For Business

Turn customer reviews into sales

Tap the power of authentic customer reviews to boost shopper trust and drive conversions.

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In the world of ecommerce and digital marketing, there’s no shortage of statistics and studies that compete for our attention, purporting to carry essential insights or a direct impact on the bottom line. It can be difficult to sift through the noise. But in the case of online product reviews, the vast body of evidence-based research sends a crystal-clear signal: authentic customer reviews drive sales, and online stores that don’t display them lose sales.

According to a benchmark 2023 survey from PowerReviews, 98% of surveyed consumers say reviews are their essential resource for making purchase decisions. That’s nearly everyone.

What’s more, PowerReviews discovered that consumers consider ratings and reviews just as important as price (94% vs 93%, respectively). And according to research from BrightLocal, 91% of 18- to 34-year-olds trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. In the battle for conversions in an era of pervasive cart abandonment, there may be no single marketing tool more impactful.

How much do consumers rely on online reviews?

The numbers are stark: nearly half of all consumers won’t purchase a product if there are no reviews available for it, according to PowerReviews’ 2023 survey data. And as its 2022 study of 8.8 million product pages found, 61% of product pages still don’t have reviews displayed—the ecommerce equivalent of tying one arm behind your back. The same PowerReviews study showed that product pages with reviews receive an average of 12% more page visits.

But where online reviews prove even more important is in driving conversions. Recent research from Northwestern University’s Medill Spiegel Research Center analyzing millions of online retail customer experiences suggests that as product pages begin to display reviews, conversion rates escalate rapidly.

Compared to the purchase likelihood of a product with no reviews, the purchase likelihood for a product with just five reviews is 270% greater, according to the research. For higher-priced products, the conversion can increase by as much as 380%.

Now that we’ve established the importance of reviews in general, let’s dig deeper into the details.

Reviews, top questions answered

1. Why are online reviews important?

The data is loud and clear that reviews are important. But even more so, authentic reviews are important—even when they’re negative. PowerReviews research shows that 82% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews. One recent scientific study from Frontiers in Psychology showed that online shoppers’ attention to negative comments was significantly greater than that to positive comments. Consumers are generally skeptical of universally glowing reviews. This means that displaying authentic, independent feedback on your site, including the negative, can help build credibility and trust with shoppers.

Other studies suggest that as counterintuitive as it seems, perfect five-star ratings can undermine credibility: Five stars are often considered “too good to be true.”

“Across product categories, we found that purchase likelihood typically peaks at ratings in the 4.0–4.7 range, and then begins to decrease as ratings approach 5.0,” reports Medill Spiegel researchers. “Put differently, products with an average star rating in the 4.7–5.0 range are less likely to be purchased than those in the 4.2–4.7 range.”

Of course, it also matters when a site, brand, or product has too many negative reviews. According to data from ReviewTrackers, 94% of surveyed consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business. On the whole, customers don’t trust companies with lower than four-star ratings, and the most common filter that consumers apply is to see four-star ratings or higher.

But don’t get discouraged by negative reviews, even the very best products receive those. Rather than attempting to delete them from your site, monitor and respond to them. Your response can turn a negative into a net positive for your brand. Engaging with criticism can help you not only improve your products or services, but also boost your overall shopping experience.

Research shows that the consumers’ perceptions of a business changes based on how that business responds to a review. According to ReviewTrackers’ data, 53% of customers expect companies to respond to negative feedback within one week, and 45% are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.

2. How many reviews is good for business?

Power Reviews research shows that 45% of consumers say they simply “won’t buy” a product with zero reviews, while a daunting 80% say they’reless likely to buy” a product with no reviews. Broken down by shopper generation, and that number climbs to 86% for Millennials and 90% for Gen Z shoppers.

According to PowerReviews’ analysis of activity across more than 1.5 million ecommerce product pages, when visitors see at least one review, there’s a 76.7% lift in conversion compared to seeing no reviews. But exactly how many reviews do you need before the law of diminishing returns takes effect?

While review quantity does have an impact—shoppers pay attention to the number of reviews a given product has—total volume isn’t nearly as critical as the difference between zero reviews and any amount of reviews greater than zero.

To be clear, a particularly high volume of reviews can have a positive impact on a shopper’s likelihood of making a purchase. For example, 54% of those surveyed say they are more likely to buy a product if it has 10,000+ reviews than if it has 1,000, and 64% are more likely to buy if the product has 1,000+ reviews compared to 100.

But the number that really matters, according to Medill Spiegel’s study, is five. While more reviews are always merrier, the initial five reviews for a product have the biggest conversion impact.

“We found that nearly all of the increase in purchase likelihood occurs within the first 10 reviews, and the first five reviews drive the bulk of this increase,” the study’s authors write. “Five reviews causes purchase likelihood to increase by a factor of nearly four times. For both low- and high-priced products, the marginal value of additional reviews rapidly decreases. Higher-priced items need at least five reviews to see the greatest conversion impact, whereas lower-priced items only need 2–4 reviews to see a significant impact.”

Medill Spiegel researchers recommend focusing on collecting a baseline of at least five reviews for each product, particularly for more expensive items.

3. Which products’ reviews should you prioritize?

Reviews are even more important for high-priced and unknown products. The higher the price or level of consideration for an item (think products related to health and safety or personal identity), the greater the reliance on reviews—and the more significant the impact of those reviews on purchase likelihood.

According to PowerReviews, 78% of surveyed consumers say the more expensive the product, the more they read reviews.

Benefits of reviews beyond conversion

The power of reviews isn’t just in helping you boost conversion. Reviews can help you grow, improve your shopping experience, and continuously improve your products and services.

1. Boost brand visibility and SEO

Displaying reviews on your product pages can help boost brand visibility and search engine optimization (SEO).

In addition to marketplaces and social media platforms, most shoppers use search engines to make their purchasing decisions. Search engine algorithms value new and original content. Featuring reviews on your product pages is an easy way to introduce fresh, relevant, user-generated content that search engines hunger for. And for ranking on search engines like Google, embedded reviews are increasingly essential.

2. Build trust

Do customers trust online reviews? The experts give a resounding “Yes!” According to a recent survey by Emplifi, 87% of respondents point to real-life customer reviews and ratings as having a greater impact on their purchasing decisions than influencer or celebrity reviews (at 50%).

Reviews from verified buyers are even more powerful.

Medill Spiegel’s report found that purchase likelihood increases by 15% when shoppers are exposed to reviews written by verified customers compared to anonymous reviewers. Displaying reviews written by verified customers, identified by a “verified buyer badge,” has an impact on sales. The badge shows that a reviewer is a trustworthy, real customer with direct experience using a product, and who likely wasn’t paid to write a review.

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“Because verified buyers typically provide more positive reviews than anonymous reviewers, having more reviews from verified buyers provides the dual benefit of higher ratings and increased credibility,” the report’s authors note.

Medill Spiegel recommends offering verified buyer badges and encouraging reviews from customers with post-purchase emails, with research showing that 80% of reviews originate from follow-up emails requesting shoppers to review their purchases. Product sampling and other incentives can also be an effective way to generate reviews.

3. Attract shoppers and enhance their experience

These days, nearly all shoppers look for social proof of quality, and they tend to consider customer-generated product reviews more trustworthy than merchant-provided content. But one specific consumer archetype, the Quality shopper, relies on online reviews more than any other type. These shoppers are driven to find high-quality products that last, and they thoroughly research and consider their options before purchasing.

“When it comes to pictures and videos of a product, quality shoppers look to the actual people who purchased the item,” notes UX Research Principal Reece Dano. “They want to learn about a product from folks like themselves. We’ve seen that customer-generated content placed in product reviews is 12 times more trustworthy than anything a merchant can provide in imagery or video.”

Speaking of, reviews with user-generated images or videos have an even stronger impact. More than half of those surveyed by Emplifi (58%) place a high value on product pictures or videos posted by real-life customers when researching products online.

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More than most consumers, quality shoppers worry that reviews might be sponsored, dishonest, or biased. “Try to find some way to highlight that the people writing the reviews are real and have attributes that people can relate to,” Reece explains. “Quality shoppers want to make sure that products fit their circumstances.” For example, if the person writing the review for a shirt has the same height or chest size.

Quality shoppers want to know that a product is as good as described. And one of the big advantages to making sure they’re satisfied—with a robust approach to reviews on your site—is that they’re willing to pay more for that peace of mind.

4. Improve your product

In the era of social proof, great products tend to sell themselves. But most products don’t become great by chance. The quality of your product is always going to play a significant role as a sales driver, and most successful brands use customer feedback to continuously evolve and improve their products and services. Monitoring and responding to reviews can only get you so far.

Taking those reviews seriously will get you that much further. Buy with Prime Tech Business Development Manager Dan Jeong shares the iPad case brand ZUGU as a perfect example.

“Product quality is the reason the brand has been able to rise to the top in its category,” Dan says. “ZUGU leverages all of its customer feedback. If you look at ZUGU’s product and how it’s evolved and improved over time, it’s incredibly impressive.”

To date, ZUGU has more than 100,000 five-star reviews on Amazon alone. Adds Dan, “It’s consistently in the top 10 for iPad cases because the team focuses so much on the customer experience and implementing feedback on their products. And because of it, ZUGU is a mid-market brand that’s selling more units than some enterprise-level brands.”

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ZUGU, a Buy with Prime merchant offering a Prime shopping experience on its site, has sold more than 2 million cases and has more than 87% five-star reviews on Amazon.com.

“We’ve always been focused on constantly improving the product, but customer reviews help us improve even more,” says ZUGU founder Tim Angel. “As we strive to improve our products, a lot of times it squeezes our margins. So we may be making less profit, but we’re ultimately making the customer happy. That’s really what we’re focused on, and I believe that’s the way to maintain a five-star average rating.”

In addition to adding Buy with Prime to 100% of its products, ZUGU has also activated Reviews from Amazon on those products, which lets the brand tap into the volume and authenticity of customer reviews from its product listings on Amazon.com. Shoppers can see reviews of ZUGU cases from Amazon directly on the brand’s site product pages, providing the social proof that shoppers seek and helping boost brand credibility.

Tips for getting the most out of reviews

In the previous section, we mentioned a few best practices for reviews, such as responding to reviews (especially negative ones), offering a verified customer badge, and incentivizing customers to generate more reviews. The following are a couple more:

1. Add a visual ratings distribution summary

Research from Buy with Prime and the Baymard Institute highlighting user experience optimizations found that including a visual ratings distribution summary helps users form a quantitative interpretation of reviews. In fact, when offered, 90% of test participants use the distribution summary feature to analyze the suitability of products to meet their needs.

In Baymard’s testing, a product ratings distribution summary at the top of the reviews section is the most-used feature of the reviews section—and is relied on by shoppers even more than the actual review content.

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2. Add Reviews from Amazon

As Forbes put it, aggregated, independent, trustworthy reviews at the time of purchase are a key ingredient that many online retailers are missing.

“Pushing consumers away from your site at the moment of purchase because you don’t bring a convincing case means many of them won’t return,” expert Paul Kirwin writes in the Forbes Technology Council post. “By giving consumers the ability to make a more confident purchase without having to endlessly navigate across the internet, we could start to see those conversion and cart abandonment rates heading in the right direction […] It’s vital for retailers and brands to ensure that the reviews they aggregate are provided by people and sources that customers trust.”

There’s one easy way for Buy with Prime merchants to do just that: adding Reviews from Amazon to your detail pages for products that offer Buy with Prime.

Reviews from Amazon brings the power of Amazon reviews directly to your ecommerce site. You can tap into the volume and authenticity of reviews from your products on Amazon.com to boost shopper trust and conversion. The Reviews from Amazon feature gives shoppers the familiar experience that they trust from Amazon.com and the social proof they seek, while complementing other product review features you might use on your ecommerce site.

While third-party review features can help you collect and share reviews, they can’t replicate the same scale of high-quality reviews with unbiased ratings found on Amazon.com. Reviews from Amazon helps close the gap, providing shoppers with more information, including verified purchase badging and images provided by real customers who purchased the products. It also lets them filter reviews by star ratings or categories, including “top review” and “most recent.”

With this degree of social proof, shoppers can feel more confident about the site that they’re visiting and the products that they’re considering purchasing. In fact, Reviews from Amazon have been shown to increase shopper conversion for Buy with Prime merchants by more than 38%, on average.*

Reviews from Amazon allows you to showcase your hard-earned Amazon.com reviews directly on your ecommerce site, helping shoppers make informed purchasing decisions without leaving your site.

“Once online brands get shoppers to their site, the next challenge is getting them to make a purchase,” says Ben Li, Sr. Product Manager at Buy with Prime. “Reviews from Amazon empowers merchants to give shoppers a familiar experience that they trust, while helping to expedite their decision-making by showing them the social proof that they’ve come to expect when perusing products on Amazon.com.”

Learn more about Reviews from Amazon and hear firsthand how it’s been benefiting stylish bag maker Sherpani, a Buy with Prime merchant.

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*Data is from a sample of eight Buy with Prime merchants with average monthly site traffic between 10,000 and 1 million, and compares the number of shoppers who placed an order when Reviews from Amazon was present on a product page versus when it was not, during the same time period.

Lindsay Holloway