The Benefits of Online Ratings and Reviews for E-commerce Merchants

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1 The Benefits of Online Ratings and Reviews for E-commerce Merchants 3/21/2013

2 Table of Contents The Benefits of Online Ratings and Reviews... 3 How Ratings and Reviews Benefit Businesses... 3 How Ratings and Reviews Benefit SEO... 5 How Ratings and Reviews Benefit Consumers... 6 Conclusion... 6 About Us... 7 Page2

3 The Benefits of Online Ratings and Reviews Word of mouth is one of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing, and its influence is on the rise as traditional marketing becomes more expensive and less effective. In the past, word of mouth was limited to person to person communication. Today, the viral nature of the internet allows conversations to quickly spread around the world and influence millions of people. This fact, coupled with a growing distrust for traditional advertising, has made online ratings and reviews one of the most powerful factors influencing consumer purchasing decisions. There are two types of ratings and reviews that business owners should be aware of; product reviews and company experience reviews. Product reviews are typically non-solicited, on-site reviews that can be found directly on the business website. Consumers read and compare product reviews when trying to decide which type of product to buy. These reviews usually focus on product quality, price, and value, and are essential for increasing consumer confidence. Company experience reviews are often solicited reviews that appear on third party sites, such as ResellerRatings.com, Epinions.com, and RateItAll.com. These reviews can occur at the point-of-sale, directly after the order is placed, or post-fulfillment, after the customer has received the product. Company experience reviews are big-picture and can include information on the merchant s shipping, checkout process, and return policy. Merchants should focus on obtaining these reviews, since they improve website relevance and can boost visibility and search engine ranking. Both product and company experience reviews are beneficial to merchants and customers. They help businesses establish credibility, improve their search engine visibility, and can increase online sales. They give customers a voice and help develop consumer confidence and trust that is lacking in the e- commerce marketplace. The following benefits make ratings and reviews essential to online e- commerce success. How Ratings and Reviews Benefit Businesses It is essential for businesses to encourage reviews because more and more customers rely on the opinions and experiences of others when making their purchasing decisions. Ratings and reviews have the power to reach a larger audience and be more influential (and less expensive) than conventional marketing methods. Here are some of the ways that ratings and reviews can help your business: Page3

4 Ratings and Reviews Increase Sales Reviews can help establish your brand s credibility and increase consumer confidence when buying your products. They provide customers with the information that they need to feel confident in making an online purchase, and in doing so raise your conversion rate. Ratings and Reviews Establish Credibility Ratings and reviews are extremely effective in establishing business credibility simply because people assume that the writers have nothing to gain. Having objective customers with no ulterior motive speak highly of your products through ratings and reviews can do more to boost your credibility that almost any traditional marketing campaign. Ratings and Reviews Help You Understand Your Customers One of the wonderful benefits of ratings and reviews is that your customers are telling you everything you want to know how they feel about your brand, what they like and dislike about your products, and how you can improve their overall shopping experience. All of this important information is right at your fingertips; all you have to do is listen. Ratings and Reviews Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of Customer Service Online reviews are a great way to discover the strengths and weakness of your customer service department. They also provide you with an opportunity to address any issues in a way that reflects positively on your company. If you take the time to respond to the review, explain the situation, and make it right, you can turn a bad review into a great opportunity. Ratings and Reviews Increase Traffic to Your Website In today s highly saturated marketplace, businesses are constantly battling to show up on that coveted first page of Google search results. Ratings and reviews provide new and unique content that is packed with quality keywords. That will help your products rank higher and draw more traffic to your site. Ratings and Reviews Increase Customer Loyalty Once customers take the time to sit down and write a review, it is likely that they will feel a stronger sense of loyalty to your brand. Similarly, when people read positive reviews about a company they already support, the reviews can reinforce their positive outlook. The combination of a positive firsthand experience and favorable online reviews can translate to a stronger sense of customer loyalty. Page4

5 How Ratings and Reviews Benefit SEO Ratings and reviews are as important to e-commerce as links are to SEO. They figure prominently into search engine algorithms and can improve your ranking in comparison shopping engines. Here are some ways that ratings and reviews can help your search engine optimization efforts: Ratings and Reviews Improve Your Rankings Although there is no exact formula for perfect search engine optimization, there are certain things that businesses can do to improve their relevancy and rankings. Ratings and reviews help give search engine spiders what they are looking for, which is a large volume of unique content that is updated regularly and has relevant keywords. Ratings and Review Use Better Keywords Customers writing reviews are likely to use the same type of keywords they used to search for the product in the first place. In a sense, you are getting the keywords straight from the horse s mouth, which may alert you to important keyword permutations and variations you hadn t thought of. In addition, reviews are typically full of keywords that will help increase your relevancy in search results and comparison shopping engines. Ratings and Reviews Provide Unique Content Ratings and Reviews provide the unique content that you need to differentiate yourself to the search engines and comparison shopping engines. Since your individual customers write reviews, the content is less likely to appear on competing sites and will be unique to your company and website. Rating and Reviews Ensure Your Content Is Constantly Updated Regularly updated websites with fresh content are rewarded with higher rankings. In fact, Google gives you the option to sort your results by websites that have been updated within the last 24 hours, week, month, etc. Ratings and reviews are by far the easiest and most cost-effective way of producing continuously new content. Rating and Reviews Increase Your Content Volume With all of the resources that are available, both consumers and search engines want as much information as possible. Furthermore, search engine spiders give higher rankings to websites that have a larger volume of content. Ratings and reviews add to your website content and allow you to provide relevant information to your key audiences. Page5

6 How Ratings and Reviews Benefit Consumers It is important to remember that ratings and reviews exist to benefit the customer and help them make informed purchasing decisions here are some of the ways that ratings and reviews can help your customers: Ratings and Reviews Increase Consumer Confidence Online consumers are unable to go into a store, try out a product, and ask questions to the knowledgeable sales staff. They also don t typically have a brick and mortar store where they can return the product if they don t like it or need to exchange it for a different size. When consumers buy products online, they must rely on the reviews of their peers to build their confidence and guide their purchasing decisions. Ratings and Reviews Provide More Information Ratings and reviews provide consumers with seemingly infinite information that most people perceive to be commercially unbiased. Ratings and reviews give shoppers access to a huge amount of information they want and trust from an objective third party that can help them make informed purchasing decisions. Ratings and Reviews Give Consumers a Voice Ratings and reviews give consumers a channel through which they can immediately share their opinion about a product or company. Before the internet, customers could really only communicate with those people that they already knew or came into direct contact with. Today, someone can write a product review and influence thousands of strangers all over the world. Ratings and reviews give consumers an easy and immediate way to share their opinions and experiences in a meaningful way. Ratings and Reviews Encourage Customer Engagement Once someone takes the time to write a review, they are likely to come back to see what others have written and to check if anyone has responded to their post, forming a cycle of customer engagement. Ratings and reviews also give individuals the ability to interact directly with the company. This direct communication is influential because it can either benefit or severely damage the businesses. Conclusion The internet revolution has taken word of mouth marketing to the next level. Consumers now have the ability to share their experiences and opinions with their online peers, in a way that is extremely Page6

7 influential and powerful. Online ratings and reviews give customers a voice, increase consumer confidence, enhance product visibility, and can dramatically increase sales. When it comes down to it, online ratings and reviews provide incredible value and benefits that businesses cannot afford to ignore. About Us Vertical Rail is an e-commerce marketing agency that specializes in data feed optimization and comparison shopping engine management. Located in Capitola, CA, Vertical Rail helps e-commerce merchants develop smart strategies for social media and comparison shopping inclusion. For more information about this topic, republishing this white paper, or to learn more about Vertical Rail call or visit verticalrail.com. We encourage your comments and feedback. Page7

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