Do your products enjoy volume, authenticity and recency when it comes to ratings & reviews? If not, you’re losing sales, diminishing your brand and ceding market share. Learn why we formulated the 3 pillars of effective ratings & reviews after spending years defining and refining our tactics and techniques.

Understanding the value of volume, authenticity and recency on your sales, brand, product development and overall business is crucial. Brands that don’t lose sales, give up market share, don’t iterate product quickly and accurately and miss out on business growth opportunities.

What are volume, authenticity and recency, and how do they influence shoppers at various points of their shopping journey? In this article we explain.

After spending the past 5 years laser-focused on becoming experts at gathering, syndicating and leveraging ratings & reviews to transform our business, we have created a system of principles that guide our methods and techniques. Three of the most important principles are intimately related and we have coined them the Three Pillars.

Volume, the first pillar: Volume is the sheer number of ratings associated with a product. The value of volume is captured at the collections page of product online. The collections page of a third-party retailer is where shoppers view your products next to those of your competitors. It is analogous to the shelf at a physical retail storefront.

When shoppers look at the shelf of a physical, they can compare different product attributes, including size, style, touch, smell, form, function dimensions, features and price. On a digital shelf, i.e. the collections page online, shoppers can compare slightly less. They can, however, compare the star ratings and review volumes associated with the products they’re browsing.

Of course, we know that having a high star rating associated with your product is important, so we won’t go into detail about that here. Instead, let’s discuss the importance of the number of ratings associated with your product.

If a shopper is browsing two products, and both have a 4.5-star rating, what will distinguish one from the other? The answer? The volume of ratings & reviews associated with the product.

The higher the volume, the more popular and trusted the product appears and we all know that shoppers feel more confident parting with their money when they’re buying a product that is popular and trusted.

Authenticity, the second pillar: Once shoppers select a product from the collections, they’re ready to understand the product in greater detail at the product details page. This is where shoppers add products to cart and begin the checkout process. The product details page is also where in-store shoppers visit when they see a product they like on-shelf and want to learn more about it by using their smartphone.

It's important to have a product with high ratings and a high number of reviews. If that product, however, has reviews that appear inauthentic, shoppers will perceive that and lose trust in your product.

So how may reviews appear inauthentic? In a few different ways.

If too many reviews were written by “pre-qualified” reviewers in some sort of review program, the shopper will question whether the product was actually purchased and enjoyed by real shoppers or if it was just seeded to reviewers who were incentivized to leave a review.

Even if those reviews don’t have the “tag” that are supposed to be assigned to reviews that have been written by someone who is a pre-qualified reviewer or who was incentivized to write the review, shoppers can discern if a review isn’t authentic by the tone of the review.

Reviews that are very technical in nature and that lack human emotion through the use of exclamation marks, words and phrases of true passion like “love” and “Oh My Goodness!” phrases like “and unconventional uses of lower and upper case and misspelling, can give off the impression that they are inauthentic.

Consumer reviews are supposed to be … written by consumers. And because consumers are real people, their reviews are supposed to feel real. While it may be counter-intuitive, a review that says “You will not believe how many people stopped me to ask me where I got my shoes! I ABSOLUTELY love them” is more effective than a review that carefully explain the shoelaces and the in-step of the shoe.

One of the reasons for this is because first party content on the product page, i.e. the content a brand produces and displays, is meant to be descriptive and illuminate the product’s features fully for the shopper. Conversely, the customer review section is meant to capture the true feelings, emotions and experiences customers have had using the product. The more authentic the review sounds, the more comfortable the shopper will feel adding your product to their cart.

Recency, the third pillar: We know why volume and authenticity are important, but what is recency? Here’s a good way to understand the concept of recency.

Imagine a shopper was impressed by your product at the collections page, clicked through to the product page and was comfortable with how previous customers reviewed your product. Now imagine that the shopper sorted the reviews by date (which is something many shoppers do if the reviews aren’t sorted by chronologically already).

What do you think goes through the minds of shoppers if the latest review was left twelve weeks ago, six months ago or more than one year ago?

Shoppers look at the dates of reviews to gauge how frequently and how recently the product is being consumed. So even if your product has a high volume of reviews, if the latest review is old, shoppers may believe that your product has lost popularity and hasn’t been purchased in a long time.

What do you think goes through the minds of shoppers if out of 20 reviews, 12 of them were written within just a few days of each other? Shoppers have become highly sophisticated and many will deduce that there was an artificial blitz of some sort by the brand to generate reviews or perhaps the reviews were gathered inorganically. In the end, the timing of reviews matters to shoppers.

It is important for brands to have tactics and methods in place to gather lots of reviews from their customers in a way that is organic and frequent so that new shoppers recognize that your products are popular, that your customers are passionate and authentic in their reviews and that they are consistently buying your products.