My Love/Hate Relationship with Product Reviews

I really don’t have product reviews on my site. I may add them at some stage. However, I am very conflicted about it.

My stance might seem odd since the big players in that area would mention years of research demonstrating that incorporating product reviews to your site will improve your conversion rates. I do not dispute that it increased conversion rates for their website. I’m not really sold it is going to increase conversion rates for my website.

Here are my three doubtful reasons for not needing product reviews.

Cynical Reason #1: Product reviews were launched by Amazon because they did not possess the capacity, resources, or desire to curate what they sell. They do not act as a gate keeper to prevent trash from being sold on their website. In actuality, they opened the floodgates so that they can sell EVERYTHING. This turned out to be a terrible thing for the consumer because we could not tell what was good and what was bad. So, rather than doing any of the real work that a professional buyer would perform, they just dumped the procedure on their customers and said,”You rate it.”

Consider this for a second. Amazon is urging you to buy something, for they don’t have any prior knowledge, and for that reason won’t be useful in any meaningful after-sale customer support, and they then have the gall to ask you to do their job for them by assessing the item!

Let us apply this to a real life circumstance. Imagine you went into a restaurant and asked the waiter should you order the beef or the lamb. The waiter only stares back at you and utters not a word. Ultimately, you throw your hands up, flip a coin, and then opt to get the beef. After the meal is finished, the waiter asks you how it was. Then he takes your answer and reproduces it back to another client who asks about the beef. How do the waiter not understand anything about the menu?! It is absurb and it is precisely how Amazon works because it does not know a damned thing about its own menu. Customer testimonials, therefore, are essential to its existence because Amazon does not execute any of their product evaluation responsibilities of a merchant.

As a retailer, you’re supposed to be the expert in your subject matter. If a product is zero-stars-terrible, it should not even be available for sale.

Cynical Reason #2: Product reviews function to expound upon the characteristics and capabilities of a product because the merchant has not bothered to do so for the client itself. Most online retailers take the three sentence blurb in the manufacturer, the manufacturer-supplied photograph, and smack it up online and hope that it sells. Because that is ineffective, they utilize user-supplied testimonials to fill in the gaps. Retailers then pat themselves on the back for creating”user-generated content” the search engines will love. Gag me.

So, instead of correctly assessing the product, testing it, and writing a comprehensive, honest, and thoughtful description of this product accompanied by high quality and illustrative photos, many retailers resort to getting their clients do the job for them.

Cynical Reason #3: By admission of the significant 3rd-party review solutions, only 1 percent of buyers will bother to write a review. Thus, if your catalog comprises 500 skus, you are likely to have to garner at least 50,000 buys to be able to get at least 1 review per sku. Ouch. That could take awhile. Additionally, it has the side effect of creating your site appear unpopular because most of your products will have no reviews.

The 3rd-party review businesses have attempted to mitigate this issue by enabling retailers to discuss reviews between websites. Ugh. Now customers will find the same review across multiple sites? Double ugh.

Side note: What genius came up with the concept of,”Be the first to review this item!” Seriously, no customer would like to be your guinea pig!

On the flip side, I read the reviews on Amazon all the time. Does this mean I am a hypocrite? Possibly. However, I believe reading their testimonials is necessary because the description of the goods are oftentimes unreliable, incomplete, rather than detailed.

The logical next step is that if your website already correctly explains a product, that product reviews may add a little bit of social confirmation and might increase sales.

However, the reduced rate at which clients provide reviews serves as a bigger detriment (“hey, nobody is shopping at this website!”) Than the extra value of the crazed 1 percent (either a spurned client seeking to wreak havoc or the fanboy not providing much valuable content) who will bother to leave a review.

Who knows. We might add reviews next week. As you can tell, I am a little conflicted about it, but the bottom line is that customer reviews aren’t going to give a huge and instant lift to your conversion rate unless you’ve got a large enough number of orders to acquire multiple reviews for all your products.