In case there was any confusion about the effectiveness of customer product reviews, eMarketer lets us know they\u2019re still pretty dang important. In fact, they may be more important than ever before \u2013 for users and business owners alike. A recent eMarketer study shows business owners have turned to displaying product reviews on their sites as a \u201cmore enlightened approach\u201d to handling negative reviews. They\u2019re coming to the understanding that a few negative reviews won\u2019t hurt as badly when you have lots of positive ones to counteract them. Imagine that. According to the site\u2019s 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\u2019t a hit solely with business owners. They\u2019re 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\u2019 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\u2019t think of a time a customer is more jazzed than when they\u2019re at checkout and ready to buy. \u00a0Use this time to encourage them to share how happy they are with their product. If they\u2019ve just made the decision to buy, then all the product or service\u2019s 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\u2019re not using your e-mail list to solicit reviews from customers, you\u2019re missing out on a very powerful vehicle. Because e-mail newsletters and other e-mail missives are sent directly to users' inboxes, they\u2019re more personal and can be targeted to get some great reviews. For example, if you\u2019re 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\u2019s newsletter. You\u2019re 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\u2019s order has shipped, follow up with them and ask them to review the product(s) they received. Let them know that they\u2019ll be helping others like them to make better informed decisions. To sweeten the deal, you may want to follow the next tip\u2026 Offer an Incentive If you\u2019re 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\u2019ll 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. \u00a0It 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?