The next generation of product reviews will “look” very different

September 8, 2015 by Jim Davidson

… And we mean LOOK different.

Consider:

  • 90% of reviews come in response to emails
  • >60% of emails are opened on phones
  • Phones are bad for long text (like reviews)
  • Phones are great for photos!

The implications are clear:

  • Your strategy for collecting customer reviews needs to work on phones
  • On phones, the strategy should be “visual first.”

Individual-Chicken-Pot-Pie-02-300x200So what is a visual review?  It’s a photo (or video) submitted by a customer in response to a request for a review – the proverbial picture that is worth a thousand words.  Instead of text stating, “With my new cookware, I was finally able to perfectly brown the crust of my famous chicken-pot-pie,” it is a photo of that perfect chicken-pot-pie.

Instead of text stating, “The shirt fit perfectly, with no extra blousing around my waist,” it is a selfie of the customer looking great in her new shirt.

Instead of text stating, “The fabric on the sofa was gorgeous, but the cushions were way too saggy,” it is a photo of the sofa with its gorgeous fabric and saggy cushions.

Far from being yet another “gotta-keep-up-with-changing-platforms chore,” the shift to visual content that the rise of smart phones demands creates a huge opportunity.  Simply put, visual content converts better.  Few shoppers have the patience to read the full body of customer reviews, and those that read any rarely go past the first couple of entries.  So while having lots of reviews is valuable for signaling that an item is popular, most of the text you are collecting has little impact on conversion.  On the other hand, shoppers can scan an image gallery in a blink and come away with a powerful, visceral sense of the appeal of a product.

This is not to say that you should abandon collecting text reviews; there is plenty of information in text reviews that images can’t convey.  If a customer is on a desktop when they get your request to write a review, you should lead with the request for a standard text review (with an option to attach an image).  But when the customer is on a mobile device, don’t try to force a round peg into a square hole by asking for text.  Instead, ask the customer to do what comes more naturally on these devices and submit an image.

The applications are broad and go way beyond selfies. Image subjects can vary such as:

  • Things made with the product (cooking, crafts, do-it-yourself projects)
  • The product in use (home furnishings, hobby items)
  • Unboxing and explainers (electronics, fashion)
  • Travel (Hotel rooms, attractions)
  • And yes, selfies (fashion, beauty, sporting goods)

Visual reviews are a great complement to imagery you can gather from social media sites, if you’ve taken that approach.  But visual reviews also have some important advantages over social media harvesting and may be all the visual content collection you need:

  • Images are automatically connected to the relevant SKU (saving a lot of work)
  • Usage rights are automatically acquired
  • You can collect a lot more images, since there is a big portion of your customer base that is happy to write a review but isn’t going to post your product to their Instagram page.
  • The image collection is continuous; there’s no need for special hashtag campaigns

So as we said, the next generation of product reviews is going to look very different.