How Product Ratings Can Make Shoppers Feel Better About Their Purchases — and Potentially Reduce Returns

If retailers want shoppers to feel confident about buying online, they should embrace the power of user feedback.

According to a new study, nearly three quarters of U.S. consumers (and 71 percent of global consumers) consider product ratings to be “important” or “very important” to their purchasing decisions online. Global strategy and marketing consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners surveyed about 6,400 consumers in 23 countries worldwide, and found that a simple, easy-to-navigate ratings system can give shoppers peace of mind, leading to better conversion rates and fewer unnecessary returns.

“They feel better informed, make fewer bad purchases, and say they receive better quality products,” said Ricardo Rubi, a partner at the firm specializing in retail strategy. “With product ratings, the balance of power is shifting toward the customer, as they are less reliant on marketing promises and advertising messages from providers.”

While some companies might fear relinquishing control over their messaging online, offering reviews conveys a sense of confidence in the quality of a product — essential in an era when customers are demanding increased transparency from the brands they buy from. Particularly in categories that can be tricky to fit, such as shoes, ratings and reviews can be the difference between a customer checking out and abandoning their cart, and even more significantly, the difference between a purchase being kept and being returned.

Returns are a costly problem for online retailers, which see a typical return rate of between 15 to 30 percent (and even higher for apparel and accessories). According to statistics portal Statista, U.S. return delivery costs reached $381 billion in 2017, and are expected to reach $550 billion by 2020.

According to the survey, shoppers’ basket size might even be bigger when they do finally click “buy”: 19 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for products with higher ratings.

Almost half also said they regularly read reviews before making a purchase, which benefits retailers that offer a robust ratings system. On Nike’s e-commerce site, for instance, shoppers can read dozens of reviews for many pairs of sneakers. Department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s excel in this area, too, offering the option of sorting by top-rated products in addition to standard criteria like price and newness.

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