Consumer product reviews are a proven sales driver, and are a must have for online retailers, and more and more have been adding reviews to their product pages recently.
It depends on which study you read, but up to 90% of online shoppers use reviews before buying, and they can cause an uplift in conversion rates.
Having the functionality that allows users to write reviews on your website is one thing, but you need to have enough of them on your product pages to make it a more useful resource for shoppers, so how can you persuade more people to review your products?
The GetElastic blog has some 'out of the box' ideas for acquiring more user reviews, such as offering incentives to reviewers, using packing inserts or providing in-store access points for customers to review products bought offline.
Some good tips here, but how else can e-tailors gather more reviews?
Use a reviews provider
Many retailers, including Comet, Tesco, Carphone Warehouse, and Argos use these companies to add reviews to their sites. This is a useful way to build up a body of reliable reviews for product pages which could otherwise take some time. Drawbacks include the fact that such reviews tell other potential customers nothing about buying from your site, while, especially for smaller retailers, it may be more cost effective to generate reviews.
Email customers after purchase
Sending an email after a customer has purchased an item to ask for a review is a good idea, but the timing is a key issue here. You need to give customers enough time to have received the product and had to chance to start using it and form an opinion, but it still needs to be sent when the purchase is fresh in the customer's mind.
Comet provides one example of how to do this, having followed up with an email around a week after I'd purchased an item from their site:
The incentive of winning an iPod is also a good idea, though this should perhaps be limited to people that have actually purchased a product to avoid people leaving random reviews just to enter a competition.
The execution was spoiled slightly by the fact that clicking on the link to write a review led me to a page on the site from which I had to search for the product to review, rather than sending me to the item I had just purchased. This means a little more hard work for customers and could lead some to give up on the idea.
If you're going to use emails, then a direct link to review the product a customer has just purchased can make the difference.
Ask for reviews on product pages
There are plenty of product pages that have yet to attract customer reviews, perhaps because the products are niche, or newly released, though plenty of Amazon users leave reviews for products that haven't even been released yet.
Adding a link to leave a review is vital, though making it more enticing by offering users the chance to be the first reviewer is a better way, as on the Borders website:
Make it as simple as possible
Some users may not have a lot to say about some products, or may not have the time or inclination to leave detailed reviews, so making the process simpler is one way of attracting more reviews.
Offering customers the option of leaving a quick rating out of five or ten is one way, and provides a useful summary to add to product pages, while another way to get a little more useful detail is to ask users to give different aspects of products a rating, as Reevoo does. This also provides some useful detail for shoppers to refer to:
Retailers should be cautious with this approach though, as while it makes it quicker and easier for customers to leave reviews; it also opens you up to fraudulent reviews or ratings from people who have never even used the product. This approach is perhaps best used only with customers that have actually bought an item from your website.
Whichever options retailers use to get more product reviews on websites, it is important to consider the quality of reviews on the site, and how reliable they will seem to new customers. So making it too easy for people to leave reviews is risky, and can reduce the overall usefulness of the content on product pages.