When it comes to product reviews, it’s perhaps best to borrow our philosophy from the wise words of Janet Jackson when she so poignantly asked us, “What have you done for me lately?” 

A study found that nearly 40% of consumers say they won’t make a purchase if reviews are older than a year, and ideally, almost half (44%) say they want access to reviews within the past month.

In today’s world, the quantity of product reviews is no longer enough to satisfy online shoppers. Brands can quickly lose potential sales if their reviews grow stale, and it’s critical to create proactive strategies for an ongoing stream of fresh consumer ratings & reviews. 

Review recency is no longer a nice-to-have component of generating product reviews. Let’s talk about what review recency means, why it’s important, and how you can make sure your reviews stay fresh. 

What is Review Recency?

Review recency is a term to describe how current and up-to-date the present consumer reviews are for a particular product or service. 

Review recency fits among a set of traits shoppers look for when deciding what to purchase. It is one of the critical pillars of a successful review strategy which also includes the following:

  • Review volume or quantity – the literal number of reviews for a particular product or service
  • Review quality – the legitimacy and helpfulness of the product reviews 
  • Review frequency – how often consumers are writing reviews

What are the Benefits of Review Recency?

Recent Reviews Build Trust with Potential Customers 

Products evolve and change over time, and buyers often want to know what other people think about your product or service right now. Think about an online purchase you’re considering or researching (we know you have one), would you trust a product with thousands of reviews, but they were all from two or three years ago? Or would you rather trust a product with fewer reviews from last week?

Close to 6 in 10 consumers say they would rather purchase a product with a smaller number of more recent reviews than a product with a large number of older reviews. A product or service with recent reviews will offer reassurance to prospective customers that they have the most accurate representation of the current brand experience. 

Recent Reviews Correct Potential Reputation Issues

Product reviews can often be a lagging indicator of a product quality issue. Sometimes there is a product defect or a customer service issue, which can, unfortunately, result in a batch of negative reviews. However, the more recent your positive reviews are on your product page, the less influence poor reviews will have on your overall product rating.

Recent Reviews Aid in Discoverability and Traffic 

Every product review can be valuable SEO juice, and recency will always be a significant factor to search engine algorithms. Up-to-date reviews can lead to increased traffic and better search rankings. Visibility alone is often the deciding factor in whether or not you or your competitor get the sale. Roughly 55% of consumers say they read at least four reviews before buying a product. Make no mistakes that they are paying attention to when the reviews were written.

When Does Review Recency Matter Most? 

While recency is essential across all categories, consumer research behavior can vary based on the product or service they are considering. 

  • Research indicates that the top categories where recency matters most are Consumer Electronics, Appliances, Health and Beauty, Apparel, and Home Improvement/Furniture.
  • However, this same research found some categories where the value of recent reviews heavily outweighs the number of reviews. In categories like Dry Goods/CPG and Perishable Products, review recency is favored over review volume by 43 percentage points and 41 percentage points, respectively. 
  • Other categories where recency is heavily favored include Pet Products and Toys. 

For CPG marketers, review recency should be an important part of your overall CPG ecommerce strategy.

Tactics to Increase Review Recency for Your Brand 

Now that we’ve covered why review recency is so critical, let’s talk about what steps you can take to ensure that you have a steady stream of new product reviews. 

Mobilize an Online Brand Community to Drive Ongoing Reviews

Among the shifting landscape of disappearing cookies and the increased importance of gathering owned, zero party data, generating product reviews is another great reason to invest in direct consumer relationships. 

Online brand communities have become a natural intersection of emotionally-fueled engagement and ample opportunity to activate product reviews.

  • Fast-growing premium beauty brand, Hero Cosmetics, aimed to cultivate a group of passionate consumers to strengthen brand relationships while generating product reviews. 
  • They created their Hero Skin Squad community as a place for consumers to participate in interactive digital experiences and through this, the brand can mobilize satisfied consumers to share their experiences with Hero products on key retail and ecommerce channels. 
  • Each community member has a personalized community dashboard with various activities from surveys to sampling to discussions. Hero makes sharing a product review an evergreen activity available for happy consumers and has generated close to 2,000 product reviews. 

An online community platform is also great for showcasing user-generated content and recognizing consumers who have shared high-quality reviews. Alternatively, you can acknowledge community members for offering constructive feedback that led to product improvements. This helps create a “culture” of social proof for your brand and encourages people to add their voices to a chorus of other consumers. 

Automate Asking for Reviews As Much As Possible

As the saying goes, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” and sometimes, well, marketers forget to ask. With technology today, brands can automate asking consumers for reviews & ratings, and new innovations are developed daily to make it more accessible, streamlined, and measurable. 

Review collection can be automated through:

  • Action-based emails – this includes sending a post-purchase email asking for a review. You can also set emails to be triggered after a particular time period and strategically space emails out to ensure review recency. For example, if your product is popular in the holiday season and that time of year creates an influx of sales, you could space out your review requests throughout the year to drive more recency.
  • QR codes – The “smart packaging” market is forecasted to grow to $7 billion in 2023, and on-product QR codes have gained traction as a way to showcase and request reviews. Additionally, QR Codes coupled with AR (Augmented Reality) are transforming the way consumers interact with smart packaging. Alcohol brand Bombay Sapphire deployed AR codes that make the bottle come alive when scanned by a smartphone. QR codes are an excellent review collection strategy that is always on, especially if it’s part of your product’s packaging
  • SMS texts – Text messages have a 45% response rate, whereas email responses are at just 8%, making it a valuable channel for review collection. Like emails, SMS can be timed strategically to drive review recency. 

Personalized Product Sampling 

Eighty-eight percent of shoppers like the idea of free samples, with more than half willing to write a review of the product and a third willing to post about it on social media. 

With the right product sampling marketing platform, marketers can create product sampling programs that activate specific audiences to try a product and share their experience on certain retail and ecommerce channels. 

This tactic is especially helpful for new product launches but also can help with product innovations or products with stale reviews. By creating campaign flights of personalized product sampling throughout the year, your review pages will have a steady stream of reviews. 

The most important element of incentivized product reviews is authenticity. It’s important that participants disclose their review was facilitated by a free product experience in order to foster authentic brand advocacy. But just because a review is incentivized does not mean it is not high-quality. 

This is why targeting and relationship-building are so critical. When you can identify consumers who are top-notch review writers, you can strategically deliver product experiences to spark new reviews.

  • Growing natural immune support brand, EZC Pak, is challenged with generating product trial that showcases consumer experiences at scale.
  • They created the EZC Pak Immunity Community to deliver personalized sampling to targeted consumers to share their product experiences. This included writing reviews on key retail websites such as CVS/Rite Aid.
  • The brand generated over 5,000+ pieces of user-generated content in just six months

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VP, Product Strategy