How ratings and reviews can drive online sales

8th Mar 2018

When was the last time you made a hotel reservation, or booked a table at a restaurant without checking the online reviews? In this blog, Mike Austin, CEO of Fresh Relevance explains how shopping habits have changed and the importance we now place on ratings and reviews.

Recent reports point to the fact that the vast majority of consumers choose to read online reviews (97%) and what's more, they trust them as much as recommendations from personal contacts (88%). Product ratings are now an intrinsic part of our purchas decision-making process and whilst many retailers have embraced them, their true potential to increase sales across channels has not been realised.

The idea that people look to others that are similar to themselves when making decisions isn’t new. In the world of psychology, it is referred to as Social Proof, a term widely attributed to Dr Robert Ciadini, whose book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ was first published in 1984. Coincidently, this was also the year in which the Internet was born.

Yet, you need to roll forward to 2005-07 (the launch of PowerReviews and Trustpilot) to see Social Proof really begin to take off in the world of e-commerce and subsequently transform how shoppers make more informed buying decisions. Today, there are a plethora of rating and review services at the disposal of retailers and customers, with some of the most prominent being Feefo, Reevoo and Bazaarvoice. Roughly 500,000 new reviews are posted using Trustpilot each month alone.

Whilst the vast majority of retailers and consumers are sold on the power of third-party endorsement, many brands are still not using them in marketing to their full advantage. Reviews have been effectively used on websites for a while now, giving shoppers a sense of safety and reliability and lifting average revenue per visit by 65% and conversions on product pages by 52%.

The power of including ratings and reviews in your emails

In email marketing however, this powerful technique hasn’t been widely adopted yet as displaying real-time content from third-party review platforms used to require hard coding. The good news is that things are changing fast with the launch of new integrations and the subsequent, rapidly growing adoption in emails. So how can you use Social Proof to take your email conversion rates to the next level?

A well-timed, personalised cart or browse abandonment email is a tried, tested and proven marketing technique, often recovering significant and otherwise lost revenue opportunities. Now, add in the latest 5-star reviews and comments about the carted or viewed products, such as ‘Great quality’, ‘My husband loved it!’, ‘Excellent value for money’, or ‘My friends all ask where I bought it’ and you instill confidence in the shopper to proceed through the checkout. Retailers report an impressive 40% uplift in sales compared to shopping recovery emails that don’t include reviews.

Ratings and reviews also help you be smarter and more targeted in your product recommendations. Leverage the wisdom of the crowds and only recommend highly rated products or lead with the most popular products based on average ratings and number of reviews.

It is also worth reiterating Cialdini’s observation about people looking to others that are similar to themselves. Ratings and reviews that are accompanied by the customer’s name, age and location as well as the date of the review can add further credence.

In the age of 1-to-1 personalisation, also consider targeting shoppers based on their customer lifecycle stage. For example, show potential first-time customers strong store reviews in your emails whereas loyal customers that already have a relationship with you will be more interested in product-specific messaging.

With the rise of UGC and real-time marketing, Social Proof has become a cost-effective tactic to acquire, grow and retain customers. Put simply, it helps customers make a purchase decision and feel confident about their choice. Whether it is on your website, mobile app, or email (and ideally all of them), the prominent display of up-to-date, genuine and unbiased ratings and reviews can make a big difference to your conversion rates and revenue.

Author: Mike Austin, CEO of Fresh Relevance


Mike Austin, Fresh Relevance

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