A brief reminder why online reviews matter, well…to everyone
Imagine this for a second. Your audience is growing day by day without much effort from your side. In fact, your new customers are happily throwing money at you! Why?
They did some research and came to a conclusion that your business is the best place for spending their money for what they need. What’s even better, is that other people told them, and not you. Your customers basically did the marketing for you.
I know this sounds a little exaggerated and I hear you say ‘impossible!’. It’s not that easy I admit. But the good news is that this can happen and it certainly is happening to many businesses around you. One thing these successful companies have in common is the decision to take control of their online reputation. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through reviews.
The fact is that reviews have never been more important. If you thought that referrals or any other techniques for growing your business reputation and sales is enough, you are wrong And I’ll show you why.
As you see, the ecommerce market is not big, it’s huge.
Given the trend, we can expect another massive increase in worldwide ecommerce spending.
Considering the sheer amount of businesses falling to the ecommerce market, and also those who don’t sell but advertise their products online, you are up against millions of stores.
So that’s the competition. Now, let’s consider some quick facts and figures about reviews. Depending on your stand on reviews, you can see the following information as an opportunity or as something very troubling.
Firstly, 65% of shoppers go to review platforms before purchase, and 90% of people trust online reviews just as much as word-of-mouth recommendations.
Therefore a considerable amount of potential customers will trust what they see online. Now the good news.
92% of businesses say reviews help them to convince customers to trust them and 94% business owners say reviews helped them to convert more visitors to customers. What the latter data suggests, is that the polled customers actually act on their beliefs. Online reviews do influence customer behaviour in a major way. Hence, it’s important to collect and market good reviews and limit negative reviews…on repeat.
Quantifying ‘good reviews’ with purchasing, 80% of consumers would try a business that had a rating of 4 stars or more. Additionally, the well-known Harvard Business School study showed that only one star increase in Yelp rating resulted in 5-9% increase in revenue.
To sum up, the evidence above clearly shows that there is and will be an increase in online shopping and that people place more and more importance on online reviews. Lastly, not only do customers say they value reviews, businesses also manage to convert more prospects into customers because of them.
1. Learn how to collect reviews from different sources
Claim your listings first
Before we begin, it’s important that you are set-up on all major and niche-specific platforms. If not, you should do it as soon as possible. Claiming listing is a major aspect of an online reputation strategy and subsequent collection of online reviews. If you are not sure what the niche sites are, have a look at your customer avatar and determine where they look before buying. Do you know where they venture online? Secondly, just perform simple Google search for ‘your industry’ + ‘reviews’. You should soon realize what those sites are. Next, ensure you set-up a listing on all major platforms. There is an abundance of lists online that include majority of them – again, a simple Google search will be enough. Lastly, you can also search for your competitors’ reviews and set-up listings on platforms they are.
Many businesses struggle with this point. How to encourage customer engagement without boring or annoying them?
Deciding on the right medium will be specific to your business, customers, and industry. All 3 aspects should be aligned to maximize conversion rates (for leaving a review), and eventually to serve its purpose, i.e. being marketable, discoverable, attracting more customer and driving conversions (sales).
You can engage in ‘active’ gathering, where you include a clear call to action You simply ask or tell your customers to leave a review. On the other hand, more covert and ‘passive’ way can be achieved through the design of your online and offline assets. Lead your customers to the desired action through their experience with the brand.
Here are the major sources and ways for collecting reviews.
- Over the phone
Perhaps a less common way of collecting reviews, however, some high touch or price products or services can find this approach useful.
Collecting reviews this way may happen spontaneously, for instance during an update call with a client. You can alternatively ask if their input can be used for marketing purposes (preferably if they have something positive to say).
Another way is an invitation for a phone call with this purpose in mind, inviting them for a product or experience interview.
- Via email
You can do the following and send:
- Automated emails directly after purchase
- Automated ‘drip campaigns’ – here you send a sequence of emails asking for feedback
- One-off email to your list
- Personal email to your most engaged customers
- Include badge in emails signatures, such as ‘you can find us on Yelp’, or just use a hyperlinked logo of a review site pointing there
- Via customer service correspondence
- On your website
- Review page displaying all reviews can prompt new customers to leave their feedback
- Include a badge on your website
- Include a ‘review us’ type of button
- On other websites or platforms
- General or local directories such as Yelp, Booking.com, Angie’s list
- Sector specific directories, such as bestplumber.com for contractors
- Through interaction with your audience on social media
Various ways will allow you to capture video testimonials or reviews
- Customers do it: customers can do it themselves using camera, webcam, phone, skype
- You do it: ideally, if they are in your geographical proximity, you can visit the client at their premises and record them
- 3rd party providers such as boast.io
Collecting voice mails as testimonials or reviews can be done similarly to how many businesses encourage customer engagement and feedback. For instance, Chris Lema ditched the chat support for voicemail on his homepage.
- Include CTA on offline products, or branding material
- QR codes – sure, this is not a fully offline strategy because the actual feedback is received online… But QR codes are a great tool for driving offline traffic to desired online destination
- Focus groups
- Offline feedback forms – in many customer-facing industries such as in the culinary or hospitality industries, the majority of the great comments are told in real life in the premises. Many businesses are unfortunately unable to capture these and capitalize on them. One great way to fix this issue are feedback form. A ‘form’ does not need to be a large A4 page, but simply a small card with questions and a room for own comments. Don’t forget to also collect their personal details. These customers are not only happy with your business, but they also spend their time to give you feedback. Utilize this engagement and provide them extra free value.
- Stickers – similarly to badges that you can add to emails or websites, these marketing assets can be displayed on:
- Business cards
- Stationary for customer
- Gifts for customers
Whether you ask directly or if you generate customer engagement another way, both ways are effective. However, both approaches have different problems associated with their execution.
It’s preferable to create a culture where customers feel positively about your products, and where they enthusiastic to leave feedback. How to achieve this? Always over-deliver on the value you promised. Always. Once this is established, encouragement with clear call-to-action is optimal.
Human psychology is powerful, and a concept called altruistic reciprocity will entice customers who received more than expected to give you something in return. This can be their contact information, money, or a good review.
2. Learn how to market your good reviews
As we enter the next major section of this article, it’s important to note that the amount of customer reviews tends to be important. But in some cases, businesses with fewer reviews outperform those with many.
The successful brands know how to let their prospects know about their reputation. So let’s consider how we can market reviews to your relevant audience. These are the ways to do it:
What social media to include? Well, all those on which you have a presence. Your social media followers like your brand, or the content you share. It’s important to deliver value, but also to show how valuable you are. You might not be active on all social media, but from the pure Online Reputation standpoint, the majority of well-known social media platforms should be claimed and covered. Social media just like other online channels are also a good way of turning regular feedback into online reviews. The major platforms that should be covered for marketing reviews are:
In this case, automation is absolutely crucial for efficiency, especially if you experience a high volume of feedback. Prioritize social media channels that drive the best ROI from your marketing.
Newsletters are another great way for keeping your current customers engaged. This way, you can demonstrate value and confirm to them that they made a good decision by becoming your customer. Good reviews in newsletters can contribute to higher customer retention and smaller buyer’s remorse.
There is no point in sending reviews one-by-one. Preferably, compile them from a certain time frame and include them in a monthly newsletter with your other business updates. Use the positive feedback to support your customer retention strategy and to complement your newsletter content.
Add data from your review campaign into press releases. In some cases you can use specific reviews, data on volume of reviews or the overall sentiment. However, make sure that it is relevant to the point you are trying to make, and include it only if it’s appropriate in the given context.
The majority of businesses use reviews as testimonials to support their sales copy. Be it on the website’s homepage or a specific landing page. This marketing strategy is very effective.
Marketers and copywriters understand the power of social proof – a heuristic reasoning where we cometo a conclusion based on a mental shortcut. Reviews in addition to a compelling story tend to consistently improve conversion rates. So make sure to use reviews in your marketing campaigns or product landing pages, or use them to directly compare yourself against the competition in email campaigns.
Offline businesses in industries such as the culinary or hospitality industry have been using this technique for a long time. Naturally, they serve their customers mainly offline and that’s where the eyeballs are. You can include reviews or ratings on:
- Business cards
- Outside advertising boards
Having a page dedicated to reviews is a great way to market the quality of your business. Doing so will also help your SEO and might attract more traffic looking for reviews on specific products.
Continuing from point 6, there are several ways of making sure that your review page will get discovered by as many people as possible. Here are some basic SEO techniques you can use to accomplish this.
Internal linking structure
The way your internal pages are interlinked determines their ‘link juice’ flow, and how discoverable they will be. By both the search engines but also by the visitors. If many links point to a review page, the crawlers will pick up on this, and your visitors are more likely to visit the page.
Another way of adding SEO value to your review page is by creating high-quality relevant backlinks pointing to it.
Use top navigation
Lastly, if you want to make the review page event more easily discoverable to the visitors, you can include it in the top navigation and guide your customers directly to it from your home page.
- Techniques for increasing review conversions
The points above showed you why reviews matter, what types of reviews there are, from where and how we can source them, and how to market them. Next, let’s get into some additional tactics for higher conversion.
Trials and prototypes
Trials are great for reviews. A certain percentage of your customers will be very enthusiastic about trying a new product, service or a new variation of your existing products. The whole idea behind testing is that you get data at the end. If this feedback is good, use it as a review. People love novelty and the feeling of being important or making a change. Give them this chance by asking them for a prototype feedback.
Everyone loves a freebie. Giving away products in exchange for reviews is a common tactic especially for start-ups. But it’s important to not confuse a freebie with bribing.
Another tactic is ‘borrowing’ reviewers from your competition. Many review platforms and directories list basic contact information of the reviewers. Reach out to them and invite them to try your product. At a regular price or as a freebie or a trial.
After one review ask for more
Ask to review additional products after leaving one review, or get in touch after certain time period.
Enter customers into a competition
This would involve offering an incentive such as the chance to win something for an exchange for their feedback. This is especially appropriate when you sell high ticket items.
Follow these 4 points for an effective review campaign
As we covered the basics or collecting, marketing and monitoring; now I will turn to some additional tips that will help you to understand what really works in building a reputation through reviews.
Nudging with incentives and bribing is not the same
A simple rule to remember: don’t bribe your customers for positive reviews. Offering an incentive is acceptable, however, directly offering something in return for a positive review is not. If you decide to do it, make sure you don’t overdo it. In this case, try to limit your review collection campaign to a certain percentage of customers or limit it by time.
The fact is that a certain group of your customers will do it regardless of the incentive. If the group is small or in fact, you don’t have a group like this at all, it’s an indicator of your business operations. Therefore increasing customer engagement, loyalty and product quality would be the appropriate course of action.
Additionally, I would completely limit any incentives geared towards reviews on Yelp. Directly from their website, Yelp puts it bluntly:
If they suspect you are asking for reviews; all the hard work collecting them will disappear.
Employ user-centric design
In this case, UI/UX come into play. The whole review collection process must be easy to follow and not time-consuming or confusing. This is the only way to increase conversion rates. Your customers do it for free (or should, see point 1), therefore any confusion about where to click next will make them leave very quickly.
The interaction with your website should be intuitive and every step along the way to leaving a review should be smooth and intuitive. Therefore encouraging feedback, whether overtly or covertly, must be conducted with the user in mind.
Find the right level of persistence
This point is quite nuanced. For example in terms of emails, what is healthy persistence and what is pushy persuasion? One can lead to valuable data which will bring your business to the next level, the other will make you seem desperate and you will annoy and alienate your customers. Because of this, you need to understand your industry, and especially your customer base.
Is there a frequent interaction between you and your customers? Do you provide them with free content or freebies often? Do they expect it?
These are some of the questions you should consider. However, I would stick with a very general rule of creating a three email sequence, where the time distance between each email is progressively increasing. For instance, send the second email after 2 days, and email three after 3-5 days.
Your relationship with the customers that gladly leave positive reviews for you should be cherished. You can reward them after leaving a review with discounts or additional content.
These customers are obviously glad about the value you provide, and this needs to be capitalized on. Firstly, you can turn them into brand ambassadors and reach out to them to increase the feedback engagement by asking them for a video review.
Secondly, these customers are likely to engage with your brand in the future. Most importantly, they are likely to exchange their money for your services. Therefore offering more than they expected through a freebie or a discount will only cement their beliefs in your brand.
Bonus: 3 ways to use online reviews to upsell existing products and drive more sales
So far we looked at the conversion process of customers into reviewers. As a bonus, this section will show you how to turn existing customers into repeat customers by using the power of social proof behind reviews. Why is this crucially important for your business? It’s simple… selling to existing customers is much cheaper!
Use reviews for other related products
This tactic is widely used by many eCommerce websites. Including reviews after check-out to upsell and complement purchased product is an effective way to keep customers in the funnel and entice them to a new purchase.
Customers that review a certain product do the hard work for you. Not only do they market the product to others, they also segment themselves into clear categories, usually based on their interest and their level of satisfaction. After reviewing a product, enter the customer into a follow-up series that offers an upsell. Create a sales copy focused on benefits and how the new products complements the existing one.
Create infographic with reviews
This is a creative strategy which can be implemented if direct upsell or segmentation fails. This is how it works: create an infographic based on a product and attribute a specific review to each component or a feature of the product.
Let’s imagine that you are selling a DIY set of decorative candles…
Create an infographic where one review points at e.g.
1, how easy it is to make a candle
2, how pleasantly the wax smells
3, how easy it is to clean up after
And so on. You can offer this infographic to existing customers to learn more about your products in a more vivid and creative way if your email campaigns fail to convert.
Reviews are extremely important, and with the data showing the current ecommerce trends and customers’ online behaviour, businesses need to account for reviews in their marketing strategy. We looked not only into online reviews, but also touched some interesting way to collect and show reviews offline.
The information I shared with you today should equip you with solid foundations for collecting reviews. Now you can start using them to turn visitors into customers, and customers into repeated customers.
What do you think about this guide? Did I leave anything out, or do you have something to add? Share and comment below!
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