Customer reviews can do wonderful things for your ecommerce store. But you may be wondering how to get them, and what to do with them once you have. In this post, we run through why customer reviews are important, how you can put them to best use, and how you can avoid the growing problem of fake reviews.
Why Customer Reviews are Great
Customer reviews are one of the best promotional materials you can get. The reason: they don’t come from you. Because those who read them know that they are coming from a source that doesn’t stand to gain anything from their choosing to use a particular product/service or not, third-party reviews can be incredibly persuasive.
This impartiality cannot be replicated by a business (unless through inadvisable skulduggery – more on this below) and provide a unique kind of support your own marketing efforts. In fact, a 2009 Nielson survey of 25,000 internet consumers from different countries found that 90 percent of respondents trusted recommendations from people they knew, and 70 percent trusted online consumer reviews.
Even better, customer reviews are free!
And a collection of good online reviews may be able to provide the type of mass exposure you might never be able to afford through traditional marketing channels.
Reviews also benefit your SEO operation. Search engines, including Google, take into account how many times your business is mentioned in reviews when allocating your ranking. The more people are talking about you, the higher you’ll rank.
Additionally reviews also allow you to develop a closer relationship with customers. The ability to be able to read and respond to reviews as and when they come in has really only became possible with the advent of the internet. This means that you can, for the first time, have a real conversation with your customers. And, of course, you can use reviews as a source of constructive criticism to inform your company’s development and growth.
So, from all of this, it’s clear that customer reviews are important for any ecommerce business. But how do you get them?
How to Get Reviews
How best to get reviews depends largely on the nature of your business.
If you’re selling a service or working as a freelancer, then you probably only have a handful of clients at a time – and you’ll probably liaise with these clients fairly frequently.
For these reasons, you may simply wish to ask them for a testimonial during one of your correspondences. This means you can time your request well (for example, after you’ve just finished a great project) and ask just those clients who you think will leave the best reviews.
If you operate an online store, and have lots of customers, you may be better adding a tool that allows customers to rate your product and a place for them to leave reviews. There are lots of rating and review plugins available for WordPress. But if you use another platform to host your website, implementing a rating a reviewing function shouldn’t be too hard either. Inflow have written a list of alternative solutions here.
It may be tempting to screen your reviews before publishing them. But, unless you’re really not confident with the levels of service you provide, we wouldn’t recommend doing this.
It’s much better to be transparent and allow consumers to see the good as well as the bad. In fact, a few bad reviews are unlikely to damage your brand – so long as they are surrounded by positive ones. And, provided you respond to them carefully, they can be a great way to demonstrate how your customer service is.
Review Collection Musts
Consumers will also be put off leaving a review if the process of doing so is complicated and time-consuming. For this reason, it’s essential that you make leaving reviews as simple as possible.
- One way of doing this is to provide a way for consumers to rate a product with one click – such as a rate out of ten feature. Easy E-commerce Reviews Lite is a great free plugin that provides this functionality.
- Since more qualitative reviews are likely to have more impact on potential customers, you need to make leaving longer reviews easy, too. Generally a simple text box with a “submit” button will do it.
- Another way to increase the amount of reviews you receive is to offer incentives. But, be warned, consumers will jump at freebies with gusto, so make sure your offering costs you relatively little. Alternatively, simply offer one prize that all those leaving a review will be entered for.
What to do With Reviews
Unfortunately, many businesses fail to make the most of the reviews that they get. But there’s a couple of things that no business should overlook.
- Sharing reviews on social networks allows you to take a break from incessant self-promotion and let somebody else do the talking. But keep a good balance: publishing too many reviews may make you appear a little insecure and needy.
- It’s also imperative that you make the most of your reviews’ SEO benefits. Make sure that reviews are properly marked up in HTML so that search engine crawlers can find them easily.
Google loves user-generated content, and the more of it you can offer the search engine, the more likely you are to rank highly.
Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews
Customers often need a little prompting before they leave a review. Just think about all the times you’ve been incredibly happy with a product or service and kept that information all to yourself.
Having a load of satisfied customers doesn’t benefit your marketing efforts at all if they all keep quiet. This means that a great product/service alone isn’t enough to guarantee you good reviews.
The good news is that there are loads of ways you can encourage customers to leave a review.
To begin with, you may be best using a review provider. Lots of big companies use such providers since they enable them to build up a body of reviews in a fairly short period of time. And the reviews are authenticated, which ensures that the person leaving the review has actually purchased the product in question. Some of the major reviews sites trusted by Google include:
It’s also a good idea to request a review via email following every transaction. Your success here will largely depend on how well-timed your email is. Your customer is only likely to respond if they’ve had enough time to receive use their product. But, leave it too long, and time may dull their inclination to leave a review.
Scarily, it emerged last week that 20 percent of customer reviews are fake.
And there’s a reason for this. The Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA) believes that £23 billion of annual consumer spending is influenced by fake reviews. That’s a lot of dough!
But don’t be tempted to fake reviews. More and more, consumers view reviews with scepticism, and this will only increase as the amount fake reviews goes up. So be part of the solution rather than the problem.
From a more selfish point of view, if consumers think you’re guilty of faking it, they’re likely to be vocal about that fact, and that can really damage your brand.
There are many reasons people may leave a fake review on your site. Competitors may leave them in an attempt to damage your reputation. And consumers may simply be trying to get a discount or offer.
But, as we said above, real negative reviews can be good for your business, and so getting rid of them all of them isn’t really an option. Luckily there are some tools that you can use to make sure that your reviews are all legitimate.
Fake Reviews and Amazon
In our recent blog, 4 Drawbacks of Selling on Amazon (and How to Overcome Them), we talked about some of the disadvantages of third-party selling through Amazon.
However, when it comes to weeding out fake reviews, Amazon can be a great organisation to have on your side.
The company recently launched a legal crusade to sue sites that sell fake reviews. This should help cut off the problem at the source. But, of course, it will primarily only benefit those using Amazon Marketplace.
Additionally, Amazon has also introduced a new artificial intelligence system that will prioritise new and helpful reviews over artificial ones.
Likewise, Google has, since 2012, run a program to invest in tools that spot fake reviews, though its efforts will benefit almost everybody.
Fake Review Tools
There are tools available online that have been developed specifically to help businesses spot fake reviews. Most can simply be cut and pasted into your site’s code. So, although none are 100 percent accurate, the benefits they confer come at very little cost.
Some good ones are:
- Fake Spot (fakeSpot.com), which will analyse the veracity of your reviews once you enter your URL.
- Review Skeptic (ReviewSkeptic.com), which allows you to enter a specific review into a text box and will tell you (with nearly 90 percent accuracy) whether it’s real or not.
Reviewing the feedback you get is perhaps your best bet at spotting fakes. Fake reviews often seem a little – odd. And whilst it may be hard to say why, more often than not, your intuitions are often right.
We hope we’ve shown why customer reviews are important, as well as how to get them. All that’s left is for you to get out there and do it.
Do you have any advice for how to get reviews? Or have you found reviews have benefitted your ecommerce operation? We’d love to hear any stories or advice you may have, so don’t be shy.