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Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 at 9:36 am

What Makes a Product Review Great? 7 Tips That Count

By Melissa Burdon
February 10th, 2010

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m passionate about my job.  I get to be an investigative reporter, go undercover by transforming myself to think like various different personas to analyze my client’s online performance, and help them make changes that ultimately lead to higher sales and/or leads. That doesn’t seem like a “job,” right? I feel like I’m solving mysteries every day for my clients, and uncovering tremendous opportunities at the same time.  I think I should get to carry a badge around once in awhile or something.  Alright, that’s pushing it ;)

During recent “routine investigations,” I’ve run into some really big customer review issues my clients are facing. Not sure just how important reviews are to your sales/leads?  Almost 70% of customers looked at more than 4 reviews before making a purchase.  If that’s not enough, take a look at the data from some other research:

  • 77% of visitors shopping online use reviews and ratings when purchasing. (Jupiter Research, August 2006)
  • 63% of consumers suggest that they are more likely to purchase from a website if it has product ratings and reviews. (CompUSA & iPerceptions study)
  • 92.5% of adults surveyed, said they regularly or occasionally research products online before buying them in a store. (BIGresearch)

In order to put together reviews that work, you need to get into the minds of your visitors. If you were shopping for your product/service, what would be important for you to find out in a review? Now it’s your turn to go undercover as your various different visitor types and map out a customer review process that works.

I’m always shopping for sports gear, it seems.  I’ve been looking around for some goggles, but I am not set on a brand or type of goggle.  I would actually consider myself pretty uneducated about goggles. These are the things that I’m looking to find out:

  1. I want a pair of goggles that will fit my helmet properly
  2. I don’t care about a feminine style or color; I just want to make sure that the goggles fit my face well, so they need to be made for a woman.
  3. I ski in a large variety of weather conditions, so I want a pair of goggles that either work well enough in all conditions or ones that have swap-able lenses for different conditions.
  4. I use the goggles mostly for skiing but on the odd occasion, I go snowmobiling, and want them to be suitable for other sports as well.
  5. I definitely want to avoid goggles that fog up, but I also don’t want the goggles to be too ventilated that my face may freeze.
  6. I don’t have a specific budget in mind.  I’ll compare price once I’ve found a few great options.

These were some things worth noting about review sections of web sites, as I started my search for the perfect goggles.  Click the screenshots to enlarge.

best customer review tips lists out pros and cons as part of their product reviews, which is generally a great idea. The only problem is that this is a ‘pre- set’ list of pros and cons. The visitor simply checks the boxes in each list when reviewing a product. A list is good to start with, but the visitor should be encouraged to write their own pros and cons as well. Sometimes there are pros and cons worth mentioning that won’t be in the list. If the cons field is always empty (as it is in this example), some visitors will become skeptical. The visitor wants to know the bad and the good in order to weigh out their options effectively. If some visitors feel this is too good to be true, they won’t move forward in their buying process.

rei-describingreviewI love that identifies the reviewer based on their level of experience with this industry.  This reviewer establishes herself as “advanced.”  We can assume that she means advanced skier, but the reviewer was probably given very few options to describe herself.  Don’t limit the visitor’s ability to describe herself. You can give her a few options to give her some direction, but you should encourage her to describe herself in a way that allows the visitor to see who she is, why she is reviewing and how this product is used in her lifestyle. In other words, it’s good to know that she is advanced, but I want to know the type of weather she skis in with the goggles and how often she uses them, and whether or not she uses a helmet. The same goes for “best uses” category here.  Don’t make the visitor only choose from a ‘pre-set’ list.  Encourage her to go into more detail. not only features regular reviews from customers, they also encourage professionals in the industry to review products and upload their pictures using the product. They also list commonly asked questions and corresponding answers about the product.  The organization of the reviews, pictures, and questions on Backcountry is a little scattered and could be improved, but they definitely feature information that will help the visitor decide.

This is a quick list of tips to help you create effective customer reviews:

1. Feature overall star ratings of the product/service and review specific features/characteristics of the product/service that the customer will be interested in. For instance, many forget to feature reviews that tell the visitor about the delivery and customer service following the purchase.

2. Don’t just try to get reviews from the average customer, but also look to get reviews from respected professionals or leaders in the industry.

3. Feature pros and cons of each product/service, but don’t limit the reviewer to only a ‘pre-set’ list of pros and cons.

4. Have the reviewer describe themselves (location, gender, their experience in the industry) so that the reader can find reviews from those who are similar to themselves. Also, have the reviewer describe how they use the product; in what environments and how often, etc.

5. Encourage the visitor to upload pictures of themselves using the product/service. This adds emotional value.

6. Encourage the visitor to write further comments about the product, how they use it and what the real benefits are of the product, etc.

7. Feature a section with “commonly asked questions” about a product or service.

Is it time to do some work on your reviews? Well, what are you waiting for?!?

Add Your Comments

Comments (66)

  1. Great article. I really like the way CNet does reviews where you see what they think with the video which is great. You can then see reviews from customers.

    For electronics and other expensive items, I want to see reviews from someone that has used the product for a while to see if the product breaks down after a few months of use.

  2. You bring up a lot of great points here such as the need to experiment with many different types of elements, and also the need to sit down and analyze all kinds of data sources for better optimization.

    One effective method we’re using at ion to qualify visitors is pre-conversion segmentation. With pre-conversion segmentation, we don’t include a form on the initial

  3. A lot of fantastic points are put forth in this article, I find reviews of products more helpful then the description a self promoting company gives. It’s really a shame places like don’t put more emphasis on customer reviews.

  4. your 7 tips are very structured and covered many aspects. I’ll be very useful for myself to compose a good article review.
    Actually it’s like see myself in the mirror when we review product but didn’t realized how to structure it.

  5. Online customer reviews are also a great source of ideas for improvements of your products and services. Many successful companies, such as Pure Digital (recently purchased by Cisco) and Bose, use them to monitor, measure and manage their products reputation and improve their processes.

    However there is another, often overlooked, benefit of customer reviews to a savvy retailer. Low reputation products only defuse your customer’s attention, waste your advertising dollars, create an unnecessary cost to handle returns, and negative customer experience that retailer would likely share blame for. The cost of caring an inventory of the low reputation products is not even taken to consideration as many online retailers do not practice it.

  6. On my website we rigorously test products and combine the opnion of several of our team to form a review. I certainly think customer opinion is important, and I think it’s a good thing that more and more technology reviews are now featured on blogs with some sort of comment system. Asking the reviewer questions about his experience with a product is always important.

  7. Great article. I definitely agree with “4. Have the reviewer describe themselves.” This is often looked over when you have sites that allow for “quick” reviews. By not letting users describe themselves, other users can’t analyze a reviewer’s credibility.

  8. Great article. I definitely agree with “4. Have the reviewer describe themselves.” This is often looked over when you have sites that allow for “quick” reviews. By not letting users describe themselves, other users can’t analyze a reviewer’s credibility.
    By the way, really good post. Can’t wait for your next one!

  9. hi Melissa,
    I guess I’m with that 70%. :)
    There are a lot of products that I just won’t buy unless I can find multiple reviews on them. But I think your example of ski googles is interesting – because fit is so critical, I can’t imagine buying them online… but I guess people do, as they do buy shoes online too which is something I wouldn’t do.
    Anyway, offering meaningful, helpful customer reviews is a very good idea! Mike

  10. There is research on reviews that backs up what you have written here. For example Chen wrote a paper called “Herd behavior when purchasing books online (Computers in Human Behavior, 2008) that showed that people were more affected by reviews from other people like than by reviews from experts or suggestions from the web site owner (such as, “if you liked this book you would also like…”). Your recommendations combine several areas of research: reviews are powerful because of the principle of social validation, and they also have elements of storytelling (research shows that grabs our attention). By having descriptions of the reviewers (personas really) then you also engage the principle of similarity! So no wonder that reviews really work.

  11. Thanks for this post. It’s always great to think like a customer. Doing so, would help you understand better what customers want and do not want and you could also perform at your best with regards to your product and your website.

  12. Well it’s definitely time for some people to do something about their reviews. The figures mentioned at the beginning of your article are impressive and really force us thinking about customer interaction. Some great tips here the most important thing I’ve taken from your article is that one should view a product in relation to what it is used for and by whom.

  13. A good review is one that is genuine!

  14. Reviews are not only important for products but for service professionals as well. Most businesses don’t realize how much a bad review can hurt them and put a severe dent in revenues.

  15. Hi Melissa

    Great article. I always read the rewiews before buy any product. If the website dont provide any rewiew i try to find another website where i can read about the experience of other people with the product that i want.

  16. @MWS. Agreed.

    When a review is genuine, it can be positive or negative.

    Positive reviews are good, because customers will trust the product it is good, and negative reviews means you have to fix your product or service.

    Both ways, they are good for business.

  17. Thank you for the interesting articel.

  18. It’s a Great review and good article. You’re right; I also always see the reviews online before you go shopping for electronic goods.

  19. Your article open my eyes. Thank you for wide info.

  20. Melissa, I’ve copies and paste your list of tips to a Word document. While I’m okay on most of them there are a few that hadn’t even crossed my mind. Specifically, I like #7, the “commonly asked questions” tip. Thanks so much!

  21. Melissa, great article. I will definitely use some of the tips you suggest on some of my reviews and I will need to think of more from the customer standpoint. thank you.

  22. Thanks for the great article, I will use the tips from now on.

  23. thanks, so much info!

  24. Thanks for sharing this information, Melissa. I found it very informative and it really helped me to understand how to create effective customer reviews.

  25. Your 7 tips really works…

  26. Hello Melissa Burdon

    The statistics were interesting. I know ppl will investigate online before they buy, but these figures surprised me

    thanks again for information

  27. Review is one of the most important thing to market your product. A good review will certainly bring more customer looking for the product. For example, when I am searching for a new phone (with a lots of phone in the market), I will look for a great review by other people who used them before before I decided what phone to buy.
    Thanks for the tips.

  28. I think that has done very well by implementing video and written reviews to all of the products and they encourage people to do these by offering some point system, everybody should take a look at what they got going on there.

  29. i will try i hope it works for me
    thanks for info

  30. I never really paid much attention to reviews of products in the past, unless I was buying a big ticket item (fridge, car, TV) because I ‘assumed’ they were all company written. Now I always look to see how many ‘stars’ the seller has on eBay, or what others have to say about a book on Amazon, or customer reviews on kids items. It’s great that most companies now give the customer an opportunity to express their true views. Good advice to not place too many limits on the reviewers :)

  31. I’ve been writing about the importance of product reviews for a long time now. I encourage bloggers and affiliate marketers to use these tips when writing.

    I’ll be adding a link to this post from mine about the Importance of Online Reviews: How Consumers Find Trustworthy Businesses (and Products).

    Ecommerce stores that have product reviews on their product pages will see increased conversions.

    Reviews can also point out where your descriptions or images are insufficient or misleading and are beneficial for improving product descriptions.

  32. The question is: how can someone encourage a visitor, to write a complete, fair, unbiased review?

  33. Thank you, you give a good article. Miss Melissa, you are indeed worthy of praise, for your hard work to help clients.

  34. I would say that first of all a company should serve a customer well and provide him with the best product with all the good qualities. This will force him to write a honest and good review.

  35. “6. Encourage the visitor to write further comments about the product, how they use it and what the real benefits are of the product, etc.” – This is by far the most useful tip for me. Because no matter how good you think your product is, it would be useless if you haven’t heard what customers themselves think. Thanks for the tips.

  36. This is an informative article. I agree with you. It is important to list both the pros and cons of a product. In addition, I think it is imperative to encourage customers to upload a picture of themselves or submit video.

  37. I don’t have a specific budget in mind. I’ll compare price once I’ve found a few great options.

  38. You made some very good points that will assist me and my website endeavors. Reviews are a very important aspect in customer service, not only in the form of a customer review, but also a product review from the supplier which explains the purpose of specific products.

  39. If you desire to compose good review then make it looks professional and assure the buyer to purchase.

    Describe the product then give your reliable opinion without being mean. Try to describe it well, but not too much, you don’t want people thinking your pushy.

  40. @Ylod….Provide the best of your service to the customers. Make them feel satisfied. This is how you can expect a good review.

  41. Potential customers are wiser now compared since they already know how to value money. Personally, I do my own research before buying a product that I really want to have. In that way, I can make sure that the product is worth buying for.

  42. Describe the product then give your honest opinion without being mean. Try to describe it well, but not too much, you don’t want people thinking your pushy.

  43. thanks for sharing, this very help me

  44. Online customers are more savvy than ever today. We have to adapt, because they will not. There is enough options, customers will go elsewhere. Good products sell themselves.

  45. #7 is great because it removes any insecurities or objections they may have before buying your product.

  46. I am going to write a paper for this theme and I agree with the majority that firstly it is important to create customer value and then want him to write good review which could help promote your services.

  47. nice tips. thanks for sharing.

  48. where did you learn about this…

  49. Very informative post!

    Its covers almost all aspects of getting good reviews and making product more and more popular.

    It gives surety that your products are enjoying good market share.

  50. Good reviews are those that are genuine – having couple reviews that are not positive I think helps a lot if they are less than 10% as it increases the customer confidence that rest of reviews are genuine.

  51. Very informative statistics. I think the evolution in 2010 will be much different this year. The online medium change the offline business very fast. And the people way of thinking is change in the same direction.

  52. I am happy have stumbled upon this site, its interesting, informative and has great content.
    Great article, with some fantastic tips and great stuff to keep in mind. There is really nothing bad if one has a couple of bad reviews as this actually helps the better ones in order to show that not everything is perfect, but the bad reviews most certainly not out way the positive!!!! Looking forward to reading some of the other post that are here.

  53. It’s difficult to capture the visitors attention. With a well written article you may obtain a returning visitor and this must be the purpose.

  54. It gives surety that your products are enjoying good market share.

  55. Great article! I use reviews on my websites to help potential customers decide which product or service they want to buy. I will definitely use some of your tips to expand the service on my websites!

  56. I will try it, i hope it will work for me but i don’t think so. I don’t know why but this cases never work out for me :s

  57. [...] 63% of consumers suggest that they are more likely to purchase from a website if it has product ratings and reviews. (CompUSA & iPerceptions study) [...]

  58. I believe for a product review to be great. It needs to be honest. Its need to tell the bad side or the cons of the product. Theres always a downside to everything. People can build trust off this seeing as let them know everything about the product even the negatives.

  59. Reviews have become an important aspect to purchasing on line. The reason, I believe is that consumers do not have the opportunity to see, feel or smell the product. They are therefore relying on history. The issue for some is that these reviews are not always truthful, particularly if the attached to your product and website. I would encourage using a proven source such as “choice” or similar for your product grouping

  60. It is better to accept all reviews or only those from verified buyers? How important is it to encourage reviewer status/reputation and aggregate reviews by reviewer

  61. I like this artic, in fact I will use it in my online marketing training class, Can I?

  62. With proper attribution and a link, you can use it. Please contact us with the details about publishing.

  63. Real helpful, I’m also looking for review from product. I never read only one.
    I check the star rating (if available) and read some reviews of the company or product.
    If it is concerning a product I try to find a movie on youtube for a hands on review.

  64. Melissa made some very good points there. As for myself, I love to see a product’s review which I feel is genuine, with no hype. It must stimulate me to buy the advertised product and show me how I can benefit from its use. I also agree with the FAQ section, something that many review sites are missing.

  65. Great post, another online eye grabber for reviews is Google’s implementation of Rich Snippets, that allow stars to show in the search results.

  66. great article! i just hope more online reviewers would use guidelines like these – and not write just one sentence and leave it!

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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