04 Apr 2016

The Importance of Localized User Reviews

If your business is planning on entering a new market, one of the best things you can do to gain trust and build credibility is to get local users to provide reviews of your product or service.

There’s a strong body of evidence about the effectiveness of online reviews at supporting sales. According to data from both Reevoo and iPerceptions, 60% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a website if it features reviews. In some parts of the world, reviews play a particularly critical role in the purchase decision process. And many consumers across the world are particularly interested in hearing what their friends and family think about products.

For this reason, making sure that all your audiences have the benefit of reviews in their local language and addressing the concerns of that particular market is especially important.

Reviews can help support the credibility of your brand or product as it enters a new market.

Reviews can communicate the salient points from that audience’s perspective and they can reassure new customers that the product is relevant to them.

Most importantly, they can do this using the language and voice of the local consumer. This isn’t something that can be replicated easily by merely translating reviews written in other languages.

How reviews vary globally

The way we use and rely on reviews tends to vary between cultures. An online research panel run by Lightspeed Research found that consumers in the US tended to trust online reviews they knew had been written by friends and family over reviews written by professionals and by other consumers.  In the UK, the reverse was true. British web users were more inclined to put faith in professional reviews and those written by other customers over those written by friends and family.

Some markets seem particularly keen to get the advice of an expert (rather than an acquaintance) before buying anything.

In key markets such as India, Brazil and Malaysia over 60% of consumers claim to insist on getting expert opinion before they make a purchase. Many parts of the Middle East, including markets such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, also favour expert reviews. In fact, data from GlobalWebIndex shows that half of all internet users seek an expert opinion before they decide what to purchase online. Younger consumers, and those in higher income brackets, tend to be more inclined to get expert insight into their purchase decision making. In fact, 58% of the wealthiest 25% of online shoppers say they always get expert input into their purchasing.

It’s generally understood that Chinese consumers tend to take online reviews seriously. It’s thought that over 40% of Chinese online shoppers read and write online product reviews: making them twice as likely as US internet shoppers and over four times more likely than Indian ones to post reviews.

2014 research from KPMG shows that Asian shoppers will spend more on products that have been reviewed by figures that they trust.

Younger consumers rely on reviews to a greater extent than older ones.

Consumers are also likely to want immediate input on prospective purchases from their friends on social media, so it’s important that brands make it easy to share product information on popular social media channels during the decision process.

Customers can detect fake reviews

Web users are generally very good at identifying fake reviews. Even if they cannot prove that the reviews are fake, customers will be put off if they are suspicious of the contents of a review.

Consumers tend to be less trusting of reviews they read in a company’s own assets, such as on a website, where the brand is presumed to have editorial control.

In cynical Britain, only 17% of web users trust the reviews they find on company websites. In the US, web users are more trusting and 28% of people will trust reviews on company sites.

On the other hand, consumers are slightly more likely to leave a review if they know it will appear on the company’s own site. And although it may seem counterintuitive, a small number of negative reviews can engender trust from consumers. If web users only find positive reviews about a product or service, they are less likely to trust them. If there are a few negative reviews as well as positive ones, it seems to have the effect of making the positive ones seem more trustworthy and reliable.

Reviews vary depending on the source

It’s really important to ensure that you try to obtain reviews from verified, rather than anonymous, buyers. A study by PowerReviews and NorthWestern University examined the circumstances under which reviews are most impactful on purchase decisions. They found that reviews from verified buyers tend to be shorter but are more positive. Importantly, the number of reviews from verified buyers has a positive impact on purchase likelihood.

How to get more online reviews from verified buyers

If you’re entering a new market, it’s important to tread carefully as you approach the difficult task of getting the first reviews.

Translating reviews from overseas is inadvisable as the results rarely look natural and may not address the same issues that the new market is interested in. Instead it’s better to try to get local reviews as quickly as possible. Focusing attention on a small trial market, perhaps by offering discounts or giveaways to try to gain reviews, is one way to try to get initial reviews rolling.

Getting customers to leave reviews can be extremely difficult. Customers are often reluctant to go to the effort of leaving reviews, or they don’t know how, or they don’t feel they have anything to say. Unfortunately, customers often tend to be keenest to write a review when they have something negative to say.

As a very rough rule of thumb, you can expect to get one review for every hundred items you sell on a review-orientated site such as Amazon. This isn’t a very high rate of reviews, which is obviously rather frustrating. The rate can be even lower on a less review-friendly site than Amazon (Amazon’s good at prompting users to leave product reviews post-purchase).

Some types of products seem to invite more reviews than others.

For example, customers may be more willing to share their opinion about a book or film but less forthcoming with their opinion of a garden hose or some floor tiles.

There are a few ways that you can help increase the rate of customer reviews:

  • Ask customers for feedback – showing their opinion is valued can motivate them to leave reviews.
  • Explain how they should leave reviews and send a link.
  • Gathering customer email addresses, even for offline sales, so you can send a follow up email requesting a review.
  • Consider incentivizing your customers to leave reviews. One way to do this is to give away free products in return for honest reviews: Amazon permits vendors to do this using services such as AMZ Reviews.
  • Avoid paying for reviews as the damage associated with being caught out will far outweigh the benefits of the reviews you obtain this way.


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