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Ecommerce Hint #9: Add Product Reviews to Your Site... And Don't Fear Negative Reviews!

A client of ours -- www.PetWellbeing.com -- sells natural herbal remedies for pets. They had long included customer testimonials in their product descriptions. Here's an example:

The fact that they didn't have a customer-facing, independently-moderated system led to two problems:

  1. Adding new testimonials was a lot of work, and therefore didn't get done frequently enough.
  2. Some customers probably doubted how representative or authentic the testimonials were, as they were clearly hand-selected by our client.

We recommended that they implement an independent customer review feature, using www.PowerReviews.com.

At first, the client was nervous about this. They knew they had great products, but were worried about what might happen if they got some negative reviews (possibly from competitors posing as customers).

We argued that the potential benefits greatly outweighed any risks. We also reminded them that although the reviews were collected and verified independently, our client did maintain "veto power" should they feel any particular review was grossly unfair, inaccurate and misleading.

Ultimately, the client agreed. So we went ahead and implemented their online review system.

The results have exceeded even our wildest expectations. In just a few short months, some products have received dozens of reviews... and they have been overwhelmingly positive. Here's a typical review page:

Most importantly, conversion rates of all products have increased... even those products that have received some negative reviews.

One negative review in particular was an issue. The reviewing customer, in addition to stating the product "didn't work", came right out and said he thought the testimonials weren't real:

Our client, knowing the testimonials are genuine and not wanting doubt cast upon them, considered pulling this review. We discussed it, and ultimately agreed that by letting the review remain, we were in fact proving the reviewer wrong!

Embrace the occasional negative review. Consider it a wonderful opportunity to improve your credibility and gain customer trust. And as PetWellbeing discovered, you can take such improvements to the bank.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Thanks for the great post. We, at PowerReviews, wholeheartedly agree that negative reviews are not something to be feared - numerous internal and industry findings show that when negative reviews are featured alongside positive reviews, they serve to build credibility and actually drive sales. Nice work VKI Studios and PetWellBeing.com!
# Posted By Yury | 2/26/09 9:16 PM
As a winery I've experienced with success the feedback section on my wines. I've actually done more than that, I've started the feedback section, one for each wine and organised as a blog post where everyone can add comment on that particular wine, by creating a tasting panel of 100 members each one of which received 6 bottles and was encouraged to write a review or any comment on our website.
The key factor I think was that I have of course promised that I'll allow all comments to be published, bad and good. And yes, we had bad comments but they were a large minority. I don't think that it would be credible if all comments were positive, and I think people feel encouraged by transparency and honesty. The feedback section on our wines is always open and receives comments by customers all the time. I love it and so do customers.
# Posted By gianpaolo | 3/2/09 6:51 AM
I rarely buy a product online unless there is at least one middling to negative review. Firstly, cause I like to know what the drawbacks associated with the product are and also cause the negative comments kind of lend credence to the positive ones. So yeah, I think this blog post is otm.
# Posted By Bob Porter | 3/4/09 11:31 AM
The occasional average and/or negative review only serves to legitimize the others on the site.
# Posted By bill parker | 3/9/09 8:27 PM
I completely agree. I wrote a two-part blog post that touches on (and expands on) this subject. It starts here: http://adammetz.com/metzmash/loving-your-haters-em...
I welcome your thoughts and am happy to bounce ideas around. Also, if anyone has thoughts on creatively using (i.e. integrating social web properties and bringing the offline world in) negative press/feedback, shout out about that too.
# Posted By JasonLevy | 7/7/09 11:42 AM
Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my own site something like that. Is it ok if I take part of your post to my blog? =-=
# Posted By Aldous | 9/13/11 1:53 AM