Checking in With Customer Reviews

In case there was any confusion about the effectiveness of customer product reviews, eMarketer lets us know they’re still pretty dang important. In fact, they may be more important than ever before – for users and business owners alike.

A recent eMarketer study shows business owners have turned to displaying product reviews on their sites as a “more enlightened approach” to handling negative reviews. They’re coming to the understanding that a few negative reviews won’t hurt as badly when you have lots of positive ones to counteract them. Imagine that. According to the site’s Customer Product Reviews: The New Generation report, more than 80 percent of retailers will prominently feature product reviews on their site by the end of 2010.

But product reviews aren’t a hit solely with business owners. They’re also getting more praise from customers. A 2010 study by the e-tailing group (sponsored by PowerReviews) showed that many shoppers still believe the best product advice comes from people who have similar interests or who embody a similar lifestyle, not necessarily their friends or family. Reading product reviews is becoming a more important part of consumers’ search cycle. Over the past few years, consumers have increased the number of reviews they read and the overall time they spend reading them. And to top it all off, ChannelAdvisor found that nearly all searchers are in some way influenced by customer product reviews.

Knowing all this, what can you do as a SMB owner to encourage customers to leave reviews and help influence other buyers? You have to reach them at the right times in their buying cycle.

Ask at Checkout

I can’t think of a time a customer is more jazzed than when they’re at checkout and ready to buy.  Use this time to encourage them to share how happy they are with their product. If they’ve just made the decision to buy, then all the product or service’s strongest selling points are still fresh in their minds. Let them know they could really help others like them by sharing their thoughts and experiences with the product.

Use Your Mailing List

If you’re not using your e-mail list to solicit reviews from customers, you’re missing out on a very powerful vehicle. Because e-mail newsletters and other e-mail missives are sent directly to users’ inboxes, they’re more personal and can be targeted to get some great reviews. For example, if you’re promoting a certain product, ask your readers who have already purchased the product to chime in and leave their thoughts on it. Or highlight some product reviews that appear on your site and ask readers to leave theirs to possibly be featured in next month’s newsletter. You’re encouraging them to speak up as a way to share their own experience and provide the incentive that they may get a shout-out in your next newsletter.

Follow Up After the Purchase

Two to three weeks after a customer’s order has shipped, follow up with them and ask them to review the product(s) they received. Let them know that they’ll be helping others like them to make better informed decisions. To sweeten the deal, you may want to follow the next tip…

Offer an Incentive

If you’re having trouble getting customers to leave reviews on your Web site, you may want to try offering a small incentive for their trouble. For example, perhaps you’ll offer a small discount on their next order, throw in a free sample, or put them in the running to win a shopping spree from your business.  It doesn’t have to be expensive; just offer something that will take them from lurker to participant and give them that extra reason to participate and help the community.

With multiple studies showing the importance of product reviews to both business owners and customers, what are you doing to solicit reviews and get this important point of difference on your site?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

6 Reactions
  1. Lisa,

    Could you give some examples of companies that have been successful in receiving customer reviews?

  2. At PubCon I heard a great observation about customer reviews; Don’t give the customer feedback card to someone who is angry. You can be a little selective with who you ask to give you reviews.

  3. Lisa,

    I really liked that you shared this — I still see many small businesses that are not convinced that customer commentary has a significant currency with new customers. A few I had met still fear Yelp because they feel battling negative comments from customers can be a distraction. I suspect that feeling is from businesses that are not heavily reliant on their website or online presence, which is a larger issue. Thanks for sharing a great resource.