Digital innovation – What Is the Role of eCommerce Product Reviews in New Product Launches


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Product launches can be an exhilarating culmination of time and effort perfecting a product and marketing it. However, a large number of product launches are not successful (95% to be exact). One common problem is a company’s focus on itself rather than the customer. Reviews from customers and feature marketing strategies are the main ingredient for the success of a product launch. 

The Role of Digital Marketing

A successful marketing launch depends on a robust digital marketing campaign. The COVID-19 crisis has led to dramatic growth in online shopping. Businesses have responded by expanding digital marketing budgets;  a Neilson survey shows that digital ad spending is growing by 2.4% in 2020 even though overall, global ad spending is dropping 4.9%. However, not all digital marketing strategies are created equal. 

Finding out what customers want to buy is key. For instance, there are many ways to gauge this through consumer opinion analyzer tools, social media, and reviews. The role of social media and customer reviews play a significant role in purchasing decisions. 

According to a Neilson survey, 22% of those surveyed said they would not buy a product if it was given a negative review, and 59% said three negative reviews would be a deal-breaker. Companies that are serious about finding customers must incorporate reviews as a central part of the product launch. Getting reviews from customers after beta-testing and a soft launch can improve the chances of success.

Reviews Versus Surveys

Reviews and surveys both incorporate feedback, but they are not the same. Reviews are self-generated and are left by customers who feel an internal motivation to do so, whereas surveys are often given upon request. It can take a lot of time and motivation to get people to fill out surveys, even if they are short and have direct, focused questions.

Customer surveys are usually only for those who have actually purchased the product, and they only really indicate the opinions of those who take the time to fill them out. 

It is hard to create a truly representative sample size from those who decide to participate in surveys, which can lead to a significant deviation in the results. In addition, reports from retailers are often biased and lack the advantages of reviews or surveys. 

Reviews have several advantages over unbiased information. Browse any eCommerce site and it is clear that people are often eager to leave reviews. This larger sample size can make reviews less unbiased than surveys. They also appear close to the point of sale and are shown to influence customer behavior. Garnering helpful reviews will give your potential customers a feeling that they receive unbiased information about the product from fellow shoppers and can create a positive response to a product launch. 

However, one thing to beware of with reviews is the danger of fake ones. Customers become experts at analyzing reviews and are pretty good at sniffing out phony feedback. As effective as real reviews are in influencing buying decisions, customers will avoid products with fake reviews, particularly if they notice similar wording, review comments not seeming related to the product, below-average spelling or grammar, and excessive numbers of five-star reviews. 

Using the Benchmark

Part of a successful product launch is distinguishing a new item from similar ones and showing how the product stands out from the crowd. Since eCommerce data is widely available, especially with AI tools to refine marketing strategies, it is fairly straightforward to compare your product to industry benchmarks and to accentuate the objective advantages. Leveraging data from competitors and the industry at large is essential for providing prospective customers with useful information while highlighting the benefits of products and services. In addition, reviews that compare the item favorably with those of the competition also provide significant value to a product launch. 

Reaching Early Adopters and Influencers

In general, customer opinions are important, but the key is reaching early adopters and influencers who will introduce your product to others through reviews and social media.

eCommerce users, at least up to COVID-19 when most people shop online, have the reputation of being early adopters, and provide valuable indications of future trends. Reaching these influencers through beta-testing and encouraging them to review and share their feedback can bring a higher profile to a product launch. 

In addition, paying attention to their opinions and habits provides hints about what direction the more extensive user base will adopt.

Feature Marketing

The popularity of customer reviews demonstrates that what influences shoppers isn’t necessarily brand dominance, but features.

Reviews are a central part of feature marketing, because most reviews discuss what features the item has, how well it worked, and what innovations would make the product better. When a company launches a new product, prospective buyers are interested in how this product is going to improve their daily lives. Reviews and feature marketing keep the focus on the product throughout a launch and present reasons why the item is relevant and necessary. 

Product launches require significant preparation to reach potential customers and make the intended impact. Keeping the focus on the customer from the beginning by incorporating reviews and emphasizing useful features can make a product stand out from the competition and ensure the launch has a lasting impact.

Alon Ghelber
Alon Ghelber is an Israeli Chief Marketing Officer. He also works as a marketing consultant for several Israeli VCs and is a member of the Forbes Business Council. He is also the founder and manager of the LinkedIn groups “Start Up Jobs in Israel” and “High Tech Café.”


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