Customer Product Reviews Becoming Powerful Marketing Tool

In my earlier blog post today, I mentioned that more online retailers are improving their customer ratings and review pages in time for the holiday season. The data came from the BigResearch survey carried out for Shop​.org. Several other studies published this year are pointing to the growing importance of consumer feedback.

e‑tailing group and PowerReviews updated their Social Shopping study with new findings on this topic. Their data shows that the percentage of consumers using online research for purchases dropped slightly, from 54% (in 2007) to 50% (in 2010). But when consumers use research such as reviews, they are spending more time engaged with the information. These days, 64% of shoppers read reviews for 10 minutes. That number was 50% in 2007. And 33% of shoppers read reviews for about half an hour – in 2007, only 18% of shoppers did so.  Despite the obvious interest in product reviews, shoppers do not necessarily allow the opinions of others to completely sway them. The information is just one of many sources shoppers use before making their purchase decision.

And some consumers are leery of reviews for the following reasons:

  • Not enough reviews posted 50%
  • Doubt reviews are written by customers 39%
  • Few negative reviews 38%

The e‑tailing study also revealed that nearly 50% of shoppers who left a site without buying did so because of a lack of customer reviews. A similar study on this topic, from ChannelAdvisor, found that 46% of Internet users who read product reviews were influenced to purchase while 43% for deterred from purchasing.

What do all of these numbers mean for an online retailer? Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer principal analyst cautions, ”while customer reviews are important to shoppers, merchants should not over-​rely on them for marketing.” This point is especially important for small business owners to consider. It’s one thing for mega-​retailer Amazon to accumulate a sufficient number of consumer reviews on a specific product and rely on that data as a marketing tool to influence additional purchases.  A smaller retailer may not being able to generate sufficient numbers of consumer reviews for a particular product and might then need to purchase reviews from a third-​party vendor, thus driving up costs. The competitive edge an online retailer gains from providing product reviews is still difficult to quantify but appears to be growing in importance.
[Sources: 2010 Social Shopping Study Reveals Changes in Consumers’ Online Shopping Habits and Usage of Customer Reviews. E‑ 3 May.2010. Web. 4 Nov. 2010; The Role of Customer Product Reviews. eMarketer​.com. 2 Nov. 2010. Web. 8 Nov. 2010] 

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.