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.