The Importance of Online Reviews in E-commerce During the COVID-19 Pandemic

After the pandemic closed down stores worldwide, beauty consumers relied on e-commerce to purchase their daily necessities. Despite the economic recession and mass unemployment, many people continued to shop for personal care products. Skincare, in particular, saw continued demand while sales across other retail products experienced a slump throughout 2020.

The Rise of Skincare Products amid the Pandemic

Consumers expanded their skincare routines. Serums, in particular, rose in popularity during the pandemic. More people searched for serums containing niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, retinol, and vitamin C.

Various beauty tools, too, have seen an increase in interest among consumers. Beauty enthusiasts bought skincare fridges, facial steamers, face scrapers or gua sha, face rollers, and blackhead vacuums.

People staying at home for work means that they do not need to apply a full face of makeup every day. However, video conferences became more common and frequent. Zoom, which is a software used by many businesses, notoriously highlights skin imperfections on-screen.

Many people also experienced skin concerns due to the stress of living through a pandemic. Sleeplessness caused by late-night social media scrolling and disrupted sleep-wake cycles drove dark circles. This led many people to buy eye creams online.

As the crisis went on, people became more aware of how much time they spend in front of digital screens. It has made them more cautious of how blue light—emitted by television, laptops, smartphones, and tablet screens—affects their skin. Searches for products protected from blue light jumped by 46.2 percent during the pandemic, and the brands that sell skincare that blocks blue light said that sales rose too.

The Importance of Reviews

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Before the pandemic, most consumers preferred to buy in-store where they could physically test the product. However, because of store closures, the way people shop for beauty products also shifted. They now had to buy all their beauty necessities online.

Online, of course, there is no way to test a product before making a purchase. Most people still want to spend their money wisely because, after all, there is still a pandemic and an economic recession. They had to find ways to make sure that the product they bought was worth it.

Consumers depended, instead, on online ratings and reviews. Videos offer an alternative to in-store testing. Shoppers get to see swatches, consistency, and performance. A study by Facebook found that 30 percent of facial skincare shoppers look to online channels to evaluate products that have caught their interest.

PowerReviews, a ratings and reviews platform, reported that product pages that offer user-generated content (UGC) receive the bulk (77 percent) of online shopping traffic. Both ratings and reviews are UGC.

PowerReviews also found that adding a single review on a product page increased sales by 65 percent. However, to convince a customer to push through with a purchase, the product will need 20 to 50 reviews.

People who interact with UGC are up to 103 percent more likely to convert. There is also a preference for customer imagery in the review or as posted on social media platforms. Around 88 percent of consumers looked for user-submitted images and videos before making a purchase.

As the pandemic went on, review and rating engagement in the beauty and health category grew by 313 percent.

Most online shoppers state that online reviews of a product influence their purchasing decision. They check the bad ratings first to see if the product lives up to their criteria when looking at reviews. They are also looking for warnings from others about why they should not buy the product.

The Issue of Fake Online Reviews

However, shops can manipulate ratings and reviews. Some brands have already been caught writing feedback about their products to convince consumers to purchase.

Sunday Riley, a company that sells its skincare products in Sephora, has allegedly participated in online marketing strategies that have been described as deceptive. The US Federal Trade Commission claimed that the company misled customers by posting fake reviews on a retailer’s website. The company settled with the FTC.

The FTC has sent notices of penalty offenses to over 700 companies for various violations, including fake reviews and misrepresenting endorsements. If found guilty, these companies will have to pay a fine of up to $43,792 per violation.

Fake reviews are everywhere. They can be found on Amazon, Facebook, Yelp, and Google. Customers must be vigilant and assess whether a glowing review of products online is genuine or not.

E-commerce is an important way for consumers to make purchases. However, there is no way to test a product before clicking the “check out” button. Customers have to rely on online reviews to determine if the product is worth their hard-earned money, or they should look for another option somewhere else.

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