Ratings and reviews on eCommerce websites are popular with online shoppers. Ratings help shoppers quickly narrow products, and reviews help shoppers build confidence in their choice. Together they increase a shopper’s likelihood of purchasing.
But when do ratings and reviews hurt the shopping experience? Should retailers ever consider removing ratings and reviews from their eCommerce site?
The impact of ratings and reviews on conversion rates will vary based on how you use them. Here are three challenges and best practices that should make you reconsider how you deploy ratings and reviews on your eCommerce site.
1. Not enough reviews
I have been a loyal Banana Republic non-iron dress shirt customer for 15 years. If I never see a dry cleaner again, it will be too soon. But this year I broke that pattern, and switched to Lands’ End to repair the moth holes in my wardrobe.
Why did I change brands? Ratings and reviews.
Banana Republic has ratings enabled on every page. But for many products, they have less than 5 reviews. Do people not like these shirts? Is BR removing the bad reviews? Several years ago BR changed their non-iron formula, and I became the owner of several perpetually wrinkled shirts. So I no longer place an order without reading ample reviews online.
The lack of reviews caused me to branch out. I visited Lands’ End’s website, and the first shirt I viewed had 4.2 stars with 315 reviews. Now THAT is a well vetted shirt I can get into. As a result, I’m now 3 months into a new brand relationship.
Best practice: Invest in the building review content, not just using the technology.
If you don’t have enough reviews to support a shopper’s decision, they will leave for a retailer who does. Make sure you invest in shopper incentives and processes that will build out your review content so that it’s truly an effective shopping tool.
2. The right reviews are hard to find
Last month I decided to buy my wife a backpack for her birthday. But I had no idea what to pick for a female commuter who rides the bus every day, packs a laptop, and carries a long history of disappointment in her husband’s gifts. I needed help.
I visited several outdoors equipment retail websites, thinking that retailers would have the best reviews and prices. Every site had a strong number of reviews, which was great. But I couldn’t see which reviews were written by females with similar needs.
After much searching, I found that a manufacturer (The North Face) was prepared to alleviate my frustration. I wasn’t forced to page through pages of reviews looking for female authors (Is “Riley” a boy’s name or girl’s name? I don’t know). Instead, The North Face’s eCommerce site allowed me to filter the reviews based on pros, cons, best users, and the type of reviewer. I could see exactly what other female commuters purchased and rated highly. Done and done.
Best practice: Don’t make reviews hard for your shoppers.
There is gold in those reviews – don’t make your shoppers pan for it. Pull out key attributes (“good for work”) and allow shoppers to filter your reviews quickly. It’s in your best interest – the more reviews they can read from similar shoppers, the more confident they become in their decision, and the more likely they are to make an eCommerce purchase.
3. Reviews slow down the eCommerce website
Ratings and reviews are typically delivered to the shopper’s browser by a 3rd party vendor. These vendors host the review content on their servers and deliver it to the shopper’s browser. You can find a complete list of ratings and review vendors in the 2018 eCommerce 3rd Party Technology Index.
Unfortunately, sometimes problems arise with this model. Over a dozen round-trip requests are required between the vendor’s servers and the shopper’s browser in order to load all the review content. If any of these requests get held up, it can delay the shopper’s page from loading.
Reviews are one of the biggest sources of eCommerce website delays. According to the 2018 eCommerce 3rd Party Technology Index, ratings and reviews are the 5th biggest offender for creating performance problems on retail websites. In fact, the reviews vendors used on more than 45% of eCommerce websites (Bazaar Voice, Power Reviews, Turnto) demonstrate a “consistent negative performance impact.”
Best practice: Manage and control your eCommerce ratings and reviews performance
Research shows that shoppers won’t wait more than 3 seconds to read ratings and reviews. In fact, eBags reported that conversion rates drop 7% for every additional second a shopper waits for a page to load.
But that doesn’t mean you should remove them from your eCommerce site. Ratings and reviews are far too valuable to the shopping experience. Instead, look into eCommerce acceleration technology that can help you monitor, sequence, and bypass ratings and reviews code when problems arise.
Embrace eCommerce Ratings and Reviews
Despite their issues, ratings and reviews do increase conversion rates. They have revolutionized the process of seeking product advice, making it easier for shoppers to make decisions. I’ve definitely changed my purchase decisions based on the product reviews on a retailer’s website.
If eCommerce ratings and reviews are causing headaches for your performance team, start the year by deploying eCommerce acceleration technology. This technology layer will eliminate page load delays caused by any 3rd party features (like ratings and reviews). As a result, your eCommerce team can stay focused on improving your reviews implementation (e.g. more content, easier to find), rather than preparing for the next performance catastrophe.
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