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Why Online Reviews Are Essential (and How to Get Them)

Online reviews

Online consumers rely on reviews to make virtually every purchase: Amazon for a new coffee maker, Trip Advisor for an upcoming vacation to Costa Rica, Google to find a good handyman, Yelp for a fun tapas restaurant. 

In fact, 93% of new customers actively seek out reviews before they buy. Impartial opinions from previous shoppers help them make a decision, especially if they’re mistrustful of polished brand messages. 

Getting people to leave reviews is hard, but it’s essential to building trust and giving customers the information they need exactly when they need it. 

Here’s how to encourage shoppers to share their experiences and where you should display reviews: 

How reviews build trust with first-time shoppers

  • Encourage recommendations.Eighty-four percent of shoppers trust business reviews as much as word-of-mouth marketing and personal recommendations, which can also increase your online presence.
  • Supercharge your content library. Spent ages tweaking your launch email to get it “just right”? Reviews are trusted 12x more than other marketing materials, making them an integral part of the buying process.
  • Boost credibility.Customers are 63% more likely to trust and buy from a company with good reviews—shoppers value the reassurance gained through impartial reviews. 
  • Improve customer perception. The better quality reviews you have, the more value shoppers assign to your brand and its products. 

Beyond trust: other benefits of online customer reviews

While trust-building is a key benefit of reviews, reviews also bolster your efforts in other areas, from search engine optimization to gaining valuable product insights.

  • Enhance SEO efforts. Google’s algorithm ranks pages with consumer reviews higher on SERPs, plus the added word count means there’s more opportunity for relevant keywords.
  • Create personalized customer experiences. Provide different product perspectives and give shoppers an insight into how customers who are the same size, shape, or skin type as them found a product. 
  • Identify relevant keywords. Reviews give you an insight into the actual keywords your customers use. 
  • Improve product development: Use the experiences and opinions of your customers to get feedback and improve your products. 

You don’t need tons of reviews to reap these benefits. Products are 270% more likely to sell with as few as five reviews—however, one study found that shoppers want to see at least 40 reviews to justify an average star rating. So, while you don’t need a review from every single customer, the more you can secure, the better. 

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How to encourage customers to leave reviews

Nine times out of 10, customers won’t leave a review if left to their own devices. In fact, you’re more likely to get a review from an unhappy customer who wants to vent about their experience than a customer who enjoyed your product and would recommend it. This is why it’s crucial to encourage customers to leave reviews—especially if they’ve had a positive experience. 

1. Ask 

It sounds simple, but the majority of customers won’t leave a review unless you explicitly ask them (and, even then, only about 68% will step up).

The easiest way to do this is to send a well-timed email or SMS message that encourages them to leave a review. But make sure you give them enough time to actually use your product—81% of shoppers are more likely to leave a review after they’ve used the product more than once. 

Casper sends a simple review request email to past buyers, inviting them to share their thoughts with an on-brand message. 

Casper email request for reviews

When is the best time to send a review request email? 

The timing will ultimately depend on the type of product you’re selling and your potential customers. One study recommends different timeframes for different types of products. For hard goods (or products that last a long time), like fridges and washing machines, it recommends waiting 21 days. Perishables and soft goods, like cosmetics, clothing, and food, need less “trying” time, so you can send an email within 14 days. And the timely nature of seasonal goods means it’s best to send a review request email within seven days. 

The same study reveals that review request emails sent on Wednesdays and Saturdays have the highest conversion rates and that it’s crucial for ecommerce brands to follow up seven days after sending the first email. While 68% of customers leave a review after being asked once, an additional 28% will leave a review the second time you ask them, and a further 4% the third time. 

This review request email from Skin Mart is clearly a follow-up email and even adds in a reward for customers based on the depth of their review. 

Skin Mart followup email

2. Make it easy

The easier it is to leave a review, the more likely customers are to do so. The last thing they want to do is jump through hoops when they’ve already received their product. Walk shoppers through the process, give them guidance at every step, and eliminate any potential friction by: 

  • Reducing (or, ideally, fixing) any technical issues
  • Creating as few fields and touchpoints as possible
  • Prompting them with questions to answer

3. Incentivize shoppers

Everyone likes to get something for free, and 73% of consumers say they’d be inclined to leave a review if offered an incentive. This could be a freebie, a discount on their next purchase, or additional loyalty points. For example, Camera Ready Cosmetics offers shoppers a percentage off their next purchase. 

Camera Ready request for product review

What kind of incentives should you offer? 

Again, this will depend on your product and audience. If you sell high-ticket electronics, shoppers might prefer a discount on their next purchase over a freebie, while someone buying makeup might be interested in a freebie to try out a new product. 

Here are some incentives you can offer that have been backed by data

  • 91% of shoppers would like to receive the product free of charge.
  • 85% would like to receive the product before it’s released. 
  • 67% would like a discount on future products.
  • 59% would like loyalty points. 

You can even offer a sliding scale of incentives depending on the depth of the review. 

For example, customers who submit a photo with their review might get 15% off their next purchase, as opposed to 10% off if they leave just a written review. LSKD offers three levels of incentives for its shoppers—a 10%-off coupon for a written review, a 15%-off coupon for a photo review, and a 20%-off coupon for a video review. In a similar vein, the Skin Mart review request email above offers shoppers 75 member points for leaving a written review, plus an extra 25 points for customers who submit a photo or video as well.

LKSD email request for product review

4. Respond to reviews

Sixty-five of consumers believe brands should respond to every review they get. It shows you care and are open to receiving customer feedback. On top of this, 78% say any responses that are given should be in some way personalized, and 86% are more likely to buy from a store that responds to reviews. 

Yappy responds to every customer review with a personalized, pun-packed message.

Thank you note for positive review

Starting a dialogue with customers who have taken the time to share their experience secures trust and credibility, but it also gives you a chance to win back shoppers who might have had a less-than-stellar experience. 

Don’t push out a blanket response to every review, though. Instead: 

  • Personalized each response with the shopper’s name, at the very least
  • Answer questions, but don’t get defensive in response to negative reviews
  • Invite customers who have had a negative experience to connect with you somewhere else, like via email or an official customer support channel 

ModCloth responds well to a frustrated customer by apologizing and directing them to the customer care team. 

ModCloth ad

5. Don’t be afraid of negative reviews

Shoppers don’t just want to see positive reviews—they want opinions from all angles. In fact, 82% of consumers who read online reviews specifically seek out negative reviews. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since users spend five times as long on sites when they’re interacting with bad reviews. Reading bad reviews can even lead to an 85% increase in conversion rate. 

Take a leaf out of ModCloth’s book, above, and respond in a calm and neutral manner to negative reviews. Alternatively, you can create a two-step review process where shoppers are first invited to give a star rating. Those that give a high star rating are then invited to leave a public review, while those that give a lesser star rating are invited to provide feedback so you have the chance to rectify the experience before their review goes live on your site. 

6. Always be honest about reviews

Winning the trust of consumers is the key to long-term success, so it’s crucial that you’re always honest about reviews—both good and bad. Be very careful not to alter negative reviews or delete them, or you might end up in a sticky situation, like Fashion Nova. The brand had to pay a $4.2 million fine for suppressing negative reviews and lost a lot of trust with its buyers. 

Before you start collecting reviews, make sure you read up on the FTC’s guidelines, which include: 

  • Not asking for fake reviews from people who haven’t used your product
  • Not limiting review request emails to customers you think had a positive experience 
  • Not placing conditions on incentives 

Prospective customers expect there to be a healthy mix of reviews, and only having glowing five-star experiences on your site can raise alarm bells. Instead, provide shoppers with an experience from every perspective so they can make an informed decision that’s best for their own wants and needs. 

Where to display online reviews for maximum impact

Once you’ve started collecting customer reviews, what do you do with them? For best results, sprinkle them throughout the sales cycle, giving shoppers a dose of social proof when they might have an objection. 

Most retailers benefit from displaying their reviews on: 

Product pages

Product pages with reviews get 3.5 times higher conversion rates. Add reviews to their relevant product pages alongside each product description so customers can browse perspectives from people with the same attributes as them. Quick Flick showcases thousands of positive reviews on each page that can be filtered by newest, oldest, most helpful, and those with photos. 

Quick Flick reviews

Social media 

Fifty-four percent of social media users use social media to browse products. Show off your reviews in feed posts and Stories to build trust and interest in your products. Love Corn has an entire Story Highlight dedicated to customer reviews on Instagram.

Love Corn Instagram ad

Social ads

Reviews add authenticity and social proof to your ads and digital marketing efforts. In fact, Facebook ads that include reviews see 50% lower CPC and CPA than normal Facebook ads. Blenders Eyewear generated a 2x higher click-through rate, a 38% lower CPA, and a 62% higher ROAS by simply adding star reviews to its ads. 

Blenders Facebook adDedicated reviews page

Give shoppers a dedicated place they can go to read all the customer reviews they want. This can also boost your SEO efforts by targeting the keyword “[your brand] reviews.” Patagonia’s dedicated reviews page has more than 63,500 reviews for shoppers to browse.

Abandoned cart emails 

Nearly 70% of shoppers leave their carts without making it to checkout. Adding reviews to abandoned cart emails can lure them back and remind them why they added an item to their cart in the first place. It can also help them compare products with competitors. Don’t just limit reviews to abandoned cart emails, though; you can include them in product recommendation emails and other sequences to instill trust and social proof. 

Brooklinen’s on-brand abandoned cart email showcases reviews before directing shoppers back to their cart to help with their purchasing decisions. 

Brooklinen email

Make reviews work for you 

Reviews are an integral part of the purchase-making decision for most online buyers. As a business owner, it’s critical to collect and display them at different touchpoints. 

Start by sending out well-timed review request emails and adding an incentive to increase the chances of a customer leaving a review, but don’t forget to respond and deal with negative reviews in an honest fashion. 

Once you’ve secured a decent number of customer reviews, you can start populating your site, ads, and social media channels with them to boost trust, drive sales, create happy customers, and improve your brand’s online reputation.

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