Understanding user reviews in the new-age of e-commerce

People buy products online based on the reviews they read — and they trust the platform to keep reviewers honest. Should they?
17 October 2018

What’s the Amazon Vine Program? Source: Shutterstock

If you sell goods on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, you know that your customers will come to you only if they see a near-perfect rating and good reviews from other people who’ve bought the same product.

It’s why you and other sellers often go to great lengths to ensure that customers have a good experience when dealing with you, that defective and damaged products are replaced quickly, and that deliveries are made on time.

However, as Bloomberg has recently pointed out, those reviews aren’t exactly what they used to be — which is going to have an immediate impact on customers who trusted those ratings and reviews blindly — and sellers who worked for years to earn a good rating and favorable reviews.

Amazon, the world’s most trusted marketplace, has been accused of being in the grey when it comes to promoting its own homegrown brands such as AmazonBasics — which analysts believe will earn US$25 billion in sales by 2022.

Now, those who’re accusing Amazon feel that they’ve been wronged because the company has used its Vine program (designed to obtain “honest” reviews from users in exchange for freebies) to unfairly garner favorable ratings and reviews for its own brands.

Although Amazon says users are free to choose which products they want to review and how they want to rate them, independent merchants (who provide half the products listed on the site but are not allowed to participate in the program) believe that the company has used the platform to stifle competition — which could be against the law.

Now, whether or not the matter escalates and Amazon makes changes to its Vine program or the way it operates it, customers are going to be more careful about what reviews they trust and who they buy from online — on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms.

Here are some tips to help e-commerce sellers better navigate the landscape in such times to avoid damaging sales and ensure success:

# 1 | Encourage buyers to speak about you on social media

It’s great to have good reviews on the e-commerce platforms that you’ve listed on. Not only will it boost the confidence of those who visit your product page but also help make your product more discoverable on the platform.

However, it’s important to also ensure that your customers speak about you on social media. That way, you’ve got a very strong set of testimonials that you can embed on different platforms (including on your seller page) and retain a long time — in a way that is more manageable.

# 2 | Value and seek referrals as much as reviews

When you’re in the e-commerce business, reviews are great, they boost your rankings and make you look more attractive, but don’t take your eyes off the target — sales.

Customers who seem satisfied with the purchase might be happy to refer your product to other people they know. Find ways to encourage that, in a subtle way.

Doing so will not only help you earn more but will also make you a high-performer on e-commerce platforms who also rank you based on your sales volume.

# 3 | Focus on your CX — even on your product pages

Don’t forget customer experience just because you’re not the one managing the e-commerce platform.

When you list your products on a platform, check it out on various devices to ensure that it looks alright and that product images load appropriately.

Further, make sure that the product page you’ve created provides all the necessary data so prospective customers don’t need to go hunting for it, or ask you a question waiting for your response before they can make the purchase.