Online Customer Reviews Are Important: Read Why and How

Enabling reviews on your web site can be an important tool towards helping customers shop, shop more and shop confidently.
andychen.jpgAndy Chen, CEO and Founder of PowerReviews shares his insight about reviews on web sites.
Explain how customer reviews work? I suppose that for each product a company sells, customers can rank it and talk about it? Like a customized epinions or something?
powerreviews_logo.gifIn a nutshell, PowerReviews provides a white-label Customer Reviews solution (in addition to Q&A and SEO) to retailers and brands to enable their customers to read and write reviews, including a star-rating, comments, pros, cons, uses, images, videos) on their website….just like you can do on Amazon or Epinions. The difference is that we have a tag-based review system that produces a much more relevant and rich review, that is more valuable to the shopping process.
How important are customer reviews vs having a good product description, good photographs and other features?
I’d say that the customer reviews are *almost* as important as good descriptions / product images. The first need, of course, is to know WHAT you are buying (description, images help), the next need is to know IF it’s a good purchase and will suit your needs (reviews fill this need). Both are essential to the shopping process.
Here are some stats that demonstrate the ESSENTIAL nature of customer reviews:

  • Nearly 9 of 10 US online buyers read customer reviews at least “Some of the Time” before making a purchase9
  • Reviews were the most-desired web functions for US Internet users questions in the third quarter of 200710
  • More than one-half of those US online shoppers surveyed, read user reviews as part of their product research11
  • Customer satisfaction was 11% higher among visitors who said they had seen customer reviews on a site12
  • 70% of online shoppers actively seek out customer reviews before they buy13

What about negative customer reviews. Should they be allowed?
Absolutely. First of all, the majority of reviews are positive, so it’s not a major issue (~87% or 4 or 5 star, average rating is 4.2 stars). Secondly, we have done repeated studies that clearly show that customer LOSE TRUST in reviews if they are all positive, and believe that the negative reviews are being filtered. This results in a lower conversion rate, because shoppers will leave the site to find unbiased reviews elsewhere. Lastly, negative reviews are not always bad…most of the time, they point out specific use cases that actually help the shopper figure out the RIGHT PRODUCT.
What are the technical steps to implementing reviews? I assume there is the ecommerce database of products and somehow Power Reviews integrates with it?
For our PowerReviews Express, the implementation is dead-simple. We have had clients launch within 30 minutes of signing up. The effort required is comparable to adding Google Adsense to your site….set some configurations on our dashboard, design a template and drop some Javascript onto your site. We work with the retailers’ existing assets of have created partnerships to minimize the effort/integration. For product feeds, we use the Google base or Affiliate feeds, and for email integration, we provide an integrated wizard with Vertical Reponse, and the content hosting is provided by Akamai.

I assume all customized review sites are not the same? How does one select the review software/service that’s best for their site.
PowerReviews provides a best-of-breed solution that is ideally suited for most retailers and brands. We work with over 800 retailers and are live on over 3500 websites across 2600 categories…these clients range from Staples ($4B in online sales, to Alpaca Direct, which is a relatively new ecommerce site). However, we primarily focus on text reviews for shopping, so if you are a site that is more interested in Video reviews, or only want “testimonials”, there are other solutions… My advice is to start with your customer needs to figure out what is most important and look at what your competitors are doing.
What are the costs one can expect to pay? How are the review services priced?
PowerReviews provides a wide range of options from our PowerReviews Express package that starts at $35/mo to our Enterprise solutions that scale based on your volume/activity. There are competitive services that are cheaper or are much more expensive (with some of paying $20-$100 PER REVIEW), but we believe that we offer the greatest value across all sizes of clients.
What is your guidance for a business owner decided the ROI in investing in a review service?
The ROI of a review service is dependent on your ability to collect reviews. So, my first advice is NOT to consider reviews if you are not committed to aggressively soliciting reviews from your customers. That being said, with good review coverage retailers should expect a minimum of a 10% increase in conversion rates.
Retailers can generate many mulitples of this by leveraging the review content into your marketing (emails, ad copy, promotions) and merchandising (top-rated pages, sort by top-rated, social navigation, etc)
Assuming one has a well designed ecommerce web site, what are the top 3 “features” you would suggest they have – other than a customer review section.
– Advanced imaging (like Scene 7) would be a top suggestion. Even on our site,, the images are hugely popular. The bigger and more images, the better.
– Cross-sell/Upsell like MyBuys, Certona to make sure that customers can easily discover new products if the current one is not quite right. “customers who liked this product also liked…”
– A really good search engine (Endeca, SLI-Sytems, Mercado, etc). Most customer search and have very little patience for slow or inaccurate results, so this is a critical investment.
– My 4th is Analytics (Google or Omniture) that allows you to do FREQUENT and INSIGHTFUL segmentation and A/B testing.
What’s your top 3 favorite web sites, offering reviews.
– Zappos has been operating their own reviews for many years…they really shine in helping select the right SIZE. is newer, but has a very nice display and also addresses the size issues well.
– They have a very integrated review experience. Every review is tagged with the the “level of expertise”, so you know who is giving the advice. Every review is an REI Member, so you can trust them. And you can shop by top-rated products throughout.
–, which we operate. Buzzillions has over 5.5M reviews aggregated from over 3500 websites…this allows shoppers to find reviews and recommendations on just about any product they are thinking about buying.
– TripAdvisor is a great site as well. They combine traveler reviews with a forum/discussion board really nicely.