By Abby Heugel and Francesca Nicasio
There are a lot of factors that go into a customer’s decision to buy a product from your retail business. They most often ask friends and family for recommendations, and then do a lot of online research of their options.
Given how fast and easy it is to make a purchase online without ever having to talk to a sales rep, the Internet basically does the selling for you — it can actually make or break your business.
When doing that Internet research, many potential customers most likely spend a lot of time reading reviews. If your product and business are reviewed in a positive light, that’s great news. But if you don’t have any reviews — or you have an inordinate amount of negative ones — those potential customers are going to take their business elsewhere.
Why it’s important to get more reviews
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
- 54% of people visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews.
- 74% of people trust local businesses more after reading positive reviews.
- 58% of people believe the “star rating” is the most important metric to them.
By browsing these reviews, potential shoppers can gather more information that is relevant to them from like-minded consumers or other shoppers who are in the same situation. When they see how others reacted to the product, seeing this social proof can validate their initial interest and convince them to buy.
Even negative reviews — in moderation — were found to actually increase sales by around 45% by making the consumer aware of a product they otherwise wouldn’t have known to exist. But of course, your goal is positive feedback, and the strategies below can help you garner those glowing reviews.
1. Ask at the right moment
First and foremost, if you want something, you have to ask for it. That same BrightLocal survey found that of the 74% of customers who were asked to provide feedback, 68% were willing to do it. The key is to ask them at the right time in their journey with your business to get the best results.
Some suggested time frames include:
- After they have experienced success with your product or service
- After they’ve re-ordered or re-purchased from you
- If they’ve referred family or friends to your business
- After they tag your brand on social media
Just as important as when you ask is how you ask. You don’t want to bluntly ask for a positive review, as that paints your brand and your business in a more desperate light. Instead, find politely effective ways to ask shoppers to write reviews for products they purchase. Depending on your brand’s voice, it could be worded in several different ways, such as:
- Would you mind taking the time to leave feedback?
- We would love it if you would share your thoughts.
- Can you tell us about your experience?
- How did you like your purchase?
Your POS system can help you create customized follow-up email campaigns asking about specific activity like purchases from individual shoppers. After they interact with you, the software can help you track a number of activities to tailor your request for reviews.
Pro tip: Automate your process for gathering reviews. If you’re a running a retail store, you already have a ton of to-dos on your plate. Don’t make things harder for yourself or your team by giving yourself yet another task.
Instead, use marketing automation software that can handle the review-gathering process for you. An example of a store that’s doing this well is Buda Juice, which sells organic, cold-pressed juices.
Buda Juice uses Marsello to run its loyalty program and customer relationship management, and to get reviews, they automatically include a feedback button at the bottom of their customer emails.
People can rate their experience with just a few taps, enabling Buda Juice to gain valuable customer insights.
See if you can do something similar in your store. Run your loyalty or customer communications program on a platform that lets you collect feedback easily. It’s a great way to get a pulse on your customer satisfaction, which in turn helps you run a better retail business.
2. Make it easy to review online
Shoppers won’t review your products or store if they have to jump through hoops just to give feedback, so make it as easy as possible. Amazon has set the gold standard for online reviews, offering both a star system — the preferred method of most shoppers — and the capabilities to leave written reviews. Amazon also includes easy-to-find “write a review” buttons, and a search function that makes it easy for shoppers to read various reviews.
Consider adding a system for reviews on your own website, and include a call to action on product pages, within your confirmation pages, in follow-up emails, or in receipts and invoices.
Have a look at what apparel boutique Francesca’s is doing. When someone make a purchase (be it online or in-store) Francesca’s sends a follow-up email inviting shoppers to review the items they bought.
The email itself is quick, simple, and contains a clear call to action.
3. Cover all your bases online
Your website shouldn’t be the only place you offer reviews.
Before potential customers even make it to your website to learn about your business, they’re often conducting online research about making a purchase. Be sure to set your business up on third-party sites that encourage positive consumer reviews, like Yelp, your Facebook business page, and Google My Business.
Once your business is set up on these websites, give your visitors a heads up so they’ll be prompted to leave reviews. An easy to do this is in-store signage, stickers or table tents inviting people to visit your Google/Yelp/Facebook business page.
Each site has its own process for requesting these materials.
Visit Small Thanks with Google, and then enter your business name. If your business is already listed, you should be able to select your store name and address from the dropdown menu. Otherwise, you’ll need to create your Google listing first.
Once you’ve selected your business, Google will generate marketing materials such as print-ready posters, table tents, and stickers, which you can download and print.
On Yelp, the process is a little different. Yelp sends “People Love Us on Yelp” window clings via direct mail twice a year to qualifying business. You can request one by filling out this form.
You can also create customizable materials such as business cards and signage on yelp.biz.vistaprint.com.
In addition to allowing you to obtain more reviews, setting up online business listings increases your visibility, and allows local customers to find your store. Industry data shows that nearly half — 46% to be exact — of all Google searches are seeking local information.
Google evidently the new Yellow Pages for consumers, so by getting your business listed, you’re putting yourself on the map.
4. Reward them for reviews
Not only is your time valuable, but so is the time of your customers. That’s why it makes sense to offer incentives to those shoppers who take the time to leave a review. You get a review, and rewarding them for doing so will most often add to the overall positive experience they had with your brand.
Keep it simple by offering coupons or discount codes that encourage shoppers to publicly share their feedback. You can also host periodic drawings and giveaways, choosing a winner from a pool of customers who have left a review in a certain timeframe.
That’s what Nordstrom does to get more product reviews. The department store offers up a $1,000 gift card up for grabs to those who rate and review their recent purchases.
Just remember that while asking for a review is fine, buying reviews or asking for a certain angle or spin on that review is unethical and bad business practice.
5. Go mobile
Following up on the strategy of making it easy to leave online reviews is making it easy for customers to review your product and business directly from their phone. But be realistic about how much thumb-based typing someone is willing to do, and instead consider creating a place for customers to respond and leave a star rating, which is much easier to do from a smartphone.
Getting creative with a short survey is also an effective way to solicit feedback from your mobile customers. For example, send out a yes-or-no answer survey that includes:
- Are you satisfied with your experience?
- Would you recommend this product to a friend?
- Would you consider buying this product again in the future?
This survey information can then be complied and displayed on your product sales pages, showing things like how many people would recommend this product to a friend, for example.
Here’s an example from Naked Wines.
6. Share positive reviews you’ve received
When you receive positive reviews from your customers, keep the momentum going by sharing them online so that other customers can be inspired to follow suit.
On Google, Yelp, and many other reviews sites, business owners (and site visitors) can mark certain reviews as helpful. Doing this “upvotes” the reviews and moves them higher up on the site, making them more accessible for people to read. Take the time to periodically do this to positive reviews so your company’s page highlights the best of the best.
Use your brand’s social media channels to share positive reviews, resharing positive Facebook reviews in a post on your page, or formatting reviews as quotes for Instagram to post for your followers.
When customers see this social proof of your products and services, they’re more likely to do the same by following the crowd.
Celsious, a New York-based laundromat, for instance, regularly shares the positive feedback they receive on its their Instagram account.
View this post on Instagram
“… – it’s hands down the most amazing laundromat I’ve been to. The machines sanitize before you throw your clothes in and text you when your laundry is done. Free Wi-Fi, a cafe with comfortable and stylish furniture, and it’s all reasonably priced.” – Thanks for the love on @yelp, Ernie 💕 …………………………………………………………………… #celsious #modernlaundry #laundromat #cafe #williamsburg #brooklyn #nyc #sustainableliving #cleanliving #sustainablecleaning #organic #jointhefold #loadsoflove #laundryday #garmentcare #cleanfreak #howtowash #washing101 #greenliving
Apply this same practice to your retail social media strategy. Collect some quotable quotes from your top customers and turn them into share-worthy images.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Vend’s guide to increasing sales. This handy resource offers 10 proven tactics for boosting retail sales and improving your bottom line.
Specifically, you will:
- Discover how to turn savvy shoppers into loyal customers
- Learn how to add real and perceived value to each sale
- Discover the most effective ways to set yourself apart from your competitors
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, your brand’s best marketers and sales reps are actually your existing customers. Businesses that can accumulate positive reviews have a good chance of helping a customer make a purchase decision, which not only builds trust with your brand, but also helps with your bottom line.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.