David Wain-Heapy is a Director at Best Response Media. They provide innovative Magento eCommerce and digital marketing solutions from their offices in Central London.
As eCommerce grows increasingly competitive, the pressure on website managers to attract and hold onto customers is intensifying. Online shoppers are becoming more savvy when making a purchase and they will look at more than just price when making a purchase decision. A survey found that 66% of consumers will pay more to shop with a company that provides excellent customer service.
There are many components of online customer service that a business can focus on to differentiate themselves from the competition. Having excellent delivery options is a good example and collecting and displaying website reviews is one of the most important and effective ways to attract and retain customers.
Why Marketers Should Leverage Reviews as Social Proof
Reviews are an essential component of a successful digital marketing strategy as they provide social proof. In 1984, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini wrote a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion that has become a cult classic in the marketing field. Cialdini covered the topic of social proof, which essentially states that people like safety in numbers. If they can see that a product is being purchased and trusted (or not) by others, this helps to inform their purchase decision.
We can see that this principle still holds true as a Bright Local survey found that 84% of consumers trust reviews just as much a personal recommendations. The same survey discovered that most people will read up to ten reviews before making a purchase decision and, even more compelling, over 54% of respondents will visit a website after reading positive reviews. This is a huge rate in the marketing industry that obsesses over single-digit conversion rate. Finally, a MarketingProfs study found that 85% of consumers will only make a purchase after reading online reviews.
It seems like reviews are becoming a necessity for any eCommerce business if they hope to succeed. However, businesses have a variety of options when it comes to a review acquisition strategy.
Native Reviews in eCommerce platforms - why they’re not a viable option
As we have seen, there is a lot of evidence that confirms the importance of reviews in relation to a website’s conversion rate. With that in mind, all business owners should have a review acquisition strategy. Most major ecommerce platforms such as Magento have native review functionality as an built-in option. This is often an appealing option to store owners as they have full control over the review process including the ability to create and edit reviews.
However, Cialdini’s social proof model only works if consumers are able to trust the source of the social proof. The problem with native reviews is that they have been traditionally abused by unscrupulous business owners. This abuse normally manifests itself in the form of editing bad reviews, removing them altogether, and/or creating fake reviews.
This behaviour is very transparent for consumers as it does not feel natural and might even negatively impact the business. If they have all been written by a small number of internal staff, it will be clearly visible and this can damage the trust and reputation of the business. As long as a company is able to maintain a high positive average, negative reviews provide a realistic balance.
How Third-Party Review Platform Provides Authentic Social Proof
Third-party review platforms such as Trustpilot are recognised and trusted by consumers due to their proliferation on websites across the internet. They have a distinctive logo and branding that sits with the reviews, which makes them more recognisable. Because they can’t be edited or modified, they present themselves in a much more natural way than native review platforms. Even Amazon have had to go to great lengths to enhance the trustworthiness of their reviews with the inclusion of “verified purchase” badge to confirm reviews that were left by people that made a purchase rather than received a free sample.
By implementing a third-party review platform, retailers will be forced to raise the standards of their customer service to ensure that they don’t receive any negative feedback related to things within their control. This benefits both the consumer and the business, as the consumer receives a better experience and future consumers will leave more positive reviews.
There are still many retailers that are harming their conversion rate by only using native reviews or not even collecting reviews at all. This leaves an opportunity for those retailers willing to invest in a review platform to significantly improve their conversion rate. Those retailers nervous to cede control of the review collection to a third-party should take the opportunity to ask themselves why? If you are delivering an excellent service and keeping your customers happy then there should be nothing to worry about. Reviews benefit excellent companies and all companies should be aspiring to excellence.