Aside from having a solid inventory, product reviews are by far the most important part of any e-commerce empire as they have the potential to be a real asset for your businesses. By having a solid amount of reviews across the board – similar to how Amazon does – you build trust and credibility with your potential customers.
Reviews go far beyond trust, though. Everyone knows that they’re important – but do you know all of the reasons why?
(If you already know why, skip about halfway down the page to Method #1.)
Why you need reviews
Social proof (legitimize yourself)
There are many parts to making the user trust your site, and one of the biggest one is having reviews on at least some of your products.
If you don’t have reviews, no one knows if your site is actually popular, and that’s bad. People always want to shop where other people are shopping because it gives them a sense of safety with their purchases.
Assuming bots can read your comment text, comments can do wonders for your organic search rankings.
The thing is, product descriptions are limited – even on more complex products, you’re always going to be limited to a paragraph or two. It’s up in the air as to whether or not longer pages affect SERP ranking… however, logically, it would make sense that reviews are favored by Google – they improve user experience.
Become “the guy” for that item
Five different e-commerce stores have the same product at the same price. Except one of them has 17 reviews on the product, whereas all of the other ones have 0, 1, or 2.
Which site are you going to be looking at the item on? Likely, you’ll be on the one with 17 reviews. And when the time comes to purchase, because of the reviews, you’ll likely trust that site the most (unless another one is a major name) and purchase from it over the rest.
It’s sort of like long copy – hypes the product up
Explained below, our methods will focus on attracting positive reviews for our products. Positive reviews are fantastic for conversions – when someone loves a product, he’ll talk it up in a personable, non-businesslike way. This appeals to the masses and gets other potential customers excited about the product.
Pseudo long copy via positive reviews actually saves you money, too – instead of paying an expensive copywriter for his services on all of your products, you let the users do it for you.
Answers personal questions
A lot of the time, users share purposes for products. If a positive review touches on one of these purposes (reviewers will), other users that need the same thing from the same product will relate to the review and be more likely to purchase.
Here are some examples of what we mean:
- Buying pillows: user needs them for his couch and sees that other users are using the pillows on their couches + leaving positive reviews about them
- Buying toothpaste: user needs the toothpaste for his child and sees in the reviews that another customer has a kid… and that customer’s kid loves the toothpaste
- Buying a label printer: user needs the label printer for printing barcodes and sees that other users are using it for barcodes + leaving positive reviews on how well it does
There are often user questions that you’re not even aware of… and most won’t go to the trouble of sending you a message to clarify. Reviews can answer questions and concerns in an indirect way – this leads to more sales and more money in your pocket.
How to get more reviews as an e-commerce store owner
Method #1: Inserts
What’s the most exciting part of buying an item online? For most people, it’s realizing that the item came in the mail, unboxing it in anticipation, and then using it for the first few times. If it’s a good product, you’ll be blown away by it. Over time though, you’ll get used to having it, and your infatuation will fade.
Bazaarvoice did an interesting survey – 70% of people who rated an item four or five stars said that they did it to “help other consumers make good decisions”. No incentive is needed for reviewers to leave reviews if the product is good, you just have to remind them – an insert does exactly that, and you capitalize on the peak of the customer’s good feelings towards the product.
In either the product packaging or shipping box, include an insert (flyers are great) with the following…
- A sincere thank you message (consider hiring a copywriter)
- Asking for a review (use a short URL like yourdomain.com/review to make it as easy as possible for the customer)
- Offering a coupon for subscribing to your mailing list – not as an incentive to leave a review (explained more further down the page)
- A link and phone number to contact you with any questions or concerns (this negates negative reviews as users will likely just contact you to fix the problem before voicing their thoughts publicly)
- Anything else that you feel is pertinent (special offers, a tidbit about the company, your philanthropy efforts, etc.)
User satisfaction, review funneling (focus on this), list building, and directing users to spend more all in one.
An insert also increases the perceived value of the package (make sure to go with HQ flyer paper).
Method #2: Follow-up emails (with a controlled incentive)
Snail mail aside, let’s focus on getting a direct click from a followup email where the user leaves a review.
Make contact beforehand to build trust and value
Before you start asking for favors, you have to give something of value to the customer. Speedy handling and shipping is one way to do this – sending helpful emails is another.
Update them when the following occurs:
- They place an order (give the customer an estimate delivery date)
- The item is shipped (give the customer the tracking number right inside of the email with a link to the shipping service’s online tracking AND an estimated delivery date range)
- The item is delivered
These emails are purely helpful and nothing else. You’ll get on the user’s good side before sending a single email with a CTA…
Love It or Hate It? (haters get refunds)
Send customized, personable emails to your customers shortly after they receive the product (1 hour – 24 hours) and ask them to review their purchases.
In the first email, you should pull them in with a curious headline. Try to use the product title within it, unless the product title is a string of 20 words – you want them to open the email first and foremost.
Once they’re in, you want to appeal to the altruistic nature of 4 and 5-star reviewers with how you phrase your request. Don’t say “if you would like to leave a review…”, say “To leave a review and let the world know what you think…”, etc.
Not everyone is going to leave a review. But chances are, assuming you have the review process simplified with a direct link to the pge, your conversion rate for the people who do click will surprise you.
This email also directs the people who would leave 1 and 2-star reviews away from your site and into your caring arms. Give them the option to call or email you with any questions or concerns so that you can offer them refunds and gifts before they go online. For smaller shops, even a $10/mo voicemail number that you check once a day works,
Feel free to send multiple emails asking for product reviews, but don’t be pushy. Remember, you didn’t do that much to earn this favor, and you don’t want to alienate your existing customers (who are the most likely to buy from you again).
Don’t use auto incentives
An “auto incentive” is including in your email that if the user leaves a review, he will get a certain dollar amount or percentage off of his next order.
You’re playing with fire with this approach because you’ll get a lot of people who will leave pointless review (such as “wow, great product” and “thanks so much, i love it”) just to get a coupon.
We recommended earlier that you direct them to your mailing list instead of your review page to get the coupon. This way, if the customer enters something bogus to get the coupon, you just get an email bounce… your site isn’t flooded with garbage reviews.
Do use “one winner takes all” incentives
Offer a high dollar amount ($100, $200, $500… whatever you can afford) once a month to one lucky reviewer out of all of the reviewers for that month. Pick the reviewer based on the quality of the review.
Now if someone sees this and is interested in the money, he will write the best darn review he’s ever written to try and win the prize. There’s no point in writing a bogus one like we described above. No garbage on your site anymore – instead, you have A+, thoughtful reviews everywhere.
And that quality only costs you a pennies per review! (Amount you pay out divided by amount of reviews for the month.)
Macys.com puts a spin on it and offers a possible $1,000 giftcard to the pool of people who write the first reviews for products on their site. Feel free to copy this approach – you’ll get fewer reviews overall (assuming you have reviews on some of your products), but they’ll be more spread out.
Method #3: Non-customer reviews
In that Macys.com example, you don’t have to be signed in or have ordered a product to be eligible for that cash. There’s no reason to require login to leave a review for an item – the more review the merrier!
Consumers who tend to leave reviews will often stumble across products that they already own and leave a review, even if the purchase wasn’t from that site. This helps our cause, but they’re lost in the wind if you require login or purchase confirmation to leave a review.
How to get e-commerce reviews: conclusion
Reviews are vital to your e-commerce success – in the day and age of Amazon, that much is blatantly obvious. Lucky for you, the store owner, getting reviews isn’t all that hard.
Just be helpful to the user, offer to fix any problems, and most importantly, intercept positive thoughts of the product whenever you can through inserts, emails, and one-customer-per-month incentives on the product pages themselves. Follow these instructions, get more reviews, and watch your conversion rate skyrocket on a sitewide basis – good luck!