It can be hard to make your brand stand out, especially online. Rather than trying to find the next new attention-grabbing innovation, it’s worth falling back on something reliable – good old word of mouth. Of course, this has been updated for the internet age, but it still has the same benefits. That’s right – we’re talking about customer reviews.
You may think that people tend to rely on recommendations from people they know, but you’d be wrong! A BrightLocal survey showed that 82% of people read online reviews for local businesses – and only 53% would consider using a business with less than 4 stars. Product reviews clearly have a high impact on sales – so why not make use of them in your marketing materials?
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This one might seem obvious, but it’s worth focusing on nonetheless. While you could let your reviews build up organically, it’s much more effective to target and encourage customers – especially repeat customers.
The easiest way to do this is to send a follow-up email asking them to leave a review. The timing of this email is important – you don’t want to send it straight after the purchase, as they won’t have tried it yet!
Send the email a day or two after the estimated delivery window. This will capture your customer after they’ve received it and tested it out, leading you to get a meaningful review. If you’re selling digital products, it can be a bit harder to judge.
When asking for reviews for something like a printable art file, you’ll probably want to aim for a day or two after the purchase. For a business solution – like a hosted phone system – they’ll need time to install it and test it out before they can accurately let you know their thoughts. You can either wait a longer period, like a week or two, or send two emails – one on arrival, one sometime later. Try to differentiate any message by using something other than what you use as a sales email subject line. Make it clear that it’s a request for a genuine review- they’ll be more likely to take a look!
If you’re unsure, try a few methods and compare the results. What time period is getting the most detailed and positive reviews? Once you’ve figured it out, stick to that one.
How, you might think, is encouraging different from asking? By encouraging, you’re making it more worthwhile for the customer to leave a review. This shouldn’t be a big enough benefit that it feels like a bribe, as this can make the customer doubt the reviews they read at first.
Things you can offer in exchange for a review – and make sure that’s any review, not just a good one – include:
You can also encourage them to leave a review by personalizing it, if possible. For instance, if you’re an individual artist, you could leverage this. Include something like ‘As an artist, this business is just me, so every review counts! I’d really appreciate your help by…’ in your communication. By asking the customer for help rather than just a review, they’re more likely to respond.
If you have an ongoing client – perhaps a company you supply a cloud contact centre solution to – then you’re likely to have ongoing communication with them. Rather than sending a generic email, bring it up in conversation. This works especially well in phone calls, as they’re already more personal than email. Ask a specific question like ‘so now you’ve been using our platform for a while, how do you feel about it?’, and if they respond positively, follow up by asking if they’d be kind enough to leave a review.
When gathering reviews, you need to decide whether to prioritize quantity or quality. For some people, three reviews that are 5*, 5*, and 4* would be a selling point. For others, they’d rather see 25 or so, even if those reviews had a broader range between 3* and 5*. Knowing your target market will make this easier – you can find out via customer surveys how your clientele use reviews.
If you’re aiming for quantity, then mass emails to everyone who purchases a product from you is the way to go. If you want quality, you may want to restrict your requests to repeat customers, to increase the chances of organic, genuine, but positive reviews.
You can also add a word minimum, to prevent low-quality reviews. This minimum doesn’t have to be very high – even 5 or 10 words dramatically cuts down on the amount of reviews that simply read ‘ok’, ‘good’, or ‘cheap’. Instead, even the simplest of reviews become something like ‘Nice product, packaged well, arrived on time’. This already contains much more information!
You can go one step further by requesting certain information in the review. The following three things are great questions to guide the customer’s review:
This will encourage reviews like the one below, taken from Etsy:
This review is a great example of the sort of one you’d display on your website. It’s 5* , yet acknowledges some difficulties, and goes on to say they’ll be a repeat customer. You may wonder why acknowledging difficulties is good. There’s a growing suspicion around online reviews regarding their genuineness. The mention of a difficulty helps customers trust this review’s authenticity – it’s not the sort of thing you’d expect a marketing team to have made up!
Some sites have a question and answer section on their products. This may seem like a good idea, but often people respond to questions without answering accurately – like these examples from Amazon below.
Having customers respond to other customer’s questions can really help sell a product – but only if they’re helpful answers. This is especially important for more technical solutions, like omnichannel retail software, data analysis tools, or a graphic design program, as the questions asked are likely to be more difficult to answer.
Amazon’s problem comes from the questions being sent directly to people who’ve purchased the product. This often leads to people thinking it’s asking them directly, and leads to attempts to help which often lead to more confusion.
Instead of this catch-all method, you could send a more general email with some frequently asked questions and ask for responses. You could also moderate responses and only post those that have an accurate answer – though this can make people wonder why their answer doesn’t show. Alternatively, you could separate the questions from the reviews, and leave them for staff members – or tag the staff answers separately to the public answers. Here’s an example of that method from Argos.
You’ll also note that potential customers can tag these responses as ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’ – something which will make it much easier for good answers to rise to the top!
Now you’ve got the reviews, you need to work out what to do with them. Where should you display them, and how should you draw potential customers’ attention to them?
The first thing to consider is whether you’re using reviews to their fullest on your own site. Are they easy to access or hidden away somewhere? Have you highlighted any particularly good or helpful ones?
The obvious starting point is to attach reviews for each product to the product page. This works best if you have one-off physical products, rather than if you’re marketing subscription services. If there’s something you notice comes up in a lot of reviews or questions, you can also highlight that. For example, if you sell clothes, you could highlight how accurate people find the sizing.
This can prevent future bad reviews and increase customer satisfaction, as they can judge which size to order. It also helpfully compiles some of the information they may be looking for in the reviews in one place.
You could also highlight individual reviews when talking about your company in general. For instance, if you have a ‘Why Choose Us?’ page, it’s the perfect place for pull quotes. Here are a few examples that RingCentral uses:
Above, you can see a great example of how to use reviews for maximum impact. These are the sort of reviews best obtained through telemarketing or personal phone conversations, as highlighted earlier. They feature the name of the reviewer, along with a photo – which confirms that it’s a real person who has left the review. (Of course, ask permission before doing this). It also lists their role, so it becomes a professional opinion, rather than a general one. Finally, they highlight the most important part of the quote in bold, drawing potential customers’ attention to those key points.
If you have an ecommerce site, you should be making use of review compilation sites like Trustpilot. If your site qualifies for Google Seller Ratings, then compiled review details will appear on your search listings and adverts.
This is great for business, as it means that potential customers can see your general ratings without even having to click through. It also shows the amount of reviews – so, in the example below, you can see that the business is rated 4.8/5* over 1,450 reviews.
This requires quite a lot of work to achieve – you need to have a hundred verified reviews with an average rating of 3.5* or more, all from the country that the advert will be showing in. However, it has a large payoff, making the reviews eye-catching and immediately accessible when people come across your business.
Social media is a great way of getting your customers to do the marketing work for you. As we mentioned, there’s a growing concern about fake reviews on business websites, but trust is higher on social media. It’s easier to see whether someone writing a facebook post or posting on instagram is an actual person, and it’s also easy to see if their views generally line up with your own. Just like how people tend to favor certain film critics because they know they tend to agree with them, so too will people listen more to voices they already trust.
It’s also less intrusive than some methods, such as sms marketing tools or telemarketing campaigns. Instead of putting customers in a ‘business’ space, you meet them in theirs. This can help cultivate a different kind of reaction, one that may not have a short-term payoff in the same way, but will help you develop long-term relationships.
You can take advantage of this in a few ways.
Hashtags are a great way of keeping comments on your brand together. By suggesting a certain hashtag to use, you can encourage customers to post in that same tag. That way, when people search for your brand, they get to see what others think. Of course, unlike on your own site, you can’t regulate these – so be prepared to respond to complaints quickly.
These are especially useful on Twitter and Instagram – and Instagram particularly if your product is a physical one, as people will often search real photos, not just the staged ones from your website. A good example of this is hair dye brands, as customers want to see what the results will be like if they do it themselves at home.
As you can see, there’s over 800,000 posts in this hashtag, all highlighting the product! The official Manic Panic instagram account has posted quite a lot – around 4,000 posts – but as you can see, the majority of the tag is customer posts.
Influencer marketing could be a whole post by itself – there’s Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and an ever-growing list of other platforms. But, it’s worth considering if there’s space in here for you. There are two ways of using influencer marketing – one is sponsored posts, and the other, arguably more valuable, is reviews. A sponsored post usually contains scripted content, and the influencer isn’t always encouraged to give an opinion – and if they are, it should be a positive one.
A review, however, is a bit more open, and that makes it more trustworthy. You can reach out to an influencer who covers products and services similar to your own, and request a review in exchange for that product/services. They do have to declare that the item was received for free, but encourage them to be honest – including criticism if they have any. Of course, you still want these reviews to be positive, so target influencers who already use your brand if possible.
You should also take the time to share reviews you’ve received. On Twitter, this is as easy as retweeting. on Instagram, you can share it in a story. This will push those positive curated reviews in front of your audience, even when they’re not actively searching on your website. Cultivating a positive reputation that stretches beyond the immediate shopping experience is a great way to draw customers back again and again.
We mentioned that social media allows less curation, but it also allows more response. By reaching out to acknowledge and deal with customer complaints, you can massively reduce their impact.
By responding quickly, and offering resolutions, you can mitigate negative reviews. The above is a great example of how to do so. The initial response is public, but it then goes to private messages to allow the customer to give more detail.
If you’re managing remote workers, take advantage of the ability to have staff over multiple time zones and cover as much of the day as possible.
Last – but certainly not least – is the email marketing campaign. Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to market your brand and boost online sales. Using reviews in your email marketing makes for a winning combination.
If you’re highlighting a particular product in an email, choose a couple of pull quotes from excellent reviews to highlight. You could also highlight a review average – either from Trustpilot, Google, or your own website. The example above is part of a longer email from Bose advertising a sale. By directly including a 5* review about a reduced product, you can pre-empt concerns customers may have about why a product is reduced as well as tempting them in!