The Hidden Benefit of Product Reviews

In today’s digital era, the amount of information that is publicly available is quite mind boggling. The sheer volume of articles published, comments made, reviews written, likes, and shares are simply unimaginable.

Most marketers are well aware of all this data and they know how valuable it can be if used appropriately. There is a wide variety of ways to use all of this data, from e-commerce product page optimization, SEO, consumer segmentation, and sentiment.

People share their thoughts and feelings about life, politics, families, hobbies, and their greatest joys and grievances. One of the most common types of consumer-generated content are product reviews. They contain incredibly valuable information because consumers often provide in-depth insights into pros and cons of the product, packaging, shipping, and even their experiences with customer service. 

The Power of Product Reviews

Let us paint a picture of how many consumers interact with a typical B2C brand and their products:

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Jane, a 33 year old middle school teacher from San Francisco, CA, is just about to begin her summer vacation after a long school year.  About a month ago, Jane and her husband set a goal to spend more time outdoors this summer, and less time in front of their phones, computer, and TV. They agreed that their first major outdoor pursuit would be a camping trip to kick off the summer in Yosemite Valley. They had been camping before but were certainly not experts, nor did they have all the gear they needed.

So, they began researching the gear they need and where to get it.  Of course, this required screen time.  They texted their friends, who are more experienced in the outdoors, they read camping blogs that discussed sleeping bags, tents, camp cooking, and everything in between. They also visited Dick’s Sporting Goods to start looking at gear they need, but were met by retail employees that didn’t have specific experience with the products they were looking for. They took their research back to the internet to read more professional reviews, blogs, and forums.

They were finally ready to buy some of the new gear they needed!  They searched products on Amazon because they were already Prime members, and knew they could probably find the best prices there. The first product they searched for was the Kelty Tru.Comfort 20, a double sleeping bag that they found in a review article written by Outdoor Gear Lab.  They searched the product, saw the price, and noticed the 4.6 star rating with 21 product reviews; great!  But wait...the next result in the search was from a brand they didn’t recognize and it had roughly the same star-rating with over 1000 reviews...and it was $100 less!  They started reading product reviews of the Ohuhu Double Sleeping bag, and quickly changed their mind on the Kelty. Everyone seemed to love it and it had comparable features and specs to the Kelty bag. For the price, they felt it couldn't be beat, and they were sold.

The rest of their gear searching worked out in a similar way.  Product reviews were heavily influencing their perceptions of the gear they were after.  However, there were other items that they just had to have, like the Yeti Tundra 65. It didn’t matter to them that other coolers had similar ratings, the powerful branding and their perceptions of Yeti coolers was enough to earn their business regardless of other available options. They still checked out the product reviews to see what people thought about the Yeti, and it only added to their desire to buy the Yeti. 

Fast forward two months.

The first trip to Yosemite had them hooked. Jane and Jack had a few camping trips under their belt. They went on a road trip up 101 camping along the coast, they were invited to a group trip with some of their friends to Mammoth, and a few other weekend getaways; they were hooked! One afternoon, Jane received an email from Amazon asking for a product review of their Ohuhu sleeping bag, and some of the other items they purchased. Jane doesn’t usually leave reviews, but felt inclined to, due to how much they helped her find their new gear.  

She wrote a few sentences about how warm and comfortable the bag was, and a random blurb about how easily it packed up. Jane felt good about leaving the review because she thought it might help someone else who was in her position, and she wanted to give Ohuhu some more positive praise, since they had been truly loving the bag.

The end.

The Full Potential of Product Reviews

This is a very relatable story to most people, as anyone who has shopped online has probably been swayed by product reviews in some way. The star-ratings are usually placed in an area of focus, because e-tailers know that reviews and the overall star rating can drastically increase many metrics, including click-through and conversion rates, two of the most important in the e-commerce world.

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So, it’s been proven time and time again how much reviews affect consumers during the purchase process. But the value of the information within product reviews does not end in helping consumers make their purchase decisions. The insights, opinions, and real-life experiences that consumers have had with products are all portrayed in product reviews. This is the type of information that companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to discover through traditional market research methods.

Is our new product durable enough?

Do consumers like our packaging?

Are consumers happy with our customer service?

What do consumers think about our competitors?

All of these questions and many more can be answered through the analysis of consumer-generated content, like product reviews. Why? Because consumers talk about topics like these, in a manner that is unfiltered and real, with information that is based on their personal experiences with brands and products. Bias is limited due to the fact that they’re not being compensated, pressured into specific responses, or aware that the information might be used for analysis. When content is created in this fashion, whether it’s from a product review or a blog post, it is more representative of the consumer’s true perceptions.

Obviously, all brands wish their consumer reviews were positive and endorsed their products. However, that is unrealistic in the real world, and it can actually be detrimental to have only positive reviews. Negative reviews ensure trust that the content is not fake, help consumers understand what they should expect from the product, and also provide a great source of insights into how to improve a product for the brand themselves. If everyone is complaining about a specific aspect of the product, it can be addressed and hopefully corrected to improve the overall success of the product.

There is a lot to learn from both the positive and negative reviews. The insights that can be pulled from such content can help throughout the entire lifecycle of a product, from concept development to the decision to drop or keep the product for future seasons. During the development period, reviewing topics that resonate (or don't) with consumers of your current products, can help create guidelines to begin development. Writing product descriptions and developing ads can benefit, by understanding what is most important to the consumers. If there are certain topics that are frequently discussed by consumers, these should be front and center in product descriptions and other marketing materials. As the product matures, analyzing how consumers are using the product and whether it aligns with the rest of the product line or the brand in general can help understand the effectiveness of the product and marketing, for future planning.

Digital Content Accumulating Faster Than Ever

With the transition from brick and mortar to e-commerce, the amount of content is constantly increasing. Nearly every time a product is purchased online, follow up communications will ask for a product review, leading to a mass of new information that is always accumulating. However, putting all of this new information to use is not as simple as manually skimming through a few reviews to get an idea of what people are talking about. It takes automated web scraping and intelligent analysis, along with a continuous feed of new data, to make the information truly useful. There is an amazing amount of insight to be found through the analysis of hundreds of thousands of consumer comments, especially when they accurately categorized by brand and specific industries.

The value found in consumer-generated content is incredible. The uses for such content seems to always be growing, whether it is being used to help drive e-commerce purchases or to gain insights into the market for product development or marketing strategy creation. With the increasingly connected digital world, the pool of information will become a true gold-mine for brands, as long as they employ the right tools and resources to use it at scale.

If you're interested in learning how you might be able to leverage your user-generated content, to help learn more about your consumers, please schedule a demo with us today.