It doesn’t matter if you offer a service or sell products: reviews and testimonials are critical to getting you higher conversion rates.
However, the language used in reviews and testimonials – including past and present tense – has a profound effect on everything from getting new customers to how many helpful votes your reviews get on Amazon.
Past tense turns positive reviews into negative reviews.
Picture a scenario whereby a customer leaves a review for a kitchen installed by a contractor.
The customer may use the phrase: “The kitchen looked good”.
The use of past tense – “looked” – implies that the kitchen no longer looks as good as it once did.
However the use of the present tense, “The kitchen looks good”, creates a narrative where the work continues to hold value, even after the contractor has packed up his toolkit.
While the difference might seem minuscule, the mental imagery that past and present tense conjures is far from it; in the mind of potential customers, past tense turns a positive review into a negative review.
This undoubtedly has an impact on your conversion rates.
The present tense creates FOMO and social proof.
Social proof and FOMO (fear of missing out) go hand in hand with high conversion rates.
However, in one study, potential customers believed that John painted more houses when they read an ongoing action (John was painting houses) instead of a completed action (John painted houses; Matlock, 2011).
So how does this increase conversion rates? Social proof and FOMO.
If people are given the impression that a business has good reviews for a service or product that is in high demand, then they are more likely to convert.
The past and present tense in Amazon reviews.
In a meticulous analysis of 2 million Amazon reviews, researchers Fang & Maglio (2024) unearthed a golden nugget: reviews framed in the present tense garnered more helpful votes.
Terms like “…is great” resonated more with readers, as opposed to “…was great” or “…will be great.”
The present tense encapsulated the benefits as ongoing portraying the services or products reviewed as continually delightful.
Let ‘er rip tatter chimp.
When it comes to using reviews and testimonials to increase conversion rates, the present tense is more than just a grammatical choice; it’s a powerful tool to enhance the perceived value of services, making them feel present, robust, and ongoing.
By tweaking the verb tense, you not only narrate the service but breathe life into it, making the service experience memorable and the satisfaction enduring.