We often feel we live and die by reviews. Whether you’re the merchant or a buyer, product reviews are important. Sellers want reviews to give their product legitimacy and buyers want reviews to help them decide whether a product is worth purchasing.
Reviews are the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth recommendations — sort of. When a person writes a review, they’re not really writing a review for their best friend. Consciously or not, the reviewer is, in most cases, writing to announce that they are an arbitrator of taste and quality, and they want to share their “expertise” with the world. If a buyer is happy, the review is to announce that they, too, confirm the value of the item and that they are wise consumers having purchased this particular product. Angry or disappointed buyers want the seller to suffer and will often use adjectives and profane directives to somehow “punish” the seller and those lackeys who also bought the product. The third type of reviewer is what I call the “helper” and it actually is the one you want most if you’re a seller—even more so than the “happy” buyer.
The helper is the customer who has actually used the product, tested it, put it through the wringer, so to speak. The helper review is the one that will do more to convince new shoppers that your product is both usable and satisfactory. Sometimes, the helper review will point out deficiencies or challenges with the product, but this can actually help reduce returns and support issues: buyers will be better informed and have more realistic expectations about how the product will perform.
I wanted to preface this list of rules with the foregoing to lay the groundwork on why my approach to reviews has been more successful than most and is the very methodology I teach my clients. Not all my “rules” are unique or revelatory, but en tote, they provide an online merchant with a litany for improving gains from product reviews.
1. Don’t Ignore Reviews
We want everything automated, don’t we? There are so many moving pieces in ecommerce that taking the time to review all the reviews coming in seems daunting and something better left to the software. In fact, all the reviews systems with which I’m familiar will allow you to automatically publish reviews that meet a certain level of “stars.” For example, you can automatically publish all 4 and 5-star reviews, but leave others aside for “moderation.”
The problem is, customers have caught on to this. In fact, here’s a review we just recently found.
The reviewer is obviously upset and disappointed, but knows that if they give the vendor a 1-star review, it will most likely be blocked; a 5-star review will be automatically published.
The other reason you should never ignore reviews is that reviews provide you with an amazing opportunity for customer service and support, which lead me to my next recommendation.
2. Respond to Reviews
More and more merchants are realizing that leaving reviews unanswered is a bad sign. Especially if there are reviews that are negative or reflect poorly on the seller (as opposed to simply dissing the product itself).
If you get a bad review of your part of the selling process, then you need to immediately cure the issue. Contact the customer directly (not through the review response) and fix the issue. Then, confirm the fix in your review response. Here’s a good example of how a merchant resolved an issue and compassionately updated the review.
While no one ever replies to Amazon reviews—which contributes to the growing suspicion that Amazon reviews are mostly bogus—as a competitor to Amazon, go above and beyond! Amazon is big because they mastered rapid delivery and huge product selection. That doesn’t mean they’re the best at selling online.
Use your review responses to demonstrate that you are one who can provide better support and product knowledge than the customer can receive from Amazon.
Some of you—admit it!—delete or hide bad reviews. Don’t be that merchant. No one believes that every product is a 5-star product.
3. Encourage Photos
More and more reviews engines will support customers who wish to upload photos—and in more and more cases, videos—which is an added benefit! While some will be from angry reviewers, most photos, we’ve noticed, are coming from the “helpful” reviewer showing the unboxing and setup of the product.
Even with angry reviews, the photos often vindicate the merchant by showing the misuse or inapplicability of the product, rather than any inherent flaw.
The caveat here is the same with moderating reviews: watch for anything that could be inflammatory or slanderous. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to publish reviews with photos. Photos and videos will help sell your products.
4. Encourage Google Reviews
While some reviews software can allow Google to “read” your reviews, nothing provides a better impact on your store’s reputation than Google Reviews, especially if you are also a brick-and-mortar store. Even if you’re solely online, Google Reviews are very visible and unlike your own reviews, shoppers instinctively know that Google Reviews are honest and not subject to “tinkering.”
It's especially important that you respond to Google reviews. Whether a review is good or positive, respond to each and every review. This interaction not only demonstrates your care concern for customers, but it helps show customers that you are more active in the satisfaction of your shoppers than your competitors.
5. Stimulate Social Sharing
Social media is the ultimate word-of-mouth advertising. The challenge is encouraging your customers to post their reactions to their own social media accounts.
One tool we have found that easily assists with this is Coopt. It’s a relatively inexpensive app that, upon completion of a sale, asks the consumer to share their purchase to their Facebook account in return for an instant discount on the purchase they just made.
Unlike simple sharing links on a product page, Coopt capitalizes on two important stimuli: first, the customer has purchased the product so they naturally feel good about the product, and second, the customer, having just paid for the product, would undoubtedly appreciate receiving a discount!
If there are other software companies out there that provide the same functionality, we’re not aware of it (let us know in the comments). In the meantime, take a look at Coopt. Regrettably, the checkout discount function only works on Shopify and BigCommerce stores, although they do have a way of offering coupons for sharing on all platforms.
So, those are my 5 rules for maximizing your product reviews. If you earnestly practice these, you will see an uptick in sales and conversions.