“I’m not sure precisely when, how, or why it started happening, but for years now, whenever I’m about to make an online purchase, it’s become something of a habit to check reviews before clicking that “buy” button.”

E-Commerce customer service specialist eDesk CEO Alex Payne tells Retail Insight Network why they believe that online retailers need to put more focus on customer reviews.

The role that reviews play

I’m sure most people can relate. If I feel particularly strongly about a product I’ve bought, there’s an inclination for me to leave my own feedback.

The question I have is: “Do e-commerce leaders truly appreciate the significant role that reviews play in how their businesses are perceived by shoppers”?

Recently, eDesk sought to understand the thinking patterns and behaviour of online consumers, surveying 1,000 UK and 1,000 US online consumers, which was fascinating on both a professional and personal level.

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Amongst the data, a standout statistic was that 44% of UK and US shoppers will always look at reviews before committing to a purchase.

It means that any bad reviews that go unchecked may lead to almost half of shoppers taking their business elsewhere, ultimately threatening the revenue of companies – typically the unwelcome wake-up call a firm will need to adjust its situation.

“To snub the significance of reviews is a risky game”

A further 40% of Brits and 37% of Americans said they will look at reviews depending on the product. Overall, only 2% of online shoppers don’t observe reviews whatsoever, while the rest of respondents do so sometimes.

In other words, 98% of shoppers will read product reviews at one time or another. To snub the significance of this area is to play a risky game.

Undoubtedly driven by the costs associated with phones, computers, and TVs, technology is the sector where shoppers most commonly look for reviews – some 90% in the UK and US – ensuring their money is going to be well spent.

This is a particularly important point to be aware of for those operating within this arena as tech sellers will be scrutinised by would-be shoppers, so they need to be mindful of review hygiene. The other top sectors where feedback is looked at most includes clothing (72% US, 68% UK) and homeware (67% US, 66% UK).

Retailers need to address customer queries

Of course, keeping feedback in check isn’t something to be rushed or gamed for quick wins. Online shoppers are increasingly savvy, with demands and expectations accelerated by increased e-commerce usage throughout the pandemic, so they’ll see through any questionable or false fixes.

With reviews linked to customer service like fish is to chips, it’s important that staff aren’t stoking the fire rather than keeping it under control.

The main issue raised on both sides of the pond was failure to deal with queries to the customers’ satisfaction, peaking at 49% for Brits. Bad attitudes from customer service staff and slow response times were also top issues.

While each bad experience isn’t necessarily enough for customers to leave rage-filled reviews, management of customer needs in this way is unlikely to lead to repeat business and an ongoing, long-term relationship, which will eventually impact revenues.

Counteracting any wrongdoing, respondents said that good customer service should include managing enquiries appropriately, being courteous, offering refunds, quick replies and replacing products.

Reviews give retailers a chance to ‘get it right’

An important takeaway from all of this though is that, even though there are obvious frustrations experienced by customers, businesses have a valuable chance to get it right as shoppers are happy to leave positive reviews: a third of Brits would leave good feedback after one good experience.

Critically, 9 out of 10 shoppers who had a bad experience said they’d contact customer service before leaving a bad review, giving retailers a golden opportunity to catch and solve issues before they get published for all to see.

However, sellers would be remiss to rest on their laurels and become complacent. In the UK and US, 97% of respondents said they want to receive contact from companies they’ve bought from regardless of whether there’s been any issues or not.

With that in mind, also factoring in how critical it is to satisfy customers with good manners and speed, there’s a strong possibility of turning around any potentially awkward situations.