Ratings and Reviews: Necessary Evil or Untapped Opportunity

Imagine, after hours of online shopping, you finally stumble upon the perfect pair of shoes to compliment that new summer outfit.  They are the right size, color, and they are even in stock.  What luck! But there is a problem, just before you add them to your cart and check out, you read the ratings and reviews.  Despite your initial enthusiasm, a rating of 3.5 stars has taken some wind out of your sails and you begin to second-guess your desire to purchase them, but why?

As a Researcher at User Insight, I see this behavior all too often during testing.  Star ratings and their accompanying reviews have significant influence over Users and their decision to complete a purchase. As a general rule of thumb, it is considered a best practice to avoid anything that may cause hesitation or confusion during the shopping and checkout process, and yet questionable ratings and reviews do just that.

So how do you turn this roadblock into a minor speed bump? To remove the ratings and reviews from your site will ultimately end in Users seeking them, and the products elsewhere.  The idea of selecting and controlling which reviews are visible will be met with a similar result. The key is to not only show the good ones, as people will distrust your reviews as a censored product.  I have also found that, different behavioral types will look at reviews in different ways.  Some look for a number while others look for the best and worst reviews to get the extremes.  In short, reviews are a necessary evil, but helping users find what they are looking for, they way they want to look for it will help to build trust with your site and your product.

Therefore, as the old adage says, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  Instead of fighting the reviews, embrace them.  Encourage your customers to post their reviews on your site.  By increasing the volume and transparency of the reviews, it allows your customers to have a much broader understanding of your products as well as a greater sense of confidence when it comes time to check out.

We have found that it also helps to give the different behavioral types options on how to leave a review.  For the heavy researchers that have pride in providing additional information to others, give them the ability to expand on their reviews and show off the research they have done.  For those that have a more difficult time expressing themselves, an easy and quick way to review such as a numbering system, pre-populated review statements or even being able to “like” someone else’s review allows them to participate without the burden of coming up with the words. If done properly, this approach will turn one of the main pain points in the shopping experience into one of the biggest draws for shopping on your site.