Retail websites can get a little closer to simulating in-person shopping (and the lower return rate that comes with it) through consumer-facing enhancements that build customer satisfaction.
There are many benefits to featuring reviews on your e-commerce site and they are essential to keeping the rate of return at a minimum. Robust reviews can help customers get a better sense of what to expect before making a purchase, build their confidence in a selection, and ensure they're getting what they want.
What's in a Helpful Review?
Amazon is arguably the gold standard for online reviews, and not without merit. In fact, Amazon's review system was analyzed to break down what makes a review helpful in a Temple University study. The researchers found that the type of product makes a big difference in what a customer looks for when making a purchasing decision. For products that offer an experience, like a DVD, specific details were not as crucial and subjective information was considered helpful in certain cases. For products that are for use, a blender, for example, product details and factual statements were deemed more helpful. The more authentic the voice of the review, the more trusted it was, meaning more moderate reviews that seemed to remain objective were trusted more than extreme reviews. Retailers can use this kind of information to segment their review forms and encourage the most helpful kinds of reviews based on the product.
Tips for Building and Using Reviews to Keep Customers Happy
Set up autoresponders to encourage consumer reviews -- Send an email after a set period of time inviting your customer to review the specific products from their purchase.
Rate the reviews -- Allow your customers to rate the reviews via helpfulness.Thumbs up or thumbs down are the simplest format.
Prioritize by helpfulness of reviews -- Help your customers sort through the good, the bad and the indifferent by adding a sorting option to the reviews. According to the Temple study, moderate reviews are the most helpful kind for use products.
Provide incentives -- Things like gift cards, sweepstakes and coupons can help build the volume of reviews available on your site.
Photos and videos -- Make it easy for your customers to post photos and videos of them wearing your clothes or demonstrating how they use your product.
Product in use -- Encourage customers to provide in-depth explanations of how they use your products. Reviews that offer product specs and from-the-field reports are very helpful, particularly for online retail. They can also offer a timing aspect that a consumer wouldn't get, regardless of whether they purchased it online or off. For example, if you have an automated system that prompts customers to review their recent purchases, schedule a second prompt a year later if durability is an important aspect to what you're selling.
Add specifics for your users -- Home Depot reviews, for example, offer a rating system for skills required on a project (easy to difficult) that lets customers know what they're getting into, and the system prompts reviewers to comment on the ease of installation when filling in a review.
Make reviews searchable by reviewer, as well as similarities to your customer -- Modcloth, the online-only women's clothing retailer, allows customers to search for reviewers with similar measurements to them, which can help a potential buyer envision how something might fit them.
Overall, choose partners or tools that allow you to easily curate the feedback you receive and share quality feedback to all levels of the organization, including the C-suite and product/design. Handled well, reviews can give your site a boost in conversion rates and customer satisfaction.