December 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Getting them to write

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Decker explains that Evo sends only one follow-up e-mail per purchase and that the cost is nominal.

Another popular tactic to increase reviews is to anoint customers who write a great number of high-quality reviews, good and bad, to a special status and place a badge on their reviews that highlights their status.

“When you mouse over a reviewer’s name it shows the reviewer, his golf stats and more information,” says Corey of Golfsmith.

Corey says the next step is to reward top reviewers. “We want to thank them and reward them because they are definitely driving sales for us,” he says. Golfsmith is considering such rewards as exclusive discounts.

Evo places badges on three special types of reviewers: Employee Review, Industry Expert Review and Verified Buyer. The Verified Buyer shows the writer did indeed buy the product from Evo and is not just a passer-by. It added employee and industry expert reviews not just to boost the number of reviews but also to give shoppers more viewpoints.

Choose terms carefully

Experts with experience in badge methodology, however, warn retailers to beware how they characterize the type of reviewer.

“Shoppers are very smart and can be skeptical of seeing the word ‘expert,’” says Luedtke of PowerReviews. “We’ve seen retailers showcasing their best reviewers with words along the lines of ‘frequent reviewer’ or ‘high quality reviewer,’ something that does not imply an expert.”

Decker at Evo says the retailer uses the term “Industry Expert” to differentiate reviewers in a way that helps consumers. “We give the consumer as much information as we can so they can make their own determination as to the authenticity and validity of a review,” he explains. “Calling out employees and industry experts puts the power in the hands of the consumer.”

Some retailers seek to boost reviews by handing out loyalty program points for each review or to reviewers who earn that special status. Merchants like e-jeweler give rewards points for reviews; others, like, offer points to reviewers whose reviews shoppers have tagged as useful. The retailer adds the points to a reviewer’s loyalty program account where they can be redeemed for merchandise.

Some retailers and experts, however, are wary of the practice.

“There’s hesitancy on the part of many of our retailers to do this because they don’t want to mess with the credibility of the reviews on their site and feel like they are trying to influence a reviewer to write positive reviews,” Luedtke says.

With the right positioning, retailers can address the bribery issue, says Ryan Cheng, founder of

“Reviewers do not view reward points for writing reviews as a bribe to write a false positive,” Cheng contends. “Instead, they see our reward points as an encouragement to write a review as opposed to not writing one, and to write a detailed review as opposed to a one-liner, such as ‘Looks great,’ that adds less value.”

Cheng adds he welcomes positive and negative reviews, as negative reviews help him select better merchandise. “Shoppers are smart,” he adds, “and will easily see through a rewards-for-positive-reviews scheme.”

More to review

Whatever the tactics used, more reviews means more material to manage and review. Evo’s web content manager reviews all reviews. Decker estimates that takes about four hours every month at a cost he describes as nominal. Additionally, the PowerReviews system, as does Bazaarvoice’s, automatically monitors reviews for profanity.

At Petco, the e-commerce coordinator manages contests and monitors reviews. Lazarchic says monitoring reviews and creating reviews strategy and tactics is something many staff members do.

“Customer reviews don’t fall easily under one title,” Lazarchic says. “A lot of things we do revolve around reviews. Every product has a review icon on it, reviews content goes out in e-mails. It’s become one of those things that we think about and use every day.”

The cost of more

One might think more reviews means more cost, but that’s not necessarily the case. Bazaarvoice does not charge Golfsmith in increments, Corey explains, but by a fixed fee, which he declines to reveal.

“17% of our online revenue comes from visitors who interact with our reviews. Shoppers who use reviews were also found to have a higher average order value and a higher conversion rate than those who did not,” Corey says. “Based on what we pay our provider we’ve established a very healthy ROI and will continue increasing our review volume.”

And Evo pays no incremental fees for increases in reviews, just a regular fee, which it declines to reveal. The payoff in increasing the number of reviews is a 26% increase in conversions, Decker adds.

“We haven’t landed on exact ROI numbers for these reviews,” he says. “When the ‘I’ in ROI is nominal, it’s not worth the effort to determine the ‘R.’”

Ultimately, for some, a question comes to mind: Is there ever a point where there are too many reviews for a product? Most retailers say absolutely not.

“The more reviews there are, the more confidence you get that a numerical rating is accurate,” says Corey of Golfsmith. “If there are 50 reviews that come out to a 4.8 out of 5, the more I feel that 4.8 is legitimate. If there were only five reviews and a 4.8, I’d be left wondering if anyone ever had a bad experience with this product. Numbers are important.”

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