April 23, 2017

3 Tips for Using Customer Testimonials to Sell More Online


From televisions to T-shirts, the ability to return just about anything we don’t like helps fuel consumer confidence and online spending. The shirt didn’t fit right? Send it back. Don’t need that collector’s edition of Breaking Bad after all? Mail the DVDs back to Amazon. Want to sweeten the deal even more and increase purchases? Offer free return shipping.

When consumers receive free return shipping on online products, purchases increase between 58 and 357 percent over a two-year period, according to a 2012 research study. That’s all well and good for online retailers selling returnable products, but what about non-returnable products? Certain personal hygiene products, for example, could be tricky to return, especially once they’re partially used. So, how can you encourage the customer to take a leap of faith and buy your product if they can’t return it? Your solution: use customer testimonials.

Use Customer Testimonials To Overcome Buyer Skepticism

Use customer testimonials to overcome buyer skepticism, build trust and encourage would-be consumers to take a leap of faith and make that purchase after all. Testimonials reassure customers that other people who have used the product like it and would use it again. You’re letting satisfied customers do the hard sales work for you. When it comes to selling power, a great testimonial outshines great sales copy. Why? Testimonials are inherently the opposite of sales copy: they stand out as an unbiased, candid account of how well your product truly works. And they’re essential for growing your business.

That said, not all testimonials are created equal. Consider this testimony: “I love XYZ product and can’t get enough of it! Will definitely be buying more!” That sounds like a solid testimonial, right? But here’s the thing: this testimonial doesn’t offer any real details about the product or outcome. Great testimonials don’t just offer glowing reviews. They also convey key details to understand the value and benefits of a product.

Here’s how to use customer testimonials and go from average to amazing:

  1. Substantiate claims. Powerful testimonials provide clear evidence why a product (or service) is an outstanding choice, rather than just relying on a list of superlative adjectives. Case in point: one non-surgical hair loss treatment, in addition to showing a number of before and after photos, also features client testimonials with specific details about their product, including the amount of time they used it, their experience (e.g., no side effects), and comparisons to other products on the market. For example, one testimonial is as follows: “For two years I used the number one product that doctors recommend for hair loss, and it leveled off my hair loss, and I was experiencing unwanted side effects. Then I started using [the product]; it had no side effects and  within two months I’ve gotten my hair back.” This testimonial is compelling because it compares the product to another leading brand, includes details about the user’s experience (no unwanted side effects), and a clear result (hair returns in two months). The more specific details, the better!
  1. Be credible. Unfortunately, fake testimonials and reviews are commonplace everywhere from Yelp to small business websites. While creating fake reviews might never cross your mind, this unethical business practice is all too common — and consumers are naturally wary. Amazon has been battling an epidemic of fake reviews for years, with a recent internal investigation uncovering more than one thousand users on the job site Fiverr offering fake Amazon five-star reviews. Some users requested promo codes so they could order the product for free and then post a “verified” review.Reassure consumers that your reviews are from real people by including a picture or a link to a social media profile (e.g., Yelp, LinkedIn, etc.). Pictures and social proof (names, businesses, location, social handles, and website links) are all critical elements for establishing a testimonial’s credibility.
  1. Ask for structured feedback, turn it into a testimony. The best testimonials are structured in the BDA story format (“before, during, after”). But getting customers to leave organic feedback in this format can be tough. Instead, ask customers specific questions to get the feedback you need. I like to ask the following four questions:
    1. What were your biggest hesitations or concerns before making the purchase?
    2. Why did you ultimately decide to make the purchase?
    3. What was your experience like using this product?
    4. What are the results of your purchase? How is business/life different?

With the customer’s permission, you can then take the answers to these questions and turn them into a structured testimonial. No matter what you do, never “spin” a customer’s response. You risk undermining your credibility and losing an otherwise satisfied customer.

Bottom Line

Use customer testimonials as your “ace in the hole” for closing a sales deal, but only if they’re structured correctly to overcome buyer skepticism and build trust. Turn your best customers into brand advocates and watch your sales soar!

Testimonials Photo via Shutterstock

3 Comments ▼
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Brian Hughes


Brian Hughes Brian is a seasoned digital marketing expert who loves to write about subjects that help small businesses grow their brands and increase their rankings online. He accomplishes this through his agency Integrity Marketing & Consulting, which he founded in 2011.

3 Reactions

  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Brian: How do you do with customer testimonials for a product that is not launched yet? I have created a crowdfunding campaign for my first forthcoming book on tea, and I will later on kick-off a tea hobby business with personalized tea blend and direct traded tea.

  2. Negative reviews can really help you determine problem products, increasing return customers and lifetime value – positive reviews are tough to measure, however if you offer star ratings and use those in emails, other merchandising — that works really well.

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