How Product Reviews Impact Online Sales

We all rely on product reviews before we buy anything online. Consumers who aren’t satisfied with the information provided by the seller will often look for product reviews to see what customers have to say about the product or service they are about to purchase. So, it is fair to say that product reviews have become an indispensable part of online shopping. But how do they affect online sales?

The Role of Customer Opinion in E-commerce

One of the biggest differences between online and offline shopping is that online shopping removes the face-to-face communication between the customer and the seller. Of course, this also means that online shopping lacks the level of reciprocal trust that face-to-face communication provides, which is often compensated for through a host of security measures. These measures can make all parties involved feel safe when it comes to payment, but they certainly cannot cover the lack of in-person product experience and face-to-face communication.

So, one of the information channels that have emerged to make up for this lack of communication and exchange of information is displaying product reviews online. Enriched with a variety of functionalities like product pictures taken by customers, rating, etc., product reviews are a rich source of information. 

Research and Experience in Online Shopping

In addition to the factor of trust, one of the most important roles of product reviews is the fact that they make research easier. Research and experience are two important concepts when it comes to customer decisions. Since online stores don’t offer a possibility to experience a product, research becomes much more important for customers. And, product reviews make it easier for customers to share good and bad experiences with one another, which impacts the decision-making process for potential customers. So, it is obvious that product reviews offer a lot of advantages to customers. But how about online stores?

The Impact of Product Reviews on Online Sales

A customer needs to overcome the feeling of “uncertainty” in order to make the decision to buy a product. And, online sales are directly impacted by whether product reviews succeed or fail to eliminate this sense of uncertainty. A study conducted at the University of Yonsei show us that the number, diversity and length of product reviews are the three factors that have a direct impact on online sales.

Number of product reviews

We already talked about the feeling of “uncertainty” and how it is necessary to eliminate it in order to facilitate a customer’s buying decision. So, the more information a store provides about a given product, the less uncertainty there is for a customer, which means they will be more inclined to buy it.

However, customers know that the seller won’t include negative information in their product description. So, they rely on sources of information that the seller cannot influence so that they can reach more reliable and objective information. In other words, the more product reviews there are on a product page, the more comfortable a customer will feel about buying the product since they feel like they are provided with objective information. 

Diversity of product reviews

The same study suggests that having a broad range of comments on a product, including extreme positives and negatives, have a positive impact on customer behavior. Diversity makes customers trust the product reviews more and find the information on customer experience much more useful, which in return eliminates the feeling of “uncertainty” about the product.

Length of product reviews

The length of the product reviews on a product page is another factor that has a direct influence on sales. When the reviews are too long, customers lose interest and don’t want to read the whole review while short reviews have a more positive impact online sales. 

One explanation for this suggestion can be the fact that long reviews often contain a lot of complaints and negative experiences. In other ways, customers who have had a negative experience with the product tend to write long reviews, while customers who are happy with the product tend to keep their reviews shorter or choose not to write anything at all, which, statistically speaking, makes it look like long comments are bad for online sales.

Product Reviews Must Be Reliable and Transparent

For product reviews to have a positive impact on online sales, the number one rule is to make sure they are reliable and transparent, which means no control by the seller, visibility on the product page and encouraged customer participation. A platform where reviews can be edited/ranked by the seller or fake reviews can be created won’t be a reliable source of information for customers.


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