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User reviews play critical role in getting mobile commerce to scale

Although mobile commerce continues to grow, there are still plenty of consumers who are wary of shopping via their devices because they do not have all the information that they need to make a purchase. One way to help with this is to make it as easy as possible for consumers to submit and read product reviews.

“Reviews matter – our mobile sites show that conversion is 29 percent higher when customers look at a product review, and average order value increases by 13 percent,” said Joey Rahimi, co-founder and chief information officer of Branding Brand, Pittsburgh, PA.

“Reviews help customers make the leap from consideration to purchase,” he said. “This is especially important when big-ticket items are involved.”

Generating conversions
Mobile commerce is undoubtedly a big priority for many retailers with consumers increasingly taking to their smartphones and tablets to research and shop.

Once brands have the basics down, personalization is key to not only keeping mobile users coming back but also shopping continuously.

In fact, recent research from Branding Brand pinpoints how mobile reviews lead to more valued mobile shoppers. The research took place from Dec. 12, 2012 – Jan. 13 with Branding Brand’s clients.

Per the findings, the mobile pages per visit increase 21 percent when consumers look at a product review. This points to consumers who look at reviews as being more interested and engaged than the average mobile shopper.

Additionally, the average order value increases 13 percent and conversions go up 29 percent for consumers who read a product review.

The combination of these factors means that the per visit value of a shopper who reads mobile reviews is 45 percent higher than users who did not read a product review, per Branding Brand.

Repeat usage
Besides driving incremental conversions and order values, marketers can also use product reviews to drive repeat mobile traffic.

For example, online retailer ModCloth recently rolled out an iPad app to let consumers check out the brand’s latest looks (see story).

The app uses personalized push notifications to sync with a users’ ModCloth account. For products without user reviews, consumers can opt-in to be notified when an item is available, which helps the company drive shoppers back to the app.

Although there are exceptions, many retailers have not tapped fully into personalization and targeted products, according to Dave Martin, senior vice president of media at Ignited, El Segundo, CA.

To help with this, some retailers are raising the bar for mobile by incentivizing users who post reviews on a mobile site or app. This can include point systems or discounts that reward consumers for writing reviews.

“Consumers are looking for ways to compensate for not being able to hold a product in their hands or talk to a sales person before buying,” Mr. Martin said.

“This is true of ecommerce, but even more true for mobile because the screen is so small and the images often do not show a lot about a product,” he said.

“The easiest place for consumers to turn to is peer reviews. If hundreds of people say a product is good or great, that can overcome the fear of buying something you cannot see clearly on the small screen, let alone touch and feel for yourself.”

A product page for an Apex TV on Target’s iPhone app

Unhappy shoppers
Not all brands are eager to include reviews on their mobile sites and apps though.

Consumers take to their mobile devices to sound off about an experience with a brand – whether it is good or bad. Since mobile users are more likely to take an action on the spot, the chances of a user posting something negative could be higher than a desktop user, which tarnishes a brand’s reputation.

Take Yelp, for example. Reviews for restaurants can only be made from a computer, presumably when users are more clearheaded and at home after either a good or bad experience at a restaurant.

“Moovweb’s experience platform is used by dozens of high profile retailers today – about a third of them offer the ability for consumers to read reviews through their mobile experiences,” said Mitch Bishop, chief marketing officer at Moovweb, San Francisco.

“Interestingly, almost none of these sites offer the ability for consumers to write reviews using their smartphones,” he said.

“The prevailing school of thought is that unhappy consumers should be given time to cool off before posting a negative review, which can linger for a long time.”

Tablet opportunity
As tablet adoption continues to grow, the devices are increasingly being used as a replacement to a PC for some consumers. Therefore, reviews play a bigger role in persuading users to shop than a smartphone.

Additionally, tablets have proved to be big triggers for commerce.

For example, a recent report from ABI Research found that 22 percent of tablet owners spend $50 or more per month and 9 percent spending $100 or more from their devices (see story).

The report also found that tablet use is most prevalent at home, meaning that users have more time to research and learn about products on their devices.

“The overall shopping experience is different on mobile from traditional PC-based ecommerce, and the fact that the majority of high-engagement shopping – like buying clothes, furniture and electronics takes place on tablets, we can safely see that user reviews will continue to play a large role in influencing purchase decisions,” said Warren Zenna, managing director of digital and mobile at Woods Witt Dealy & Sons, New York.

“So we would need to contextualize this to account for that,” he said. “On smartphones, shoppers usually know what they want and do not browse a lot. On tablets, it is my view that reviews are going to be an even more important driver for consideration given the high-engagement quotient of the tablet shopping experience.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York