EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 378 - May 10, 2015 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 5

Getting Customers to Leave Product Reviews on Your Site

By David A. Utter

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Product reviews from customers carry significant weight and allow sites to build trust with customers, as a willingness to carry reviews of all kinds indicates sellers want a good reputation among their shoppers.

There's another benefit to providing product reviews: Google! If you advertise using Product Listing Ads (PLAs), and you share your product reviews with Google, it will display product ratings on your PLA ads.

"Product ratings are available only to advertisers who choose to share all of their product reviews with Google, either directly or through a third party," Google explains. "These star ratings represent aggregated rating and review data for the product, compiled from multiple sources, including merchants, third party aggregators, editorial sites and users."

If your ecommerce platform doesn't provide a product-review feature, you can consider using a third-party service provider. Google provides a list of services it works with on the Google Merchant Center; these include Trustpilot, PowerReviews, Bazaarvoice, ResellerRatings, and TurnTo.

The Importance of Timing and Being Proactive
Getting reviews presents a challenge. People believe they are very busy all of the time and may be uninterested in spending a few minutes expressing their thoughts. With some effort, online merchants may be able to get some feedback from otherwise reticent customers.

Trustpilot Director of Product Marketing Jonathan Hinz told EcommerceBytes successful requests for product reviews focus on transparency, volume, and timing. "A solicitation for an online review should explain to the customer that the review will help improve customer service, serve them better next time and improve the business as a whole," said Hinz.

PowerReviews CTO Jim Morris said the most successful requests for reviews seek feedback, not just conversions. "Think about the long game. Building engagement helps build loyalty which means more conversions in the long run," Morris told EcommerceBytes.

Both professionals emphasized the importance of timing with review requests. Said Morris, "Review requests for a concert or an item that will be used quickly should happen soon after event occurs or the product arrives. But requests to review purchases that take more time and consideration - such as a mattress or even a cell phone - should come only after a customer has had ample time to properly process and use the item."

"Seasonal orders provide another major hint for brands," said Hinz. "If a customer in Chicago orders a bicycle in the winter, it is likely that he won't be riding until Spring, and the review solicitation should be sent later, after he's had a chance to use the product."

The approach anyone who's ever shopped on Amazon.com likely knows is the followup email requesting a review. Online sellers can duplicate this approach by sending a post-purchase email asking if the customer liked a product, how many stars they would rate it, and what that customer might want to tell others about it.

Using a Third-Party Review System
Using a third-party can help merchants. "Eighty-two percent of shoppers seek out negative reviews, and that number jumps to 86 percent among those under 45. Consumers know that every item can't be all things to all people, so products without any negative reviews often become suspect," Morris said.

Trustpilot staggers its pricing by user based on the number of reviews they are collecting, placement of Trustboxes, and other factors. The company presents its basic range of service levels on this page.

PowerReviews doesn't publish simple information either, explaining that every client varies based on the services they use. You can request a demo on this page.

Merchant Reviews Matter Too
Product reviews are important, but so are reviews of merchants. Forbes suggests having one's business available in as many review-driven environments as are relevant to the business. This means setting up profiles on sites like Yahoo Local, Yelp, Trustpilot, Angie's List, it says - wherever one's customers might be when they are looking for reviews.

When those reviews arrive, they should have some characteristics that make them stand out as important to the visitor. Hinz noted customers want to see that reviews are coming from a third-party source. The time-honored star rating has merit; "Buyers will first look for a quick overview, such as a 4.5/5 star rating, and then want to drill down into why customers like the seller so much," Hinz said.

However, a negative review should also be seen as an opportunity. If contact information is available for the negative reviewer, one can always reach out privately to gain more constructive feedback. Morris emphasized the importance of both positive and negative reviews being present, to establish trust with consumers.


About the author:

David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. Send your tips to media@davidautter.com and find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.


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