Customer Reviews: How They Make Or Mar Your Brand’s Reputation (And How You Can Fix This)

MARCH 24, 2015 – 22 MINUTES READ

Good news spreads like wild fire. But bad news escapes with the speed of the light.

The same can be said about the customer reviews of your product online.

It was found through a survey that a dissatisfied customer will tell about you an average of 25 folks, while a happy one to only 15. What can we say, that’s human nature. But this human nature is actually a bad news for online businesses, isn’t it?

Another survey revealed that almost 80% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. The same research also showed that people are taking less and less time to form opinions. This means that one bad review can tarnish your online reputation faster and with a higher impact than you anticipated.

And trust us, this impact is long lasting.

Customer reviews, be it for a product or an ecommerce service, have always helped other customers make better and more informed decisions when it comes to buying things online. Sites like Amazon.com get regular customer reviews which benefits their business.

While looking for ways in which an ecommerce company can make best use of reviews, we came across many hurdles, the primary one being:

How to ensure that each product has ‘at least’ five customer reviews?

This is a big question mark, and nothing less than a battle for businesses who are just starting up.

Suppose, you are enjoying this benefit, getting customer reviews, but more often than not, they are affecting your online image in a negative way. Instead of getting you bigger shopping carts and higher AOVs, these reviews are hindering your overall sales.

Having no reviews at all isn’t the solution. This would spark even more suspicion about your brand. People will anyway get influenced by reviews from the “review sites”. You cannot just stop it.

So, the next question marks are:

How to manage off-site (third-party) reviews?

How to build a positive reputation online that ultimately boosts your authority and strengthens customers’ trust in you?

Whenever such a critical problem arises, we give a shout out to our experts and this post is an amalgamation of our own observations and ecommerce conversion experts tipping us on how to make the best out of any situation.

Step 1: Ensuring that each product has ‘at least five’ customer reviews

See, there are two kinds of customers you have:

First, those who don’t want to review (may be, because they hate it, or may be because they just don’t want to), and second, those who can’t review your product (clearly, because they don’t know how to).

So, the first step is understanding why you are not getting any reviews.

“One of the most effective ways ecommerce companies can ensure that their products have reviews is to simply ask for them.” suggests Michelle K Geib, Co-founder and President, ExperienceDays.com.

Great tip! We suggest, that before you even ask your customers to review your product, ask yourself –

Why would a customer review my product? What is his incentive? Am I offering him any?

3 simple, and effective ways how others are pulling this off

A little statistic here:

45% of people use social media to share their opinion about a product or service while 35% share via online review sites.

This leaves you with only 20% of all customers to either review your product on your site, OR don’t do it at all! That’s scary, isn’t it?

1. Ask and ye shall receive

“I started collected product reviews around May of last year, and it’s one of the best things I’ve done for my business. Customers constantly call us by phone to place orders, and start talking about how the reviews my customers have left influenced their decision to buy.

When a customer calls us with a ‘success story’, we ask them to respond to that automated email asking for a review. They’re usually more than happy to share their feedback with our customers”, suggests Allen Walton from Spyguysecurity.com.

a) Ask on the site itself

“Ensure that each product has at least five customer reviews, have a call to action below the product to leave a review or to give a star rating like Amazon does it. If you use videos in your product marketing, have a clear call to action for customers to leave their review at the end of the product demonstration video.” proposes Sean Allan, Internet Marketing Manager.

b) Email follow-ups

For eCommerce, emails are never going to die, at least for the next five years.

“Unfortunately, many online and offline companies still don’t do this. An appropriately timed email sent to customers after they’ve made their purchase and received and or utilized the product or service will typically provide great returns on feedback.” complains Michelle K Geib.

Allen Walton discloses on emailing and being consistent with it, “We email the customer about 10 days after they order – we currently use a system called Yotpo to do this. This gives them enough time to receive the product, try it out, and hopefully have an opinion on it. If we don’t hear back, we’ll try again 3 days afterwards.”

c) Call them up

Yes, that works even for those who have a tangible ecommerce product. According to Sean Allan, this is the best way to gather reviews as you can ask the customer questions, get their opinions and find out their buying persona’s. People love a personal touch, so it’s a good way to interact.

What you can do is ask for customer’s details and take permission for using their review online, or may be request them to review it on a third-party review site. In the latter case, do not forget to thank them personally at the same place as that of the review.

2. Lure them in with a little incentive

At times, it happens that regular reviewers begin to gain a following of their own even on an ecommerce platform. But to make that happen, you must ensure that your site has the option to show buyer testimonials. Not only would this allow search engines to get appropriate user signals and fresh content on the product page, it will prompt users to leave a review of their own too.

a) Award people to review, may be a discount or loyalty program

XeroShoes puts forth the tried and tested idea of incentivizing reviewers.

“In our post-purchase email campaign we ask for a review and say that people who leave reviews will get a surprise. We use a “review for discount” plugin on our shopping cart to give people a $5 credit for a future order. We’ve run campaigns where we give people discounted prices in exchange for a review! We’ve done this with Amazon, more than with our own website.”

A hurdle here is, that most people do not know the “how-to” part of reviewing. To get rid of such a detrimental situation Cas McCullough, Founder, Content Marketing Cardiology, endorses a walk through of the process.

b) Offer giveaways, samples, free trials

This scheme is basically useful for companies that sell just a few products, like DVDs, or gift items with a limited range. What these companies do is that they send their products, for free, to influential people in their industry for preview of the item. Some of these even blog about it and thus, help companies get “pre-converted” traffic on website.

What the influencer gets is a free demo, and in certain cases a percentage of the sale. It’s a win-win situation for both the parties.

c) Referral schemes

Loyalty programs and referral schemes are a tested technique for ecommerce, be it referring personally to a friend or to the masses through a blog post or article. They are a hit with third-party apps and discounts as well.

3. Go Pro-active – Poach the reviewers!

Like we mentioned before, with time certain reviewers start generating a loyal following of their own. People trust their reviews. Some of these influential reviewers might be reviewing the same product as yours but present on your competitor’s website.

Identify these local influencers and poach them to review the same product on your site as well in exchange of a little discount or freebies. This will not only help you get more reviews, but better reviewers as well.

Step 2: Managing off-site (third-party) reviews

1. Be omni-present

Ensure that you have a profile at every place your competition does, and also where it doesn’t. Get local listings on sites like Yelp, Qype, Yotpo, Zomato, etc.

Finally, do not forget those platforms where your target audience flocks, be it social networks or otherwise.

2. Be a gatherer

“Companies such as Reseller Ratings are entering into the ecommerce world do capitalizing on making money from ecommerce online reviews. Gathering these online reviews can do wonders for any business, but it can be tough to do it manually. I recommend services that we use such as Shopper Approved for ecommerce and Getfivestars for local companies.

These types of services are affordable, simple to set up and require minimal effort to gathering online reviews for the company or service.” recommends Ramon Khan, Online Marketing Manager, National Air Warehouse.

Another expert, Amanda King from PDFfiller, has vouched for this strategy too.

“We have generated over 4000 5-star reviews during our year-long collaboration with Shopper Approved and they have helped us to manage and reuse off-site reviews in venues ranging from Twitter to Facebook to our WordPress blog.”

Working with a customer review service is arguably even more important for SaaS companies to build online brand reputation and consumer confidence, because of the lack of a tangible product.

3. Be open and inviting

“Engage with independent review sites in a positive way. You see this often with sites like TripAdvisor, where hotel managers respond to comments with either a thank you, or a commitment to look into the issue further, demonstrating an ‘openness and a respect’ for their customer’s opinion. Because as much as your customers respect other’s opinions, businesses need to respect them even more.” emphasizes Nerissa Atkinson, Director, The Revery.

Step 3: Building a positive reputation online that boosts authority and customers’ trust

When asked about that one thing that most influences a company’s reputation and authority most, we found a unanimous answer – Openness for a customer’s opinions.

1. Have ears that listen

“The brand that treats their customers with respect always wins the positioning war. You do not have to agree with them, just make them feel like you are listening and trying to make things better going forward and they will respond in a positive manner. Authority comes from having a know, like and trust relationship with your customers both online and offline. Look after your customers and they will look after your brand.” feels Pam Brossman, Digital Media Author, Speaker & Consultant and Amazon’s Best Selling Author.

2. Have a voice that comforts

“Actively manage your online reviews, and respond as frequently as possible (even to the positive ones!) to help your customers feel heard and appreciated. Pay special attention to the negative ones – Don’t let them go unaddressed or unresolved assuming that an angry customer can’t be made happy.” advises Chris Campbell, CEO, ReviewTrackers.

Speaking of negative reviews, they are actually a route to help your business. Involving customers in your iterative development process helps you pin-point potholes in your work process, while a mix-bag of good and bad testimonials lends legitimacy to your brand.

Our expert, Lidia Lal, Director, Virtual Marketing Solutions Group, suggests, “Leaving negative posts, blogs or tweets unresolved will only lead to a downfall of your business. Instead, use the negative to start to forge a positive, better relationship with customers.”

“Even just saying “Thanks for your feedback. We’d love to make it up to you. How about a free______ on us!” when someone leaves a negative review can go a long way.” adds Cas McCullough.

3. Have eyes that are vigilant

Building a positive image online boils down to two things mainly:

a) How much your customers love you, and

b) how well you respond to questions, concerns and even criticism.

So, be vigilant and on a lookout for opportunities to highlight people who take the time to spread the word for you!

Now, how to be vigilant and keep tab on what is being posted about and where? Well, our expert here, Richard B. Hollis, CEO and Founder, Holonis, has a solution for you.

“The creators of the new online marketplace, Holonis, felt the pain of businesses hurt by unfair reviews. Not only do they allow businesses to compile reviews from third-party sites and social platforms in one easy-to-read interface, they allow them to respond to customers in real-time!”

Real-time! Isn’t that incredible?!

The sure-shot formula to get your products reviewed

The 11-point “Look inside” checklist created by our panel of experts

Tags: boost sales, mobile commerce, shopping cart abandonment, shopping cart recovery