How do online reviews impact shopping behavior?
Woman in shopping cart

Written by Bartek Bezemer

I want to help you get more out of your online marketing by giving you insider tips and combine them with market trends to help you better reach your target audience.

May 2, 2020

E-commerce websites, and B2B-companies who are catching up, use online reviews to generate more sales. But how do reviews influence shopping behavior and how can you get reviews from your customers? 

I always believe that trust is one of, if not the most, important factors which can make or break a sale in e-commerce. A well balanced set of reviews and trust signals tell your customer you can be trusted with their money, they’ve made the right decisions to buy a product with your company. I want to guide you through how online reviews boost sales and not the least important, how you can get them for your own business. 

Online reviews boost sales

According to a survey conducted among 57.000 consumer reviews and 65.000 verified reviews, the Spiegel Research Center found that sales increase on average with 270% when reviews are displayed, compared to not revealing reviews along products. Displaying reviews for lower priced products increases conversion rates with 190% and for higher priced products with 380%.

When zooming in on the reviews themselves the research reveals that the first 5 reviews have the biggest impact on shopping behavior. The impact of these reviews is amplified for higher priced products. Reviews from verified buyers are on average 4.43 on a 5-star rating, compared to 3.89 stars for anonymous users. 

Which demographics are influenced by online reviews?

Research done by Pew Research among Americans, found that the demographic under 50  uses online reviews the most to help them make a purchase decision. About 53% of 18- to 29-years-olds and 47% of 30- to 49-years-olds replied always using online reviews when making a first time buy. The older generations are less frequent users of online reviews, namely 35% of 50- to 64-years olds and 23% of the older than 65 use online reviews during online shopping. 

Online reviews give more confidence to users than government regulations.

The frequency of online behavior also impacts the amount of times online reviews are consulted. Of the weekly online shoppers, 67% of the respondents say they almost always read reviews before buying for the first time. 54% of monthly online shoppers say they do and 38% of those who shop less than once a month. 

To make an informed purchase decision, 55% of respondents say they watch product review videos. 68% of under 50 year olds used product videos and 41% of over 50 years old. Men tend to use product video reviews more often than women, namely 62% among men compared to 50% among women. This metric reveals how important it is to have videos that display the products in action, from every angle and in different scenarios. 

According to the survey 46% of Americans indicate that the availability of online reviews helps them ‘a lot’, giving them confidence in the purchases they will make. They regard online reviews as a means to keep companies accountable for their actions. Interestingly enough do online reviews give more confidence to users than government regulations. 

A mixture between good and bad reviews

Your mind must be going all over the place after reading the potential impact online reviews can generate for your business. You want those five-star reviews as fast as possible. But does having an all-star rating make your sales go through the roof? 

When looking at another survey conducted by Spiegel, a shopper is more likely to buy a product with a 4.2 and 4.5 rating than a product with a 5 star rating. Above a 3 star rating the purchasing behavior can be positively influenced, but a perfect score will not result in a boost in sales.This fact is not surprising as only 5 star ratings will create a feeling of too good to be true with the consumer. Negative reviews will therefore generate a feeling of trust. Avid online buyers will even search for negative reviews. So don’t let all your employees leave a 5-star rating as it will do more harm than good. You know who you are. 

How to get reviews for your products or app? 

According to the same research done by Spiegel, 80% of the reviews are generated through follow-up emails after purchase. To help you along with your email marketing efforts, I’ve created a few different samples for you to use, further down the article. Make sure to always A/B-test the different titles and email bodies to get the most effective results, because customers’ expectations and behaviours vary from company to company. 

Remember to be realistic about the time when a product is being used. For SaaS-solutions the answer is easy, you can select those who are frequent users of the product and ask for a review after a certain period. You don’t even have to send emails, as the customer portal is a more effective method to ask for a review. 

For traditional goods, this is more difficult. Through customer research you could determine what the average time between purchase and actual usage is. Every product is different and is bought under different circumstances. A laundry machine is bought when the previous one breaks down and is used immediately after delivery. Sneakers aren’t necessarily worn the same day, if at all. Experiment with different time slots with your emails. It’s important that your email automation is connected to the postal delivery system or else you’ll be sending review requests to products that have never arrived. This will destroy your online reputation.  

Email templates

As I said I want to give you some examples you can use for your own request for a review email. Note that an order confirmation is not equal to asking for a review and therefore abides to different privacy rules. Asking for a review has a clear commercial nature and if you are having European clients, you can only ask for reviews when there is explicit consent for promotional email. You must include an unsubscribe functionality in the body of your emails. 

Email subject line examples:

  • Share your experience with (insert product name)
  • Let us know what you think of (insert product name)
  • Are you enjoying your (insert product name)?
  • Help us improve our customer experience
  • Help customers make the right decision
  • Your opinion is worth $ (amount) 

Email body 1

Dear (insert first name or last name),

Thank you for your purchase. We hope you are enjoying the (insert product name) and care to leave a review. We want to learn from your experience to help customers make the right decision. 

Button CTA option 1 (Leave a review) (redirect to your respective review tool)
Button CTA option 2 (Tell us what you think) (redirect to your respective review tool)
Button CTA option 3 (Tell us your experience) (redirect to your respective review tool)

Email body 2

Dear (insert first name or last name),

Thank you for your purchase. It’s been (amount of days) since you’ve received the product. We hope you are enjoying your (insert product name) and care to leave a review. We want to learn from your experience so other customers can make the right decision. 

Button CTA option 1 (Leave a review) (redirect to your respective review tool)
Button CTA option 2 (Tell us what you think) (redirect to your respective review tool)
Button CTA option 3 (Tell us your experience) (redirect to your respective review tool)

In-app templates

Despite the survey of Spiegel saying that email is the most effective way of generating reviews from customers, we’ve so far only been focusing on just that, but a lot of you might also have an app which could use some extra love in the app stores. In-app requests for reviews have done magic for app engagement for me in the past compared to email.

A word of caution before you start asking for reviews in your app. The apps are hosted by the respective app store owners and you are to abide according to their terms and conditions. If you want to get reviews on the Google Play Store, it’s not allowed to incentivize reviews or persuade the user with 5-star reviews through messaging. That explains why I’ve never seen any promotional reviews for years in apps now. You can read more on the guidelines for the Google Playstore, which are easily explained on their website. 

Guidelines for the Apple App Store exist as well. You can only ask for a review a maximum amount of times during the year and only through the dedicated review API of Apple, which adheres to the layout of apps published on the App Store. There’s no possibility to customize the lay-out of your in-app review pop-up. 

Just like with traditional goods, every app has different usage patterns. Does your game have an active daily user base? You can ask for a review in the first month. Are you an m-commerce app that sells fashion goods? Ask for reviews after a set amount of purchases have been made. 

I’ll give you a head start for your audiences: 

  • Users who’ve made at least 5 purchases
  • Users who’ve registered for your service 3 months ago
  • Users who’ve opened the app at least 15 times last month
  • Users who’ve opened the app at least 15 times last month and have spent at least a total half an hour in the app

Audiences can be created through the respective SDK’s. I’ve been using Firebase, through some clever coding with the app developer we’ve come up with some pretty awesome audiences ourselves that we can target. 

In-app pop-up body 1

Thank you for your purchase! We would love to know how you’ve experienced our app. Please share your experience.

Button CTA option 1 (Tell us what you think) (redirect to the applicable store)
Button CTA option 2 (Tell us your experience) (redirect to the applicable store)
Keep your text short and concise as the space on a screen can be limited on certain devices. 

In-app pop-up body 2

Thank you for using your app! Are you enjoying the app?

Button CTA option 1 (I love it!) (redirect to the applicable store)
Button CTA option 2 (I don’t like it) (redirect to a comment field in the app)

Include a don’t ask me again function and ask me later. This will enhance the customer experience as a pop-up is never fun. 

Summary

Reviews can have a significant on your sales, but the hardest part is retrieving them. Mix up good and bad reviews to build trust for your brand. I’m aware it’s easy to say just send out an email or implement a pop-up and off you go. For beginning webshops this is a difficult task as you won’t have a lot of customers or sales get these reviews. But it’s important you implement these tactics early one, because when your sales are ramping up you want to be ready. 

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