If there’s one thing we’re the experts on, it’s Ratings and Reviews. Which is why we’ve literally written the (digital) book on it.
We have created this Guide to enable you to optimize your Ratings and Reviews strategy for 2022. It’s full of practical steps you can apply today, all through the lens of what we know – through our own extensive data – consumers are looking for right now.
Ratings & Reviews in 2022
How do Ratings & Reviews Affect the Buyer Journey?
Ratings and reviews allow customers to share their experience with a product or service, and give it an overall star rating.
Shoppers rely on this content to make more informed purchase decisions. In fact, ratings and reviews became the top factor impacting purchase decisions over the past year, surpassing price, free shipping, brand, and recommendations from family and friends.
Ratings & Reviews Have Always Been Important. They’ve Become Even More Important in 2022
This trend of the growing importance of Ratings and Reviews is highlighted in various different research projects we have completed over the past year.
As you can see, we asked these same questions over the past seven years. In both cases we have seen the impact of reviews increase to the point that you really can’t win online without them.
Consumers rely on them to such an extent that the percentage who consult product reviews when shopping online is 99.9% (yes, you read that right). 98% now think of them as essential when considering products online, up from 86% seven years ago.
Now, there is often a difference between what people say and what they do.
So we also analyzed the conversion impact among shoppers who interact with ratings and reviews content on a product page vs those who don’t.
Why are ratings & reviews so impactful? They provide invaluable social proof to shoppers. They can’t see, touch, and smell a product they’re purchasing online. But when they read the reviews, shoppers can cross-reference with people who have already purchased your product, to verify that it looks and works like you say it does.
The two core concepts that sum it up most? Authenticity and trust. Ratings and Reviews (and other forms of UGC) are not a brand or retailer saying how great their product is. It’s consumers who have used the product in real life. That is immensely powerful in an increasingly digital world.
For this reason, Ratings and Reviews are now simply an absolutely core part of the online shopping experience. This is of course occurring against a backdrop of explosive ecommerce growth driven by Covid.
How COVID Changed Product Ratings and Reviews
To recap, let’s briefly dive into how Ratings and Reviews changed as a result of Covid.
The below chart highlights the percentage of online shoppers who go on to purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.).
It is for a representative year-on-year period post and pre-Covid (we excluded the Holidays deliberately as ratings and reviews impact always goes up at this time).
Over the three-month period highlighted, review interactors are consistently converting at 25% higher rate than the previous year.
This probably helps to explain why the importance of Ratings and Reviews rose in 2021.
The Value of Reviews Crosses Channels
There has been much discussion about how customer journeys are no longer linear, involving multiple touchpoints across different channels.
When it comes to online reviews, this has become very much the case: consumers shopping in store check reviews before purchasing.
Reviews As a Returns Prevention Tool
Clearly, customers like the option of being able to return a purchase, especially if they can do so for free. You might think, then, that they frequently take advantage of return policies.
They do. 88% of consumers report they make returns at least “occasionally”, according to our report. And 67% say they return products they purchase online more often or the same frequency than in-store (also of note: industry reporting states that returns were up 70% year-over-year in 2020).
Reviews – and other forms of UGC – can be particularly impactful here.
What Information Should the Ideal Customer Review Incorporate?
When thinking about how to generate review content that will convert the best, always remember the purpose of displaying user-generated content is to build buyer confidence.
Reviews are a great vehicle for building confidence with customers by delivering an authentic depiction of your products.
Building a “perfect review” and considering all the elements entailed is therefore grounded in this overall concept. How do you hone and elevate the trustworthy voice of your customers?
From our experience, a perfect review typically incorporates the elements highlighted below.
Review length: The longer the better
Our research proves that longer reviews provide exponentially greater value – without fail. Based on the number of “helpful” votes provided by shoppers to existing reviews, a review of 500+ characters is 2.3 times more valuable than a review of 20 characters or fewer.
Why? Longer reviews provide consumers with the ability to provide the relatable use cases and stories that resonate with buyers.
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.
If you’re unclear about the value of reviews with a “helpful” rating by the way, here’s why it’s important.
Of all consumers sorting review content, those that sort by helpful rating convert at the highest rate (this actually amounts to 200% 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.
Imagery and video: Shoppers want user-generated image & video more than ever
Online shoppers depend on visual content – including photos and videos – when making purchase decisions. But not just any visual content will satisfy their needs. A staggering 99% of consumers look for visuals submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase.
Imagery and video provide exceptional real-life examples of the product in actual everyday use. How does it hold up under the typical strain customers put it under? Does it look, feel and smell as described? Is performance in line with, worse or better than expected?
Visual media enables each of these questions to be answered with precision and in great detail. In doing so, it generates exceptional authenticity and trust.
Rating: Consumers value authenticity over best scores
Many review displays provide a breakdown of how many reviews have been written for each star rating. Shoppers can then click on any of the bars to see only reviews of a certain star rating. There’s a 111.8% conversion lift among those who do (in comparison to those who visit the same page and do not).
Here’s an even closer look at how many shoppers filter reviews by specific star ratings — and how that behavior impacts conversion.
Of note, choosing to see only one-star content is the most common way shoppers filter by star rating.
However, it’s worth noting that visitors who take this action still convert at a rate that’s 108.8% higher than average.
Negative reviews are an important tool shoppers depend on to make informed purchase decisions (see chapter 6 for some recommendations to deal about negative reviews). This content allows them to understand the worst possible scenario — and determine if they can live with it. And clearly, many don’t let the occasional negative review stand in the way of making a purchase.
This makes sense, given time and time again shoppers are proven to value authenticity over every other quality when it comes to user-generated content. Which stands to reason: you can’t game ratings and reviews. A disappointing product will always end up being reviewed as such and vice versa. An artificially-inflated product rating or overly positive set of reviews will only lead to consumer disappointment and distrust.
Add in purchase levels and this trend is clearly evident. There is such a thing as “too good to be true” when it comes to product ratings. As is shown by analysis of our data by Northwestern University Spiegel Research center on two random product groupings, there is a drop off in conversions once the average rating rises above around 4.5.
Profile information: Let shoppers find people and use cases similar to themselves
of users engage with tags on best uses, pros/cons and other descriptors of the reviewer that are queryable
(Source: Baymard Institute)
When shoppers browse your site and start to read reviews for particular products, they are looking to validate a potential purchase. Ideally, they want to know people like them were happy with what they bought. The same goes for the specific usage or deployment of the product.
For example: age, gender and fit/sizing for clothing or location for outdoor furniture. Customers ask: how suitable is this product for exactly what I want to use it for?
The more vivid, relatable and relevant your review content is, the more likely it is to resonate and push consumers over the line to purchase.
For this reason, some brands and retailers ask merchant-specific questions in their “write a review” forms. For example, a beauty brand might ask a reviewer to include information about their skin type and beauty routine in a review for foundation.
Sometimes, brands also allow shoppers to filter reviews based on the answers to these questions. For example, a visitor can filter reviews to only see content written by those with dry skin.
Review Volume: More is More
While consumers have clear preferences when it comes to the make-up of the review content they read, does the number of reviews available for a product matter?
As it turns out, review volume matters — a lot. Our recent research found that 99% of consumers pay attention to review volume when shopping online. And nearly half (43%) of consumers say that in an ideal world, they want to be able to find more than 100 reviews for a given product. 23% want to find more than 500 reviews.
Collecting a high volume of ratings & reviews is well worth the effort. The more reviews a shopper is exposed to, the higher the conversion rate. And the largest impact is seen when a shopper is exposed to 5,000 or more reviews. Shoppers exposed to 5,000+ reviews convert at a rate 122.1% higher than those exposed to between one and 100 reviews.
Review Recency: Fresh Ratings & Reviews Content is Key
With authenticity being critical for shoppers, it is unsurprising that review recency is considered key.
Consumers want to see a regular stream of ratings and reviews to be sure the product continues to perform well.
And our data backs this up. Our recent survey of more than 9,000 consumers found that 97% consider review recency at least somewhat important when making a purchase decision. And nearly half want to be able to find reviews for a given product that were written within the last month.
Across around 1,200 brand and retailer sites that run our technology, review recency is the second most used sort option for shoppers (this is despite not all brands and retailers providing this option).
What’s more, many online shoppers specifically sort review content by recency. And those who do convert at a rate that’s 73.5% higher than those who don’t engage with there’s a 73.5% lift in conversion consumers who sort These consumers also convert at around the double the rate of those who don’t engage with review content.
Fresh review content is also super important when it comes to SEO authority. This should not be underestimated: SEO and Google Shopping is an absolutely critical customer acquisition tactic for many brands and retailers.
In fact: according to Google, ads with Customer Ratings get a 17% higher Click Through Rate than the same ads without ratings.
Bottom line: Review recency is clearly an extremely influential factor in the buyer journey. So you need to invest in a robust review collection strategy to ensure you maximize its impact.
Making the ask
The first step to maximizing review collection is asking.
You may get lucky and capture some content without, but most people need at least a gentle nudge. Others may need considerably more.
The more creative you can get, the more successful you are likely to be. But here are some of our top tips.
A post-purchase email asking for a review is a staple for most brands.
And with good reason: it’s the most important review collection technique. From our experience, it generates up to 80% of ALL ratings and reviews content dependent on the brand.
Although this should go without saying, they must be personalized based on the specific purchase.
They should also be simple and to the point. No fluff. Be very clear about the purpose of the communication and in your call to action.
Here are some good examples.
All three of these follow-up review request emails are on brand, simple and to-the-point – critical factors in generating the desired outcome.
Enable review submission from within email
There are typically two options when it comes to actual collection of the review content:
- Dynamically from within the email itself
- In a form on your website
Here’s an example of an “In-Email” review submission capability from Naturepedic.
This obviously means fewer clicks and a more seamless review submission process. However, content generated this way is typically less detailed and shorter.
Review Collection Form
Let’s assume you are not enabling reviewers to provide content in the email itself. In which case, you’ll be directing shoppers to a form on your site to provide a review. Again, you’ll need to be very clear in your ask. Provide obvious direction to deliver the content you need where you need it.
Basket sizes average 2.73 items. So you should also enable consumers to write reviews on multiple products without leaving or refreshing the page. This encourages far higher collection rates.
As in this example: load up all of those products in your review form so customers can provide content without leaving the window or refreshing the page.
Collect Ratings & Reviews via Text Message
Increasingly, brands are also collecting ratings and reviews via text message. Why? It’s deemed by many to be quicker and easier. This methodology particularly resonates with younger generations who are not as wedded to email.
Maximize Review Volume and Recency
We already talked about the importance of review coverage across all your products. And – beyond that – how generating a high volume of reviews can have a big impact on conversion. l. We also explored the importance of ensuring shoppers can always find recent reviews for your products.
Here are some ways you can generate a steady stream of reviews so consumers can always find a high volume of fresh content for the products they’re considering
Time the ask appropriately
You can’t ask for a review as soon as the item has been purchased. Customers need time to 1) receive the product and 2) try it out.
The ideal timing is also dependent on the type of product the consumer purchased. We therefore typically provide the following guidelines for timing review request emails:
Seasonal Products: 7 Days
There’s a pretty short window when folks will purchase seasonal goods, such as school supplies or holiday decorations. Since we know that reviews drive sales, you’ll want to get reviews for seasonal products as quickly as possible so you don’t miss the season. Send post purchase emails for seasonal goods within seven days.
Perishable Goods: 14 Days
Perishable goods—such as cut flowers and fresh fruit and vegetables —have a short shelf life. Send post purchase emails for these products within 14 days. If you wait any longer, the product will be out of sight and out of mind.
Soft Goods: 14 Days
Soft goods are items that are immediately consumed or have a lifespan of three years or less, such as clothing and cosmetics. As with hard goods, you’ll want to give your customer the opportunity to try out the product before writing a review. But don’t wait too long, because the lifespan of soft goods is much shorter than hard goods and the purchase won’t be top of mind for long.
Hard Goods: 21 Days
Hard goods are durable items that don’t wear out quickly, such as refrigerators, washing machines, and computers. It’s a best practice to wait 21 days before sending a post purchase email for these types of products.
After three weeks, the customer will have enough time to get a good feel for the product so they can write a well informed, thorough review.
Ask more than once
Although we’d all love to only make the ask once to get the desired results, that’s also not realistic. Our research found that about a third (32%) of shoppers need to be asked twice or more before they’ll submit a review.
As a best practice, send TWO email requests. As previously mentioned, studies show that up to 80% of reviews originate from post purchase emails. If you don’t send more than one email, you risk wasting the best opportunity to boost review volume and recency.
Prioritize products that need it
Review coverage – the concept of generating review content across your entire product catalog – is a big concern for pretty much every brand and retailer.
Where possible, look to prioritize collection for products with few (or no) reviews. Remember: the higher the review volume, the larger the impact on conversion!
In this example, the products are ordered accordingly. Best-in-class technology will do this automatically.
Incorporate sweepstake incentives
A sweepstakes is an incentive to be placed in a raffle-style drawing for a cash prize or similar in exchange for providing a review.
Although not appropriate for all brands, they can work great in the right circumstances.
Here are a couple of examples of how you would incorporate this incentive in one of your review submission request emails.
Incorporate in your loyalty program
You may not want to provide cash incentives. If so, consider integrating into your loyalty program. It’s an effective way to generate more content, as our research found that 59% of consumers would be motivated to write a review if they received loyalty points with the store or brand in exchange for their feedback.
Many brands offer up loyalty points in exchange for review content.
This can be super powerful in creating engagement with your brand, generating more loyal customers and generally making them feel part of a bigger community.
What they did
- Added a second follow up email post-purchase
- Enabled ability to provide multiple products in the same form
- Added a sweepstakes entry
The results they saw
- Initial jump from 1,000 to 10,000 reviews in a month
- Continue to generate 8,000 reviews monthly
- These new techniques led to increased review completion by 300% and review volume by 147%.
Ask for review content in other communication channels
Dedicated follow-up emails are the most direct and effective review collection method.
But you routinely communicate with customers across a whole host of methods and channels. Brands are increasingly leveraging these to collect review content.
Run a product sampling campaign
Product sampling campaigns – sending a product to a group of people who agree to write a review or create a social post in exchange – are a really effective method for generating reviews from a very targeted persona.
Our research found that 86% of consumers indicate they’d be motivated to write a review if they received a free product sample. And to back up that research, we’ve found that our own product sampling campaigns yield a 86% response rate. In other words, 86% of shoppers who receive a free sample go on to write a product review.
Brands and retailers find they are particularly effective in specific scenarios:
- Product launches
- Filling existing glaring gaps
- To keep review content fresh (remember: recency matters!)
- Generating content quickly to in advance of selling a seasonal product
Product sampling is a complex process made up of a number of critical elements. You need to be clear on your goals from the outset and this will determine the scale of the project.
Targeting the right audience, fulfilling the campaign and then ensuring your samplers provide the review content you’re seeking is also obviously super important.
Bissell wanted to launch its latest product line complete with pre-existing customer endorsement and validation.
Bissell believes its vacuums are the best in the industry at tackling pet hair, so they embarked on a sampling campaign to target pet owners frustrated by other vacuums.
This resulted in a review coverage of 90% across its product catalog and the collection of over 2,000 customer-generated images. As you can see from this image, many of these included dogs – a vivid illustration of the value proposition the company sought to communicate.
Tap into a powerful database of online and in-store purchases
While ecommerce continues to grow, the majority of purchases are still made in a brick-and-mortar store. So if you’re not soliciting reviews from both in-store and online shoppers, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to generate a ton of content.
One way to do this is to leverage a service like “Receipt. Review. Collect” from PowerReviews. This solution allows brands to tap into a consumer database of online and in-store purchases across more than 10 million members. Brands can then generate reviews from these verified purchasers. Tom’s of Maine used the program to grow review volume by 18,600% in 21 days (yes, you read that right).
Optimize review quality
Now that you’re using the collection methods that will generate the most content, you need to ensure the quality of your reviews is as good as it possibly can be. Over half (56%) of consumers consider length, depth and detail when reading product reviews.
When shoppers view your review content, they are typically looking to address very specific questions or preconceived ideas.
In this section, we focus on actions you can take to generate the types of reviews we highlighted above.
Ask the right questions: Get conversion-driving information
Prospective buyers tend to look for patterns when they consume reviews. So incorporate specific questions in the review generation process to provide them with those patterns in an easily summarizable way.
In doing so, you make finding the information they need much easier.
However, there are a number of things you need to bear in mind when asking questions on a review submission form:
- Focus on questions that you know will address key known customer issues (e.g. sizing for clothing). Also consider asking for specific demographic information (e.g. location, gender, age etc.) or invite customers to submit their perceived pros and cons.
- Limit to two open-ended text-based questions: reviewer and shopper fatigue is real.
- Only make these follow-up questions available to verified buyers to ensure authenticity.
- Ensure this information is easily filterable and searchable for shoppers on your product pages. Use review snapshots at the top of the page to make a few things really clear, such as ratings distribution (in a clickable format), pros/cons, keyword filters and sorting buttons. Providing this information up front makes product returns less likely.
- Remember that shoppers are seeking negative content, so don’t shy away from it.
Encourage quality: Generate longer in-depth review content
Consumers place a higher value on longer reviews. Which begs the question: how do you generate this more in-depth review content?
The first thing to know: often, reviewers have the inclination and motivation to leave detailed reviews, they just aren’t always sure how to. Most consumers are not professional writers or product experts so will most likely need some guidance on how to even approach the task of leaving a useful review.
Guide reviewers to provide more detailed content
Our customer, Room & Board, offers a great example. They plant 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.
“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.
And of course the checklist approach also has other highly complementary purposes. Namely, they help populate the Pro/Con lists, use cases and demographic information we talk about above.
These can then be displayed in an easily scannable and filterable way for shoppers, providing super impactful social proof from “people like me”.
Some brands incorporate an interactive character counter under the review commentary section that increases as the 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.
The result: longer, more in-depth reviews for shoppers to read on your site.
Ask for visual content: Customer-submitted imagery and videos add exceptional authenticity
Shoppers love video and imagery of your products “out in the wild”. We cover extensively how you can generate more of this content in Chapter 4. Go there to find out all you need to know.
But we didn’t want to talk about how you can generate better quality review content without mentioning it here.
Reviews that incorporate visual media perform way better when it comes to conversions and sales. That’s a fact.
Every brand and retailer wants to have a positive ratings and reviews footprint. It can therefore be tempting to selectively block negative reviews or manufacture positive review content.
Don’t even think about it. It’s a very bad idea. Why? Number one: it’s completely unethical and goes against the whole ethos of why shoppers read reviews in the first place when making purchase decisions. Number two: sooner or later, shoppers will figure it out. And when they do, they won’t be happy.
Ask yourself: Do you really want to jeopardize consumer trust and your brand equity? Artificially manufacturing your review footprint is simply not a long-term strategy for success.
For this reason, content moderation – the process of removing inauthentic, inappropriate or irrelevant reviews so they don’t make it onto your site – is critical. With fake reviews now perceived to be a broad problem and the FTC taking note, you need to put safeguards in place to preserve the integrity of your ratings and reviews program.
So, what does a best-in-class ratings and reviews moderation look like?
First of all, it needs to account for each and every piece of content submitted by your shoppers. Every user-generated review, photo, video, question, or answer — should go through an extensive moderation process to confirm it’s authentic, appropriate, and fraud-free. Each piece of content should also not be altered in any way.
All content that is published should appear as it is originally written, including typos and grammatical errors. This ultimately is critical to authenticity and snuffling out fake reviews.
Step 1: Fraud Detection
Displaying fake reviews directly violates FTC guidelines. So it’s important to keep this content off your website.
To safeguard against this threat, industry-leading fraud technology can analyze the device fingerprint data used to submit a piece of UGC. This data identifies the device ID associated with a review, such as a smartphone or tablet and helps to identify suspicious device or IP information. By using this technology, you’re able to prevent all different types of fraudulent reviews, including spam, duplicate content, and promotional content.
For example, if it detects a large number of reviews coming from a single device, those reviews get flagged for potential fraud. Of course, there is a possibility it’s just a customer who’s particularly zealous about reviewing every single product they bought for Black Friday. Most times, however, this kind of activity indicates fraud. Either way, the tech applies a “fraud” tag to it, flagging it for review – potentially by human moderators (more on them in step 3).
Step 2: Automated Filtering
Beyond fraud, systems can also scan each piece of content through an automated filtering process to catch additional authenticity issues, from profanity to personally identifiable information. When a potential issue is detected, a tag is added to that content so that it can be later reviewed by a human.
Examples of the types of content tagged:
For some tags, such as profanity, the content can be automatically rejected for publication. For others, it can be passed to a human moderation team.
A best-in-class vendor will enable you to add additional words or phrases to the profanity filter. It will also make regular updates to these filters, based on emerging slang terms or political slogans, to ensure nothing profane gets published.
(PowerReviews applies observations tags, which we detail in our Moderation Policy)
Step 3: Human Moderation
For many businesses and Ratings and Reviews vendors, the moderation process stops at step two. But relying solely on technology can leave you vulnerable to some of the exact issues that violate the FTC guideline – like deceptive performance claims, medical advice, and other forms of misrepresentation.
Human moderation adds an additional layer of protection for this very reason. Technology can help prevent fraud and profanity, but humans are better equipped to review for nuance, innuendo, and context.
To meet the high standards for authenticity required to successfully snuff out fake reviews (and not to mention the FTC Guidelines), a moderation process powered by both human and artificial intelligence is ideal.
For example – at PowerReviews, our human moderators review every piece of UGC in our secure portal. All content flagged as an observation by our automatic filtering process will be highlighted, such as profane language or reviews that don’t discuss the products.
Upon reviewing all of the Observations, the moderator will determine whether the review should be published. If a review is rejected for publication, it will not be published and will subsequently not be syndicated (if a brand or retailer using our solution chooses to override this decision, the review will only publish to their site — not to any syndicated retailers).
Also of note: our moderators work on several teams. Some moderators work on all English content, while some review content that needs to follow a specific set of guidelines, such as herbal supplements or financial products (PowerReviews can also facilitate an exclusive moderator to review their content for additional concerns, such as medical advice).
Step 4: Badging and Displaying Content
Once a piece of content passes steps 1-3, it’s ready to be displayed on your website. Woohoo! But remember: it’s important to use accurate badging and disclosure codes that indicate the source of the content.
This added layer of transparency shows details such as:
- Where a review came from
- Whether or not it has been verified i.e. written by a person who actually purchased the product
- If it’s been syndicated from another site
- If it was collected via a sampling campaign or was shared as a contest entry
- If the review was submitted by a company employee
PowerReviews offers the following options which serve as a best practice example.
A “Verified Buyer” badge should be assigned to reviews written by someone who has actually purchased the product they are reviewing, as identified through their purchase history. This builds consumer confidence, and it also ensures you don’t run afoul of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits “misrepresenting an endorser as an actual, current, or recent user” of a product.
Sweepstakes & product sampling
The FTC also frowns upon failing to disclose whether an endorsement is paid. In the world of influencers, the proper way to do this is by clearly stating that a post or endorsement is sponsored, e.g. with a #sponsored or #ad hashtag at the top of a post.
A review might be considered a paid endorsement if the reviewer received the product for free, such as through a sweepstakes or product sampling campaign.
The second example above is also an example of you should badge syndicated reviews. All review content that is syndicated beyond the client’s original website must be badged appropriately (at PowerReviews, we do this by including the name or logo of where the review was originally written – like this Too Faced review syndicated to Ulta).
Finally, reviews that are written by someone who works for a brand or retailer must also be disclosed, as these people may naturally have a more biased opinion of a brand. For these reviews add a “Staff Reviewer” badge.
It’s important to share as much context as possible about your UGC, as this fosters trust with online shoppers. And in many cases, it’s also required by the FTC (Learn more about PowerReviews Badges).
Collecting review content is a critical part of an overall ratings and reviews program. But it’s only one component of a much bigger process.
The next challenge is the actual marketing of this content. You need to ensure you’re fully maximizing its potential. How do you get this content in front of the maximum number of shoppers in the best possible way to create the biggest possible impact?
Throughout this section, we’ll share proven best practices throughout your digital experience – in the places and ways your shoppers want to consume it. In doing so, you achieve the results you work day-in day-out for: more sales and bigger bottom line impact.
Create Review Displays On Your PDPs That Convert
Let’s start with the most obvious place to showcase your review content: your product pages. But although it’s obvious, many brands and retailers get it wrong.
Of course, review displays aren’t one size fits all.
For example, a display for a pair of shoes should feature size and fit information to help future shoppers determine the correct size to purchase.
But those data points would be completely irrelevant for a product page selling eye makeup.
There are, however, best practices that apply across all categories.
Ultimately, your goal is to provide the information necessary to provide shoppers with the confidence to buy. This is the make-or-break point in the customer journey and the final step.
All your marketing efforts have led to this point. This is where you convert consumers, turning browsers to customers.
In this section, we focus on the information we know shoppers look for at this moment of truth.
The Ideal Review Display: At a Glance
- Review Snippet: A simple visualization of a product’s review content — right at the top of the product page.
- Review Snapshot: A visual overview of the review content for a given product, including average star rating and rating distribution, and customized to your needs.
- Search and Filter: Helps shoppers find reviews relevant to their needs.
- Demographic Information: Shoppers can find relatable content from someone with similar characteristics and use cases.
- Helpful Votes: Enable shoppers to vote reviews as “helpful” and then aggregate this content as they assess a potential purchase.
- Verified Buyer Badge: Show shoppers a review was written by someone who actually purchased the product.
- Visual Content Display: Photos and videos from your shoppers — collected both natively and through social media.
Search and filter options
Once a shopper finds reviews relevant to their use case, they’re more likely to make a purchase. In fact, there’s a 202.9% conversion lift among visitors who use the search feature (over general visitors to the same page).
Compare and contrast
Helps consumers understand the key features existing customers like and dislike about the product. A review “faceoff” shows the most liked positive review alongside the most liked negative one. It’s a great way for shoppers to quickly understand the positives and the negatives of the product that have been most helpful for other shoppers to learn about.
Our research shows there’s a 138.2% conversion lift for those who expand the positive review in the faceoff over general visitors to the same Product Detail Page.
And interestingly, there’s a 120.6% conversion increase among shoppers who click to expand the negative review. This once again proves the value of negative reviews in empowering shoppers to make informed purchase decisions.
Enable shoppers to identify “helpful” reviews
When a shopper reads a review, they can indicate that the content was helpful (or not) by clicking on the thumbs up or thumbs down icons.
As our research highlights, the conversion rate increases by 314.7% among visitors who click the “helpful” icon. And interestingly, there’s a 182.4% conversion lift among those who click the “unhelpful icon”.
Further Enhance Your Image Gallery with Review Content
Your PDP image galleries offer a great opportunity to further highlight great review content in a hugely visually compelling way.
Check out this example within an image carousel.
Displaying Reviews Throughout Your Website
There are plenty of ways to leverage review content throughout your website to entice visitors to click through to your product pages.
Transform your Homepage by leveraging Review Content
Of course, your homepage is the springboard for the rest of the customer journey. So it represents a fantastic opportunity to guide consumers down the path to purchase.
Featuring review content on your homepage does just that. Why? It helps shoppers more easily (and quickly) find the products that meet their needs.
Attention spans are notoriously short nowadays so you have little time to influence behavior as you’d like. As we’ve seen, ratings and reviews are among the most potent weapons in your arsenal. So incorporate it in your first “touch” with customers.
Be sure to display the average star rating and review volume for each of the products featured in your best sellers carousel. Or, consider adding a top rating products carousel to your homepage.
If you’re featuring a specific product on your homepage, include user-generated photos, as well as the text of a glowing review, to entice visitors to click to learn more.
Spruce up your Category Pages
Today, when shoppers hit a product category page, they likely have the option to filter the results by a number of different categories, such as price and new arrivals. Make sure your shoppers can sort by “top rated,” too.
Also include the average star rating and the number of reviews for each product in a category to make browsing easier for shoppers.
Want to include even more social proof on your category pages? When a shopper hovers over a product, display a preview of a written review to entice them to click through.
Feature Customer Photos and Videos Throughout Your Website
Your professionally shot photos and videos are certainly important. But shoppers actually prefer to see photos and videos of your products being used by real people like them (as we already mentioned, we look at this in a lot more detail in chapter 9).
In fact, according to our own research, 80% of consumers say customer-generated visual content is more valuable than glossy photos produced by a brand or retailer.
Consider adding a visual content gallery to your website that showcases images and videos of your products that you’ve collected from social media.
Enhancing Your Marketing Initiatives with Ratings & Reviews
Consumers are actively seeking out ratings & reviews – whether they’re shopping online or in a brick-and-mortar store. Incorporating this content into your digital, print, and in-store marketing can be a powerful way to capture shoppers’ attention and give them the confidence they need to convert – wherever they happen to be.
Supercharge the performance of your marketing campaigns by looking for ways to include ratings & reviews. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
In Digital Marketing
If you’re like any other brand, you are constantly questioning how to improve the performance of your digital campaigns to drive more shoppers to your website.
Ratings and reviews are a fantastic resource to leverage to drive these enhancements.
Build Email Campaigns that Showcase Ratings & Reviews
With most inboxes now overflowing with promotional emails, you need to stand out.
Consider incorporating star ratings and review text. Or perhaps create completely new campaigns that feature your top-rated products.
For example, if summer is approaching, you might build a campaign featuring top-rated swimwear. Be sure to display star ratings or review excerpts in the email — as well as on the campaign landing pages.
Also think about featuring star ratings in your cart abandonment emails. In many cases, that social proof may be enough to draw shoppers back to your website to complete their purchases.
Feature Shopper Content on Social Media
Consumers use social media to connect with family and friends. But they also use these channels to discover products and engage with brands.
Feature star ratings, review quotes and customer-submitted photos on your paid and organic posts to drive traffic to your site and generate sales.
In Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing is still critical for most brands. Incorporating ratings and reviews content can make this activity even more effective.
Add Review Content to Print Ads
If your brand runs printed ads in magazines or newspapers, think of ways to enhance these ads with ratings and reviews content.
Add Star Ratings and Reviews to Print Catalogs
If you send out paper catalogs to customers, consider adding star ratings, text reviews or even shopper-submitted photos alongside your key products. Or, include an entire spread of your top-rated products.
Create More Credible TV Commercials with Review Content
If you’re looking for ways to make your TV commercials pop, ratings and reviews content can help.
Feature star ratings for your products (or even your company as a whole) in your television commercials.
Power Creativity with Review Content
Some of the most fun examples we’ve seen use review content as the basis of broader creative branding and imagery.
In Brick-and-Mortar Retail
We know consumers use ratings and reviews to make smart purchase decisions when shopping online. But they also depend on this content when shopping in a physical store. So look for opportunities to showcase this content in your brick-and-mortar stores.
Ensure Your Displays are Mobile-Friendly
Everyone has a smartphone now and typically treats it as an extension of their own bodies.
When shopping in a store, it’s now common practice for shoppers to pull out their phones to get more information about a product.
In fact, a PowerReviews study found that 57% of shoppers read reviews when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to assess potential purchases. This number is even higher – 63% – among Millennial shoppers
So ensuring your reviews look and read great on mobile is now critical.
Enhance Store Signage with Review Content
Strategically placed review content can attract the attention of in-store shoppers — and give them the confidence they need to add an item to their cart.
Some stores are starting to use digital signage to showcase UGC. And featuring this content in your stores doesn’t have to be an expensive, high tech initiative.
For example, create a display of “top rated” products. Include a product’s average star rating or the text of a positive review to your pricing labels. Or create in-store signage for a product that showcases photos submitted by real shoppers.
Feature Review Content on the Product Itself
Another way to give in-store shoppers the social proof they crave? Feature review content on the product itself.
This can be as simple as including the average star rating or the text from an especially glowing review on the packaging of a few of your key products.
Dealing with Negative Ratings & Reviews
Getting a negative review can feel like a punch to the gut. After all, your brand is laser-focused on developing products and experiences that your customers love. So it’s never fun to hear negative feedback about something you’ve worked hard to create. But negative reviews are inevitable. Even the most well-loved businesses get them from time to time. That’s because it’s simply impossible to create a product that meets the needs of every single customer who comes your way.
Of course, negative reviews are never the end goal. But there’s a positive side to negative reviews. Yes, you read that right. In fact, one and two star reviews can actually be good for your business.
Why Negative Reviews Can Help You
Negative Reviews Help you Build Trust with Shoppers
Today, consumers have literally endless shopping options. Of course, there are dozens of things a consumer considers when determining which companies to do business with — and which to pass up. But one top consideration is trust.
Research from Edelman found that 81% of consumers say they must be able to trust a brand prior to making a purchase. And 70% indicate trusting a brand is more important now than in the past.
In order to earn that trust, brands must be transparent. A key way to do that is to display feedback from other shoppers — including the negative kind. Our research found that 46% of shoppers (and 53% of Gen Z shoppers) are suspicious of products with an average star rating of five out of five. On the flip side, when shoppers see negative reviews, they see you have nothing to hide. And that reassures them you’re a brand they can trust.
Negative Reviews Increase Product Sales
You might assume that the higher the average star rating of a product, the more likely a shopper is to buy it. And that’s true — up to a point.
We partnered with Northwestern University and made an interesting discovery, though. We found that a shopper is actually more likely to purchase a product when it has some negative reviews (we did already touch on this in Chapter 1).
As we already mentioned, our research found that purchase probability peaks when a product’s average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 (it varies a bit by product category). If the average star rating surpasses 4.5, the likelihood of purchase actually drops.
The occasional negative review brings your average star rating closer to that sweet spot of 4.2-4.5 – actually potentially increasing sales
Negative Reviews Help Consumers Make Better Purchase Decisions
Shoppers depend on negative reviews to determine which products fit their needs — and which don’t. Our research found that a staggering 85% of shoppers seek out negative reviews.
To elaborate on why this may be the case, our research also highlights that a third of shoppers say that poor reviews gave balance to their shopping research, stating that a negative perspective was either a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ factor influencing their decision.
In fact, when researching products, two-thirds of ecommerce shoppers filter for one-star reviews. These visitors still convert at 108% the rate of general web traffic (incidentally, this is the type of insight our PDP Site Analytics solution routinely surfaces).
But why is this the case? Here are three things we’ve noticed from speaking to brands and looking at this data day-in, day-out:
- Based on the negative reviews, the shopper determines the product isn’t a good fit for their needs. They keep searching for a product that’s a better match — and you avoid an unhappy customer and an unnecessary return.
- The shopper determines the feedback in the one and two star reviews isn’t relevant to them– so they disregard it.
- The shopper determines the worst case scenario isn’t a concern — so they purchase the product anyway.
In each of these three situations, negative reviews helped a shopper make a more informed purchase decision.
Negative Reviews Help Consumers Make Better Purchase Decisions
Shoppers depend on negative reviews to determine which products fit their needs — and which don’t. Our research found that a staggering 96% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews, up significantly from 85% when we asked the same question just a few years ago.
Reading negative reviews helps shoppers quickly understand the worst-case scenario of a given product – and whether it’s something they can live with. So it’s probably not surprising that over half (52%) of shoppers say they explicitly look for one-star reviews.
But reading one-star reviews doesn’t necessarily mean a shopper will pass up a product. Quite the opposite. Our recent analysis found that of those who filter by star rating, 62.4% specifically filter to see one-star content. Interestingly, those visitors end up converting at a rate that’s 108.8% higher than average! Incidentally, this is the type of insight our PDP Site Analytics solution routinely surfaces.
But why is this the case? Here are three things we’ve noticed from speaking to brands and looking at this data day-in, day-out:
- Based on the negative reviews, the shopper determines the product isn’t a good fit for their needs. They keep searching for a product that’s a better match — and you avoid an unhappy customer and an unnecessary return.
- The shopper determines the feedback in the one and two-star reviews isn’t relevant to them– so they disregard it.
- The shopper determines the worst-case scenario isn’t a concern — so they purchase the product anyway.
In each of these three situations, negative reviews helped a shopper make a more informed purchase decision.
3 Ways to Leverage Negative Reviews to Boost Your Bottom Line
So negative reviews can positively impact the performance of your brand. In fact, they should be viewed as an opportunity to do just that.
Here are three ways how:
1. Display Negative Reviews
It might be tempting to filter out negative reviews. But avoid the temptation. One and two star reviews add a layer of authenticity to your content and let shoppers know you’re a brand they can trust. What’s more, negative reviews help your shoppers make more informed purchase decisions, which will help decrease returns and boost loyalty.
So be sure to display all reviews, regardless of star rating.
In addition, allow shoppers to easily spot the “worst case scenario” — and determine whether it’s relevant or important to them. Our friends at Athleta do this in a couple different ways. First, shoppers can filter reviews by a specific star rating. Shoppers can also sort reviews by the lowest rating.
Finally, consider displaying the most helpful positive review alongside the most helpful negative review. Again, this is a great way to help shoppers easily identify the worst case scenario – and find the products that best fit their needs. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, there’s actually a 120.6% conversion lift among shoppers who expand the negative review in a “compare and contrast” display like this one from our friends at Ulta.
2. Respond to Negative Reviews
When you get a negative review, don’t just cross your fingers and hope it’ll quickly get covered up by positive reviews. Instead, face the review head-on by responding to it.
When you respond to a negative review, you have the opportunity to turn a bad situation around and salvage a relationship with your customer. If you’re able to fix the issue, the shopper is likely to buy from you again. What’s more, your response will show future shoppers that you value your customers and are committed to helping them resolve their issues. And that’ll give these new customers the confidence they need to make a purchase.
Remember: when it comes to responding to negative reviews, time is of the essence. If a customer is left hanging, they’ll only get more upset.
In addition, avoid using a generic, canned response — and don’t get defensive. Instead, personalize your response by using the shopper’s name and address the specific issues raised in the negative review.
Finally, take things offline when needed. Sometimes you’ll need more details from the shopper in order to resolve their issue.
But be sure to post a public response too, as it’ll let the customer (and future shoppers) know you’re taking action. Research from our friends at 1440 found that 73% of consumers would overlook a negative review if the brand posted a thoughtful response.
3. Analyze Negative Reviews to Identify Actionable Insights
In some cases, a negative review might mention an isolated issue. For example, a product might be damaged in transit.
But in other cases, a negative review can point to a larger issue that needs to be addressed. For example, one of our customers noticed several negative reviews for a watch that mentioned a broken clasp. They rectified the problem and their ratings subsequently improved.
Be sure you’re regularly analyzing your review content to gauge sentiment and identify issues early on. Then, use the insights you uncover to improve your products or messaging/marketing of those products or whatever else the data says needs adjusting.
With the right tool, you can also benchmark against your competitors. Compare by product rating, sentiment, key themes and so on by product, brand, and product category. This is critical insight to improving overall strategic direction and performance.
Sharing & Syndication
Creating buyer confidence at scale is critical to growing your business. A best-in-class ecommerce strategy will therefore nearly always leverage ratings and reviews as a critical mechanism to “meet shoppers where they are”.
Sharing and syndicating ratings and reviews content to different channels across the internet is a common tactic to scale brand credibility.
Ratings and Reviews as a Customer Acquisition Mechanism
Sharing and syndicating your ratings and reviews content serves one main purpose: expanding your reach.
Why is this so important? It exposes the value of your products to new audiences, which means it’s critical to customer acquisition.
In an ideal world, you’d create a great product, price it appropriately, build an awesome website and product page and then sit back and watch the sales come in. But that’s unrealistic. You need to be findable across a range of digital channels. We explore a few in this chapter.
But first, here’s a brief definition of what we mean by syndication in the context of ratings and reviews.
Ratings and Reviews Syndication, Defined
How exactly does syndication work? Essentially, syndication is when one business shares some form of user-generated content — such as a review, question, photo or video — with another business.
For example, let’s say a shopper submits a review via a brand’s site. The brand displays the review on its own website. The exact same review is then shared with the brand’s chosen retailer partners, and these companies display the review on their ecommerce sites, too.
For example, this shopper submitted a review on hormelfoods.com for bacon.
This review is displayed on Hormel’s website — and is shared with Target.com for display on the appropriate product page, extending the value of this specific review.
A badge is displayed as part of the review on Target.com, letting shoppers know the review was originally posted on hormelfoods.com.
The result: you are more likely to get noticed by shoppers who otherwise wouldn’t otherwise have known about your product or – quite possibly – your brand.
Improve your SEO ranking
Retailer sites aren’t the only place where sharing of ratings and reviews content can enhance customer acquisition potential.
Our research found that 35% of consumers start their shopping journey on Google or another search engine. Showing up there in a strong way is therefore critical.
Search engines love fresh content. You don’t want to be constantly refreshing your website copy when the product or value proposition hasn’t changed just to improve your rankings.
A steady stream of new, relevant review content enables you to fulfill this key need. It is also typically keyword rich.
A strong review generation program therefore helps your product pages rank higher – which means more traffic on your site and more shoppers being exposed to your products (we talked about loads of ways you can maximize review volumes in Chapter 2).
Questions & Answers, a form of user-generated content which we explore in depth later, is also great for this purpose.
Paid Search Advertising
Search ads are another great way to reach new shoppers – and they’re even more effective when they include star ratings.
Be sure to syndicate your product star ratings to Google. That way, stars will appear in your ads — and you will further optimize inbound traffic to your product pages.
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).
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 from “greenfield” customers. 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.
So ensure you are maximizing your customer acquisition potential by syndicating your ratings in this way (check out our blog on the topic for technical directions).
Ratings & Reviews on Amazon
Every brand knows about the importance of Amazon as a sales channel. In fact, nearly half of ALL product searches start on Amazon nowadays.
Our research found that 95% of consumers read reviews on Amazon. So if you sell your products on Amazon, you’ve got to make sure you have plenty of ratings and reviews content on your product pages.
One simple way to do that is to allow your shoppers to share the reviews they’ve written on your website to your Amazon product pages (ask your ratings and reviews vendor if they have a feature that allows this).
In doing so, you cultivate buyer confidence among shoppers who may not even previously known you existed.
Showcase UGC on Amazon Product Pages
Product reviews are actually a top reason consumers shop on Amazon. So think of creative ways to put this content front and center on your Amazon product pages.
One way to do that is to create an image that includes the text of a product review. Then, upload it alongside your other product images.
You can also feature user-generated visual content alongside your professionally shot photos and videos to give shoppers a better idea of what your products look like being used by “real” people.
Ratings & Reviews on big box retail sites
Many brands sell their products through retailer sites like Target, Walmart and others – as well as through vertical specific platforms like Ulta, Zappos and so on. And many consumers (93%, according to a PowerReviews survey) say they read reviews on these retailer sites.
If you sell your products through retailer sites make it a priority to give consumers the content they need to make confident purchase decisions.
Again, these are critical opportunities to acquire new previously untapped customers. So don’t miss this opportunity to provide a great first impression.
Syndicate Your Content to Retailer Partners
Typically, a shopper will write a review on the same website where they purchased a product. That means only customers who shop on your website will see this content.
But when you share your ratings and reviews from your own ecommerce site to your product pages on retailer sites, your reach obviously increases significantly.
For example, this review for a Melissa & Doug toy was originally written on the company’s eCommerce site, but it also appears on the product page on Target.com.
Because of this, shoppers can access the same confidence-building content – regardless of the channel they choose to shop for your products. In doing so, you maximize the value of the content you receive.
Activating Ratings & Reviews Syndication
So you’re fully bought into ratings and reviews syndication being something you should be doing. But how do you activate it?
The short answer: it’s enabled by your ratings and reviews technology vendor. You’ll need to talk to your preferred supplier to understand where they can get your ratings and reviews content to (PowerReviews has an extensive network).
As well as reach, accuracy is super important. Check whichever vendor you choose to work with accurately syndicates and effectively moderates content across the web.
If you’re wondering what’s the worst that could happen, here is an example of poorly-moderated syndication from Walmart’s website. The reviews contain obscenities and are mainly focused on the availability of the product rather than the product itself.
Yikes. This content should not have been published.
Ratings & Reviews as an SEO tool
Ratings and Reviews are a known SEO aid. In this chapter we explore this in more detail and provide the guidance you need to ensure you, well, optimize for Search Engine Optimization
1. UGC is good for SEO
First off, we’re a Ratings and Reviews company and we know all about the importance of UGC from an SEO perspective.
The top search results always feature product pages with lots of reviews and a good rating. That’s because Google knows people are looking for the best product, and reviews and ratings help Google determine that.
But reviews are just one aspect of user-generated content, or UGC. There’s also Q&A and user-submitted images and videos. Together, all three forms of UGC are essential to product SEO for a few key reasons:
- UGC provides additional content for the search engines to gobble up. The more content Google has, the better their understanding of your site.
- That content is often keyword-rich. Customers include all sorts of key phrases in their reviews, more than you could ever include in a snappy product description.
- The content is being generated on a regular basis, signaling to Google that your page is still relevant to people searching for these keywords.
Crocs features all three UGC elements on their product pages, with an interactive photo gallery, and a searchable Q&A and Reviews section.
Ulta Beauty’s Reviews section includes clickable filters that make it easy for shoppers to hone in on reviews from people like them.These filters also highlight keywords that are relevant to Google, helping Google connect the dots that this product is good for someone with “sensitive eyes” or anyone looking for a “long lasting” eyebrow pencil.
If you dig into the reviews, you’ll notice plenty more keywords. Take a look at how many we highlighted in this one:
2. Use keywords in all the right places
Keywords are the foundation of SEO. Whether it’s “waterproof hiking jacket” or “color safe shampoo,” keywords are the words people use during discovery and it’s important to use them when describing your products.
If you want to increase your visibility in search engines, you’ve got to include keywords in all the key places (see what we did there?) on your product page. Your customers will already take care of keywords for you in your product reviews. Where else can you include them?
- Your title tag
- Your meta description
- Your H1
- Product description
Your title tag appears alongside your Google search result in Google. It lives in your site code, so you’ll never see it unless you go to Google. You can fit about 55-60 characters of text in your title tag.
Many retailers simply copy and paste their product name, but this is a chance to speak directly to what searchers are looking for. iRobot does it best, with a combination of their product name, and the keyword “best robot mop”:
Your meta description is the two lines of text that appear beneath your title tag in the Google search results. Like your title tag, it lives in your site code, not on the front-end of your product page.
Together, these two elements serve as a virtual billboard — advertising your product to people in the search results. Will your billboard encourage people to click, or to scroll on by? Add keywords, and they’re more likely to click.
It’s common for Google to auto-generate their own meta description using text on the page. Still, it’s a best practice to write your own so you have more control over how your brand appears in the search results. You can include up to 160 characters.
Vistaprint knows that people use a variety of keywords to describe their products, from “custom address stickers” to “return address labels.” They include them all in their title tag and meta description:
On the page itself, you probably have a big bold heading that puts your product name in bold. This is your h1 tag, and it’s one more area where you can incorporate a keyword.
For example, by adding the word “golf,” Bonobos is able to help Google differentiate between this performance polo and their other performance polos when people are searching for golf polo shirts.
Finally, you can include keywords in the biggest piece of text on your product page: the product description. When writing your product descriptions, keep in mind the pain points people are looking for your product to solve. They may be searching for those very same things in Google!
In their product description, Canyon Bakehouse makes sure to include important keywords a person on a gluten-free diet may be looking for, like “certified gluten-free” and “100% whole grains,” or a bread they can use to make “toast” or “sandwiches.”
- Open up Google Search Console, and navigate to the Performance report. By default, the report is set to “Queries” at the bottom.
- Toggle over to the Pages tab, and click on an individual page.
- Then, you can toggle back to Queries to view the specific keywords that page is ranking for.
Of course, the Google Search Console report only tells you the keywords you’re currently ranking for. To discover keywords before they start trending in Google, you can look to your review analytics!
All PowerReviews customers using our Ratings & Reviews product with the Review Search feature enabled,now have access to Review Search Reporting. With this tool, you can see the specific keywords customers are entering in when they search through your reviews.
For the clothing retailer below, it’s clear that their customers seriously want to know whether this product is waterproof. Search terms like “waterproof,” “water,” “rain,” and “water resistant” dominate the top search results:
The fact that customers are typing these words into the review search box may indicate that they’re not adequately addressed in the rest of the product page. Thanks to these insights, the retailer can now take action to incorporate waterproof-related keywords into the product page for a SEO boost.
3. Mark up your images
Images speak louder than words. Nowhere is that statement more true than in the world of eCommerce. In fact, according to our recent study 80% of consumers find photos from other customers more valuable than photos from brands or retailers. Shoppers want to see photos of your product from all angles, in action, and in a lifestyle setting.
Now, search engines like Google can’t “see” images (yet), but you can tell them what’s in your image, via a little thing called alt text. Like your title tag and meta description, alt text lives in your site code, where search engines can read it to gather more context. (People who are visually impaired also rely on alt text, as their screen readers read it aloud to describe what’s in an image.)
It’s easy to copy and paste the product name or SKU into the alt text field. It’s also a serious waste of a SEO opportunity. By adding descriptive alt text, you not only make your site more accessible to more people, but you also increase your chances of ranking for the right keywords — and for showing up in Google image search!
Where can you find the keywords to add to your image alt text? Look at your reviews! Your customers do a fantastic job describing your products using the words other customers use. What phrases come up again and again? Things like “desk chair for kitchen office” or “favorite hot yoga shorts” would be perfect additions for your alt text. PowerReviews customers using our UGC Analytics solution can see the tops words and phrases customers use in their reviews.
Search engines read captions, too. If it makes sense, consider adding them to your images like Room & Board does:
Remember to markup other images on your page beyond the product gallery. For example, The North Face has alt text for the two icons on their product page: “our most sustainable product” and “recycled content.” Adding alt text to these images may encourage Google to show their product when people are searching for sustainable clothing.
4. Use a clear URL structure
There’s one more thing that shows up in the search results: your URL.
URL structure is an afterthought for many brands, with the developers left to do whatever feels most logical to them. However, a clean, clear URL structure can make the difference between Google crawling your web pages with ease… or getting lost somewhere along the way.
You want to avoid URLs that look like this:
Whew, that’s stressful Looking at that URL, I have no idea what the page is offering. I can tell that it’s an ecommerce site, but that’s about it.
SEO-friendly URL structures, on the other hand, look something like this:
As you can see, there’s a clear hierarchy to this hypothetical website. These URLs say, “Hey, Google. We are a retailer and we list products on our website. You can find them via these category, sub-category, or individual product pages.”
Depending on the size of your catalog, you may not need multiple levels to your URL structure. For example, Clif Bar has one level. Look at these simple, keyword-rich URLs:
When you have a large product catalog, though, it becomes really helpful to have the different levels, as you can see in this example from Ace Hardware:
When you have a clear URL structure like this, Google will often display breadcrumbs with your search result. In the Ace Hardware example, that’s the “hard-sided-coolers” above the title tag. That breadcrumb information confirms to potential customers that they a) have the type of cooler they’re looking for and b) have enough of a selection for it to warrant its own category. That’s the kind of information that encourages more clicks and better SEO!
Beyond having a clear structure, you can boost your product page SEO with a SEO-first internal linking strategy. Link to your bestsellers in blog posts, and link to related items or product categories in carousels on your product pages. This improves the discoverability of these products, and gives Google additional semantic meaning about the relationship between these products.
For example, on the product page for their Advanced Night Repair Serum, Estee Lauder links to related products that speak to the same pain points, like their Advanced Night Repair Eye cream.
Also keep an eye out for what other products customers mention in their reviews. For example, let’s say you’re an outdoor clothing retailer. Do reviewers regularly mention one of your jackets in their reviews of your hiking boots or hiking pants? Feature that jacket in your Related Products carousel.
5. Implement schema markup
Think back to the last time you were shopping online. Have you ever noticed how the search results for products look different than normal results? For example, they often display star ratings, price, and in-stock information.
Once you start to look for them, you’ll notice these stars show up all over Google:
This extra information, especially the stars, is called rich snippets. Rich snippets stand out to shoppers browsing the Google search results. Rich snippets also expand the size of your search result. Either way, searchers are more likely to click through when they see them.
To enable rich snippets, you need to add schema markup to your website. Schema is code that speaks the search engine’s language and tells them key information about your product, like its price, availability, ratings, and more. To improve your product page SEO, consider adding these schemas to your product pages:
If you’re a PowerReviews customer, good news! We already take care of this for you. Our Review Display comes with schema markup built in.
Image & Video
Today’s shoppers depend on visual content — including photos and videos — to make informed purchase decisions. In fact, 100% of shoppers search for photos or videos prior to making a purchase at least occasionally. And 50% always do so.
Indeed, visual content has never been more important. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, more consumers are shopping online. Photos and videos help these online shoppers find the products that best fit their needs — even when they can’t access their options in person.
Professional Photos and Videos Alone Won’t Cut it
Consumers have a big appetite for visual content. But not just any photos or videos will fit their need.
You probably already capture beautiful, stylized photos and videos of your products. That professional content certainly has a role to play, but it’s no longer enough. That’s because 99%of consumers specifically seek out photos and videos from others like them before making a purchase – up from 88% in 2016. In addition, 77% always or regularly seek out this content.
User-generated visual content is authentic — and shoppers trust it. In fact, 65% of shoppers indicate user-generated imagery is more authentic and “real” than brand-created imagery. What’s more, this imagery allows shoppers to understand what a product looks like “out in the wild,” being used by someone like them. And that helps them make better purchase decisions.
User-Generated Imagery Boosts Sales
Shoppers depend on photos and videos from others like them. And brands and retailers that collect and display this content are rewarded.
Based on data across our customer base, we’ve found that when a visitor interacts with user-generated photos or videos on a product page, there’s a 91.4% lift in conversion.
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re not collecting and displaying user-generated imagery, you’re losing customers to brands that are.
In fact, a third of Gen Z shoppers and 21% of Millennials report they’re less likely to purchase a product if they can’t find photos or videos of the product from other customers.
User-Generated Photos and Videos Fuel Smart Purchase Decisions
Collecting and displaying visual content from your customers is an important way to help future shoppers make informed purchase decisions. Why should you care? Because when shoppers make informed purchase decisions, they’re more likely to be satisfied when their products arrive in the mail. And that means they’ll also be more likely to:
- Keep the product. That’s one less return for you to worry about.
- Write positive reviews. That content will help future shoppers make smart purchase decisions — and boost your conversion rate.
- Be a repeat customer. That’s great news, because it’s cheaper to nurture an existing customer than to acquire a new one.
Customer Imagery Influences Purchase Behavior
User-generated visual content fuels informed purchase decisions in a number of key ways. Let’s take a closer look.
Visual Content Builds Trust
Today’s shoppers want to buy from brands they trust. In fact, research from Edelman found that 81% of consumers must be able to trust a brand before making a purchase.
Collecting and displaying photos and videos from your shoppers is one way to earn that trust.
In order to boost sales, brands post sleek, glossy photos that show off their products in the best light. But consumers post realistic photos that show products in real situations — and they have nothing to gain by doing so. And other consumers trust this content.
Research tells us that 80% of consumers find photos from other consumers more valuable than visual content from brands and retailers. What’s more, 42% say that the presence of user-submitted photos and videos boosts their trust in the product or brand.
When you display user-generated visual content, you’re showing future shoppers you have nothing to hide. That’s an important way to let them know you’re a brand they can trust.
Visual Content Sets Realistic Expectations
User-generated visual content allows shoppers to see what your products look like in real life being used by real people. That means there will be fewer surprises when the item arrives.
What’s more, when you display user-generated photos and videos, shoppers can better understand elements of your product that might not be captured in your professional photos. For example, imagine a consumer is shopping for a dining table. They come across this model, which looks promising and is described as narrow.
The measurements are listed in the product details, but then they scroll to the user-generated images and see several photos of the table in different kitchens and dining rooms. The scale is way too big for a small apartment, so they search for something that’s a better fit.
Visual Content Excites and Inspires Shoppers
Seeing photos and videos from other customers gets shoppers excited to try a product. For example, our friends at Canyon Bakehouse sell gluten-free bakery products. Of course, they include a professionally shot image on each of their product pages. But let’s be honest: a photo of a bag of plain bagels isn’t very inspiring.
Enter the power of user-generated visual content. The company encourages customers to share photos of the dishes they’ve made using their products. These photos help future shoppers understand all of the great dishes they can make with the bagels — and that gets them excited to purchase the product. Avocado bagel, anyone?
User-generated visual content can also inspire shoppers to add additional items to their shopping baskets — thus increasing your sales. For example, a shopper might be eying this Soren chair from our friends at Room & Board.
They click around the product page and find photos submitted by shoppers who purchased the chair. They especially love how one customer paired the chairs with other items, so they start exploring those items too.
Visual Content Helps Shoppers See What Products Looks Like on Different Types of People
A product like a vacuum cleaner looks the same no matter who buys it. But apparel and cosmetic products look different on different people. For example, a pair of jeans worn by a 6 foot tall model won’t look the same when they’re worn by a shopper who’s a foot shorter.
User-generated visual content helps apparel and cosmetic shoppers better understand how a product looks on different kinds of people. Shoppers can find photos and videos submitted by people with similar characteristics to them. And that way, they can identify the products that’ll work best for their unique needs.
For example, let’s say a consumer is shopping for eyeshadow from Juvia’s Place. They can see how a particular eyeshadow looks on shoppers with similar skin types and tones. And by doing so, they can find an option that’ll likely work for them.
Or maybe a customer is shopping for a sweater from Athleta. But the profesional photos show the product on a slender model, and the shopper has a more athletic build. That shopper can scroll through the customer-submitted images to get a better idea of how the sweater looks on someone with a similar body type to theirs.
How to Maximize the Impact of User-Generated Imagery
We’ve explored the important role visual content from shoppers plays in the purchase journey. But what can you do to see the biggest impact from this type of content?
Let’s explore proven best practices that can help you effectively collect, display and analyze visual content — and drive bigger business results.
Generating More User-Generated Imagery
In order to see an impact from visual content, you’ve got to collect plenty of it. Let’s take a look at a few ways to make that happen.
Make it Easy for Shoppers to Natively Submit Imagery
If it’s complicated or time consuming to submit photos and videos, shoppers probably won’t do it. So make sure the entire process is simple.
Shoppers should be able to submit photos and videos to your website directly from their desktop, mobile device or social media accounts.
Request Images via Follow-Up Email
Many shoppers are happy to share the photos and videos they take. But oftentimes, they won’t do so without being prompted.
Be sure to send post purchase emails to your shoppers, explicitly asking them to share photos and videos of the products they’ve recently purchased. It might seem simple, but it’s incredibly effective.
Here’s an example from our friends at Crocs. The post purchase email is short, simple and straight to the point.
Prioritize Image Collection
Oftentimes, photo and video collection is an afterthought. Brands ask for photos and videos — but not until a shopper has already written a review. Here’s the thing: if a customer spends time and effort writing a review, they’re likely to skip right over the visual content submission component altogether.
Instead, ask your shoppers to share imagery and videos before providing a review. And consider making the review portion optional. It’ll help you generate more content — quickly.
Here’s an example of a submission form that puts the ask for visual content first. After the shopper has submitted a photo or video, they’re asked to submit a review, too. But the review component isn’t required.
Request Visual Content on Your Homepage
Another great way to generate more visual content from your shoppers is to ask for it — right on the homepage of your website. After all, this is probably one of the most visited pages on your website.
Our friends at Janie and Jack display a beautiful, eye-catching carousel of customer-generated imagery on their homepage — along with a button shoppers can click to to add their own photos.
Those who click the button are taken to a simple form that allows them to upload a photo from their computer or mobile device — or from one of their social media profiles. When they do, their image is added to the image gallery.
Curate Visual Content from Social Media
Up until this point, we’ve been focused on ways to generate more visual content natively. But there’s another simple way to get more user-generated imagery on your website: leveraging the content that’s already being posted by your customers on social media.
As an example, check out all the beautiful photos that have recently been posted, tagging our friends at Shopper’s Drug Mart. This is a treasure trove of authentic imagery the company can leverage to inspire future shoppers — while boosting site engagement and conversion.
How does it work? Essentially, curating visual content from social media involves a few steps:
- Setting up your campaign, which involves choosing a hashtag, solidifying your legal messaging and terms and promoting your campaign.
- Continuously mining social media for photos and videos you’re tagged in.
- Securing permission to use your shoppers’ photos and videos.
- Repurposing the content on your website and other marketing initiatives.
It sounds simple, but when done right, it’s incredibly effective. PowerReviews customers that curate visual content from social media capture 221% more images and videos than those that don’t.
Amplify the Reach of Your User-Generated Visual Content
You’ve started to collect photos and videos from your shoppers both natively and from social media. Now, it’s time to do something with that content.
Let’s take a look at some proven best practices for getting your user-generated visual content in front of more shoppers.
Prominently Display Content on Product Pages
Perhaps the most obvious place to display your user-generated visual content is on your product pages. After all, when a shopper is researching a product, this content can give them the boost of confidence they need to convert.
So be sure to prominently showcase user generated imagery — both natively submitted and curated from Instagram — in a gallery on your product pages. Here’s an example of a gallery our friends at Gardener’s Supply Company display on a product page for one of their popular watering cans.
Another option is to display your customer-generated content at the top of your product page — right alongside your own professional images and videos.
Here’s an example from dutchbulbs.com. Visitors to this product page can find user-generated visual content right under the glossy brand-provided images. When the visitor clicks on “buyer images & videos,” they’re taken to a scrolling gallery of photos and videos submitted by other shoppers.
Showcase Visual Content from Shoppers Throughout Your Website
User-generated imagery inspires shoppers — and increases the chances that they’ll convert. So look for other opportunities to showcase this content — beyond the product page.
A great way to do that is to display a shoppable visual carousel on your category pages and your homepage that features content from your shoppers.
For example, when a shopper lands on the homepage for WEBS yarn, they’re greeted by an image carousel, featuring visual content from WEBS customers.
These are typically photos of projects customers have made with WEBS products. When a visitor clicks on one of these images, they can see the WEBS products that were used to create the item in the photo — along with a link to purchase the product.
Enhance Other Marketing Materials with User-Generated Imagery
When it comes to displaying the user-generated imagery you collect, don’t limit yourself to your own website. There are plenty of other ways to repurpose this content in your marketing initiatives.
In fact, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Consider including customer-submitted visual content in your digital marketing initiatives. For example, add a user-generated photo to your email campaigns and organic and paid Instagram posts.
This content will capture your audience’s attention and help you earn their trust. And ideally, they’ll be intrigued enough to click through to the product details page to learn more (and find even more visual content from others like them.
There may be opportunities to enhance your traditional marketing initiatives with user-generated imagery, too. For example, consider showcasing a shopper image in your print ads, catalogs or in-store signage. If you leverage outdoor advertising, take a cue from Apple. The company often runs billboards that feature photos taken by customers on their Apple devices.
Analyze User-Generated Imagery to Optimize Performance
You’ve started collecting and displaying photos and videos from your shoppers. But the work isn’t over yet.
Instead, it’s critical to continuously measure performance and identify opportunities to increase the impact of the content you collect. Let’s explore some ways to do that.
Understand the ROI of Your Visual Content
You spend time and effort collecting and displaying visual content from other shoppers. So it’s important to understand the impact this content has on sales.
Be sure you regularly assess performance metrics, including:
- How a specific carousel performs on a specific page type
- Whether a certain image style has more impact than others
- Whether images collected from social media or those collected natively have a bigger impact
Then, use that information to drive improvements to your user-generated visual content program.
Check out chapter 11 for more on how to analyze ratings and reviews, and other user-generated content.
Questions & Answers
Questions & Answers (Q&A) is a natural accompaniment for ratings and reviews content.
More importantly, it’s also extremely powerful when it comes to driving results for brands. But it’s underutilized. Too many brands aren’t taking advantage of this type of UGC, even though it’s super helpful for shoppers — and super profitable for brands.
No matter how you dice it, the stats all agree: Q&A is the most impactful type of UGC on consumer outcomes. Research found that 99% of consumers read Q&A at least occasionally. And our analysis found that there’s a 157.1% conversion lift among visitors who interact with Q&A.
Why? Q&A has become an essential resource for consumers who are shopping online. They’re not able to touch, test, and feel products before they buy. They can’t hold it in their hands, or talk to one of your in-store sales associates.
But they still have questions that they need answered before being confident enough to make a purchase. And they don’t have the luxury of asking an in-store sales associate.
So any best practice ratings and reviews or user-generated content strategy should absolutely include Q&A as a core component.
What Is Q&A?
Q&A allows prospective customers to, you guessed it, ask questions about the products they’re interested in. Previous shoppers and your own brand experts typically provide the responses.
This content is displayed prominently on product pages. Here’s an example.
This is an outstanding mechanism for quickly answering customers’ purchase-blocking questions. In doing so, it increases conversions and drives traffic to your product pages.
Why Use Q&A?
No matter how detailed your product description is, some shoppers will still have additional questions they need answered before they’re comfortable enough to buy. And if they can’t get an answer, they’re likely to forgo the purchase.
In fact, 24% of shoppers are less likely to purchase a product if there isn’t a Q&A section on the product page. This number is even higher – 33% – among Gen Z shoppers.
Similarly, 55% of U.S. online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question, according to Forrester.
Question and answer content on your product pages is intended to address this issue.
As well as driving more conversions at the consideration phase in the journey, Q&A also drives customer acquisition. How? It has serious SEO benefits.
Consistently filling your product pages with fresh, keyword-rich content enhances your search rankings and drives more traffic to your site.
“Because a customer who submits a question is already engaged, if we can give them the answer they want in a timely fashion, they usually buy the shoe,” shared Tim Lakin, Ecommerce Merchandising Manager at Skechers. “We were able to boost our rankings in Google’s organic search for the keyword ‘shoes’ to be on the first page of results.”
In addition, Q&A helps you identify any recurring questions that shoppers are asking. You can then adjust your product descriptions or messaging accordingly.
Maybe consumers keep asking about the size of the bottle of lotion. As a result, you then add sizing information in the product description to avoid people having to ask those questions. In doing so, you remove a common barrier to purchase.
And last but certainly not least, Q&A has undeniable community-building power. Offering your biggest fans the opportunity to become content creators on your own site – while providing them with a direct communication channel to your business – deepens their relationship with your brand.
For shoppers, Q&A also of course provides extremely authentic validation of your products. As in any industry, having real customers address prospective customer questions is about as convincing as it gets.
Best Practices for Collecting Q&A Content
The first step is to add Q&A to your site. But before you do, you need internal commitment to the process.
Q&A can be immensely powerful in driving desired outcomes. But only if customer questions are actually answered. Multiple unanswered questions is way worse than not providing the opportunity in the first place.
Assuming you have the processes and structures in place to support a Q&A program, you should aim to cover some basic bases to get it off the ground.
Assemble your Q&A team
Dedicate some of your internal staff so you can respond to questions quickly. The faster, the better.
If possible, have multiple brand experts available to answer questions. This alleviates the burden on any one person, and relieves customer service reps who may already be stretched thin.
How to get started
Your first step is creating questions. Whenever you add Q&A to your site, or whenever you launch a new product, add the top questions you expect customers to have, along with answers.
You can analyze your existing review content to see if common questions come up, and pre-seed based on that. Check in with your customer service team, too. They may have additional ideas for Q&A.
Beyond that, it’s meant to be an organic process. The whole point is to address genuine concerns from genuine customers. So simply giving them the opportunity to ask by activating Q&A on your site is key.
You could of course run an email campaign to try to expedite the process. But the best content will come organically.
Not sure about capacity? Don’t launch Q&A sitewide at first. Launch it on your best-selling products. This will provide an immediate sense of its likely impact.
It’ll also give you a baseline for the volume and types of questions you’ll get. You can adjust your bandwidth accordingly as you expand Q&A to other product pages.
Have a system for routing questions
Questions asked on your site can go to different queues based on the type of inquiry. You can keep it simple and route all questions to a general queue, or you can route specific questions to different kinds of people.
For example, you will for sure want questions about shipping to go to a subject matter expert. But you may choose to have product-specific questions directed to a previous buyer.
You could also consider routing questions to previous buyers first, and then to brand experts if they haven’t been answered within a given period of time.
Commit to responding within specified time period
Skechers commit to answering questions submitted via Q&A within three hours. You should aspire to implement similar internal SLAs. The quicker you answer questions, the more responsive you appear to consumers and the more likely the original shopper who asked the question is to buy. Of note, our research found that nearly a quarter of shoppers expect a response to a question posed via Q&A to come within four hours.
Link to related products in your response
Sometimes the customer may ask about an item that’s been discontinued, or complementary products. Make it easy for them to add more to their cart by linking to the other products in your answer.
Answer every question
Nutrisystem is committed to answering 100% of their shopper-submitted questions. “Not only does it provide a better shopping experience for shoppers, but it also helps us reduce operational expenses,” shared Kristina Cerminara, Manager of Online Optimization for Nutrisystem.
Also encourage answers from your customers
As we mentioned before, letting other customers respond offers your busy customer service team some relief, while allowing shoppers to hear from people like them.
Plus, 94% of shoppers value answers from verified buyers who have purchased and used the product in question. In comparison, 45% value answers from the brand or retailer selling the product.
Notify shoppers when their question has been answered
We like to call these answer emails, and customers love them. For brands like Skechers, answer emails boast an 80% open rate and a 51% conversion rate.
Are you a retailer?
Give your brands an opportunity to respond and interact directly with customers via Q&A on your product pages.
This increases shopper’s trust in the answers, making them more likely to convert. It also helps build a community on your site, as you have shoppers, your retailer brand, and the brands you sell connecting with each other.
Best Practices for Displaying Q&A Content
When it comes to displaying Q&A content on your product pages, we always recommend some basic tips to get started.
Never lose sight of the objective of Q&A: it’s to provide critical validation and encouragement at the moment of truth.
Get the Basics Right
Moderate Q&A effectively
Shoppers could ask questions about the wrong product, curse, or include personal information you don’t want to display. You want your Q&A to be valuable, accurate, and authentic. So make sure you have the appropriate moderation processes in place to ensure it hits the mark.
Ensure the answer provided is relevant to the question asked and is for the correct product etc.
Identify your answers
Brands can allow different people to answer questions, from staff experts to verified purchasers. Show who’s responding to build trust with potential shoppers.
Make your Q&A easy to navigate
As with Ratings and Reviews display, add a search box and filter functionality so shoppers can search terms to see if their question has previously been asked. This becomes especially important as Q&A volume grows.
That brings us to the final chapter of our Guide for 2022 but undoubtedly the most important.
Here, we will explain all about why and how you should be using your user-generated content – ratings and reviews, Q&A, and image & video – as a valuable customer insight resource.
If you’re not currently looking at it in this way, you’re in good company. In fact, most brands and retailers do not effectively leverage the insights they receive from UGC. They typically see this form of feedback in a vacuum where it exists only to convince shoppers to buy products.
But the holistic analytic potential of this data is immense. If you fail to realize it, you are missing out.
Why Analyze Your UGC?
There are two main reasons to analyze UGC:
- Optimize your Ratings and Reviews program: To ensure constant improvement and the best performance possible, you need to follow the data. How are shoppers interacting with UGC? How is it impacting conversions and how can you drive more of those behaviors? Where do gaps exist in your program (i.e. where do you need to collect more reviews)? The only way to get to the bottom of these types of questions is to analyze.
- Open up a new source of consumer insights: Today, many businesses spend millions of dollars on research projects all aimed at getting to the heart of what their customers are thinking.
Survey programs, customer focus groups and so on are seriously expensive and generally yield feedback that’s pretty generic. And that makes it hard for them to take any meaningful action. With UGC, you can tie specific feedback to specific products. And because all review content is sourced online, you can also benchmark against competitors. It’s like a focus group at scale…at a fraction of the cost.
What analyzing UGC can teach you
When you regularly analyze your user-generated content, you’re sure to make a lot of powerful discoveries. And these discoveries can help you drive powerful change at your organization.
Here are some examples:
How Shoppers Feel About Your Products (and Your Brand as a Whole)
The feedback in the UGC you capture helps you understand how your brand and its products resonate with shoppers. You’ll get a very accurate picture of which products your shoppers love, and which ones fall flat.
You can zoom in even further to understand which features people love about your products — and which could use some improvements.
How you Stack up Against Your Competitors
Analyzing UGC is a great way to understand how your products compare to your competitors. For example, let’s say you’re a brand that makes sunscreen and Banana Boat is one of your largest competitors.
Because UGC is publicly available online, you can – with the right technology – compare sentiment at the product, product category and even brand level.
And by doing so, you can uncover some great ways to give your brand and your products a competitive edge.
How UGC Impacts your Shoppers’ Behavior
You’ve probably seen plenty of stats about how UGC positively impacts key metrics like traffic and sales. But when you tap into your UGC, you can determine exactly how this content impacts your buyers’ journey. Namely, you can see how shoppers are interacting with content on your site, and what action they’re taking next.
For example, you might determine that those who interact with the Q&A on one of your product pages are more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t – and then adjust your content generation strategies accordingly.
Be the hero your team needs with actionable insights
When you tap into your UGC, you’re going to uncover some amazing insights that’ll help your company better meet the needs of its customers. But if the data doesn’t drive any action, it’s pointless.
Be sure to share the insights you uncover with the teams that can take action on them.
For example, let’s say you notice a lot of shoppers are complaining about a broken zipper on a pair of jeans. Share that information with your merchandising or product team.
Or maybe several negative reviews for a bed mention an inaccurate product description. Pass along that feedback to your web team to take action.
Share the right data with the right teams to drive impactful change
UGC insights can drive positive impact across your business.
Leverage Data from UGC to Boost Your Bottom Line
User-generated content is a rich source of data that can help you uncover insights you can’t find elsewhere. But what actions – and actual tangible change – can it generate?
Here are eight ways leading brands and retailers are using data from their user-generated content to improve products and experiences — and, of course, optimize sales performance.
1. Improve a Product (or an Entire Product Line)
In some cases, a negative review brings up an isolated problem. For example, Room&Board received the occassional return or negative review on their fade-resistant lounge chairs. These are unfortunate, but expected as a normal part of business. In one instance however, a negative review sheds light on a larger (but fixable) issue.
This one-star review, which included photos, mentioned that their dissatisfaction was specifically with the lack of promised fade-resistance. Room&Board offered to replace the chair, and upon further investigation, they identified several negative reviews for the lounge chair that specifically mention the color.
When you holistically analyze your UGC data with technology specifically designed for this purpose, it’s easy to spot recurring themes in your negative content – such as rust.
You can then work with the manufacturer to fix the issue — and then monitor your UGC to ensure it’s having the desired effect.
2. Discontinue a Product
Let’s face it: not all products can be winners. While some products will resonate with your shoppers — others will fall flat.
If you’re consistently getting negative feedback about a specific product, it might be time to pull the item from your catalog. If you don’t, you risk damaging your reputation which can, in turn, negatively impact your sales.
For example, Ulta has a huge line of products with a dedicated following. But a closer look at its UGC revealed a consistent stream of one and two star reviews about a specific foundation.
They took that feedback, discontinued the product, and focussed on improving the ones that sold well. If you see similar patterns in your own product line, you can choose to adjust or withdraw it. It may be worth cutting your losses.
3. Identify New Audiences and Use Cases
You might think that you have a good idea of who uses your products (and how they use them).
But digging into your UGC data can help you identify audiences and use cases for your products that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. And that can open up new opportunities for sales.
Take, for example, this inflatable baby pool that has more than 11,000 reviews. Sure, a lot of the reviews discuss how the pool did (or didn’t) work well for a child. But there are also a decent number of reviews that mention the product being used for a dog, rather than a child.
If the use cases are prevalent enough (and in line with your brand), consider updating your messaging to reflect them.
For example, the brand that sells the children’s pool could add a bullet point to the product description that mentions that many shoppers use the product for their pets. And by doing so, the product is more likely to show up when a shopper is searching for a pool for their dog.
4. Adjust Product Pricing
Determining the right price for a product is key. If you price it too high, you’ll lose shoppers to a more affordable competitor. But if you price it too low, you won’t make much of a profit. Of course, you work hard to price your products right from the start. But analyzing your UGC can help you determine if and when those prices need to be refined.
The first place to start is average rating. Price considerations may not exclusively drive a low rating. But if your pricing strategy is off, it’ll certainly show up here. Beyond that, look at the aggregated sentiment of the review content. For example, this one star review for a toddler toy indicates the item is “a little pricey.” The shopper seems to like the product otherwise; the price seems to be the sole reason for the one-star review.
If cost is a common theme of this particular product’s reviews, it may be time to adjust the item’s price.
Additionally, you might notice that one of your competitor’s products has a lot of reviews that mention the item being a great value.
You sell a very similar item, but at a significantly higher price point. And sales haven’t been great. There’s an opportunity here to modify the price of your product to generate more sales.
5. Adjust Product Messaging
Accurate, thorough product descriptions help shoppers make informed purchase decisions.
Your UGC can help you identify ways to make these descriptions even better. By analyzing your UGC, you’ll get a better idea of what product features your shoppers love. These are things you’ll want to be sure to showcase in your product descriptions.
For example, let’s say you’re a health and beauty company that sells shampoo. When analyzing your UGC, you notice several positive reviews mention the great smell of your product. This isn’t a feature that’s mentioned in your existing product description.
So you add some text to your product page to describe the fragrance (or even callouts from real-life reviews).
Insights from negative reviews can help you improve your product messaging, too. For example, let’s say you sell this duvet cover.
You notice an influx of negative reviews for this product. Many of them mention that there was no duvet insert like in the product photo.
So you update the product description to make it clear what is (and isn’t) included. That way, your shoppers know exactly what to expect.
6. Inform Digital Marketing Initiatives
Your marketing team works hard to develop campaigns to attract shoppers. But the data from UGC can make these campaigns even more effective.
In fact, there are nearly endless ways your marketing team can leverage UGC to be more effective. For example, think about pay-per-click ads. When creating PPC campaigns, you want to include keywords your shoppers are likely to use when conducting a search.
By analyzing your UGC (and that of your competitors), you get a clear picture of the words your shoppers are actually using when describing products. So use this intelligence to uncover new keywords and phrases you can start using to improve the performance of your PPC ads. You can also share the new use cases and audiences you uncovered in tip #3 with your marketing team. Then, they can put together targeted campaigns to reach these audiences.
Remember when we discovered that the inflatable children’s pool is also commonly used for dogs? This information should be shared with the marketing team, as there may be opportunities to create marketing campaigns targeted at pet owners. For example, they could run display ads for the pool on websites focused on pet ownership topics.
7. Focus on Collecting Content that Drives Conversion
When you examine the impact of UGC on your site, you get a very accurate picture of what types of content are driving sales.
You can then use that information to invest in generating the types of content that’ll drive the biggest return on investment.
Let’s say you notice visitors to your website are more likely to make a purchase after interacting with user-generated photos and videos.
That means you should make it a priority to collect more of this content. You can do so by sending post purchase emails to your shoppers, specifically asking them to submit photos and videos.
8. Optimize Your UGC Display
Of course, it’s important to determine which types of content are most likely to drive sales for your brand. But it’s also key to understand how shoppers are interacting with different types of content. This is a key part of analyzing UGC.
For example, you might notice a large percentage of your shoppers filter reviews to display only the one-star rated content. With this information, Skechers optimized the UGC displayed to their customers. If there’s a particular component that’s boosting conversion, make it more prominent. For example, the “review faceoff” feature (highlighted in our review display chapter) allows shoppers to easily compare the most helpful positive review with the most helpful negative review.
This integrates the behavior of checking negative reviews, while also promoting detailed, higher quality reviews. The positive review describes specific assets, and the negative review provides criticism that’s relevant to other shoppers (“the padding isn’t as durable as comparable shoes” as opposed to “not how I imagined them”).
Quick tips for Ratings & Reviews in 2022
This guide is intended to provide you with all the direction you need to run a successful, productive and – most importantly – revenue-generating ratings and reviews program in 2022.
There is a lot of information to digest: there are a ton of elements involved in ratings and reviews after all.
But here are four key areas you should absolutely be focusing on this year:
The data is clear: consumers want longer reviews and more of them. And, they want those reviews to be recently written. If you’re able to deliver, you will drive more conversions and sales.
There are tons of things you can be doing to consistently generate high-quality content in bigger volumes (check out chapter 2). Our list may seem overwhelming. If so, focus on two or three of our tips and grow from there.
Ratings and Reviews content is a proven conversion booster. But there are specific enhancements you can make to your displays to maximize its impact. There are also plenty of ways you can incorporate it throughout the rest of your marketing activity to improve its effectiveness (as we demonstrate in-depth in chapters 4 and 5).
Experiment with these in 2022 – and modify depending on what the interaction data tells you – to increase the value of your Ratings and Reviews program.
There’s a lot to do to maximize the value of your Ratings and Reviews content. But all this activity should form part of a broader user-generated content program.
Q&A is the single most impactful type of UGC on conversion rates (more than Ratings & Reviews) so you’re hurting yourself if you don’t build it into your overall strategy (see chapter 10). User-generated video and imagery (aka visual media) also makes a huge difference to ecommerce performance (see chapter 9). So you should be looking to incorporate this too.
The big opportunity for 2022? Leveraging your Ratings & Reviews content as a form of customer intelligence (as we outline at length in chapter 11). It’s cost-effective, context-rich, actionable, and it provides insane benchmarking potential. The most progressive companies will increasingly leverage ratings and reviews to propel business growth – not just in terms of conversion and sales impact but also in terms of providing critical strategic direction.
But if this seems like too big a step, simply becoming data-driven in how you approach your Ratings and Reviews program will put you ahead of most brands. Analyze conversion performance and identify gaps and opportunities to ensure you focus your UGC collection and display strategies in the right way.