Online Product Reviews: The Gleam of a Brands’ Armour

Written by: Raymond King on February 22, 2018

Brands in Southeast Asia are choosing leading marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee when trialing ecommerce, but most are still unaware of the intricacies of online channels. 

An often overlooked aspect to opening an official Shop-in-Shop (SiS) is the impact of customer reviews. Traditionally, brands have leveraged sources like Nielsen or focus groups to understand consumer behavior but one of the key advantages of an ecommerce store is the ability to analyze consumer sentiment right when it happens.

How much do product reviews really matter?

A 2017 survey by Podium shows that 93% of shoppers find reviews influential when buying online. 88% of consumers trust product reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 72% say a positive review makes them trust an online business more.

An analysis of 57 million reviews and 35 billion product pages by the Buzzplant network found that increasing the volume of reviews has a tangible effect on your conversion, SEO, and product development.

“Any business owner knows that your most authentic and impactful advocate is a happy customer, and technology has made every customer’s voice extremely powerful,” says Eric Rea, CEO of Podium.

Source: Buzzplant

Impact on SEO

The volume and recurrence of product reviews has a direct correlation to search engine SEO. Moz found in 2017 that “Review Signals” affect up to 13% of how search engines rank results.

The factors that influence SEO include review quantity, review velocity, and review diversity.

In 2013, Google implemented the Hummingbird update, the most significant change to its search engine algorithm since 2001. The new code has far greater affinity for natural language processing and user intent as opposed to the earlier practice of ranking for keyword stuffing.

With Hummingbird, we can assume that product reviews that naturally feature conversational language are given higher search priority.  

Lazada incorporates quantity of reviews and average ratings directly into its Google schema markup. In layman’s terms, this means that consumers in Southeast Asia searching for products on Google will see product ratings and reviews directly in the results.

Lazada SKUs highlight average ratings and number of reviews directly in search results

The More “Helpful” the Review, the Higher the Ranking

We’ve demonstrated the tangible effect of product reviews on conversion and visibility but how many products do consumers read before purchasing?

According to a 2017 study by BrightLocal, 67% of customers read 4+ reviews, and 33% read 11+. Naturally, they’ll read the reviews that appear first on the product page – similar to how the first page of SEO results are the most lucrative.

How does Lazada sort reviews?

The first bifurcation Lazada applies is by splitting reviews into two categories: “Verified” and “Unverified”.

“Verified” reviews are those made by customers who have purchased the product in question and leave a review using the same account. “Unverified” reviews can be made by any visitor to the product page. The “Verified” reviews rank at the top, followed by the “Unverified” reviews.

Visitors to product pages can further “like” a product review by deeming it “helpful”. The most “helpful” reviews will rank at the top, meaning visitors to product pages are more likely to interact with “verified” and “helpful” reviews first.

Data analytics platform BrandIQ delved into the trend between review “helpfulness” and its star rating. By analyzing over 715,000 reviews across four Lazada country sites (ID, TH, PH, SG), it determined that, on average, lower ratings are deemed more “helpful” than higher ratings.

This inverse relationship is a critical reason for brands to pay close attention to its product reviews. Customers are far more likely to be reading negative reviews as their first 4+ rather than positive ones due to Lazada’s ranking algorithm.

What’s the possible recourse for brands?

After speaking with a Lazada support representative, there appears to be two underlying factors that cause the marketplace to take action on product reviews: the use of vulgar language or reviews that have no relevance to the product.

The first factor can be tackled relatively easily. Lazada itself has a quality assurance process to check each product review before it’s uploaded to the product page. However, the astronomical growth of reviews has made it inevitable for some to fall through the cracks. The week of 12-12 in 2017 garnered just over 34,000 product reviews alone.

The second factor is more complicated as they are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Lazada’s technical team will entertain petitions to remove reviews that aren’t related to the product such as issues with delivery that stem from problems with the brand’s third party logistics partner.

To incentivize better service and product quality, Lazada provides a framework to incorporate product reviews into a store’s Seller Rating. This metric looks at the percentage of positive (4 or 5 stars) reviews compared to total reviews.

Lazada advertises Seller Rewards as a gift for high Seller Ratings: such brands will enjoy greater visibility of products in search as well as access to its promotional campaigns.

Lazada’s Seller Performance Metrics

What does this mean?

In essence, product reviews have multiple dimensions and a plethora of use cases. Not only are they taken into account by channels that drive traffic to your SiS, they can make or break a product’s conversion and directly affect your brand’s perceived trust.

Some brands are also leveraging reviews for digital marketing campaigns by incorporating them directly into the ad copy.

Different use cases for product reviews are emerging in digital marketing

Reviews are an under-utilised resource in Southeast Asia, but this might be on the cusp of changing. You could always hope a gem of a review goes viral, like this one:

X