A version of this post originally ran on Multichannel Merchant.
A study we just completed shows that a new type of customer-generated content captured online at the point of purchase can solve the problem of low customer review volume.
“Be the first to write a review” is one of most negative messages retailers can show on their product pages. Research shows that much of the power of customer reviews is in the count, not just the rating. High counts indicate an item is popular, and popular items sell. Low or zero counts suggest an item is unpopular, which hurts sales. Ironically, many truly popular items have no reviews just when they are being most heavily promoted – when they are newly on sale – because of the lag before reviews start to arrive.
The pain is not confined to the product page. Most stores show ratings on discovery, list, and search pages. Items shown with no ratings are much less likely to attract shoppers, resulting in lost sales opportunities. A catalog with many “zero reviews” items may be worse than one that doesn’t use reviews at all.
One way around this conundrum is for retailers to capture a sort of micro-review at the moment of purchase (on the order confirmation page), rather than waiting weeks to ask for a traditional review by email. On the order confirmation page, a shopper can’t yet speak to her experience with the item, but she can answer a different question: “Why did you choose this?”
The answers to this question directly address purchase motivation, something that’s not usually covered in reviews and is particularly effective at helping shoppers make the decision to buy. For example, seeing that many people chose to give an item as a Mother’s Day gift will help others feel comfortable doing the same. Multiple comments that people bought an item for some particular attribute – smell, weight, comfort, style, performance… – call attention to the key features that drive purchase. And there’s no substitute for the customer’s own voice; like the comment on a set of woodworking clamps: “They are the extra hands we could all use.”
We recently ran a study looking at the rate at which these “Checkout Comments” build up. We found that overall, when that question is posed in a modal window on the order confirmation page, shoppers provide an answer on 10-15% of all orders. For most stores, that’s a rate 3-5 times higher than the rate at which they collect customer reviews. And for new items, the first comments start to arrive, on average, 10 days earlier than with traditional reviews.
Displaying this content on product pages, especially with a count near the top where the reviews count usually appears, provides powerful social validation that drives conversion. Showing these counts on navigation pages helps get shoppers to click through to more product pages, which also drives sales. And since the comments are collected at the moment of purchase, they tend to contain highly positive sentiment, which further increases conversion rates.
From our study, we’ve called out 4 examples to illustrate the differences in the rate of content build-up between Checkout Comments and customer reviews when items first go on sale and over time. We selected these items because they were among those that received the most, fastest reviews. These examples show that even compared to the most successful review collection efforts, Checkout Comments start coming in much sooner – usually on the first day a new item is available – and build up much faster.