How to Encourage Customer Reviews (And Why You Should)

Customer reviews for retailers | Shopify Retail blog

When it comes to converting casual browsers into eager buyers, one tactic can help prompt shoppers to action: customer reviews.

While it might feel like you could be opening a can of worms, the benefits outweigh any potential issues. For example, one recent study shows that 90% of people’s buying decisions are influenced by online reviews — which only underscores the importance of publishing the opinions of your customers.

So, how exactly do you encourage customers to leave reviews? Here, we’ll tackle the ins and outs of customer reviews, including the many benefits and how to set up a review system for your retail site.

Why Retailers Should Consider Customer Reviews

Real customer reviews can persuade a new, on-the-fence buyer to take action and make their own purchase for several reasons.

Potential shoppers can gather more information that is relevant to them by browsing customer reviews from like-minded consumers or other shoppers in similar situations to their own.

Modcloth, for example, doesn’t just allow customers to write reviews. They encourage shoppers to share details about the product and about themselves, so other customers can find and read a review from someone with a similar shape and weight to better understand how a specific garment may fit them.

Modcloth customer reviews | Shopify Retail blogDetailed reviews like this that appear on your website can even help with SEO, boosting a product’s page in search result rankings. Moz, a leader in search engine optimization, conducted research that show signals from written reviews do impact local search results:

Customer review data | Shopify Retail blog

This can play into social proof, too. Human beings tend to look to groups or communities to validate their decisions.

A customer might be interested in a product but hesitant to buy. Customer reviews can provide the “social proof” he or she needs to validate their initial interest and make the decision to purchase, since they could see how other shoppers reacted to the product.

When a customer writes a review, that story can act as convincing feedback from an unbiased source in a way your product description alone just can’t do. No matter how detailed and honest you are, you clearly have a vested interest in presenting your products in the best light. You’re a retailer who wants to turn a profit, after all.

The data from a BrightLocal consumer review survey agrees with the claim that customer reviews impact sales and conversions:

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
  • 54% of people visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews.
  • 74% of people trust local businesses more after reading positive reviews.
  • 58% of people believe the “star rating” is the most important metric to them.

And if you’re still a little on the fence about allowing — much less encouraging — customer reviews for fear of giving a few sour grapes a stage, consider that even poor reviews can increase sales.

Researchers found that if consumers weren’t already aware of a product, bad reviews could actually increase sales by 45%. (They did find that for established products, negative reviews tended to hurt sales as you would expect.)

Now that you understand how powerful and compelling customer reviews can be, check out these 5 strategies to encourage the people who buy from you to leave their own review (because 70% of consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to!).

1. Make It Easy to Review Your Products Online

Include a system for reviews within your ecommerce site. You can browse different retailer’s online stores to see how they set up their reviews, but consider including a star-rating system (since consumers feel that’s the most important measure).

Amazon’s customer review system may set the standard for retailers. They include the star system along with written reviews, and they include a search functionality that allows shoppers to read various types of reviews.

Amazon customer reviews | Shopify Retail blogAmazon also includes easy-to-find “write a review” buttons.

You can include your own calls to action on product pages, within your confirmation pages and emails, or in receipts and invoices. Make it easy not only to leave reviews for specific products — but make the page where customers can do so easy to find.

Want to add product reviews capabilities to your ecommerce site? Check out some of these Shopify apps and add-ons:

And don’t forget to follow up! Customers will likely leave reviews weeks or even months after they made the initial purchase. Create an automation within your point-of-sale system or email marketing tools so customers who made a purchase receive a simple email a few weeks after product delivery that invites them to share their experience.

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2. Claim Your Business Online and on Social Media

Customers can leave reviews in more places than just your own website. You want to make it easy for happy customers to write reviews when they have positive experiences with your brand.

Be sure to set your business up on third-party sites that encourage positive consumer reviews. Start with the following:

You can also use industry-specific directories that are relevant to your business. These might include places like Angie’s List, CitySearch, Trustpilot, or TripAdvisor.

3. Consider What’s in It for Your Customer

You can encourage customers to write reviews by rewarding them for doing so. Incentivizing your shoppers this way makes sense and it is fair — after all, it takes time and effort to write a review, so receiving some sort of reward for doing so is likely to add to the overall positive experience they had with your brand.

You can offer coupons or discount codes to encourage buyers to share their feedback publicly. Or host periodic drawings and giveaways, and choose a winner from the pool of customers who submitted reviews in a certain timeframe.

Rewarding customers for writing reviews is an acceptable practice. Buying reviews is something to avoid. Your offer should simply be for writing a review, not for writing a review with an angle or spin you requested.

4. Meet Them Where They Are (AKA: Get Mobile)

You can further encourage customers to leave reviews if you make those reviews easy to write on mobile. Just make sure the review you want them to write lines up with what’s realistic for thumb-based typing.

Creating a place for customers to respond and leave a star rating, for example, is an easy task to perform on a smartphone.

You can also get creative, and look to gather not just written reviews, but also data points from surveys. This will allow you to write web copy that you can use to set alongside customer reviews, while still making it easy to leave feedback on mobile.

Here’s an example: say you send out a three-question, yes-or-no answer survey:

  • Are you satisfied with your product?
  • Would you recommend this to a friend?
  • Would you buy this again?

You can then tally responses and include the data on your product’s sales page, like Naked Wines does:

Naked Wines customer reviews | Shopify Retail blogIt’s not a written review — but it can supplement longer-form feedback provided from other customers. (Plus, you can include a field to ask for comments, which can then be published as customer reviews.)

5. Don’t Forget to Make the Ask

Remember how seven out of 10 customers will leave a review — as long as they’re asked? Don’t assume your shoppers, even the most loyal among them, will take the initiative to write a review for you.

Find unique (and polite) ways to ask shoppers to write reviews for products they purchase. You don’t just have to ask for a review. Your actual ask could be worded in variety of personable, friendly ways depending on your brand’s voice:

  • Leave feedback
  • Share your thoughts
  • Tell us about your experience
  • How did you like your purchase?

Your POS system can help track individual shoppers and their purchases if you want to create customized follow-up email campaigns asking about specific activity. The best time to ask is after customers interact with you, and well-integrated point-of-sale software can help you track a number of activities to tailor your request for reviews.

Moving Forward With Customer Reviews

When it comes to optimizing your retail site for conversions, customer reviews can help move the needle.

Do you have customer reviews on your ecommerce site? Have you noticed that reviews help with your sales? Share your experiences in the comments below.