Fewer Returns and Refunds

On clothing websites one of the main reasons for returns and refunds is that the clothes didn’t fit as expected.

A “bad review” for a clothing product might be something like, “this is a tight fit and I had to send it back and they had to send me a larger size”.

Let’s break that down from a reader’s perspective:-

  • The customer now knows they can return
  • The customer now knows they can get a larger size sent to them
  • The customer now knows to buy a larger size than they normally would for this product

Of course, the tone of the review isn’t particularly happy, but they’ve actually helped your customers out and so have helped you out.

The fact it might be a muted 2-star review just adds credence to the message. In fact, Amazon even promotes “most critical” and “most positive” review with equal prominence because they know with contrasting opinions people will be able to make informed decisions.

Brilliant Content and New Opportunities

The words that people write in reviews are written by real people - not sales pitches, not PR spiel.

They’ll likely include points that you or the manufacturer didn’t consider. For example you may know a product as something (perhaps a model number), but your customers may have a colloquial name for it. Think “Vacuum Cleaner” vs “Hoover”.

If your customers are writing this content in the form of reviews it offers more opportunity for your product to be found by searching.

Take this example, Phillips sell WiFi powered LED lights called “Hue” which allow you to change the colour of the light through an iPhone app. The problem is that they require E17 sockets. So what if you only have E12 light sockets? You might search for something like, “E12 to E17 converter for Hue”.

It probably never occurred to the shop that people want their generic E12 to E17 converter for something as specific as a Hue - but as soon as a review includes a phrase like, “We bought this so we can have Phillips Hue lights in our office” that product has the opportunity to be found for precisely that.

People land on pages and products by the quality and relevance of their content, and opening up reviews means you have the opportunity for the public to generate unique content for you. For free.

Rich Snippets

When you have a collection of reviews, you can start to feed that information to search engines through rich snippets. The current recommended method for this is Schema.org which is backed by the major search engines.

With Schema, sites with reviews can show a star rating on their Google results. With these, you could expect to win the user’s click on a search engine result page over a product without, even if your have a low score rating. It has been shown to have considerable gains for some website’s CTR (click through rate).

Recover Abandoned Carts

In the UK we can expect an average eCommerce website to convert about 3-5% of visits to a sale. That’s a lot of abandoned carts. Many shops have started to try to recover abandoned carts by reminding the customer by email about the product.

For example, if I was buying a washing machine online I might add it to my basket but then get cold feet and leave the site. The website could email me within 24 hours saying, “You didn’t finish your order, here’s a reminder of the washing machine you were looking at and some of our customer’s favourites...”. They could recommend different washing machines to me based on their score, and back them up with real reviews from the public who also bought that product.

According to Shopify, 70% of customers abandon their shopping carts but well designed recovery emails can recapture 29% of those.

An Opportunity to Engage With Your Customers

Occasionally there will be an atrocious review. The payment took 5 times to go through and then they were charged twice, the product was delivered a day late and then when they opened the box it turned into ashes and damaged their carpet.

Many sites that thrive on customer reviews, including TripAdvisor, allow the organisation to respond directly to the customer. It provides an opportunity to publicly be “the bigger person” and do the right thing. Let customers know about your amazing returns policy, that if a delivery is late you refund the delivery cost, that you’ve provided a full refund for their inconvenience and gave them a gift voucher as a nicety.

You’ve turned a terrible situation into a brilliant opportunity to build trust.

A Final Note

Finally you should be aware that some companies hire people to write bad reviews on their competitors. Let’s be clear: it’s very unlikely to happen to you, it normally is reserved for major sites like Amazon. You can protect yourself by only letting those who have ordered the product leave a review. You can moderate the comments, and where appropriate ban people from your site.

The potential pain of opening up reviews is tiny compared to the considerable gain.