Online Reviews Sell Books, So Let People Post Them

Customer reviews are becoming an increasingly common element of product sites. Customer reviews have been on for as long as I can remember and they’re also on the Chapters website. Reader reviews fuel Goodreads. But why haven’t publishers jumped on board, especially those selling directly from their sites? And why aren’t customer reviews being built into a retailer website creation or redesign?

Publishers are still trying to build B2C relationships and sell directly, but they’re missing a good opportunity to instill trust and confidence in their website visitors. Customer reviews are a great way to give readers the confidence to buy your book. Yes, of course, we want to direct attention to complimentary back cover copy and glowing endorsements which we can control. But that only goes so far. What are other readers saying? If a potential customer can’t find that out on your site, chances are they will look for the information elsewhere. (Remember, most consumer decisions are now made online regardless of where the purchase is made.) So if they look elsewhere and there’s a buy button there or a call to action… well, you figure it out. And once people know that one site has the information they want and another doesn’t, which site are they more likely to rely on next time?

Although it can be nerve-wracking to open yourself up to negative reviews, that just isn’t a good reason to shy away from allowing customers to review your product. Reviewseven negative ones—drive sales.

At Technology Forum 2011 in March, Mitch Joel shared some wisdom on this. Apparently, 75% to 80% of shoppers read online reviews. And, surprisingly, research has shown that “a negative review converts more effectively to a sale than a positive review.” This is because although customers like reading reviews but they don’t always agree with them. They read them for information more than opinion.

For example, someone might give a novel a negative review claiming it was too philosophical, but if I happen to be into that sort of thing, then I’m sold. Or what if a negative review says you’ll hate this book unless you want a combination of Harry Potter and Twilight? Well if my favourite authors are Myer and Rowling, then I’m inclined to make that book my next read. What Mitch was ultimately saying was that the content of the reviews is more important than the star rating.

But the other thing that customer reviews does is make you trust the website and the company. If you’re open and genuine, buyers will trust you and the products you sell. It adds to credibility which leads to loyalty which both retailers and publishers are looking for. It also provides feedback and engagement which aren’t too shabby either.