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Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

7 Features that Make Reviews Credible

By Whitney Wilding
January 4th, 2011

From a consumer perspective, it is easy to understand the importance of customer reviews on an e-commerce site. It can be a little more difficult from the owner perspective, when it takes additional time and resources to gather reviews from previous customers in order to feature them. However, as a pretty frequent shopper myself, I consistently choose to shop on sites that have strong reviews over a site selling similar products with weak or no reviews, and I am willing to bet that your prospects are making the same decision.

So, how do you keep from losing these prospects to your competitors? What makes a strong customer review? Melissa Burdon’s 7 tips to elicit good reviews from customers features great ways to get your customers to unwittingly answer the kinds of questions that prospective clients typically have about a product. Generally, a prospect’s motivations for reading customer reviews is to overcome any product objections and get questions answered before buying, and there is nothing worse than a testimonial that feels contrived. The work we do through our OnTarget subscriptions frequently validates that good reviews can make a substantial difference in your bottom line. Let’s take a closer look at some of the features we look for when helping our clients develop credible reviews for their sites. Melissa’s post already pointed out the effectiveness of reviews on one of my favorite sites, Backcountry.com, so naturally, it wasn’t difficult to find an example of a review with an air of legitimacy there (click image to enlarge). Here are the qualities that make this particular review seem credible:

1. There is a date the review was submitted.

2. It has a clickable reviewer number to identify the person who left the review.

3. The reviewer number links to the individual’s review history.

4. The review includes an actual location and physical conditions of the area in which the reviewer resides.

5. The review highlights detailed product benefits through the eyes of the reviewer such as the quality performance despite frequent rain; the convenience of slipping the product into a book bag; product sizing by explaining how the product fits in relation to the individual’s height, etc.

6. The informal tone and use of slang are the icing on the cake… this review definitely was written by a customer, and not someone from the company.

7. Backcountry.com also features multiple reviews citing similar benefits on their product pages.

Have you been thinking about adding product reviews to your site, but you are not sure where to start? These elements are a good place to begin when thinking of what sort of information to capture from your customers. And you can start small, testing reviews the way we did to see if the effort involved will generate enough ROI before expanding to your entire site.

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Comments (31)

  1. I had actually thought of starting a website just for reviews but wasn’t sure how to do it properly. My reviews were always missing something but thanks to this article I may try it again. Thanks and great article

  2. I got reviews added to my site about a year ago or so. I now email past customers monthly to request them to submit a review if they have not already. I do have the person’s name and location but not a date on my reviews.

    I wonder what is the best layout for the review itself and how many reviews are good to show on the product page before clicking on a link to see all the rest of the reviews?

    Any suggestions?

  3. I strongly agree with #5. Especially, I found sizing information very helpful since sizes differ brand to brand.

  4. I don’t trust the extra-positive reviews, because they don’t seem genuine. So words like fantastic, great (remind me of Steve Jobs) determine to me stop reading that review.

  5. Fantastic. I would say that reviewing is the most important part of the process fro most business

  6. I noticed a very big cosmetics company that posts fake reviews which they outsourced. It was posted all over the cosmetic forums. I don’t recall what it was that caused them to get caught. I think it was the fact that one of their “fake reviewers” had an unusually high number of reviews and the reviews of the real buyers weren’t getting posted at all.

  7. On your has a date, I also look that the comment are spread out in time and not all on the same date. If they’re all on the same or near, date its kind of suspicious.

  8. @Audio Bible

    You’ve got some great reviews on your site. Well done for asking.

    I would be putting these reviews centre stage so people can see beyond the mechanical act of ordering the product and see how they will feel when they get and start to listen to the CDs.

    The CDs are the steak and the reviews are the sizzle :-)

  9. While I search for reviews often, when it comes to evaluating services, I also search for the name with the term “scam.” Sometimes I get websites designed by the service owner to make them look good, but often I get also get negative feedback that I find useful as well.

  10. As a customer, I actually tend to read the “negative” reviews, and then in my mind think about whether their objection to the product applies to me and what I’m looking for the product to do for me. The date is also important in negative reviews because sometimes an old review (like 3-4 years ago) will no longer be applicable to the product because the manufacturer fixed the problem and released a newer version of the product.

  11. I do agree with this article but i want to comment on number six. It always hard for consumer to tell between a real consumer review and someone the company hire to review it self. Even a real consumer write a too good review can also doubt new customer.

  12. I have started doing reviews on one of my websites. Every review is something personally tested or eaten. I think balanced reviews are better than hyped reviews. My clients all know that they are paying for truth, my integrity is important to me.

    I am aware that this differs from the reviews you are talking about, but the same rules apply. People can smell sales copy vs an actual review. If you get your friends to do great reviews it can be an issue.

  13. If you are selling products that your company produces on their own, or are a reseller of only one brand, fake positive reviews tend to be more common and partial.
    If you sell a lot of different products, bad reviews may even be good as the single products competes with each other.

  14. Anytime I am looking to buy a Service or Product online I look for Reviews. It’s actually pretty easy to spot a Company written Review. I like Audio Bible’s idea of emailing past Customers for Reviews. I think I’ll give it a try.

  15. Nice article. The customer testimonial page on my site is consistently one of the top 5 pages accessed. With over 400 pages, that tells the importance of positive customer feedback.

  16. Thanks for the article, it was an interesting read. I am a lawyer and often wonder why some client reviews draw in potential clients better than others.

  17. i dont people now actually look at the date of the review or who made it. what they actually care about is about the review itself. this is my personal experience only. there may be people who wont do like that.

  18. The odd negative review isnt necessarily a bad thing either. Not every product will suit every user and this helps to improve credibility for your brand, users are much more likely to believe a mixed selection of reviews rather than 20 5 starts and will notice the level of honesty and regard the good reviews as genuine!

  19. Reviews tent to skew to the negative… tend to agree with above that if they are all positive that “could” be a little fake as well.

  20. Reviews for a consumer are very important! For many it is the final step before purchasing a product. People that write false and misleading reviews are causing these poor consumers to waste their hard earned money for their own personal gain!

  21. I have customer reviews on one of my websites but I’ve become aware that more and more people do not trust reviews posted on the retailer’s website and that a third-party website review system is more trusted. However there are many of these and they do seem to be quite expensive, most of them state that your conversion rate would increase quite considerably by using a third-party review system if this was the case then the additional sales would pay for this service but I’m a little bit sceptical, so I was wondering if anybody else had any experience of these sites and if the increased conversion rates are as good as they say.
    Good post and thanks for the tips

  22. @TieDyedShop

    I think the biggest reason your ‘customer testimonial page is consistently one of the top 5 pages accessed’ is because it is the first link on the page in your top navigation, to be honest.

  23. We have not used reviews on our site yet, but are giving it some consideration. You brought up some good points that we need to consider.

  24. Reviews tent to skew to the negative… tend to agree with above that if they are all positive that “could” be a little fake as well.

  25. Is there a good wordpress review plugin available? How would it be best to implement it into a blog bearing in mind visitors also have the option of leaving a comment. would a site visitor be more inclined to leave a review instead of a comment or would both work well together?

  26. @Discount Golf Clubs – you can always test it like this to see if it makes sense for you in terms of potential ROI.

  27. Fantastic. I would say that reviewing is the most important part of the process fro most business

  28. Using informal and slang words would create a credible review, but a grammar mistake is not good at all.

  29. @Espresso coffee

    I agree the reviews with grammar mistakes maybe hard to read and look not as professional. BUT…..

    Maybe it also offers the reader the understanding the these are real reviews from actual persons. I see many grammar mistakes in the reviews i get from users but i leave them as is and with a lot of mis spelled words in them too.

  30. The wife bought a portable CD player for the kids from an ecommerce site, didn’t even look for any reviews. CD player never turned the money and we had to get the fraud dept from the bank to fight to get our money back. I never part with any cash now until have reviewed the site. Our non suppliers had a massive list of dreadful reviews! All ended well though, we got one from one of the major players.

  31. Fantastic. The revision is the most important process fro more business

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