Would you buy a product with an average rating of three stars on Amazon.com? Probably not. In fact, consumer electronics brands consider a rating of less than four stars to be the kiss of death.
Ratings and reviews have become so important in e-commerce that an entire industry has grown up around their analysis and interpretation. And for good reason: a TrustPilot survey revealed that almost nine out of 10 consumers read reviews regularly before buying products.
Whether you’re selling on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, or your website, you can use reviews to refine your product (and presentation), resolve issues before they become crises, and even uncover new market opportunities. That’s what Thrasio Is. The contractor started selling a milk frother on Amazon in 2018 and has since built a significant business by acquiring small e-commerce businesses, bundling their products and bringing in specialists in marketing, optimization search engines, logistics and other disciplines to drive sales. Today, its business encompasses more than 200 brands.
David Toledo, Vice President of Strategy and Product Development at Thrasio, recently gave me insight into how the company leverages Amazon reviews and metrics to tweak its portfolio and even develop new products. . Our discussion focused on Amazon because that’s where Thrasio sells the vast majority of its products. Every e-commerce site has an assortment of metrics.
Early warning systems
The value of customer reviews lies in both quality and quantity, Toledo said. The more positive reviews you have, the higher the barrier of entry for competitors. Don’t obsess over the occasional complaint. A 2018 study by G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing found that two-thirds of B2B buyers like to see a mix of positive and negative reviewsclaiming that they make positive comments more believable.
“I always tell my team that we are looking for problems, not solutions,” Toledo said. “Reviews are where you find problems. If we see something over and over again, it raises questions. If the bad reviews start from day one, there’s probably a design issue. If there’s a sudden spike, it is probably from a bad batch and requires a different solution.
There are many tools to help you. Sellers love Helium 10 and Jungle Scout provide a full suite of services for selling on Amazon, including sales tracking, keyword analysis and trends in customer ratings. Thrasio uses algorithms that examine the words used by reviewers to interpret positive or negative sentiment.
This analysis led to a design change in an electronic bug sensor that the company was selling. “By far the most complaints were that it didn’t catch fruit flies well, followed by it being too strong and too shiny,” Toledo said. The company added speed and brightness controls to the fan and a capsule containing apple cider vinegar to catch fruit flies. The average number of stars has increased from 3.5 to 4, which puts it on par with competitors.
“We also look at competitor reviews to see what people like about other products,” Toledo said. “The ideas for range extensions come from there.”
For example, the company used Amazon’s brand dashboard and shopping cart analytics to find that many of its coffee can shoppers were also buying coffee grinders. One particularly well-reviewed competitive shredder was drawing complaints because it lacked a lid. So Thrasio designed a hand-held coffee grinder with a silicone lid that was “easy to put on and take off, was dishwasher safe and had a nice tactile feel,” Toledo said. “It has been performing well since its launch in 2021 and is consistently among the top 20 best performing coffee grinders on Amazon.”
Amazon reports can offer a wealth of information. Sellers can see the most searched terms over a given time period and the resulting purchases. They can also see what other products shoppers have compared to theirs, as well as top competitor items they’ve purchased. All of this can lead to design changes and new product ideas.
Can you trust reviews?
Online retailers have been battling review fraud — with mixed success — since day one. It’s a mole game where manipulators are constantly finding new ways to bend the rules. “People have basically stopped manipulating their reviews, so they’re attacking other people’s pages instead,” Toledo said. A novelty is leaving fake positive reviews and then complaining that the seller bought them. Sellers should keep an eye on their reviews for any signs of wrongdoing, as e-tailers are unlikely to spot it for them.
Amazon maintains strict control over communications between sellers and buyers. The retail giant revoked the ability for sellers to comment on customer reviews early last year and now limits email review requests to one per purchase. The best practice that Toledo recommends, “is to include an in-product insert asking for a review. Don’t try to sway the buyer. Talk about your business in human terms.
And to answer the question that I know is on your mind: the “Amazon’s Choice” label is applied to the best-selling products that correspond to the keywords used by the customer. No human judgment is involved. Are you surprised?
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