Receiving and promoting online customer reviews can enormously impact your retail business. Positive customer reviews can influence consumers to pull the trigger and make a purchase.
If you want your retail business to sell more, driving more positive online reviews is a great way to achieve that—whether you’re exclusively eCommerce, have a brick-and-mortar store, or are fully omnichannel (that is, selling online and in-store).
Driving positive reviews, however, doesn’t happen automatically. You need to put in a dedicated effort to encourage customers to leave reviews and know how to leverage them to maximize their potential benefits.
The value of customer reviews
Customer reviews matter, and it goes without saying that positive reviews will clearly benefit your business the most.
This is largely because they’re widely regarded as being the most trustworthy thing consumers can read about any brand, especially in a time when consumers are savvy and are naturally distrustful of ad campaigns. That’s why 72% of customers won’t take any sort of action when it comes to making a buying decision until they’ve read reviews, and 15% don’t even trust businesses without reviews at all.
Marketers refer to this phenomenon as social proof.
Reviews help customers feel confident in their buying decision, which not only significantly increases the likelihood that they’ll purchase, but also that they’ll be willing to purchase more. You’ll see your average purchase value go up in a direct correlation as your positive reviews go up, too.
It doesn’t hurt, too, that reviews are often search-friendly and can help you appear towards the top of the search engine. The more search-friendly copy you have about your products out there, the more likely you are to show up in searches and get found online.
How to get customer reviews
We all know that more reviews are great, but going about getting them can be a challenge. Putting the right systems in place will help significantly, so let’s take a look at the four most effective and reliable ways to get more online customer reviews quickly.
Share links for your Google My Business page
If you’re asking myself “What is Google My Business?” you can see the basics in our free guide, How to Rank Your Store Higher on Google. Google My Business (GMB) allows you to create an online, on-Google profile for your business. It’s incredibly valuable for SEO purposes, as it will help you show up in both local searches and business searches people conduct on the platform.
Google My Business is one of the best places to generate reviews because it’s highly visible; plus, having those reviews can improve your search ranking.
They’ll help you rank higher in the SERPs and get you more attention by the people who see your profile because few things are as influential or attention-grabbing as a high number of positive reviews.
In order to drive reviews on GMB, share links directly to the review part of your profile, asking users to leave reviews in all follow-up emails. For the best results, follow-up emails should be sent anywhere from one week to a month after the customer has received the product.
Set up a Yelp page
Yelp can be a tricky platform; they’ve been rumored to hide good reviews for companies that don’t pay to advertise with them, damaging a business’s potential on the platform. That being said, it’s also still used regularly by consumers to research where to buy, so it’s good to set up a presence here for your retail business if you can.
Don’t forget that even a one-star raise on Yelp can drive an average of 5-9% increase in business revenue, so the platform is still very relevant.
Include a link to your Yelp profile when you’re asking for reviews, and don’t be afraid to ask users who have already shared a review on your site or GMB to do so again here. You want your reviews to be visible on as many platforms as possible.
Regularly deliver great customer service
Believe it or not, customer service is one of the most impactful parts of the customer experience. Not only will it determine whether or not customers buy from you again, but it will also likely impact whether or not they leave a review online.
It’s also important to note that people actively look at reviews about customer service when they’re making buying decisions, too.
Offer great customer service every time, having a dedicated team that focuses on the client experience instead of just selling to them. After every interaction with customer service, follow up with an email asking if the client was happy with their experience and if they’d want to leave a review. This can help your internal review process to make sure that your team is delivering top-tier customer service and give you some extra testimonials you can use on your site, too.
Great customer service starts with your point of sale
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Master how to ask customers for reviews
Knowing how to ask for reviews will increase the likelihood that you’ll see more come pouring in online.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, ask for reviews in person. Let people know that it really helps your business and that you’d really appreciate it; when customers know that it can make a difference, they’re generally more conscious about getting online later to write the testimonial. You can even have signs placed around your store, asking customers to leave a review.
You can also use review software like YotPo, which automatically generates follow up emails a few weeks after purchase to ask users to leave a review. These tools will typically upload the reviews directly to specific product pages to increase the potential for sales.
The rules you need to follow when requesting reviews
When you’re requesting reviews from customers, there are a few regulations that you need to follow. These rules are set by review platforms like Google, Yelp and Facebook, and if you violate them, you risk having your account penalized, suspended, or banned.
The two major rules you need to follow are:
1. Never pay users to leave a review
While many stores do get away with offering incentives in exchange for a review (especially in person), this technically violates some rules from different ad platforms. You don’t want to get caught doing this. You can “ask for a favor” but not pay or incentivize users to do this.
2. Don’t leave fake reviews or encourage others to do so
Fake reviews are typically easy to spot when you’ve recruited someone else to leave them. If people catch on, not only could you get banned from review programs, but you could also ruin customers’ perception of and trust in you.
3 ways to promote your positive online reviews
Once you have positive reviews, you want to leverage them for all their worth.
While they’re insanely valuable on their own just by being visible on your site and review platforms, they can carry even more weight when you get creative with them.
There are three key ways you can use them to help you gain momentum on other marketing channels, too:
1. Feature them in your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns
It’s common to see ads on social platforms like Facebook or Instagram to have campaigns centered around a customer testimonial. The review may be placed as text overlay on the image or used as the caption or headline for the ad itself. Since reviews are more powerful than any marketing message your own team could create, this is a great way to drive sales, especially with middle- and top-of-the-funnel audiences who are in the consideration stages of the digital sales funnel.
2. Share them publicly and thank users directly
Share the review, and thank the user who left it. You can tag them but only if the review was public, and preferably only on the platform they left it on.
3. Include the reviews in your email campaigns
They can make great subject lines, or you can appear short snippets of reviews next to product images to help increase clicks and conversions.
How to respond to negative customer reviews
There’s one downside to curating reviews, and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up with at least a few negative customer reviews alongside the positive ones. This makes sense; unfortunately, unhappy customers are significantly more likely to leave reviews than happy ones.
Negative customer reviews aren’t all bad though.
Seeing negative reviews can give customers a basic idea of the worst-case scenario with your business, and it can help with transparency. Even the best businesses will have an unhappy customer at some point, so customers may be more likely to believe twenty great reviews when there’s one negative counteracting it.
The most important thing you should do with negative reviews, therefore, isn’t to delete them, but instead to respond to them quickly and calmly.
If the customer has any ground to stand out, respond that you apologize for their experience and ask them to contact a specific email or phone number to resolve it privately. This will show other customers that you’re invested in their happiness and will do what it takes to resolve their concerns.
If the customer is clearly leaving a fake review, you can flag it through Google and ask to have it removed. This is most common if you don’t have the customer’s name in your database, or if you can prove that the review is inaccurate.
Use customer reviews to drive more in-store sales
When you want to sell more and increase the trust customers have in your brand, online reviews are crucial. Since they can also have benefits of increased search visibility, you can’t afford to not prioritize them.
Make sure that you have automated email campaigns set up to drive reviews to as many platforms as possible, and then curate them and leverage them as often as you can to take advantage of their full potential.
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