Conversion is all about trust and confidence. Receiving and using positive feedback from customers who have used a business is the best way to create this confidence and encourage potential customers to complete a transaction.

Online reputation and customer reviews are critical to the success of any business and therefore business owners should not be ignoring the impact online reviews of service and products can have – whether positive or negative.

Consumers are researching the products they want, and who they want to buy them from, through the Internet – this applies whether people go on to complete the purchase online or visit the shop. The trick is to see the influence of online reviews as an opportunity rather than a threat.

If consumers use ratings and reviews to make up their minds, then they should be offered ratings and reviews on the eCommerce website, and this should be consciously recognised as a crucial feature of the purchase process.

By integrating third-party review platforms from partners, such as Feefo, into e-commerce sites, businesses often achieve impressive improvements in conversion rates. It seems that when reviews are not controlled by the retailer – i.e. a third party site – it has a significant impact and carries more weight than reviews that could be open to manipulation.

Making Product Reviews A Key Feature

Product reviews are incredibly influential and have the power to change the consumer perception in an instant. It is crucial this is available on e-commerce sites, as it gives potential customers more reason to stay on the site and hopefully completing their purchase, rather than going to a competitor.

Last year, Cisco surveyed 5,000 shoppers in the US, UK, Brazil, Mexico and China to investigate consumer behaviour across a range of channels. What they found should make sobering reading for any business that doesn’t understand why reviews and ratings should be a key feature of its eCommerce strategy:

  • Online ratings and reviews on retailer websites were rated the most influential factor in purchase decisions by 52 per cent of respondents
  • In the last two years, the ‘purchase influence’ of expert online reviews by consumer groups, expert buyers, and bloggers, increased by 13 per cent to 42 per cent
  • Shoppers preferred online ratings and reviews by a 4:1 margin over advice from store employees.

Additionally, customers are looking for reassurance that delivery services are reliable, that goods arrive in good condition, queries are dealt with efficiently and effectively and that the returns policy is clear and fair.

I know from extensive testing with a large number of e-commerce sites that this type of trust has a direct and positive impact on conversion rates. These issues need to be dealt with in the main content and monitored online.

Ideally businesses need to encourage customers to leave unbiased and genuine feedback about the service they have received, which can be done by contacting customers who have purchased products from the e-commerce site after the transaction, or by offering an incentive to leave feedback. This will show consumers the business is proud to receive customer reviews and will build confidence and increase conversions.

It is important to stay ahead of the game and incorporate social media into plans. Encouraging customer reviews and engaging with customers shows that their feedback is valued. Today, consumers are very quick to post negative comments on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook if they have a bad experience, but if happy customers are encouraged to leave a review, it will instantly improve the business reputation.

Whether the feedback is good or bad, the quicker and more helpful the response is, the greater the chance of building trust and gaining a customer!

Google Trusted Stores

Another development to look out for is Google Trusted Stores. Currently being piloted in the UK, it is set to roll-out in full in 2014. The criteria on which businesses are measured to see whether they qualify are relatively straightforward:

  • High percentage of orders with on-time shipping
  • Low average days for product to ship
  • High percentage of issues resolved quickly
  • Low number of customers needing assistance with an issue.

Accredited businesses will have a small Google Trusted Store logo displayed on its website and will show key statistics on shipping and customer service, as well as the number of transactions the data is based on. Experience so far indicates that being a Google Trusted Store will improve traffic and conversion rates significantly. For consumers there are three clear benefits, which sum up the critical aspects of good practice when it comes to online company reviews:

  • The process is overseen by Google – a name they recognise and which has authority
  • It is independent of the retailer
  • It is data driven, so not subjective.

Successful e-commerce websites have good customer feedback and loyal, returning visitors. Trust and reassurance should never be added extras, but need to be at the core of how you design, build and develop your e-commerce website to maintain your online reputation.