What Shoppers Like About Online Product Reviews
Table of Contents
This is a different article about product reviews than you are probably accustomed to, because this article was written entirely from the online shopper’s point of view (mine), versus from an expert’s perspective.
Shopper Approved asked me to write this article, from my own perspective and point of view, in the hopes of offering something unique and valuable to you, the business owner. And although they gave me general direction on what to cover, they did not tell me what to write, how to “spin it,” or how to express my own ideas, feelings, etc.
So, let’s get started.
I am probably your typical online shopper. I am your average busy thirtysomething. Between caring for my family, taking care of the house, and working, I have little time to spend on shopping trips. This is why I do the majority of my shopping online during my downtime in the evenings.
Product reviews are an important part of the online shopping experience for me. Reading through reviews from previous customers gives me insight into the company and product, which helps me judge if they are a good fit for me. I find it helpful to learn how others view a product’s quality and performance.
In my experience, reviews are critical as part of my decision process. They provide extra information and incentive, and I make reading them part of my research and final product selection, especially for new or expensive purchases.
What Specifics Do Shoppers Like to See in User Reviews?
When I scan reviews, I prefer to see clear opinions backed up by factual statements, multiple reviews over an ongoing period of time, details about the buying and shipping experience, and evidence of the product’s performance.
I generally lean toward products that have a good number of reviews so I know they have been thoroughly tested. Honest statements that provide details about the product's function, as well as both the pros and cons of the product, help me determine if it will work for me.
I find these types of user reviews helpful because seeing proof that other buyers like me have had a positive experience is often a driving factor in which product I choose to purchase.
What Attributes Do Most People Find Helpful in Product Reviews?
I found that my closest friends and family members and I all have similar opinions when it comes to user reviews. The things we all want to see include:
- Expertise in the industry
- Star ratings
- Volume of ratings
- Details to support the review’s rating
- Evidence of product quality and truth of product description
- Real-life applications
When I asked several of my friends and family what they like about reviews, and what they look for or find particularly helpful in a review, they all said basically the same things. Next, I’ll dive deeper into each of the top five review attributes that I and the fifteen others that I surveyed look for in a product review, and why these are the things we really like.
This is not a scientific study by any means, but I think these are pretty common review attributes that most people like and care about.
Why Is Expertise in Reviews Important to Shoppers?
If I’m going to spend money on a product based on the recommendations of others, I want to know that they have the necessary experience to speak about the product with authority.
Anyone can leave a review. If it is for a basic product, then all I want to know is how it was used and if it met quality and performance expectations.
For more expensive or specialized products, however, I want to read user reviews from experts in the field. The opinion of someone with training and credentials has more weight for me than the average reviewer.
Why Are Star Ratings Important to Shoppers?
Star ratings give a quick visual summary of the overall rating of the product, letting me know the average experience that previous users had. The overall star rating is a factor I can use to quickly judge whether to research a particular product or brand more, or move on to a different product.
Sometimes I’m immediately influenced by the star rating of a product, as they give a fast impression of the company and the product’s trustworthiness and quality level. This is especially true if the product has thousands of reviews, or the rating is very high or very low.
Often, seeing a seriously negative overall rating is enough to give me second thoughts about purchasing that product.
I also find that the way a business responds to both positive and negative reviews affects my own opinion. Bad reviews are less likely to be a deterrent if the company responds and offers a solution.
Why is the Number of Product Reviews Important to Shoppers?
More reviews also give a more accurate portrayal of the product, in my opinion. There’s generally a mix of positive and negative comments.
Of course, I gravitate toward the product with many reviews and an overall positive rating. However, a few negative comments with reasoning for the rating gives greater insight into the potential flaws or drawbacks of the product, further aiding me in my decision-making.
Why Are Honest Details in Reviews Important to Shoppers?
It’s difficult to base a decision on a “yes or no” recommendation. I want details to explain the reasons behind the positive or negative reviews. This helps me know whether or not the reviewer's needs and expectations of the product match my own.
User reviews that argue their case with facts and clear product pros and cons are much more helpful than a simple positive or negative statement.
Customer experience is often subjective, so I want to know if the reviewer had a legitimate poor experience after using the product as directed, or if their bad rating is based on their own wrong assumptions or misuse of the intended purpose.
Why Is Visual Evidence of Factors Mentioned in Product Review Important?
Evidence in the form of images, audio clips, or video is a good indication of whether or not the company is transparent and upfront, and if the company’s product description and pictures give an accurate portrayal of the model in question. I want to know that what I see is what I’m really going to get.
Social proof is a powerful motivator. I find it helpful when reviews contain authentic videos, images, or audio to show the product and its advantages or flaws. For me, this is an extremely useful backup to the opinions voiced in user reviews.
Why Is Proof of Real-World Applications Important in Product Reviews?
I like to see or read about how the product in question performed in a real-world situation. Knowing the product’s dimensions, appearance, and performance is critical. I may think that something seems great when going through the provided images and product descriptions, but does it measure up when buyers try to use it for its intended purpose?
Other factors like updates to the model that aren’t reflected in the description can sway my opinion and either finalize, or make me second-guess, my decision to make a purchase.
What Research Exists About Customer Preferences in Reviews?
I mentioned above that my personal survey was not precisely scientific. However, I also found real research by the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication that supports my own findings and preferences.
According to their findings, the content of reviews matters when it comes to their usefulness for myself and other shoppers. The research conducted by the Journal identified “expertise claims, review valence, and argumentation style” as having the most benefit.
Expertise is a crucial factor in user reviews because consumers want to get advice from people that have the knowledge and insight to give informed and trustworthy information. Review valence, or the overall rating, is also important.
Sometimes shoppers are drawn toward clearly positive reviews. However, the presence of too many extremely poor reviews does more to persuade them against purchasing the product than any positive review does to convince them to buy. This negativity bias is common, as I, like others, wish to avoid having a bad experience.
The details that a user gives to make their argument on why they left the rating they did is also important. This lets consumers know more about the reasons behind a positive or negative rating, so they can determine if there is a product flaw or if it simply wasn’t a good fit for that user. Social proof is often one of the most motivating factors in which product is selected.
Where Do Product Reviews Fit into the Buyer Journey?
Where do people like to see product reviews? Shoppers like to see reviews at every point in the research, comparison, and decision-making process. It is therefore beneficial to display reviews on:
- Google shopping search results
- Product category pages
- Product pages
- Comparison and buyers guides
- 3rd-party review sites
I think many people look for different pieces of information at different points along the research and discovery process. I know that as I learn more about the product and get closer to making a decision, I naturally have new questions.
Having reviews available at every step of the journey helps to address these queries and concerns as they arise. I tend to look at reviews in a new light the more I learn, so their continued availability is important to me.
How Can Product Reviews Provide a Better Customer Experience?
The role of user reviews is an important part of the shopping experience. Personally, I prefer to take my time to read multiple reviews to get a good understanding of what others felt were the benefits and drawbacks of a product I am considering purchasing.
By doing this research, I increase my chances of buying a high-quality product that meets my needs instead of trying out multiple disappointing products, saving myself time and money in the long run.
When Shopper Approved asked me to write this article, I knew that reading online reviews for products, services, and sellers were a regular part of my shopping experience. But I did not quite realize even for myself just how big a part reviews play in my online decision-making; or even how ingrained looking at reviews has become in everything I do online.
But throughout the writing of this article, as I thought about what I like about online product reviews and talked with family and friends about that, I quickly came to understand that reviews are as much a part of my life online as Google and social media.
And that is probably what I feel is the most important takeaway for businesses: reviews matter a lot to consumers. We use them to help guide decisions about products and companies multiple times almost every day, and at every stage of the process as shoppers and buyers.
So if a company is selling online, they need to have reviews; and those reviews need to be visible in the places we are visiting while considering, researching, shopping for, and buying things.
A big part of customer service is making the customer’s life easier. This includes making it easier for us to get the information we need to make a purchasing decision. Reviews are a huge factor in that. So making reviews available to your customers is the type of customer service that can easily lead to you making a sale and turning me into a fan of your company.