Reader Request: Writing Helpful Customer Reviews

writing helpful product reviews

Reader Andrea e-mailed me this question:

Just wondering if you’ve ever done a post on how to write helpful product reviews for clothing or makeup sites? I do a lot of shopping online, and finding a helpful review for an item I’m considering is so great — I’ve noticed more and more women include many of their measurements which really helps to give a good idea of how a piece will fit. Makeup is a bit more subjective, I realize, since color perception can vary (as does how one describes one’s own coloring). But I still see so many “reviews” that are along the lines of “Wow! This is a great sweater! I love it!” So. Not. Helpful.

Confession: I have found many customer reviews to be helpful and informative, but have never written one myself. I KNOW! For shame. My excuse is that I just plain forget to do it. And also that very few things I buy either dazzle me with their superior quality or anger me with their shoddy workmanship, so I seldom feel motivated to share my feedback on vendor sites. However, like Andrea, I am able to scan through the online reviews I see and dismiss the ones that I know won’t be helpful. So here are a few tips from a consumer of customer reviews:

Be specific

Seems obvious, I know, but it’s ever so important. Just saying something didn’t fit or wasn’t made well doesn’t give other customers any idea of WHY. Tell them it didn’t fit because the arms are cut narrow, or that it wasn’t made well as evidenced by pilling under the armpits and frayed seams. Explain what you loved or hated and give detailed reasons. While it’s true that a string of 50, “I love these pants!” reviews may sway a few potential buyers, it’s not the meaty information most of us are hoping for.

Tell a bit about yourself

Some feedback forms request personal information, which may seem invasive, but I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful. Anthropologie’s reviews include age range, height, body type, and style, all of which tell you if the person writing the review is similar in shape and preferences to you. If you’re not asked, tell anyway. A dress that fits poorly on a narrow, straight figure might look smashing on a curvy one. And if you say something looks too old or young to you, the reader needs some context – meaning, how old YOU are. And if you’re not asked, definitely mention if you’re petite, tall, very long- or short-waisted, or in possession of other traits that consistently affect fit.

If you are a regular, mention comparisons

Some of the “quality has really gone down in the past X years” comments can be a bit grating, especially if you’re new to a brand. On the other hand if a line typically runs true to size but a particular garment or shoe is really off, that can be good to know. Saying something like, “I usually take a size 20 from this brand, but in this dress I needed a 22 because it’s cut small across the shoulders” can be incredibly helpful to another customer.

Wait, wash, wear, review

For some reason, lots of Zappos reviewers feel compelled to review their shoes before they’ve been worn for more than 45 seconds. And since I’ve admitted to having virtually no memory capacity for writing reviews myself, I understand the instinct: Do it now, don’t forget. But especially with shoes – which often need breaking-in or can seem comfy initially but be torturous after a few hours’ wear – reviewing after  several uses will be most helpful. Honestly, this goes for clothes, too. How does it wash? So glad it fits, but does the fabric wrinkle after an hour of wear? The most helpful reviews are from folks who’ve worn, washed, and worn again.

Mention any differences from the photos

Tricky, right? Especially when it comes to colors, which can look drastically different from monitor to monitor. But, for instance, say a patterned dress has a long sash that just looks like ruching in the photo. If your dress arrived in the mail and you were surprised as heck by this detail, mention that in the review. In all likelihood, someone else will make the same visual error.

And that’s all I’ve got! Who out there is consistent about writing online reviews? Do you find that the reviews for certain brands are more helpful than others? What else would you add to this list of tips?

Screen cap from Boden

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4 Responses to “Reader Request: Writing Helpful Customer Reviews”

  1. ballewal

    Pilling under the arms of a sweater doesn’t mean it isn’t made well. There’s a lot of friction there. And some moisture. Softer yarns are going to pill more. It’s not a question of quality.

  2. wonkyone15

    I really like review sections that let you upload a photo. I find the ones on Modcloth very helpful, since there are typically lots of pictures of how different customers styled the dress and it lists what size they purchased. I wish every online shop had that! (Especially Asos!)

  3. Andrea

    Thanks for posting this, Sally! So timely, too, as I just came across a “review” on a site from a person who *hadn’t even purchased the item*, yet felt the need to voice her negative opinion. Augh! I think you covered everything that I find helpful. Hooray for helping one another make informed shopping choices! 🙂

  4. Ginger

    I find reviews helpful.
    It’s better if there are a lot of reviews and then you can get a feeling for an item. If there are just one or two and the person hates or loves the item it’s hard to know.
    Looking at reviews for things that are on sale can be informative. If something is oddly sized or didn’t wear well you’ll usually figure it out from the reviews.
    I find that the reviews from Old Navy and The Gap are usually quite helpful.
    It seems like the main complaint on the Anthrologie site is that, “I ordered my usual size 6 but it was too big so I sent it back.”

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