When it comes to converting casual browsers into eager buyers, one tactic can help prompt shoppers to action: customer reviews.
In fact, according to Global Web Index, almost half of consumers in North America use online customer reviews when they are actively searching for more information about a brand, product, or service. And 31.2% of consumers in North America say they trust what online reviews say about products.
People trust their peers more than they trust businesses. That’s why encouraging customer reviews is vital to the success of your retail business.
But how exactly do you encourage customers to leave reviews? Here, we’ll tackle the ins and outs of customer reviews, including how to get them, the different types of reviews, and real-life examples.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Why are customer reviews important?
Real customer reviews can persuade a new, on-the-fence buyer to take action and make their own purchase.
Potential shoppers can gather more information that is relevant to them by browsing customer reviews from like-minded consumers or other shoppers in situations similar to their own.
Modcloth, for example, doesn’t just allow customers to write reviews. It encourages shoppers to share details about the product and about themselves, so other customers can better understand how a specific garment may fit them by finding and reading a review from someone with a similar shape and weight to their own.
Detailed reviews like this that appear on your website can even help with SEO, because Google sees everything.
Put customer reviews on autopilot
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Customer reviews and SEO
When it pertains to SEO, Google always puts the customer first. Your customer is Google’s user. Google takes cues from what its users want, believe, and trust. For this reason, if your customers leave reviews (good or bad), Google uses this as a signal to rank your website. Good reviews will help you rank higher on the first page, while bad reviews may hurt your rankings.
How good reviews can impact your SEO
Obviously, good reviews are the type of reviews you want. They can positively impact SEO in the following ways:
- Increasing your click-through rate. People are more likely to click on a link to your site that’s associated with positive reviews.
- Improving your rankings for targeted keywords. User-generated content (UGC) can help SEO, making reviews a perfect way to generate genuine, authentic quality content for your business. And that’s the type of content Google likes to crawl. Considering that the content is related to your brand, it’ll probably include keywords relevant to your business. Google loves this type of content because it provides a transparent picture of your retail business so it can be positioned better for relevant searches.
- Building social media engagement. While social media is not a direct ranking factor, it can help with SEO, because posts do show up in search results. Quality content is important for SEO, and customer reviews are a perfect example of authentic content. Integrating customer reviews into your social media strategy will encourage more people to talk about you, resulting in better search result rankings.
- Decreasing website bounce rates. If shoppers can read online reviews and learn more about your business from existing customers, chances are they’ll spend more time on your website, and hopefully convert.
How bad reviews can impact your SEO
Getting a few bad reviews is inevitable. You can’t please everyone. But the way you handle them can result in turning a negative situation into a positive one, and they can still positively impact SEO. Here’s how:
- Increasing your business credibility. If all of your reviews are perfect, prospective customers might consider them spammy. In fact, 67% of buyers prefer to see a mix of positive and negative customer reviews. It helps them determine if the business is trustworthy. So a few negative reviews can have a positive impact on your SEO.
- Providing opportunities to improve. Your feelings might be hurt at first, but once you rationalize the situation, bad reviews are a great resource to help you better understand your customers and improve your business and your SEO. By responding to negative reviews, you’re proving to both your customers and Google that there is a human working to improve.
- Creating opportunities to respond. The silver lining with bad reviews is that they give you the chance to respond and proactively manage your online presence and reputation. Responding to reviews (good or bad) is crucial to SEO.
Customer reviews build social proof
Customer reviews can also play into social proof. Human beings tend to look to groups or communities to validate their decisions.
A customer might be interested in a product but hesitant to buy. Customer reviews can provide the “social proof” he or she needs to validate their initial interest and make the decision to purchase, since they can see how other shoppers enjoy the products.
When a customer writes a review, that story can act as convincing feedback from an unbiased source in a way your product description alone just can’t do. No matter how detailed and honest you are, you clearly have a vested interest in presenting your products in the best light. You’re a retailer who wants to turn a profit, after all.
This data from Invesp agrees with the claim that customer reviews impact sales and conversions:
- 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- Customers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with “excellent” reviews.
And if you’re still a little on the fence about allowing—much less encouraging—customer reviews for fear of giving a few sour grapes a stage, consider that even negative reviews can be valuable for your business. In fact, according to this study from BrightLocal:
70% of consumers are more likely to use a business that responds to negative reviews.
Now that you understand how powerful and compelling customer reviews can be, check out these 10 strategies to encourage the people who buy from you to leave their own review (because 70% of consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to!).
How to get customer reviews
Now that you understand the importance of customer reviews, it’s time to devise a plan to get them. Here are a few strategies to get you started:
1. Start by asking for customer reviews
Don’t assume your shoppers, even the most loyal ones, will take the initiative to write a review for you. One of the best ways to encourage customer reviews is to just ask your customers. As we mentioned before, 70% of customers will leave a review when asked. So, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by how willing they are to help.
Find polite and unique ways to ask shoppers to write reviews for products they purchase. You don’t just have to ask for a review. Your actual ask could be worded in a variety of personable, friendly ways, depending on your brand’s voice:
- Leave feedback
- Share your thoughts
- Tell us about your experience
- How did you like your purchase?
Your approach and channel are important factors to consider when asking for customer reviews. Here are a few ideas:
- Asking for reviews in person. You may want to save asking for a review in person for repeat customers, as you know they’ve already had the chance to use your products. The next time a loyal customer comes into your store, you can strike up a conversation at checkout and kindly ask them to leave a review. Display your business cards at the counter so you can give them to shoppers. This way they’ll know where to find you online to write a review.
- Asking for reviews over SMS. If SMS is part of your retail marketing strategy, it’s the perfect channel to ask for customer feedback. You can create an automated text message that gets sent one to two weeks after the customer receives their order. Be sure to include a direct link to the product they bought so it’s easy for them to leave a review using their smartphone.
- Asking for reviews via email. You can also create automated post-purchase emails that are personalized to each customer, and trigger them one to two weeks after a shopper receives their purchase. In this email you can say something like:
We hope you’re enjoying your [insert product name]! We’d love it if you could leave a
review on our website to help other shoppers make a choice.
Here’s a link [add hyperlink] to the product(s) you purchased.
Thank you again for your business!
[Your business name]
In addition to post-purchase emails, incorporate customer review campaigns in your email marketing strategy. For example, once a month or once a quarter you can send a general email campaign to everyone who has purchased from your store in the past and include details about where and how they can leave customer reviews.
If there are options to leave reviews on your website or your Google Business listing, or to send testimonials to you via email, make it known and make it easy to do.
- Asking for reviews upon order delivery. For online orders, you can include a postcard in the package asking for a review. This way, the customer is reminded to go online and write a review about their experience with your business and the products they purchased.
- Asking for reviews via social media. Once you’ve received a few testimonials or quotes, you can post them on Instagram. This can help encourage more people to send in reviews to be featured, either via direct message or email. Do this by including a brief note in the caption that says something like, “Do you want to share your review as well and be featured? Send us an email at [insert email address] or a direct message here.”
Another way to ask for reviews via social media is to respond to posts that people tag
your business in and ask them if you can share their content and caption about your business on your profile. You can also send them a direct message asking if they could take a few minutes to write an online review and include a link to the product page so the process is quick and easy.
2. Create an automated customer review process that scales
A surefire way to get more customer reviews is to create a review process that helps you automate asking for reviews and scales with your business.
Make getting testimonials and reviews a regular part of your business operations and process to help build social proof. More reviews equal more proof and can build more trust in your retail business. It’s also important to consistently get new reviews, as outdated ones don’t encourage new shoppers to convert to paying customers as much.
Here are a few ways to incorporate asking for reviews into your daily business practices:
- Train your sales and customer service staff to always ask for customer feedback.
- Regularly remind loyal customers to leave reviews.
- Integrate asking for reviews into your email and SMS automation campaigns.
- Add review links to thank you pages or order confirmation emails.
- Include three to five testimonial posts per month in your social media strategy to encourage other customers to leave reviews.
Most importantly, whatever strategy you choose for getting customer reviews, be consistent and adapt it if necessary.
3. Reduce friction for reviews
Include a system for reviews within your ecommerce site. You can browse different retailers’ online stores to see how they set up their reviews, but consider including a star-rating system (since consumers feel that’s the most important measure).
Amazon’s customer review system may set the standard for retailers. It includes a star system, along with written reviews, and a search functionality that allows shoppers to read various types of reviews.
Amazon also includes easy-to-find Write a Review buttons.
You can include your own calls to action on product pages, within your confirmation pages and emails, or in receipts and invoices. Along with making it easy to leave reviews for specific products, make the page where customers can do so easy to find.
4. Use the right Shopify product review app
There’s an abundance of Shopify apps you can use to add product review functions to your ecommerce site.
Here are a few to get you started:
5. Follow up on your requests for customer reviews
Customers will likely leave reviews weeks or even months after they made the initial purchase.
With Shopify, your customers’ contact information—whether they bought from you in-store or online—is readily available in one centralized place, rather than being stored on multiple platforms. Consider using that contact list and Shopify POS’ built-in email marketing tools to create an always-on email campaign and solicit reviews from customers a few days after they receive their product.
6. Claim your business online and on social media
Customers can leave reviews in more places than just your own website. You want to make it easy for happy customers to write reviews when they have positive experiences with your brand.
Be sure to set your business up on third-party sites that encourage positive consumer reviews.
Start with the following:
7. Offer incentives in exchange for reviews
You can encourage customers to write reviews by rewarding them for doing so. Incentivizing your shoppers this way makes sense and it’s fair—after all, it takes time and effort to write a review, so receiving some sort of reward for doing so is likely to add to the overall positive experience they had with your brand.
You can offer coupons or discount codes to encourage buyers to share their feedback publicly. Or host periodic drawings and giveaways and choose a winner from the pool of customers who submitted reviews in a certain timeframe.
Rewarding customers for writing reviews is an acceptable practice. Buying reviews is something to avoid. Your offer should simply be for writing a review, not for writing a review with an angle or spin you requested.
8. Meet them where they are (a.k.a. get mobile)
You can further encourage customers to leave reviews if you make those reviews easy to write on mobile. Just make sure the review you want them to write lines up with what’s realistic for thumb-based typing.
Creating a place for customers to respond and leave a star rating, for example, is an easy task to perform on a smartphone.
You can also get creative and look to gather not just written reviews but also data points from surveys. This will allow you to write web copy you can use to set alongside customer reviews, while still making it easy to leave feedback on mobile.
Here’s an example. Say you send out a three-question, yes-or-no answer survey:
- Are you satisfied with your product?
- Would you recommend this to a friend?
- Would you buy this again?
You can then tally responses and include the data on your product’s sales page, like Naked Wines does:
It’s not a written review—but it can supplement longer-form feedback provided by other customers. (Plus, you can include a field to ask for comments, which can then be published as customer reviews.)
9. Educate customers on why reviews are important
Take time to explain why customer reviews are important to your business. You can do this in the post-purchase email follow-up you send to customers. Tell them how getting reviews can help you build trust and grow your business, and chances are they’ll be on board to support you.
10. Make writing reviews simple with templates
We’ve all been there. You want to write a review, but you’re short on time and don’t really know what to say. Providing your customers with a template they can plug a few words into or even a few points to spark ideas can help encourage them to follow through with leaving a review.
You could include a few ideas in a follow-up email like this:
Thank you for your recent purchase! We hope you love your new [insert product name].
If you enjoyed your shopping experience with us, we were on time, and the quality of the merchandise is satisfactory, could you spare a few minutes to let us know?
Please share your feedback with us by writing a review here: [insert link].
[Insert your name/business name]
Examples of customer reviews
There are many different formats for customer reviews. Whether you’re collecting reviews on your website, via peer review sites like Google or Yelp, or sharing customer testimonials on social media, all these strategies will increase your chances of converting more customers.
Making it easy for your customers to write and share reviews will help you succeed. Here are a few examples of the types of customer reviews you can focus on.
Quotes and testimonials
One of the most popular forms of customer review is quotes or testimonials from customers. They’re most commonly seen on a company website, usually on the homepage. But many brands also post customer testimonials on social media or share them via email marketing to gain the trust of prospective customers and encourage more existing customers to give feedback.
Here’s an example of a testimonial quote about three-quarters of the way down Thinx’s homepage:
These short quotes about how your products benefit people will help give your retail business credibility. It helps back up your messaging, making it sound more believable because someone besides you is saying it.
Testimonials require little effort from you and your customers, making them one of the easiest types of customer reviews to manage. All you need to do is ask your customers to share their shopping experience via email, social media, SMS, or in person. Then it’s up to you to add the quotes to your website and share them through social media.
Online product reviews
Online product reviews help move prospective customers through the online buying process. Many consumers also use online product reviews to do research about items before making an in-store purchase.
Unlike customer testimonials, online product reviews are listed directly on the respective product page and often include stars for ranking. You can use one of the customer review Shopify apps to add product review functionalities to your online store.
Here’s an example of an online product review on one of TITOV’s product pages:
TITOV is an intimates brand that offers a limited selection of made-to-order lingerie in a wide range of sizes. It uses online product reviews to build trust and help prospective customers choose products while they’re shopping online.
We asked the CEO and founder, Masha Titova, for a few tips on getting online customer reviews:
- Send cold emails and direct messages on social media asking customers to leave a review. Don’t be shy.
- Make it conversational, not robotic. When you ask for a review, also ask if there’s anything they want to see more of from your business.
- Create an automated email flow that triggers post-purchase asking for a product review.
- Offer a free gift in exchange for a review.
We did a free offer campaign and sent a ‘surprise’ to anyone who wrote a review, and it generated about 50 reviews in 24 hours.
Review sites like Google and Facebook
Peer review sites like Facebook reviews, Yelp, and Google reviews are a great way to build trust in your brand and, as we mentioned before, they can positively impact your SEO. This makes it easier for people to find your business online.
According to GWI research:
81% of US consumers say being able to easily find a local retailer through searching online is important to them.
As a brick-and-mortar establishment, optimizing your online presence for local search is crucial to increasing awareness and foot traffic for your business.
You can start by creating a Google My Business (GMB) listing. It’s free and makes it easier to connect with local customers on Google Search and Maps. You can create a listing that displays more than just reviews, too. List store information like contact details, a link to your website, store hours, a map, photos, videos, coupons, and more.
Here’s an example of Google reviews on Reigning Champ’s GMB listing:
Reviews on peer-to-peer sites like Facebook and Google can happen organically, making the review process easier for small businesses. But you don’t have as much control over these types of reviews. Bad reviews can have a big impact on your business, but some negative feedback also makes the reviews seem more authentic to prospective customers. Also, with review sites, you can’t edit, delete, or deny reviews, so people don’t worry about whether they’re real or not.
Peer-to-peer review sites are typically one of the first places a new customer goes to for research when they’re considering making an order. That’s why it’s important to round up a few positive reviews and always respond promptly to negative ones.
The more places you get customer reviews, the higher the chances are of prospective customers gaining trust in your brand and feeling comfortable enough to complete a purchase.
You can use social media to promote quotes and testimonials or to collect reviews directly on the platform.
Here’s an example of a few customer reviews on TITOV’s business Facebook page:
And here’s an example of a customer testimonial that TITOV posted to its Instagram page:
Repurposing customer quotes and online product reviews as content on your Instagram feed helps build credibility. The key here is that real-life customers are aligning with your brand messaging and helping shoppers see the value in your products.
Customer interviews and stories
You may already know that storytelling in retail can help engage shoppers quicker. People buy from people, and telling a story is a great way to humanize your business. But it doesn’t only need to be a story that’s directly about your business or products. You can also tell stories about your customer through interviews on your blog, and these stories will serve as a form of customer reviews.
But how do you get started with customer stories? Here are a few ways:
- Come up with a list of three to five questions to ask your customers.
- Add the questions to a Google Form.
- Send an email campaign to past customers and include a link to the form.
- Make sure to add a section where they can upload a picture and provide their social media handles.
- Use their responses to create a Q&A-style blog article.
- For each interview you can add an introduction and conclusion.
- Share the blog interview via social media and email marketing (be sure to tag people on social).
Examples of questions you can ask if you sell intimates
- What are your top three self-care tips?
- When buying lingerie for yourself do you opt for colors or neutrals?
- What do you love most about your new [insert product name]?
- Quickfire questions:
- Briefs or thongs?
- Lace or cotton?
- Padded or soft bras?
- Sexy or practical?
Customer stories and interviews provide personal context to your retail business. Rather than getting bombarded with marketing messages from your company, prospective and existing customers get to read stories directly from people who have experience with your brand.
The benefits of customer reviews for omnichannel selling
When it comes to omnichannel selling, encouraging customer reviews is crucial to helping move the needle. Using online reviews for local SEO will not only help you sell more online, it will also help you attract more local customers to your retail store.
Many in-store shoppers also research products online before they buy in person. So having a lot of customer reviews can help turn browsers into paying customers, no matter what channel they’re shopping on.
How have customer reviews helped you increase your sales online and offline? Share your experiences in the comments below.