Reviews are a great way to increase your conversion rate but the reason we see them fail to have an impact is often down to execution.

The efficacy of reviews depends on the system design i.e. how the reviews are rated, the ease of rating, how they are displayed.

One reason people resort to reviews is to reduce risk and avoid post purchase regret.

This article looks at the contrast between a weak and strong review, and provides three simple questions you should ask to strengthen your product reviews and close more sales.

Design and context

According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey over 70% trust consumer opinions posted online (2011). But that doesn’t mean your reviews will automatically add credibility to your products or services. 

Example 1: A review for a product

A basic review on a product page may lift conversion but in the above example the execution is poor and it could be done so much better.

To improve your reviews ask yourself threee questions: 

  • Is it believable?
  • How does it help potential customers?
  • Does it remove any objections they may have about purchasing?

In our example it’s not very believable, it could have been written by a business marketing team, it offers a review but it doesn’t tell potential customers much about the experience. 

It can definitely be improved, here’s an example of a more convincing review.

Example 2: A better review for a product


Showing the overall product rating (aggregate score), allowing a feature for a customer to write a review and rate a review helps to improve its realism i.e. not generated by a business.

Display the name and location of the customer, for example people from Spain will relate better to the Spanish reviews. If you’re an international e-commerce site then show the happiness of those international customers to avoid any objections regarding overseas delivery.

Reviews can become predictors rather than influencers of a product sale, this happens when businesses post reviews to gain artificial praise. To overcome this, show a “Verified Purchase” for reviews from actual customers.

Amazon uses this on its reviews and this allows a customer to distinguish between a purchase from Amazon and other retailers.

Users relate to this as the average person can seem unbiased in comparison to a business marketing message. Utilising gamification principles to rank reviewers creates authority for a prospective customer.

For example “Top Reviewer” or ”Top Contributor” makes certain reviewers seem “expert” and more trustworthy.

Providing context

Acquire deeper feedback from customers that cover some of the objections potential customers could face.

In “Example 2 a better review” our review text states…

I am very happy with the Kids Yummy Dough, it arrived on time and installation was a piece of cake, my kids loved it.

We state the product involved, that it arrived on time and installation was easy and simple. By doing this we remove doubts over installation and delivery. When acquiring feedback directly from your customers ask them specific questions to get better quality feedback.

Coax them in the right direction to a) get better feedback b) provide areas for your business to improve.

Notice in Example 2 that the “Age” and “Gender” are revealed of the reviewer. Providing greater context can aid the purchasing decision.

Argos does this really well, they provide context and allow users to filter reviews by top rated reviews, lowest rated and by date. They also have a “recommend to a friend” rating with a percentage and according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey over 92% trust recommendations from people they know (2011).

If we implement the above points on design and context into our reviews and ask those same questions from before we get…

  • Is it believable? Yes, it’s a verified purchase. 
  • How does it help potential customers? There’s a rating of how good it is, context on the person that wrote it (age / gender), and a more informative review.
  • Does it remove any objections they may have about the product? Yes, the product arrived on time (delivery must be good) and installing the product seems easy.

Reviews act as popularity signals and the stronger the reviews for a product the more likely a user will buy one with the strongest reviews.

Strongest doesn’t always mean quantity, it can also refer to the quality of it as social proof. The design and layout can determine whether it’s believable or not and the context can really remove any doubts a customer has about purchasing. 

The better the product is socially, the more it represents a social cue and following the social cue reduces perceived risk for customers i.e. it creates a herding behaviour which is always great for sales.