From hotel and restaurant bookings to fashion and beauty purchases, online reviews have become par for the course. In fact, research has revealed that they now impact purchasing decisions for over 93% of consumers and 85% of us trust them just as much as personal recommendations; proving they are more important than ever.
Not only do online reviews have a direct influence on conversions, but they also impact a business’s local SEO performance. According to Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors report, ‘Review Signals’ are considered one of the most important factors (making up 15%) in determining whether or not search engines will list a business in the ‘Local Pack’. In fact, customer reviews are only surpassed by ‘Link Signals’ (16%) and ‘Google My Business Signals’ (25%) in terms of their influence over local rankings.
While their necessity is evident, many ecommerce retailers will be interested to learn that perfect, glowing reviews aren’t always the best. In 2016, Northwestern University conducted a study into how reviews influence sales, and it revealed that five star reviews are often considered ‘too good to be true’. What’s more, across product categories, they found that purchase likelihood typically peaks when a product or service rating is between 4.0 – 4.7 stars, and then begins to decrease as ratings approach 5.0.
More recently, the Harvard Business Review published a study by Daniella Kupor and Zakary L. Tormala which supported Northwestern’s findings. The results echoed the concept that moderately positive reviews are more persuasive than extremely positive reviews – largely because potential customers perceive them as more thoughtful, and therefore more accurate or helpful.
Based on these findings, when developing an effective online review strategy, retailers should focus on generating a handful of reviews for all products; prioritising those that currently have zero or a low number of reviews. Send follow-up emails to customers to encourage them to share their honest feedback on the product or service with others. Secondly, don’t exclusively cherry-pick the strongest positive reviews to publicise; learn to love the moderately positive reviews in order to establish validity and trust.