Saving Sales From Negative Customer Reviews

Customer ReviewsAs customer reviews become more and more common on ecommerce sites, we can expect innovations to emerge in design, usability and quality.

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on Amazon for usability innovations. Today we’ll look at an example of how Amazon helps customers filter product reviews when there are literally hundreds of them. Not only does Amazon help customers hone in on specific types of reviews, it also takes the opportunity to show relevant merchandising based on the customer reviews themselves. In this post I’ll also suggest something that Amazon isn’t doing yet that could help you save sales when review content actually discourages a customer to purchase the item in question.

Book Club SuggestionI’m going to use the example of a book that’s going to be a top-seller on Amazon simply because it’s endorsed by perhaps the most influential television personality in the world – Oprah Winfrey. Most people will not feel the need to read reviews because they trust her opinion so much. Others will be so excited about the book they will read the reviews just to tide them over until the book arrives at their door.

Then you have the customer who will want to read reviews from people like them to determine whether they want to invest 10 hours of reading and $15 in a book. The question they want answered is “why shouldn’t I buy this book?

Customer Reviews Links

Amazon’s 5-star rating graph shows that the majority of reviewers are thrilled with the book. But there are over 50 people who gave it the lowest rating of 1 star. With one click, you jump directly to the critical reviews. Not only that, but by default the reviews appear in order of most helpful as voted by other shoppers. (Users can also sort by most recent review).

Critique of Book on Amazon

So let’s assume the customer is dissuaded by these comments and will not convert on this item. On the plus side, you’ve provided a great service to the shopper and that’s great for building trust. The customer might prefer you over other sites now for future purchases. But you don’t want this customer to leave empty handed. You must show them reasonable substitutes, and Amazon’s got that covered.

Along the right hand side of the customer reviews section, you’ll see product thumbnails and links suggesting other items mentioned in the customer reviews. One problem is this is easy to overlook – like banner blindness, we may also suffer from cross-sell blindness.

Another problem is it isn’t clear why the products were mentioned. In the image above, we see one reviewer felt this book ripped off an earlier work, and the second suggests if you already own other books by this author, you don’t need to spend money on the latest publication. It’s possible these would show up as cross-sells, but without knowing the context of an item’s reference in a customer review, it’s not as helpful as if these suggestions were organized differently.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

Include a field in customer reviews that asks “Didn’t like this product? What would you recommend instead?” The review engine should recognize a 1 or 2 star review and pull data from this field, or simply recognize that if the field is filled in, the reviewer was unhappy with the item.

And when customers then view the filtered results for 1 and 2 star reviews, they would be shown “People who don’t recommend this item would rather buy” suggestions. This way, you build a tremendous amount of trust, you harness the potential of user generated cross-sells and you increase your chances of converting today.

If you missed our merchandising webinar with Mike Svatek of Baynote, do check out the replay and the companion blog summary – it covers a lot of other cross-selling tactics from Amazon. You’ll also want to check out our post on cross selling dos and don’ts.


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8 Responses to “Saving Sales From Negative Customer Reviews”

  1. > Include a field in customer reviews that asks “Didn’t like this product? What would you recommend instead?” … And when customers then view the filtered results for 1 and 2 star reviews, they would be shown “People who don’t recommend this item would rather buy” suggestions.

    I like this idea! Amazon.com developers who might be reading this post, go forth and make it so. :-)

    This is more of a specific usability question than a general eCommerce question, but what would the UI for the “What would you recommend instead?” field look like — how would it work?

    - Would it be a text field that the user could paste in the URL to an item at Amazon.com, from which Amazon would extract the item’s ID?

    - Would it be a richer interface which opens up a popup window with an Amazon search interface, which the user could then use to search for the item they want to link to, and click on the item in the search results to select it?

    - Or something else?

  2. Smart.

    Converesely, perhaps instead of explicitly asking reviewers what else they would recommend, the system could just automatically show what that reviewer has highly-rated (e.g. show books that were rated 4-5 stars by this reviewer and that fall into this same genre).

  3. Now you’re talkin, Eddie!

  4. tiffany says:

    One thing I don’t like about Amazon’s book reviews is that controversial subjects (like politics, religion or even nutrition) attract tons of reviews from people who don’t even read the book.

    The come with an agenda, sometimes even admit the haven’t read the book, and the review is all about attacking the point of view of the author (or perceived point of view) without discussing the actual book.

    Then more reviews come in attacking the negative review and then come in the fake reviews from India (yes, there is black hat Amazon Optimization).

    Yuck!

  5. Amazon optimization aka spam WOW that’s another can of worms…

    You’re right, the book reviews can resemble a heated online forum sometimes.

  6. Comments as more and more common in e-commerce sites, we can expect that innovations arising in the design, usability and quality. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on Amazon for friendship innovations. Today we see an example of how Amazon allows customers to filter comment when there are literally hundreds of them. Amazon not only help customers to improve certain types of comments should also be able to demonstrate relevant merchandise on the basis of advice from customers. This post is also going to propose something that not even Amazon could help save the time to sell the contents of the review actually discourages a customer to purchase the item.

  7. The come with an agenda, sometimes even admit the haven’t read the book, and the review is all about attacking the point of view of the author (or perceived point of view) without discussing the actual book.

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