According to Ipsos OTX, 69% of purchasers are influenced by online product reviews (see graphic).  That’s a huge market segment that you can influence my incorporating reviews of products onto your website.  In the age of buying products sight unseen via the Internet, product reviews are more important than ever.  Many merchant websites incorporate their own user product reviews, but this is a small fraction of the overall merchant sites selling products across the internet.  Here are my five top tips for writing a thorough, influential product review.

Use the Product

You might think that this is so obvious, it doesn’t need to be said.  However I’ve definitely read some reviews of products from writers who clearly didn’t use the product.  Either their experience was wildly different than mine, or the review focused on a superficial use of the product.  When reviewing a product, use it for awhile, not just an afternoon.  You want to know how well it stands the test of time, if it degrades or breaks easily, if it exceeds quality expectations, and if it’s worth the cost.  Don’t write a review merely to sell a product unless you truly believe in the product.

Take Pictures or – better yet – Videos

Ever followed a recipe to the letter and your version doesn’t come out at all like the pretty, professionally styled photograph in the cookbook?  Real product pictures are a great feature of product reviews.  Consumers can compare your photos to the glossy, professional photos on the merchant site to get a more realistic sense of what the product will be like when it arrives on their doorstep.  Videos are even better, because they can see the product in action.  Use your best judgement to assess whether a picture will suffice or a video is better – some products, like candle holders from Luna Bazzar, may only need a photograph to show your reader what the physical item looks like.  Other products, like clothing from, may require a video to show your users how the fabric lays on the body, how a skirt looks with a top in the daylight, etc.

Value Assessment

Simply put: is the product or service worth it’s cost?  With a very price-conscious consumer base, it’s important to give your honest opinion regarding the price of a product.  It adds to the influence of a review to let your reader know whether or not you felt it was money well spent.  I’ve read many product reviews that didn’t mention the price, and it always leaves me wondering if I should look for a similar item that’s less expensive and would work just as well.  Feel free to compare your experience with an item to your experience with a lower priced, similar item to answer this question.  It will help your readers to make the decision on what they would rather spend their hard-earned money on.

Website Analysis

This is an easy feature to include in your product review for any items you purchase, but what if a merchant provides an item to you to review for free?  Always walk through the ordering process of a merchant’s website so you can highlight any pain points in your review.  Readers will appreciate a heads-up if a site requires a login before ordering, or if there’s a part of the process that is more difficult than it should be, in your opinion.  Think about other usability aspects of the merchant’s website too, like the shipping policy, handling fees, or how easy is it to contact Customer Service?  Your readers will take information like this into consideration, especially if it’s a merchant they’re not already familiar with.  They want to know that the website is definitely secure and legit before putting in their credit card information.  I’m sure the merchant will also want to hear your feedback!

Be Honest

You may feel pressured to write a positive review if a product is provided to you for free, but above all be honest with your opinions.  Many disclosures (which are absolutely required when a product is given to you) mention that the opinions are 100% your own.  If the product or service had a short coming, include it.  Tell your reader how you really feel about the product.  The more honest information about a product or service is available, the better.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal in January 2009, 92% of consumers have more confidence in information they found online than they do in information from the merchant or a sales clerk.  Those 92% are relying on information like yours to weigh their options and help them to make a decision based on honest opinions, not glossy sales figures.

Remember that the 69% of consumers who are influenced by product reviews are counting on YOU to help them answer a simple, all encompassing question: should I buy this? Not only will including as much information as possible in your review earn you a new follower, but it will increase your affiliate conversion if you include links to the product.  If the buyer needs to find missing information on another site, your chances of the review converting to a sale go down dramatically.  Not only are product reviews good consumer karma, but also a great tool to improve content on your site and conversions for your business.