I love reading reviews on websites. They provide useful and insightful feedback from real consumers who are using the product I'm about to purchase online. The SEO benefits of reviews are tremendous as well because you basically have an army of consumers doing a bunch of writing for you for free. All this additional content about your products can do very well with search engines such as Google.
Product Reviews Don't Work for Specialty Retailers
With all the glowing praise for reviews you'd think we'd implement product reviews on every website. Unfortunately, consumer product reviews rarely work for small to medium-sized retailers and here's why.
- Only a small fraction of consumers will spend the time to write a review about one of your products. This means you need a lot of people coming to your website for reviews to even work.
- You also either need a lot of inventory or inventory that sticks around for a few seasons for reviews to work.
A few of our customers have implemented reviews on their website, against our recommendation, only to have them ripped out 6 months or a year later. The reason in all cases was due to one of the above two factors.
One client in particular "thought" they had enough inventory to make reviews work because they carried about 100 items for every product on their site. On the surface this seems like quite a bit of inventory, and it is, especially when they sold over 10,000 products online. However, most of what they sold were trending and fashionable shoes, so they were very seasonal and never online longer than a few months. Additionally, these 100 quantity items were being sold in-store as well, which diminished their online inventory even faster.
Don't Fake It
When explaining the above to retailers I sometimes hear that they plan on "faking it" by secretly writing reviews, pretending they are consumers. I have no doubt retailers, app developers, etc. are doing this all the time. However, I would never condone such behavior. Consumer reviews by definition should be written by your customers and should be unbiased and unfiltered. I would also never recommend that a retailer "filter out" the bad reviews. Both of these activities will get you into huge trouble with your customers and they will never trust you again. And don't kid yourself, they will eventually find out!
So what can I do?
If your product mix is similar to the above then Modern Retail recommends that you write and blog about your designers, brands and products instead of doing product reviews. Having some great original content about your the brands you carry provides great SEO benefit. You can collect reviews on the brands or designers you carry. This is different from product reviews because instead of the review being tied to individual products, which come and go, they are tied to the brand itself. This will ensure the reviews stick around for a long time, ideally forever, and will provide many of the same benefits as described above.
WordPress & Magento Reviews
If you have tons of traffic on your website and your product mix is such that it is online for longer periods of time, then by all means we should implement product reviews on your website. On WordPress we can use a plugin or a third-party service. For those clients on Magento, customer reviews are built right into the platform.