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The Downside Of eCommerce Reviews

Preface:

Reviews are one of the most important aspects of selling a product online. They can make or break a product listing and are trusted by most potential customers. However if you have ever sold an item on the internet you know the truth, reviews suck!

Fake Reviews:

Although not as common now as a few years ago, fake reviews are still a problem on the internet. Major marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart have been cracking down on fake reviews, but they cannot stop 100% of these reviews. Many products that existed on Amazon and other sites before this crackdown still have some of these reviews that have not been removed. Many marketplaces including Amazon, also allow what is known as an unverified review. Unverified reviews do not require the person leaving the review to have purchased the item through that retailer. These reviews are often fake or untrustworthy as you cannot say for sure whether the reviewer owns the product or has used it before. 

Best Practice: Prioritize verified reviews over unverified ones. Look for reviews that include thoughtful language and insights and prioritize these reviews over more generic critics such as “good product”.

 

One And Done:

What is worse than a bad review? When it is the first review. Receiving a bad review early into the product life cycle especially at launch can greatly skew a product rating. If a good product is purchased by a fussy or difficult customer who leaves a one star review as the first review customers will most likely avoid the product. This product could be perfectly ok or possibly even a fantastic product, but due to a small sample size of reviews it can have a poor rating and be blacklisted from a potential customer’s consideration set. This can kill your product at launch if you are a seller, or make you miss out on something great if you are a buyer.

Best Practice: It is best to respond to and address any concerns as this can help to limit the impact of a single bad review as it shows a seller stands by his product. It is also important to inform all buyers of any warranties or guarantees you offer.  This can help alleviate some concerns for potential buyers. You can’t make the review go away, but you can instill confidence as a seller for your potential customers. 

Somethings You Just Can’t Control:

Many negative reviews mention things that are out of the control of the seller. As a seller I have gotten bad reviews for Amazon sending the wrong product through FBA, packages being stolen, an item not arriving in time for an event even though it was delivered in the promised window, etc. These are just some examples of the many ways outside forces can effect the reviews of an item. A package being taken from a porch should not affect a buyer’s opinion of a product, but sadly in many cases it does.

Best Practice: Like mentioned above, responding to critical reviews is a great way to show you are listening. It can greatly help to limit the effect of these negative reviews. Somethings you just can’t control, but it is important to limit those things. You can inspect items before they leave your facility, you can communicate with your buyers, and you can utilize tools such as signature required and insurance. These are just a few things you can do to exercise greater control over your products.

Selective Literacy:

The truth is that many customers do not read the full product description, view all of the provided photos, or check out all the product attributes. As a seller you can mention the size of an item two or three times yet still receive a one star review saying, “Too small.” You can photograph the number of prongs on an extension cord and mention it in the description and still get a review that says, “Not 3 Prong Beware!” On almost every listing on a marketplace you can find reviews like these.

Best Practice: Repetition, repetition, repetition. If there is an important product attribute or detail, you cannot mention it enough! There are ample places to emphasize this such as the title, bullet points, description, and possibly even a disclaimer. Same is true with photographs. If something is important don’t be afraid to dedicate an image or two to just that detail. There will always be selective readers, but the key is to maximize visibility to minimize buyer negligence.

Mistakes:

We have all seen the one star review with just the word “excellent.” It’s an oxymoron that most likely wasn’t intentional. With the small screens on cell phones it can be difficult to select the correct number of stars to go with the review. These reviews are surprisingly common and can skew the perception of products.

Best Practice: This is a great opportunity to comment back and let a customer know you are happy they enjoyed their purchase. Hopefully when they see you responded, they might just change their star rating to the correct one. This is the power of responding to all critical reviews especially mistakes. Amazon can’t change a review, but a review always can (please note this can happen in either direction)!

Extreme Points Of View:

Ever notice how your biggest fans and biggest critics always appear in the review section? Online reviews seem to be left by mostly two types of people. Those who had an extremely positive experience and those who had an extremely negative one. Lost in many review pages are the unbiased opinions of those in the middle. These reviews are crucial for customers to understand the pros and cons of the item they are purchasing, but sadly they are out numbered greatly by these strong opinions in either direction.

Best Practice: As a buyer, it is important when considering a product to read reviews of all different star rankings to get a holistic view of the product. It is crucial to weed through the static to find meaningful insights. As a seller, it’s important to view both extremes to understand what you are doing well, and what you need to improve on. 

Conclusion:

Reviews may suck, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be useful in making a purchasing decision. It is important to read reviews and assess them for their reliability when using them to make a purchasing decision. Don’t be afraid to look for different reviews at each star level to capture a more holistic view of product. You want to know both the pros and the cons of a product. I also would suggest that someone interested in reviews should focus on four and three star reviews, as I find that many of these are very informative and tend to be a bit lengthier. Reviews will always be present online, but it is up to consumers to be informed and judge each review for themselves.

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