At Internet Retailer 2007, I was impressed with a presentation presented by Geoffrey Robertson, VP of eCommerce at JC Whitney. JC Whitney is the largest direct marketer of automotive aftermarket parts in the world, and is also one of the largest e-tailers.
Robertson discussed the recent addition of user reviews to their site and gave great information about the impact on sales. Here are the highlights:
1) User reviews have a huge impact on sales. JC Whitney reviews utilize a five star rating. Products that rated five stars saw a 16% increase in revenue, while products that rated four stars saw a 8% increase. However, products that rated three stars saw a 10% decrease in sales. Two stars resulted in a 23% decrease and one star resulted in a 31% decrease in revenue.
2) Companies need to aggressively solicit reviews. JC Whitney drove substantial reviews through an initial sweepstakes, and subsequent spikes in reviews were tied to post-sale emails. Do not expect reviews to come in without some effort.
3) User reviews do not necessarily improve customer loyalty. JC Whitney saw no correlation between the introduction of reviews and repeat business.
4) User reviews do not necessarily drive more organic search traffic. JC Whitney found no increase in natural search traffic because of their user reviews. (I would normally have been surprised to learn this, but at Vitabase, we have noticed the same thing.)
JC Whitney has greatly elevated the visibility of user reviews on its site, with a special focus on products that earn at least four stars. Interestingly, they feature the reviews all the way into the shopping cart.