Leveraging Product Reviews to Increase eCommerce Sales

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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In many ways, maximizing eCommerce sales is dependent on customer reviews. When digital shoppers examine and scrutinize products, one of the primary resources they use to do so is a product page’s reviews section.

This behavior is clearly represented in the fact that a stunning 91 percent of shoppers turn to customer reviews before buying and that 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal endorsement from a friend.

The reason reviews tout such power is that they can boost a brand’s conversions significantly by leveraging “social proof theory.” This term, coined by Dr. Robert Cialdini, essentially states that when a person doesn’t know what to do, they look to the actions of those around them. When a person sees tons of glowing reviews for a product, the path becomes clear and they tend to follow suit.

When retailers fail to show that products are popular and worthwhile (via reviews), few are willing to take the plunge into the unknown. Therefore, it is vital for merchants to harvest a sizable number of product reviews as early as possible as this is likely to initiate a snowball effect in which eCommerce sales beget eCommerce sales.

Moreover, consumers tend to spend 31 percent more with businesses that feature a bounty of great reviews.

While reviews also have significant SEO benefits, none of this information is any good if retailers don’t know how to collect reviews effectively.

How to Harvest More Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are obviously essential. However, the big question is how to engender such assessments.

The first step to earning reviews is rather straightforward: Ask for them.

While some customers might view the request as a minor nuisance they can simply ignore, many will feel honored that a brand finds their feedback and opinions valuable. In fact, when prompted, 77 percent of consumers are willing to leave a review.

Moreover, many will want to help others by sharing their experience (good or bad).

prime for customer reviews graphic

An excellent way for retailers to prime customers to provide a review after a bit of time has passed is to immediately upon purchases inform buyers that:

  • The business wants to ensure the customer is 100 percent satisfied.
  • If the customer is not satisfied, the brand is happy to remedy the issue.
  • Once the shopper is fulfilled, an honest review is appreciated.

It is wise to list such statements on the “Thank You” page or in the confirmation email. However, this isn’t where retailers actually ask for the review.

Merchants should establish an automated system for sending out review request emails seven to 30 days after the purchase. This tends to be ideal timing as customers have completed the buyer’s journey and have likely received (and used) the product at that point.

If retailers ask too early, buyers might not have had enough time to enjoy the benefits and adequately assess the item.

Such automated activities are something that Amazon does quite well, and its sellers often gain a significant number of reviews as a result.

Moreover, when reaching out to previous buyers, it is essential to remember that writing reviews should be as easy as possible. Retailers can accomplish this by providing the proper link via email and ensuring that review forms are mobile optimized.

Additionally, by prompting customers with a series of questions about the product and their experience, merchants can guide users to write more meaningful and detailed reviews. By utilizing such a template, consumers are likely to find the process much more convenient while also producing more in-depth and valuable critiques.

Some questions retailers might consider asking include:

  • Did the product/service benefit the reviewer? How?
  • What was the result?
  • What would the reviewer tell someone considering buying the same product/service?
feedback questions for customer

Alternatively, if merely asking for reviews is not producing the desired results, retailers can try enticing consumers with incentives. Merchants who are not earning a considerable number of authentic assessments might sweeten the deal by:

  • Holding a review sweepstakes: A sweepstakes campaign can be a relatively simple in-house initiative to generate more reviews by providing winners who enter by writing a genuine assessment with a desirable prize such as a store gift card.
  •  Offer a discount or free shipping: Retailers can provide customers with a one-time discount code or free shipping promotion in exchange for an honest review.

Once merchants have found success in their review-generating efforts, the next step is to utilize those reports to generate more buzz and eCommerce sales.

Socializing eCommerce Sales

Search engines like Google and social media platforms such as Facebook have become the go-to bridge between company and consumer. Considering that Facebook touts an astonishing 2.4 billion monthly active users, it is critical for retailers to maintain a robust social presence.

Underlining this point is the fact that a whopping 75 percent of consumers are influenced in their decision-making by the content they encounter on social media.

Spanx Facebook AD

Therefore, social media is prime real estate for merchants to not just post product pictures and sale information, but to highlight glowing customer reviews as eye-grabbing image posts and in social adverts.

This is one of the tactics that Squatty Potty used in its legendary advert. Toward the end of the video, the…squatting unicorn reads some of the company’s real Amazon reviews.

Additionally, social sellers should seek to respond to customer comments and add a human element to the brand’s identity.

Both tactics aim to improve the customer experience by interacting with customers in a personal way while also showing off just how much folks love the brand’s offerings.

These kinds of actions are critical as 71 percent of consumers who have had a positive social media interaction with a brand are likely to recommend that business to their friends and family.

Score with Seller Ratings and Rich Snippets

Today, consumers exist in a low-trust environment that has wreaked havoc on business-buyer relationships. This notion is reflected in a recent survey which found that just over 50 percent of consumers trust companies “to do what is right.”

With trust at an all-time low and perpetually sagging further, retailers must make a good impression from the moment they surface in the SERPs. Therefore, the use of Google Seller Ratings in Shopping ads is essential for all merchants who run ads through the engine. This feature helps to instill consumer confidence from the drop, thereby helping to increase eCommerce sales.

Google search

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

However, this is not the only Google element that can aid such endeavors.

Google’s rich snippets allow retailers to showcase their review ratings in the organic SERPs, as opposed to in advertisements like the Seller Ratings feature. With this element, if a searcher Googles a term like “athletic trainers,” a relevant retailer could surface with informative stars listed under the brand name.

Rich snippets enable retailers to powerfully showcase the necessary social proof (via star ratings) for earning eCommerce sales. The information shown is directly related to the product-specific reviews and other information featured on the related page.

This element not only allows merchants to stand out by taking up increased SERP real estate (which has been shown to increase click-through rates), but it also aids in enhancing SEO performance as new reviews continually bring search bots back to reassess a given page.

Fortunately for sellers of all sizes, rich snippets don’t tout strict requirements. All a seller needs is a single review and the necessary markup to allow Google to pull the relevant data.

With the right markup applied, sellers can also allow Google to pull other information such as price, availability and other pertinent details.

Additionally, Google provides a Structured Data Testing Tool to verify that a product page has been marked up correctly.

Manage Negative Reviews Effectively

From time to time, all retailers end up receiving negative reviews. Negative assessments are part and parcel of running an eCommerce business.

However, merchants who know how to handle negative reviews can use a bit of eCommerce jiu-jitsu to flip the situation positively.

managing negative reviews graphic

The first step is to learn from the unfavorable remarks. These insights (no matter how much they might sting) provide retailers with the necessary information to grow and improve the customer experience, their products, the brand website or all the above. Analyze where things went wrong for the customer and how that issue can be remedied moving forward.

The next move is to approve the bad review (from verified buyers) and let the whole world see the brand’s shortcomings. The fact is that all positive reviews appear disingenuous to shoppers as nothing is perfect. A blemish here or there is actually a positive thing. Plus, putting the negative review out in the open allows all to see what happens next.

Then, respond to the review with genuine interest and concern for the customer’s plight and show that the company is more than willing to fix the problem. From here, sellers should (of course) address the issue and correct the consumer’s dilemma.

After some time has passed, reach out to the customer to ensure they are pleased with the brand’s solution to their issue and kindly ask if they are willing to adjust their initial review.

If so, other customers will then see that the brand has an authentic interest in ensuring the best customer experience possible, thereby increasing confidence and eCommerce sales.

business man typing on laptop

Finally, be sure to take the time to respond to some of the positive reviews as well. These folks took the time to write some kind words that help the brand grow, so they should be acknowledged for their contribution. Showing sincere appreciation not only plays well to new buyers, but it helps to breed customer loyalty as well.

The key to increasing eCommerce sales lies in cultivating trust in consumers. Few things build more trust online than an abundance of positive reviews (and a few unfavorable ones, too). As the number of positive reviews continues to stack up, merchants are likely to make more sales from which evaluations can be generated, thereby creating a positive feedback loop.

Given that consumer choices are nearly endless in the digital age, retailers must give buyers a reason to shop with them, and customer reviews act as the perfect social proof to provide that reason.

Implement the strategies listed above to engender greater consumer trust, customer satisfaction and eCommerce sales.

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