The internet has created communities and connected customers in a way that has never been seen before. These customers, even though they don't know each other, help one another through the use of customer reviews online. Whether in stars, comments, grades, or tomatoes, these reviews are aggregated, sortable, and can be viewed by anyone publicly.
Online retail platform, Shopify, examined the impact of reviews and how it generates further business for companies. They found that consumers love online reviews and after reading reviews, a potential customer is more likely to visit your website. Studies have also found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as they would a personal referral. That is why, as part of your online marketing strategy, it is important to understand what these reviews can do, where to find them, and how to respond to them when warranted.
It is also advantageous to cultivate reviews by asking your promoters to say a few words that can be used on your website or on well-known review sites that your target customers look at frequently. All of this will deliver more marketing leads to the top of your sales funnel, which helps you to build the pipeline of prospects, and grow your business.
In this guide, we take a look at the different strategies for sourcing, getting value from and responding to customer reviews. Customers will talk about you whether you like it or not, so being proactive in generating positive reviews and responsive to the negative ones can make a huge difference to your business.
Review sites allow customers to provide public comments about a product or a company which can be used by potential customers. As part of your strategy, you need to be conscious of where your customers are rating you and where your competitors are being rated. Unlike most social media platforms, which have B2B and B2C companies intermingled, review pages do tend to focus on one type of vendor or the other. And if your competition is there, you will want to be there for comparison purposes.
Sites such as Amazon, Google My Business and Yelp are used mainly for B2C reviews. These sites collect feedback from customers or purchasers of a product and aggregate the ratings with both a quick overview of the overall sentiment, as well as a way to read specific comments for more detail. In all cases a user can provide a review with details and the owner of the business can respond in public to the post. These sites often do rankings of businesses by location or style of product, which can attract more attention to your business.
For B2B businesses, Capterra and G2 Crowd are examples where you can review an organization on certain criteria. These sites contain reviews that have both been requested by the company and ones that purchasers have added themselves. Their ratings typically require more details about the user's experience and allow them to express specific positives and negatives in addition to the customer's overall rating. To help combat fake reviews, they often require login using a LinkedIn account or a verified email. They are a powerful tool for marketing and sales to showcase the values your product drives.
Another aspect of tooling that should be considered are tools like Feefo and TrustPilot, which help connect reviews to your Search Engine Optimization strategy. If you are confident in your ability to generate buzz through positive online reviews, you want to make sure those reviews are exposed to search results from your potential customer base.
As with survey tools, which review tool you choose is highly dependent on your business and demographic. Keep in mind that the tool you need to use may be chosen by your users by virtue of them posting to a site even if you hadn't planned on responding to reviews there. With so many places to look for reviews you will want to control the message as much possible. There are a few ways to maintain control of your reviews. A good marketing strategy will include soliciting positive reviews from identified promoters and shaping the user-generated conversation.
Providing a great product will naturally generate some reviews from enthusiastically satisfied customers. But if you put in more effort into generating reviews from a wider audience — who might not take the time otherwise — you’ll blow past your competitors and win more new customers. Here are six tips for maximizing your review program.
In the B2B world, having the logo of a well-known company or the picture of an influencer in your industry on your website are both good signs to your potential customers that your product is driving success at companies like theirs. The most influential reviews contain short, relatable quotes that highlight tangible business outcomes and come from known companies in the B2B world, or are from influencers in the B2C world. It is an excellent strategy to reach out to customers who are known promoters of your company and ask them for a quote about the value they’re driving from your product or service that they would be willing to share as part of your promotional material. Often prospective customers want to speak with your existing customers as reference accounts to discuss specific use cases. The customers you chose for those calls are likely the same customers you would ask to do a public review.
In the case of soliciting a review from a specific customer, work with them to formulate a phrasing that they are happy to have attributed to their name, while at the same time espouses a value driver or key marketing differentiator that you wish to share with your customers. As Groove found:
“ The best reviews don’t just praise a product; they make it abundantly clear exactly who the product is right
Prospects want to know if the product will drive a positive outcome by solving their business problem, and if there were any bumps in the road during implementation or usage for others. When you ask a customer for a review, be very specific with what you’d like them to highlight, but also allow the freedom to include details that they see as important within their particular industry or peer group. You do not want to come across as forcing their opinion or putting words into their mouths.
Here’s an example email you could use to ask a customer to leave a review:
I really enjoyed hearing about how your experience has been with Company X so far in our last support call. The use case that you highlighted is something that many potential customers have asked us about, so I’m so glad it’s working so smoothly for you.
If you have time today, would you mind leaving a brief review on our Capterra product page? It’s helpful for potential customers to hear how our existing customers are finding value with the product — especially customers that are in similar industries.
It should only take about 5 minutes and it would mean the world to us.
Thanks so much,
Customer Success Manager
Another way to get reviews is to incentivize your customers to do so. While this depends heavily on your industry, you could offer a reward or an entry into a contest in return for a review. For example, offer compensation in the form of discounted product, or loyalty points or even swag. A small incentive goes a long way!
(This is from the Influitive community for a company called Pendo. They incentivize customers to rate on Capterra to get points that can be traded for company swag, or even services work!)
When getting reviews, be careful not to add hyperbole into the comments or to stretch the truth of a success story. It is unlikely your product literally 'changed the world, ' and such comments can come across as unrealistic. Be specific and point to clear, objective wins. This problem also exists on the negative side of reviews. A review that is hyper-negative or even antagonistic is less likely to be trusted than a balanced review that lists out cons factually.
You’ll have a better chance of collecting positive, meaningful reviews if you ask customers who are already inclined to recommend you. If you’re running an Net Promoter Score program, these customers are those that respond with a 9 or 10 to the NPS question — otherwise known as your promoters!
Promoters are customers that are happy with your product, find value and trust your brand enough to recommend it to family and friends. If they are that satisfied, they will also likely take the time to review you on a public site. If you don’t run an NPS program, you can also find promoters by looking at very active users, or customers who’ve responded positively to customer satisfaction surveys.
Asking your promoters to leave a review can actually be an automated process. When Baremetrics set up their NPS survey, they used a combination of Promoter.io and Zapier to automatically reply to any customers that responded with a 9 or a 10. They thanked the customer for being an advocate, and asked for them to share a pre-written tweet.
Instead of asking for promoters to share a tweet, you could easily direct customers to your Facebook page, Capterra product site or Yelp to leave a quick review, depending on which site has the most relevance to your industry. These customers are already happy with your product — they are the most likely customers to leave a positive review.
However, you also want to be careful not to overburden one of your promoters. Asking a lot of one person or one company could have adverse effects on the relationship.
Always be conscious of when you’re asking customers for a review. If you are in the middle of, for example, a heated negotiation on a contract, it may not be the best time to ask the customer for a favor. Similarly if you just increased prices, or if the customer is brand new to your product, they might not be willing to provide a favorable review…yet.
This can be especially true if you’re shipping products to customers. Amazon does a great job of following up with customers who’ve just had something delivered to ask for a review. If the request came too early and the customer didn’t have their product yet, they would be unlikely to give a review. Or if they did leave a review, it might be something negative about how long the shipping was taking. Understanding your delivery times, and how long it takes for customers to typically unpack and fall in love with your product can make or break potential requests for a review.
Hotels.com emails guests after their suggested check-in time on the same day to get feedback specifically about the check-in process. It’s perfectly timed so customers have the experience fresh in their mind.
There are also times when customers are primed to leave a great review. Immediately after a repurchase, when they’ve demonstrated success with your product or if they refer another customer to you are great opportunities to ask a customer for a review. You’re clearly top of mind and they are showing that they have a positive perception of your brand.
In the B2C world, most reviews are unsolicited, as we will discuss below. However, you should advertise your preferred review sites on your website, or inside your place of business. For example, request a review by adding a TripAdvisor logo on the receipt, or menu. Online retailers request reviews by sending an email a few weeks or months after the product was delivered with a direct link to the product review page. This small call to action helps nudge customers to provide feedback that can be used later.
“Most of our customers find us through TripAdvisor! Please leave us a review so we can make more friends that are as great as you were. Thank you!”
If you’re asking for a review, make it so incredibly easy for customers to find where to go to leave one. Link directly to the site that you want reviews on. Suggest a couple ideas about what they could comment on (service, shipping and delivery, product quality). Customers are more likely to leave a review if you remove all barriers from their path.
“Snap a picture of you rocking your new bag and share it with our community so more of our shoppers can find their perfect purse.”
As Hubspot shares in their post on soliciting customer reviews, you don’t need to email customers to ask for their feedback. There are a ton of other channels you can use to nudge your customers towards a review. For example, if you’re looking for Facebook reviews, send a request through Facebook Messenger — the customer is already right there, so it’s even easier for them to write a short comment on your page. If you have a mobile app, you can build reviews right into the platform so customers can leave comments on the go. Lyft does this really well immediately after the ride ends.
Regardless of how you solicit the review, it is vital that you thank the reviewer personally. Showing gratitude for the time spent on formulating that review can go a long way in continuing a positive relationship with your customer.
There are also reviews over which you have little control. Users will add these on Twitter, or Yelp, or Amazon often with little context or details. This type of review needs to be monitored carefully as part of your social media monitoring strategy. A relatively new trend in B2C, according to Shopify, is that user-generated content is starting to become more trusted. Millennials have been shown to trust user-generated content on Instagram & Youtube 50% more than traditional marketing material.
To capitalize on this trend, encourage this type of review by adding engagement opportunities into your product. There are some things you can do to help shape the conversation and control these reviews:
In all of these cases, you are not explicitly asking for a review, but by providing more avenues and making them more readily available, the content will start to appear. You are creating shared experiences among your users. These experiences help to form a community.
A great example of this is the #CaughtOnDropCam campaign from Nest. Through user-generated content and a hashtag, this organization created a viral community of owners sharing video from their Nest Camera Device. While not explicitly reviews, the content showcased a wide variety of use cases, camera quality, and the brand. The community could relate to finding funny captures and wanted to share the experience.
As consumer trust in traditional advertising fades, companies are looking to connect with potential buyers using other means. One of these new ways is by using influencers: a person with a large, dedicated online following that could reach and persuade (or influence) your target audience. For example, if you sold yoga leggings, your target audience would be women who did yoga. They might be influenced by a TV star, a yoga teacher or a lifestyle blogger. If you can get your product in front of these influencers and get a positive review from them, it’s a very effective marketing strategy.
According to a survey by Twitter, 49% of respondents most highly trust influencers, including over family and friends, for product referrals and recommendations. That’s a big opportunity you could be missing out on if you aren’t actively pursuing and working with influencers.
Influencer marketing is all about making the right connections and nurturing a relationship over time. Hubspot suggests working with influencers in several ways, including:
Influencers are a new way to get more persuasive, targeted reviews and build trust with your target market. Make sure to nurture your relationships with influencers overtime and keep them on your good side — one bad review from a popular influencer can have a big impact!
Worried the Kardashians might be a little out of your price range? Don’t worry. With the rise of -, any company can harness the power of online influence. Micro-influencers are online personas with followings between 1000 and 10,000. They tend to get more engagement on their posts because they are highly specified, and usually connect more authentically with a large part of their audience.
Micro-influences, says Forbes, are becoming more popular because they are cost-effective and micro-targeted to a niche audience. You don’t need to drop a ton of cash on partnering with a micro-influencer. Often, a free sample is all they need in exchange for a public review. However, you want to be sure that your product will win them over. As Kristen Wessel writes, “Keep in mind that the influencer will write an honest review, not a positive review. If you aren’t confident in the quality of your product, improve it before asking an influencer to do a review.”
When you are soliciting reviews from your customers you need to have a use case in mind for how you want to use the review. Understanding the purpose will help determine the style you need. There are several different ways you can use reviews to attract new customers, build trust, sell specific products and improve your sales process overall. Let’s go over a few of them.
All potential customers will visit your website or app store page landing page before purchasing or downloading. Reviews can help overcome objections, build trust between you and your prospects and showcase potential use-cases more clearly. When a visitor reads a positive review they should say “oh my god, they sound exactly like me.”
The right user reviews have a big impact on conversion rates (the percentage of visitors that actually end up purchasing). For example, a study done on the impact of reviews on paid search found that products with higher ratings (4.96 compared to 3.31 on average) had a 23% higher conversion rate.
To have the biggest impact on visitors, there are a few tips to keep in mind. If you want an attention-grabbing message for your marketing webpage or social media, a short and clear quote is most useful. The quote should articulate a value or success that a customer gained from your product that would also apply to your other potential customers.
According to BrightLocal, customers look at three factors before deciding if they can trust reviews and proceeding to purchase:
In this example from Shopify, the customer is sharing how Shopify has helped them grow their business, while also talking about how easy it was. These are key selling points to other potential customers. The quote makes the points clear, concise, and will have meaning to a prospect who sees it. There is attribution to a founder and the company which gives the quote more credibility than an anonymous quote would have. Quotes like this help drive more sales and customers by expressing the value drivers of your product in a tangible way.
Personalized reviews also tend to work better because they are more believable. If you can put a face to a name, and list the company and position, customers will identify more strongly with the review.
Hearing exactly how your product changed a previous customer’s life is very convincing — especially if the prospect identifies with the customer they are hearing from. Because of this, longer reviews are incredibly useful as reference material for marketing and sales. Marketing teams often use reviews from sites like Capterra when applying for corporate awards or building sales collateral like case studies, white-papers and slide-decks. These reviews are a great way to identify promoters and reference customers, but also to mine for real reasons why customers enjoy your product and then use that as part of your own marketing.
Beyond marketing, your sales team will reference the sites during the sales cycle as examples of successful implementations of your product. Later on in the sales funnel these sites may be preferred to your own marketing collateral, because the reviewer’s balanced review contains less marketing language and more about real world experience. The review may contain some things to watch out for, or lessons learned which your prospects might find interesting during their investigation.
It might also be worth putting a summary of user reviews on your marketing collateral, rather than pulling out anecdotes and specific quotes. If your app users consistently rate you 4.8/5 on the App Store, that’s a great statistic to highlight. CloudCherry goes a level deeper and showcases how their users rate them on a variety of aspects on G2Crowd, compared to their competitors. Using the sum of the reviews can show the bigger picture of how customers rate you.
There is a ton of research out there that shows the impact of reviews on e-commerce conversion rates. Reviews are even more important for physical products sold online because customers can’t test them out, hold them in their hands or really get a feel for them. They need to trust that you’re selling what you say you are. Mark Hayes at Shopify calls these necessary aspects of your website “trust indicators” — reviews, social proof and branding are all important trust indicators.
“ The increasing prevalence of phishing scams, malware, and just plain shoddy customer service makes consumers more wary with their clicks than ever before — which means that trust indicators on your website are more important than ever
Hearing from previous customers, both good and bad, can help ease shoppers’ minds and get them to head to the checkout. For example:
To collect and display product reviews easily, it makes sense to use a purpose-built product review app. These apps make it easy for customers to submit their reviews, your website team to curate them and for visitors to browse and find the information they need. A few things to consider when choosing a product review app for your e-commerce platform:
When making your product review gameplan, don’t be too quick to screen for negative reviews. In fact, having negative reviews on your website might actually improve conversion rates. Reevoo, an online review tool, found that 68% of customers trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative scores. Furthermore, customers that seek out negative reviews are more likely further along in their purchasing decision. Letting them get the information they seek actually leads to higher conversion rates, the same Reevoo study found. While it certainly makes sense to censor rude, inaccurate or spam reviews, leaving up valid concerns (with a helpful response) can actually win you customers.
If you get a particularly great review, often in the form of a personal story, make sure you share it with the world. Quotes can also be shared in newsletters, marketing materials, and on social media. If you have a great review that exemplifies your product or company’s values, spread the word!
Wondering how you can share reviews and not come across as arrogant? It’s all about gratitude. Retweet or share a user-generated post and express how much the review meant to your team. Provide a personal response and connect with the customer to thank them for their comments. If the customer sent their review or feedback in privately, make sure you ask their permission before sharing on your social media feeds. If they give you the go-ahead, use these simple and beautiful examples from Socially Sorted to inspire you, or try out HubSpot’s quotes for Instagram templates to make simple image posts.
Machine learning has become a buzzword in customer experience teams lately, but practical applications haven’t turned up as often. But one way machine learning can help teams understand their customer better is through sentiment and theme analysis of reviews. Review contain the thoughts and feelings of thousands of customers. Machine learning, specifically natural language processing, can sort through this raw human language and calculate exactly which themes come up the most often, what ideas customers are the most happy with, and where the biggest opportunities are. You can also compare your reviews to those of your competitors to find the biggest advantages and opportunities.
For example, MonkeyLearn completed sentiment analysis on hotel reviews from TripAdvisor, looking at hotels in London, Paris, New York, Bangkok, Madrid, Beijing, and Rio de Janeiro. They discovered a ton of different information, including that 82% of the things people wrote in reviews was positive, London got the worst hotel reviews and cockroaches only appeared in Bangkok reviews. Most interestingly, they found that while croissants were mentioned in Parisian reviews, it was almost always associated with negative sentiment. When diving in deeper they found it was most often a reflection of a subpar breakfast (ie. “It was just a couple stale croissants”)
Think about how much you could learn from your thousands upon thousands of reviews left by customers. While positive reviews are great for marketing collateral and your product sites, all reviews are very helpful for improving your product.
As with feedback you receive, all reviews need to be read and may need a meaningful response. Whether this is a team which views them frequently, or as cross-functional ownership between marketing, support, customer success, etc. someone in your organization needs to own the review of your reviews. Doing this not only help you improve, but 78% of consumers say a management response to online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them.
When addressing a negative review, it is always important to thank the customer for taking the time to send their feedback to you. Use the customer’s name to give the response a human touch and don’t use a response as an opportunity to upsell or market. Respond to the concern directly and point to any corrective actions that can be taken. If the customer has misrepresented some fact or outcome, politely make the correction so that other readers won’t have the same misconception. If the case is very specific, do some research on any details the customer may not have listed or of which you may not be aware before you respond. This preparation will help make the response more meaningful. Finally, for all issues listed, apologize only for things for which you are accountable.
At the Walt Disney Company, they take these steps through what they call the HEARD method
Each of these steps is important and part of a conversation with the reviewer.
If the response needs to be handled in private, you should still make a quick and public comment.
“ Publicly ask your customers to contact you directly so that you can discuss the problem. Show them that you are willing to do all you can to rectify the problem. This will build your customers trust and often sets you apart from your competitors. Even if someone else comes across the review, it will be noted that you had tried to resolve the problem the
Not only should you show the customer your product or service is top quality, but give them the trust that if something goes go wrong, you are there to resolve the problem.
While every review should be read, not all require a response. If the commenter is being irrational or hyperbolic or writing in all caps, a well-reasoned response may not improve the situation, or could at worst exacerbate the negativity. These are frequently referred to as trolls: don’t feed them. They’re just trying to get a reaction, and aren’t a serious prospect or customer.
Poor reviews can break your business. Fortunately, if they are fake poor reviews, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage. Rose Leadem, writing for Entrepreneur, has identified how you should deal with fake reviews for the best possible outcome.
Fake reviews are more common than you think! 79% of consumers have seen a fake review in the last year, according to BrightLocal. The easiest long term strategy to deal with trolls and prevent them from tarnishing your brand is to ensure you have a constant stream of positive reviews coming in. The overall look of your review pages will be positive, and customers will be less likely to fall for the troll’s abuse.
Positive reviews make potential customers 68% more likely to trust a local business. To encourage positive reviews, it’s important to show gratitude to those who share. Use positive reviews as a chance to engage with your promoters and bring equal or more attention to the positivity over the negativity. Responding to positive reviews builds trust and loyalty. Loyal customers not only bring return business, but they also share their experiences with others, which can help your business thrive.
Start by thanking the customer. They could have easily not said anything, so making sure you show appreciation for their time is important. The thank you should be personalized to the message they wrote. By making it generic or templated, it loses the personal touch and makes the response sound robotic or automatic, rather than sincere. For example, instead of saying “Thanks for reviewing your meal” elaborate with “We’re glad you enjoyed the vegetarian lasagna, it is our owner’s favorite, so we can promise it’ll stay on the menu for next time!” The added specifics and inside details are more engaging to the customer and provides any reader with more context about what they might expect if they visit.
Sneakily, you can also help boost your own SEO through your responses. By mirroring their comments and including location and business name information, you can increase the number of keywords within that review and therefore make it more prevalent to a search engine. Reviews actually offer several benefits for SEO:
To take advantage of the SEO boost, make sure that your reviews are “crawlable” by search engines — meaning they can read them. This usually means they need to be in text form in the HTML of your site and not stored as images, or in some sort of weird flash embed. Most product review tools will handle this for you!
Sometimes customers will be more honest in their public reviews that they are when talking to you. As frustrating as that can be (“why didn’t you just tell us?!”), it still offers another opportunity to listen to customers and hear what they genuinely think about your company. Because the feedback from customers on review sites is so unfiltered, it can offer more insight than curated feedback from product conversations.
Getting the insights out of reviews and in the hands of the people that need it can be difficult though. If you offer many different products, or serve a lot of customers, you may have thousands of reviews to sort through. So how do you do it?
One of the easiest ways is to sift through reviews to find the most representative comments and present them to product and service teams. This should include both positive and negative comments. For example, if a customer takes the time to mention a specific agent in their review, make sure that gets passed along. If a specific feature gets mentioned, make sure the team responsible is told. There is no better feeling that hearing the work you did had a positive impact on the world. A few other ways to share feedback in reviews:
The one issue with cherry-picking reviews out of thousands is that people’s personal bias might shape which reviews are shared. Everyone has their pet projects, and even though they are trying to be objective, they are more naturally tuned to find statements from customers that agree with them. The only way to be truly objective is to let the machines do the work of analyzing what reviews are saying.
While the most authentic reviews are given when customers aren’t expecting anything in return, it’s still nice to take the time to appreciate customers for their time. By rewarding customers for coming back and sharing their experience, you encourage them to come back again in the future. Plus, half of Americans agree that customer appreciation is an important part of providing excellent customer service.
Thanking customers can be as easy as a quick note over email, or as delightful as personalized gifts and discount codes. Shopify offers six different ways to thank your customer, which can be adapted for your business model, budget and customer type:
Treating reviews like the valuable gift they are will make sure you respond appropriately to your customers. Not only have they identified themselves as your biggest fans, they’ve also helped you attract more customers. Thanking them is the right thing to do, and will keep them on your good side.
For every business, the benefits of reviews are huge. Not only do they help build trust with potential customers, they can also provide an SEO boost and generate insights from your entire customer base — not just the ones that tell you what they think directly.
For a robust review pipeline, make sure to include some aspects of each of the following steps:
Remember, every review is a gift from your customers. The more positive reviews you’re able to recruit and publicize, the easier customer acquisition becomes.