June 12, 2007, 12:00 AM

How consumer reviews drive sales at JCWhitney.com

When consumer-generated product reviews show four or five stars out of a maximum of five, sales on auto parts and accessories site JCWhitney.com increase 8-16%, vice president of e-commerce Geoffrey Robertson says.

When consumer-generated product reviews show four or five stars out of a maximum of five, sales on J.C. Whitney & Co.’s auto parts and accessories site JCWhitney.com increase 8-16%, vice president of e-commerce Geoffrey Robertson says.

J.C. Whitney, No. 112 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is using a consumer reviews application from Bazaarvoice, which took about 30 days to deploy, Robertson said at last week’s Internet Retailer 2007 Conference & Exhibition in San Jose, CA.

“When you get four or five stars-watch out because sales will go way up,” he said. Robertson gave several reasons why customer reviews help to increase sales: they make it easier for shoppers to choose among what are often numerous product options; they increase customer loyalty and build a retailer’s brand through interaction among shoppers; and they help to create pertinent online product content that gets picked up by Internet search engines to improve a retailer’s rankings in natural search results.

But it also takes work to get a reviews program up and running, he added. J.C. Whitney has conducted sweepstakes to provide an incentive to get shoppers to generate reviews, and it routinely e-mails post-purchase messages to customers asking them to write a review of the purchased product.

Although it’s important to run negative as well as positive reviews to give a reviews program credibility with consumers, Robertson noted that reviews with only one or two stars have been shown to result in a drop in sales of about as much as 21% for two stars and 30% for a single star.

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