Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Sell Yourself? Let Your Customers Do It For You!

User Reviews:

Let Your Buyers Sell Your Products

Mom always said don’t accept candy from strangers, but what about advice? How reliable is it? Well, when it comes to product reviews, advice from previous buyers helps a lot – assuming the product (and services you provide) live up to expectations.

Amazon has been encouraging reviews from buyers for years and it’s apparently been working fine for them – even if the product is trashed, which it often is. But, consider what Amazon gets. Happier buyers (even if they grumble, they aren’t grumbling about Amazon, they’re trashing the product), fewer returns from buyers warned off one product over another, invaluable marketing data straight from buyers who bought the product and, the cherry on top – it’s user generated content, meaning it doesn’t cost anything to produce. That’s a big plus.

Stats and Facts

Site owners eat stats and facts for breakfast. We want that empirical proof that numbers provide so here are a few to catch your attention from the nice folks over at

Question: Do you use customer reviews before making a purchase?

Always: 22%

Most of the time: 43%

Some of the time: 24%

Occasionally: 9%

Never: 2%

Get that? 65% of online buyers use consumer-generated reviews in making a buying decision. That should get you to sit up and take notice. It’s some pretty powerful evidence that consumer reviews are useful in (1) making the right sale and (2) identifying products the buyer doesn’t want. Either way, as a site owner, you’re ahead – ahead on sales motivated by user reviews and ahead with fewer returns from dissatisfied consumers who bought a different product or brand based on customer reviews. Either way, you win.

How many reviews do you read before making a purchase?

Just 1% relied on a single review. It took two or three reviews for 28% of buyers to make a decision, four to seven reviews for 46% of buyers to make a buying decisions and eight to 15 reviews to convince exceedingly cautious buyers to make a purchase.

The number of reviews required to make a purchase is correlated to the price of the item. A buyer will purchase a $49 off-brand MP3 player after reading a single review but it’ll probably take five to 10 positive reviews to convince that same buyer to purchase his or her next car. The cost factor plays a big role.

Now, how do user reviews stack up against other promotional efforts. Quite well, according to emarketer. In fact, user reviews influence the buying decisions of a whopping 64% of online shoppers. That’s two-thirds of all buyers – all buying based on the reviews of previous buyers.

Compare that to other promos:

  • Special offers and coupons: 61%

  • Product and price comparison tools: 59%

  • Consumer testimonials: 49% (these testimonials have lost any credibility since many are fabrications of some copywriter’s not-so-vivid imagination)

  • Product videos: 44% (usually demonstrating the benefits of the product)

  • RSS alerts: 39%

  • Blogs and forums: 39%

  • Questionnaires: 29%

Web Research

More and more web users turn to product reviews to find the perfect fit – but not all reviews are given equal credence. User reviews are believed by 55% of comparison shoppers. And, when skimming through consumer reviews, it’s easy to tell the psychopathic malcontent from the thoughtful reviewer who’s actually trying to help.

Comparison charts are another useful sales tool. 21% of online window shoppers use these list-formatted tools to compare apples to apples, features to features. This format is a terrific means of delivering a lot of useful information in a simple-to-evaluate format.

Expert reviews – the kind you often see in specialty periodicals – carry less weight than reviews written by actual buyers of a product. Why? The consumer-reviewer doesn’t have an axe to grind, making the opinion more reliable. A review by a professional may have an ulterior motive behind it – like the product manufacturer is a big advertiser, or the review is a cut-and-paste job from the manufacturer’s promotional literature.

The reason customer reviews work is they have validity. “I bought it and I love it,” when unsolicited, is as good as a recommendation from a friend. Same with “I bought it and it blew out every circuit in my house.” Now that’s a product you shy away from.

The Ethics of User Reviews

As a site owner, you have god-like powers. Post anything. It’s your site. But what about the ethicacy of user reviews? How do you handle this kind of input?

Consider the site owner who writes his or her own buyer reviews to move more junk out the door. After a while, this tactic is going to come back and bite you in your assets as more and more dissatisfied buyers return products, taking up more of your time and costing money.

And how do you handle the disgruntled buyer who slams one of your best selling products? Is it unethical to remove negative product posts? You bet it is. An occasional slam increases the credibility of all of those positive reviews. If every review sings the praises of the product, well, the reviews become less credible.

Also, if you receive numerous slams on a product or brand, consider dropping the item. Let the buyers tell you what they want – then give it to them.

The tools you use to promote products are often expensive and time consuming to create. A Google AdWords campaign can bust the bank in six months – and you have to write the little blocks of text.

User-generated product reviews have credibility and the nut jobs are easy to spot and ignore. So, give your buyers a place to tell you and other site visitors what they think about their purchases.

Then, watch sales increase as “friend” recommends to “friend.” It’s powerful promotion and, even better, it’s free.

Need some advice on converting those site visitors to buyers. It ain't brain surgery. In fact, it's pretty basic stuff so drop me a line or give me a call and let's let buyers give you the data we need to reach profitability.

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