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User reviews are a well proven sales tool; there are plenty of surveys that show how important they are to customers when making a purchase decision, but what is the best way to help customers make sense of reviews?

Amazon uses the 'was this review helpful?' option to great effect, which helped users to make sense of large numbers of reviews and, according to Jared Spool, added $2.7bn to the online retail giant's bottom line.

When retailers get to a certain number of reviews on product pages (perhaps 15-20) some organisation is required to make them more meaningful to other shoppers, so how are other e-tailers handling this?

One great example I found recently is Kiddicare.com, which uses Power Reviews. I wrote about the company recently, as it has introduced a cash payment / voucher system to enable more customers to shop on the site.

I went back to the site while out shopping for a travel cot to get some reviews on one I was close to buying, and was impressed both by the sheer number on offer, and the way they were organised to make them a more useful resource.

When you search in any product category, one thing Kiddicare does effectively is filtered navigation, and especially the option to filter by customer rating:

Kiddicare filter by user rating

This is especially useful when applied to baby products; reading the opinions of other parents who have tested the products out can give you that extra confidence you need when buying a particular cot or pram.

The filters allow you to select by user rating, and displays the number of products matching that rating, meaning you can go straight to the most recommended products, though I wonder who would buy a product for their children that has been given low ratings, so this will adversely affect sales of such items. 

You can also move your cursor over an item in a list of products to get a snapshot summary of the reviews, which gives you average rating and some keywords that customers have used to describe the product:

review summary

Sensibly, Kiddicare asks the same 'was this review helpful?' question, allowing other users to vote up useful reviews and bury timewasters. It allows you to sort through lists of reviews and sort by newest/oldest reviews, ratings score, as well as how helpful other customers found it.

In this example for a travel cot, there are 151 customer reviews, so these kind of sorting options are essential, otherwise it is just a huge list that few will want to trawl through.

I like the listing of pros and cons, best uses, as well as the description of the reviewer (grandparent, first time parent etc) which offers a quick summary for people without having to read through the reviews. 

In this case, words like 'sturdy' and 'comfortable' in the pros are reassuring when thinking about buying a particular cot, while the fact that the number of mentions of each keyword is listed provides extra useful information. In this example, we can see that the pros outweigh the cons, which presents a convincing case for the product.

As with companies like Reevoo, the user ratings on the site are verified, so that only customers who have actually bought the product can leave reviews: this adds an extra level of authenticity and trust for the shopper.

While not all websites have managed to gather this many products reviews, those that have can learn from the way that Kiddicare has sorted them to make them meaningful, has integrated them into the site's filtered navigation, as well as making them trustworthy by verifying the reviewer.

This seems to be a very good example of how reviews should be sorted and presented; if you have any other good examples or suggestions, let me know below...

UPDATE: I came across this article from Silicon.com after publishing the post, which suggests that, since integrating the reviews into the navigation, sales have increased by 55%, with 80% of this business from new customers.

Graham Charlton

Published 6 May, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Great post Graham. User ratings and reviews are one of the areas that I talk about in my e-commerce best practice training course for your good selves, and as you point out they can be really powerful as a persuasion element in the buying process.

In addition to integrating ratings into the attribute filtering of products/content, I particularly like how www.booking.com in particular provide a deeper level of filtering, which is to allow users to filter the reviews by 'type/circumstance' of reviewers, such as 'young couples', 'solo travellers' and 'mature couples'.

This allows users to become even clearer on whether, in the case of a hotel, it is likely that it will suit their particular needs.

In comparison to www.booking.com, www.hotels.com also provide guest reviews but don't provide this added degree of filtering, something which I am sure they could look at implementing to provide this enhanced level of relevancy and control for users.

As you rightly point out not all retailers (and I would add in travel/holiday sites into this) have the luxury of having many reviews submitted, but for those that do, my recommendation would be to provide as many useful filtering choices as possible to ensure visitors can make really informed decisions. The benefits of filtered navigation should never be underestimated for retailers who have many products, and that are wanting to give their visitors the tools to find what they they want quickly and intuitively.

In addition to this added level of filtering, what www.booking.com also provide is a breakdown of ratings by specific areas that potential guests will look at in helping making their decision. These include staff, services, cleanliness and value for money.

Speaking from both a customer experience POV and from being a regular customer of www.booking.com, all the above features are a crucial part of helping me choose which hotel will suit my needs each time!

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Paul,

Booking.com is a great example, some excellent detail in those reviews, and there are enough of them to make it meaningful. Do you know if they used a reviews provider?

over 7 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Taking a punt, I suspect that www.booking.com have developed their own rating and review engine and refined it over the years, most probably based on user testing and the like.

I could be wrong though!

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Looks that way, I can't see any logos from Reevoo / Power Reviews etc. A great piece of work then...

over 7 years ago

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Anonymous

Would be nice to read the article, but the thumbnails from the Twitter column have wrapped round to obscure the text. Do you test on ie6? May not be the most upto date version but it's what my company still uses as the default browser.

over 7 years ago

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Himanshu Shah

Graham-

Thank you for this post! Very insightful information. I work in Business Development at Wize.com and our business is centered around analysis of content around the Web (currently focued on reviews). The Wize experience is about consumers' intentions / needs and equipping them with unbiased, relevant information to make the best purchase decisions. Here's an example of a product page on Wize.com where a user can not only see the best uses, features and attributes of the product, but also drill down into the review where those things were mentioned: http://wize.com/strollers/p47106-bob-trailer-revolution-jogger#t=966

We've also recently launched a new search feature that allows our users to search through all review content to bring out the most relevant information for their queries. In reference to an example you mentioned in the article, you can search for "Comfortable" and "Sturdy" across all reviews and find very relevant results: http://wize.com/reviews/sturdy_comfortable_stroller

Would love to chat more and appreciate any feedback you might have.

-Himanshu Shah

hshah@wize.com

over 7 years ago

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Internet Business Review

about 7 years ago

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Michelle Boudreau

about 7 years ago

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