As a consumer, you know e-commerce product reviews are important. (Really, when was the last time you bought something online without reading several reviews first?)
But as an e-commerce business owner, what’s the best way to incorporate reviews into your strategy? And how do you make sure you’re getting the most value from them?
In this article, we break down everything you need to know about product reviews, including key benefits they can bring to your business, top strategies for generating more reviews, how to successfully (and ethically) leverage incentives, and four best practices to help your reviews drive more sales.
The scoop on e-commerce product reviews
- Product reviews are a digital goldmine
- How to get more e-commerce product reviews
- Want more product reviews? Sweeten the deal
- 4 Best practices for e-commerce product reviews
- Show me the love (and the money)
Product reviews are a digital goldmine 💰
Customer product reviews are the best marketing material you don’t have to create — and they can have an enormous impact on your business growth. Here are three of the biggest ways customer reviews can give a boost to your business:
- Build trust in your brand (and drive sales)
Consumers are naturally skeptical of products they haven’t tried before. That’s why 95% of customers depend on reviews and ratings before making a purchase decision.
The fact is, consumers are 76% more likely to trust a review from a stranger on the internet than your marketing materials but don’t let that get you down. Research shows that reviews make customers feel significantly more comfortable making a purchase (71%) — and even lead them to spend 31% more money.
- Get valuable feedback to help you improve
Getting applause from raving fans feels great. 👏🏻
But heckling and booing? Not so much. And yet, most online sellers will receive less-than-perfect reviews at some point or another.
The silver lining is, even if it doesn’t feel great, complaints in your reviews can be enormously valuable for your business by alerting you to the most important improvements to focus on.
There’s something else you should know about negative reviews — they might actually be good for business. According to Womply, businesses whose total number of reviews is 15-20% negative actually average 13% more revenue than businesses whose total number of reviews is 5-10% negative. Go figure.
The moral of the story? Even if it stings, take it in your stride and make the best of it.
- Amplify your SEO visibility 👀
Customer reviews can be jam-packed with juicy keywords that boost your search engine ranking and drive more traffic to your online store.
One of the great things about product reviews is they can reveal the natural language and organic search terms customers are using (but which you may not have nailed yet in your product copy). You’ll also have the opportunity to collect awesome user-generated content like photos and videos.
Plus, the more frequently customers review your products, the more frequently your pages will get refreshed by Google.
How to get more customer reviews
As a seasoned e-commerce seller, you want more reviews, but how do you actually get them? You could sit and wait for someone to have strong enough feelings to merit a review… or you could be proactive and get more reviews, faster. Here’s how:
Request product reviews via email or text
The most common way for businesses to get customer reviews is to ask for them via email or text.
But how do you make that request in the right way to make sure you actually get the review? Here are a few simple ideas.
1. Automate your ask
When you’re running a business, you do a lot of work to earn sales — but it’s easy to forget about them and move on once the order’s been shipped.
That’s why automation is your best friend.
Set up an automated email or text campaign to follow up with your customers and request a review after they’ve received their order.
The Inside Scoop: Time it right ⏰
You definitely want to request a review while your product is fresh on your customer’s mind, but asking too soon can make you seem pushy.
Some companies struggled with this in 2020 when supply chain challenges caused huge shipping delays. Because their automated review requests were still turned on, they were requesting reviews before customers even received their items. Needless to say, it wasn’t a great look for their brands.
In addition to accounting for shipping times, consider how soon your customer will use the product after they receive it. If it’s something people typically use on a weekend or special occasion, it may be wise to wait a few extra days or weeks.
2. Personalize your request
Strive to make your request as personal as possible — especially if your business is just starting out. Customers like to know the real people behind the brands they buy from, so connecting on a personal level and inviting honest feedback can help boost responses.
When you request a review, be sure to personalize it to the customer as well, addressing them by name and identifying the product they purchased. Being specific in your ask can encourage customers to be specific in their reviews.
3. Make it as easy as possible
The less your customers have to do to submit a review, the more likely they’ll be to submit one. So do whatever it takes to remove friction in the process by using links that take customers directly to the ‘submit review’ page. You might even consider an app for your Shopify store or enabling reviews through popular voice assistants.
Encourage sales and support reps to request reviews
The best time to request a review is when your customer is feeling warm and fuzzy about your business — but you can’t always guess when that perfect time will be.
Unless, of course, your support rep has just delivered excellent customer service. 😉
If you’ve trained your team well, they’ll recognize those ideal moments and promptly follow up on the call or chat with a link to leave a review.
Solicit reviews on social media
One of the best places to encourage reviews is social media, where you already have an audience of brand fans waiting to join the conversation.
While you don’t want to overwhelm your followers with review requests, there’s nothing wrong with popping up every once in a while to remind them you care what they think and would love to hear from them.
The Inside Scoop: Make it a competition
This tactic has been especially popular among podcasters, but can easily be applied by e-commerce businesses.
The concept is simple: Initiate a contest by asking your followers to review your products or services, and offer a special incentive for the winning entries — such as free merchandise or a social media shoutout.
Taking the time to appreciate your customers like this can go a long way toward building a sense of community, connecting with your audience, and generating buzz about your brand.
And speaking of incentives, this isn’t the only way…
Want more product reviews? Sweeten the deal🍦
The biggest barrier between your customers and product reviews is the time and effort it takes to write one. And while there are many ways you can make that process easier, it doesn’t hurt to dangle a carrot either — although not all review sites will permit it (more on that in a minute).
Incentives are pretty simple: In order to get what you want (reviews), you offer something your customer wants (the incentive).
Everyone loves a good deal, which is why the most common product review incentives are discount coupons toward a future purchase or loyalty program points. And with these incentives comes double the benefits for e-commerce businesses, who get reviews plus repeat purchases.
For customers who are already members of your loyalty program, leaving a review in exchange for additional points is a no-brainer. But for customers who aren’t yet loyalty members, the opportunity to easily earn points by leaving a review can double as an incentive to join the loyalty program. It’s a win-win.
Offering review incentives is legal, right?
Some shady businesses out there pay for positive reviews, or just write fake ones themselves. This type of unethical behavior has made review incentives a legal gray area, so it’s wise to tread carefully when you choose to offer one.
To protect consumers against false advertising, individual review sites may place restrictions on review incentives. For example, Google has drawn a hard line and doesn’t allow merchants to offer financial incentives in exchange for reviews, including ‘free samples, gift cards, discounts on future purchases, or anything of monetary value.’ So, if you’re using review sites like Google, make sure to manage your reviews correctly to remain compliant and if you’re ever in any doubt, always consult with a qualified legal professional.
How to offer incentives ethically
The key factor with incentives is to request honest reviews and provide the incentive regardless of whether the review turns out to be positive or negative.
All this said, the best way to incentivize reviews is to proactively provide a superb customer experience from the get-go. Create such a killer customer experience that you don’t have to offer an additional incentive to merit a review. 🌟
The Inside Scoop: Add a personal touch
Exceptional customer experiences don’t have to be expensive. If you’re handling your own packaging, adding a small gift, sticker, or personalized note might be just the thing to create a swoon-worthy shopping experience for your customer that will ‘prime the pump’ before you request a review — or it may just earn you a spontaneous one!
4 Best practices for e-commerce product reviews
We’ve shown how product reviews can benefit your business in a big way, and we’ve shared some of the top tactics for getting customers to provide reviews of your products. But how can you make sure your business is receiving the maximum value from your reviews?
Here are our top four best practices for increasing the impact of reviews for your e-commerce business.
1. Always ask
We get it — asking for reviews is easier said than done. And if you’re an e-commerce newcomer, it might be a little nerve-wracking. But you shouldn’t wait until you feel like your business is running perfectly to start asking for reviews.
Because here’s the thing: No reviews may actually be worse than mediocre or bad reviews.
Why? First off, having no reviews looks suspicious, no matter who you’re trying to reach. But if you’re competing for local listings, an even more important factor is Google.
When Google ranks business listings, your review score and review count play into your local ranking:
“Google cares strongly about credibility and authenticity. So, even [if your only review is] a negative review, it at least proves you’re a real business with real customers. … On the other hand, when you have zero reviews, Google has no proof whatsoever of your authenticity as a business.” (Source)
2. Take the time to respond
Responding to reviews — good or bad — can be a great way to show appreciation and connect with customers.
The Inside Scoop: Be grateful… and purposeful
‘Thank you’ is a powerful phrase in customer service. It makes your customers feel good and deepens your connections with them, so it’s worth it to express your gratitude for reviews. But that’s not the only benefit.
SEO guru Neil Patel explains that responding to customer reviews can also provide an opportunity to include SEO keywords that other potential customers may be searching for. His review response template is especially powerful for e-commerce businesses trying to snag more local listings:
“[Customer name] – Thank you so much for your feedback on [the name of your business]. We strive to be the best [type of business] in [name of your city].”
But the reviews that need your full attention are the negative ones. While it may sting to have your business slandered, if you recognize bad reviews as an opportunity to learn, you can turn the situation around with superb customer service.
Make it a priority to respond to negative reviews quickly, apologize for any disappointment, and offer to communicate with the customer directly in order to resolve the issue. If you’re able to deliver excellent customer service, there’s a good chance the disappointed customer will come back and update their review.
3. Apply useful feedback
If you find consistent complaints in your product reviews, it’s probably time to take action. Your customers will let you know if there are issues with product quality, the checkout process, shipping times, customer service, etc. — which means you can resolve the issue for future customers.
4. Show it off
If no one can find the reviews for your business and products, you’ll miss out on the most important benefits they can provide. Make sure product reviews are easy to find on your e-commerce store (ideally on each individual product page).
Whenever possible, you should also import existing reviews from each review site or app you’re on to leverage the full weight of social proof you’ve collected from your website, your social media pages, your Google business listing, and more.
Show me the ❤️ (and the money)
Earning more product reviews doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the marketing ROI for customer reviews may be among the highest because making that request is so simple.
As you apply different strategies for requesting customer reviews, you’ll soon discover which channels and tactics resonate most with your audience — and which provide the most valuable reviews. This will allow you to further optimize your strategy to get more (and better) reviews so you can reap bigger advantages for your e-commerce business. It’s a win-win.