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The importance of product reviews and how to get them

Written by Pamela Hazelton on February 29, 2016 Blog, Customer loyalty.

Amazon, Wal-mart, and Target aren’t just popular retailers — their websites also serve as resources. Thousands of people flock to these sites daily to research products by way of customer reviews. Many big stores like these are used as search sources when others don’t include enough information for shoppers to make an educated decision.

Product reviews are an essential part of an online store’s branding and marketing. They help build trust and loyalty, and typically describe what sets your products apart from others.

Today we’re going to learn how reviews help your store increase sales, and how you can convince customers to leave more of them. Read on to get started.

Reviews help your store in a few big ways

Savvy shoppers almost never purchase a product without knowing how it’s going to work for them. They read the good, the not-so-good, and the downright ugly to make the all-important decision: should I pull out my wallet and take the plunge?

The immediate benefit of reviews is that they can make your future customers feel that much more confident. The more reviews you have, the more convinced a shopper will be that they’re making the right decision.

Reviews can help increase a store’s online presence, too. Since customer feedback appears on each product’s page, reviews can help pages be found on search engines via unique keywords.

Additionally, if customers share products they’ve reviewed across their social networks, it’s more exposure for those products and your brand.

More reviews = more exposure for your store, long-term.
More reviews = more exposure for your store, long-term.

Reviews can also help you better understand your products. You can spend hours using a product, but chances are customers will notice things you never would. That means your customers can give you great feedback, ideas for improvements, or even incredible marketing ideas!

Having said all this, unless you currently sell a product that’s going viral or has been seen on Shark Tank, garnering customer reviews is not easy. There are, however, many simple and affordable ways to entice customers to tell the world what they think of the products they’ve bought.

Let’s dive in.

Start by asking your customers directly

The best way to get customers to review items they own or have purchased is to just ask them. Be direct — it’s not as if your customers don’t want to leave reviews, but they often don’t remember!

Ask the customers who have made a purchase from you for a review about a week after their order would have arrived (or later, if your customers aren’t likely to use your products right away).

On-site requests and follow-up emails are the most popular methods to do this. If you’re using WooCommerce, the Follow Ups extension allows you to automate this via email with as many different configurations as you like.

Make the review process a breeze

Don’t send customers to a review form riddled with unnecessary fields. You need a name, an email address (for contact or verifications purposes only), a rating, and the review.

If you think it’s necessary, you may also ask customers to write a title (or headline), and to provide a broad location (such as a city and/or state). If you want customers to be able to include images or video, use an upload function that you’ve tested on all devices.

The easier you make it for customers to submit reviews, the more reviews you’ll receive.

Offer an incentive

Incentives are a great way to get people excited about sharing information. This can range from tacking rewards for reviews onto an existing rewards program, or creating new incentives for reviewers.

Call up any established product at Adagio Teas, for example, and you’ll see hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews. This is due in part to the fact that customers are rewarded five loyaltypoints for each review written.

Adagio.com offers the equivalent of 50-cents in store credit for every review written about a purchased product.
Adagio.com offers the equivalent of 50 cents in-store credit for every review written about a purchased product.

If you don’t offer a rewards program, there are plenty of other ways to incentivize, including:

  • Contest entries (see below)
  • Coupons — for example, you could issue a 10% coupon off their next order
  • Discounts — much like the above, offer an immediate $5 off discount in exchange for a review — this is something you can do with the aptly-named Review for Discount extension
  • Gift certificates – likely restricted to reviewers who submit detailed reviews accompanied by images or video, or those who submit multiple reviews in a certain period of time

While the type of incentive shouldn’t be the same for every store, any eCommerce site can likely increase the possibility of gaining reviews by using incentives.

Offer contest entries in exchange for feedback

Customers love the possibility of winning something. You don’t have to give away a car. Instead, hold drawings for something simple, like a store gift certificate or a low-priced popular product.

Some popular giveaway ideas include:

  • Store gift certificates
  • Unique accessories produced specifically for your store’s giveaways
  • Popular store products
  • Gift cards to restaurant or coffee chains
  • A limited or one-of-a-kind item

Want to better entice reviewers? Let entries carry over several drawings so their chances of winning are better.

Ask for photos (or to reuse existing photos)

People also love snapping pics of… well, everything! Product reviews accompanied by pictures and video tell a better story than those that are text-only.

Including the ability to upload images and video can increase the chance of a review because people like to share media, especially if they particularly love a product.

If you can
If you can convince customers to share photos with their reviews, you’ll be looking at richer, more interesting stories to share with shoppers.

If your customers aren’t sharing lots of photos on your store, you can ask for permission to repurpose those you’ve found on social media (like Instagram and Twitter) as a review with credit. This is a powerful form of social proof and can make your product pages look amazing!

Tip: ask the right questions

When asking for reviews, make sure you’re asking the right questions. You don’t just want to know if your customers liked the product. You want to know how they’re using it (explanation, photo, video), who they’d recommend it to, and if the product has changed something in their life.

While you want to keep those review forms as short as possible, consider any vital information others need to make an educated buying decision. A fashion store may want to ask if a product fits “true to size” or not. A photography store can benefit from knowing if the reviewer is an amateur or professional.

Asking the right questions not only makes for a more authentic review — it can make buyers of certain products also want to report how a product fit or worked for them.

How to handle your incoming reviews

Handling reviews appropriately can build trust and loyalty. It can also help the site gain more reviews, because people will know someone is actually listening.

Here are some quick tips on working with reviews.

Moderate your reviews regularly

Make a plan to check on your reviews at least a few times a day, or use notifications so you’ll know whenever a review is submitted. If you moderate your reviews, approve or reject them as often as you can to keep things moving.

Customers can get frustrated when they take the time to write something and it’s ignored. Sometimes they’ll even rewrite and resubmit reviews, thinking they were lost.

Respond to reviews that need your attention

Apologize for your mistakes, clarify product information, and thank customers for taking the time to leave feedback. You don’t need to respond to every review, but definitely take the time to show that you care.

If you want to address a situation privately, you should still publish a response that you’re contacting the customer by email or phone. This way, shoppers can see that you take problems seriously, which can increase their confidence by leaps and bounds.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

People are going to complain, and sometimes about strange or silly things. While these reviews bring down the average, a higher ratio of positive reviews should balance things out. Publishing all levels of reviews shows that you keep it real.

Some shoppers might have strange gripes or be needlessly negative. Don't sweat it -- respond and keep moving forward.
Some shoppers might have strange gripes or be needlessly negative. Don’t sweat it — respond and keep moving forward.

Experienced online shoppers know what to look for. They’ll typically read the most positive reviews first (to see if the product does what they want), followed by the worst. They know that a decent percentage of bad reviews on otherwise good products aren’t necessarily related to the product itself.

This Amazon customer review of a pair of walking shoes translates to the problem being with the fit of the shoe for a specific person, not necessarily with the product.
This Amazon customer review of a pair of walking shoes translates to the problem being with the fit of the shoe for a specific person, not necessarily with the product.

Unless a review inaccurately describes a product, refers to a different product, or is abusive, it’s best to let it go.

Embrace the process, sell more products

Requesting and publishing customer reviews in an essential, ongoing part of doing business online. Using the steps listed here can convince shoppers that you’re trustworthy and have great products. They can also inspire other customers to share their thoughts about the products you sell.

Does your store currently allow product reviews? What steps have you taken to encourage shoppers and customers to share what they think with others? Let us know in the comments.

6 Responses

  1. Gareth
    March 2, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi we’ve been running some experiments with different shipping price points to see how much free shipping vs cheap shipping vs “at cost” shipping effects conversion rate once a product has been added to cart.

    How would I get in touch to create a post on here to help other woocommerce shop owners?

    Thanks
    -Gareth

    • Nicole Kohler
      March 2, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

      Hi Gareth,

      We don’t often accept guest contributions, but there’s a possibility we could work what you’re doing into an upcoming post via a quote, if we decide to create something on a similar topic.

      Feel free to reach out at nicole.k at woothemes dot com and we can chat. 🙂 Thanks.

  2. Adrian
    March 8, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    Great article, thanks!
    I would also add as review source the professional reviewers communities. You can find them on giveaway websites or on facebook groups. I use their service and some of them write really good reviews, detailed and documented with photos or video.

  3. Miljana
    March 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    Great article! I’d like to add that in addition to asking shoppers to share their own product reviews on the site, store owners can also be proactive and collect reviews off-site from social media. As you already mentioned, Instagram is full of great content that can be used as social proof. The same applies to YouTube and user-generated video reviews. The more diverse and visually-rich format you use for customer reviews, the better.

    • archicarla
      March 29, 2016 at 9:35 pm #

      Miljana or Pamela – how do you go about publishing a review received outside of the built-in WooCommerce product reviews?

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