sandy
Read More
I have 2 of these ethically sourced down comforters now and working on getting a 3rd. Very airy and comfortable. My dogs melt into these comforters and they are easy to wash and keep clean, they maintain their vivid color.

Ultrasonic Diffuser

4.5
4.5/5

£50

Well made & good quality
@Amir
Read More
I reviewed a large number of options and believe this to be the best product in its size. I say this, not only for the high quality including the feel, features, etc but also for the price. Highly recommended.

Circa® Cordova Foldover Notebook

4.8
4.8/5

$99

Highly Satisfied
@Joel
Read More
The leather is absolutely beautiful, the stitching is perfect and it was boxed very elegantly, which included a protective cloth foldover sleeve. I am very, very pleased and highly recommend this product, especially to those who may be pondering over this notebook cover purchase.

Fatwood Fire-Starter Pre-Split Kindling

4.9
4.9/5

$20+

Great gift year after year
@Shopping_Mom
Read More
The first time I sent a box to my sister, she asked, 'What's fatwood?" She thought I gave her a strange gift...until she tried it! Then she was telling me how great it was and how she was going to order more and how it was the gift of the season!

Duffield Throw II

4.7
4.7/5

$98

Absolutely LOVE!!
@dlhern
Read More
I ordered this on a whim after reading reviews and I couldn't be happier!! It is the softest throw I own. I sleep with it every night!!!

Urban Map Glass

4.7
4.7/5

$16

Cool design glass for the Chicago native!
@Steven
Read More
The design is simple and elegant. If you are from Chicago, or the surrounding suburbs (like me!), this glass is a perfect addition to your glassware collection.
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