Gathering honest eCommerce reviews — including negative feedback — from customers is a powerful method for growing your brand.
Consider your own online shopping habits. Are you more likely to buy from an online store with a 4.5-star rating from 1,000 reviews, or a relatively unknown retailer with a 5-star rating but just four reviews? Chances are you’ll go for the one with a lower overall rating but more reviews.
Customer reviews are a crucial component of the buying journey. They build brand trust and consumer loyalty. Online shoppers rely on reviews to make informed decisions about the products they want to buy.
So, how can you generate more eCommerce reviews? And how should you address negative ratings?
In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know about creating a robust eCommerce review strategy for your online store.
Why online reviews are important for your eCommerce store
Regardless of what you say about your eCommerce store, your audience is more likely to listen to (and trust) the opinions of other shoppers over your own.
Collecting online reviews is a vital component of any eCommerce marketing strategy.
However, you don’t need to have glowing 5-star ratings to succeed; online shoppers find a mix of positive and negative reviews more trustworthy. Reviews are most helpful when they’re genuine and objective.
eCommerce reviews act as online word-of-mouth referral. By collecting as many honest ratings as possible, your brand will be able to drive sales and increase consumer trust.
They can also boost SEO performance — a win-win situation for your eCommerce store.
These opinions are powerful in convincing buyers to complete a purchase. Trustpilot revealed the top three reasons customers write reviews are to help others make better buying decisions, share their experiences, and reward brands for satisfying performance.
So, if you want to positively influence your customers’ buying journey, you need to generate as many honest reviews as possible.
13 smart strategies for generating more eCommerce reviews
Collecting reviews for your online store is no easy feat.
It’s more complex than politely asking customers for a review, crossing your fingers, and hoping they write one. Most of your customers are too busy enjoying their new product and living their lives to even think about sharing their thoughts in a review.
To encourage customers to leave a rating, you need an eCommerce review strategy.
Luckily, I’ve outlined 13 useful tips and tricks you can implement to collect more reviews for your online store.
1) Ask for reviews directly
If you want people to write online reviews, you have to ask. You can ask past customers to leave their opinion in person, by text, email, or through the phone, to name a few options.
Asking for reviews can feel awkward, but the payoff is worth the discomfort.
If a customer says something nice about your brand in-person, on social, or over email, use that feedback as an opportunity to direct them toward your online review platform. Gently inform them of the value of feedback and guide them through the process of writing a review. For example:
Customer: I just bought [product] and I really love [product features] — it’s a lifesaver!
You: That’s great news. We’re so glad you’re enjoying [product] and we appreciate you sharing your feedback.
Customer: No problem, I just wanted to share my experience.
You: This kind of feedback is really helpful for other customers thinking about buying [product] too. Would you be willing to write what you just said as an online review here? [link to review platform/page] Let me know if you need any help getting started.
Asking for reviews doesn’t have to be scary or self-serving. It can be a short and sweet interaction that lets you form closer bonds with current customers and help future customers too.
2) Build review requests into the post-purchase journey
Asking for reviews doesn’t need to be a manual process either. Make it second nature by building requests into the post-purchase journey.
Customers who have bought from your online store should be added to an automated post-purchase journey where they receive order updates and transactional emails, such as their order confirmation. Adding review requests into this journey is a great way to remind customers gently to share their thoughts online.
You can integrate requests into your post-purchase email, your SMS flow, or both. Automating this process allows you to rest easy knowing your eCommerce review requests are being sent to every customer.
Keep in mind how long it takes customers to receive and try your product. You want to leave enough time for customers to form an opinion, but not too long that they forget to write a review.
For example, fashion brands might want to send their review request a few days after customers receive their orders. Meanwhile, tech brands may want to wait longer to give customers a chance to try out the product.
3) Make it easy for customers to leave reviews
A complicated process can deter customers from leaving a review.
Remove friction by making your review form easy to complete. You could do this by creating a form that asks for a mandatory overall star rating and then provides optional text boxes, drop-down menus, and radio-button fields.
Customers can easily add their star rating and, if they want, expand on their thoughts with more detail. Giving predetermined answers also makes it easier for customers to add more detail with little extra work.
4) Incentivize customers to leave reviews
Sometimes customers need more than a gentle nudge to take action. One effective way to encourage them to leave reviews is to offer an incentive.
Incentives are a great way to increase your number of reviews and may also influence their positivity — even when you ask them to provide accurate, honest descriptions.
You could incentivize reviews by providing a discount code for money off their next order, a free shipping coupon, a free gift with their next purchase, or by entering customers into a prize draw.
5) Respond to customer feedback
Show customers you care by taking time to respond to them. Thank them for leaving positive reviews, and reply to customers who shared negative feedback.
Fast response times could also improve your standings with your customers. A surveyed 53% of customers expect brands to respond to negative reviews within seven days. Additionally, responsive companies tend to receive higher ratings.
When dealing with negative feedback, avoid combative responses. See negative reviews as a learning opportunity — they offer valuable insights you can use to improve your customer experience.
This article by Moz offers an insightful look at how responding poorly to negative reviews can be disastrous for brand reputation.
6) Share reviews on social media
Reviews shared on social media act as proof that customers love your brand.
With so many shoppers using social media to research new brands and products, it can be lucrative to shout about your customer reviews on these platforms.
Share the reviews that present your product and brand in the best possible light on social media. These could address common customer misconceptions or worries or ones that rave about your product’s effectiveness.
Once you’ve chosen your star reviews, create an eye-catching asset that’ll capture people’s attention as they scroll through their feed. Publish your review posts and watch them boost your brand trust.
On Twitter, you could retweet positive feedback that other users share about your brand. You can also encourage customers to leave reviews directly on your Facebook page using the Recommendations or Reviews tab.
As well as posting to your channels, you could also incentivize customers for sharing product reviews on their personal social media accounts. These reviews will help spread the message about your brand, acting as convincing social proof while also providing user-generated content (UGC) you could use for future marketing activity.
7) Use a trusted reviews platform
A great eCommerce reviews platform lets you:
- Manage reviews across multiple eCommerce marketplaces and sites
- Automate review requests and reminders via email and SMS
- Easily monitor, analyze, and respond to reviews
- Improve SEO rankings and click-through rate through the schema markup, widgets, and social sharing
These platforms make it easier for you to collect and manage online reviews. Look for platforms that integrate with multiple marketplaces, search engines, and websites to increase the reach of your reviews and encourage more users to leave their own.
8) Publish all reviews (both good and bad)
All reviews are valuable, not just the good ones.
Consumers want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly when shopping online. They don’t trust products that have only glowing, “five out of five” reviews. As such, almost-perfect review ratings of 4–4.5 stars can outshine those with 5 stars.
A mix of positive and negative reviews provides authenticity for potential shoppers, as over half of shoppers look for one-star reviews before making a decision. Publishing both good and bad reviews helps consumers form balanced opinions before taking the next step in their purchasing journey.
9) Develop a UGC and influencer strategy
Word-of-mouth referrals are the not-so-secret secret weapon for acquiring new customers. Developing a UGC and influencer strategy is one way to emulate the powerful effects of word-of-mouth marketing for your eCommerce store.
Offer influencers products in exchange for their honest opinion on social media. Your chosen influencers and content creators will get to keep the product, and you’ll receive content and reviews for your business.
Some content creators require monetary payment, and you’ll need to request usage rights, so be sure to consider these aspects when planning your influencer review strategy.
As a bonus, asking influencers and content creators to review your product spreads awareness for your brand and serves as an endorsement of your product. Align your brand with influencers who your audience knows and loves to gain the most out of this strategy.
10) Offer multiple review options
Some customers will be happy to leave a review on your site, while others may prefer to write one on Google, Trustpilot, or social media.
Offering multiple review options makes it easier for your customers to share feedback. Consider setting up methods such as via your app, by SMS, in response to an email, or using an embedded review form on your store.
You can leverage external reviews platforms too. Expanding the number of ways customers can leave feedback will in turn increase the number of reviews you receive.
11) Give customers something to shout about
From outstanding customer service to unforgettable unboxing experiences, give your customers a compelling reason (or several) to celebrate your brand.
Just as poor customer service prompts negative reviews, delivering an outstanding experience can result in more positive reviews.
Go above and beyond with your customer service by providing a personal experience. Customers will remember it and, in turn, feel more compelled to highlight this experience when leaving a review.
The unboxing experience offers one final opportunity to impress customers during their purchase journey. Make the box opening unforgettable by adding thoughtful touches, customizing the packaging elements, and prioritizing quality.
Additionally, 20% of consumers watch unboxing videos before they buy. These videos are incredibly popular on YouTube because they generate excitement and give an unfiltered first-person perspective on the product. Create a memorable unboxing experience and you can inspire customers to share their experience online.
12) Send customer surveys
Customer surveys give you the chance to dig into the minds of your customers. They’re typically longer than a review form, which allows you to dive deeper into your customers’ thoughts and opinions.
You can craft a customer survey to further explore areas not typically covered in reviews, such as the checkout process or site navigation. You can then use snippets from long-form surveys to create shareable customer reviews and feedback.
These surveys can also improve your eCommerce store, products, or processes by revealing insights that’ll result in better customer experiences (and reviews) in the future.
How to address negative reviews
Negative reviews are inevitable when running an eCommerce business. Someone’s order may get lost or damaged en route; another person may become frustrated with a glitchy website; or perhaps a customer ordered a product, but it wasn’t what they expected. Whatever the reason, negative reviews happen.
Receiving the occasional negative review isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We already know shoppers are more likely to trust brands that have a mix of good and bad reviews. And receiving negative reviews presents you with an opportunity to right a wrong.
Negative customer reviews give you a chance to make amends, but how do you address them?
Take a look at the following strategies for turning negative reviews into positive assets.
1) Understand that negative reviews provide authenticity
Negative reviews present an authentic and balanced view of your products.
Consumers can fall into a “too good to be true” mindset if they only see 5-star reviews. However, if they see a lower star rating or read reviews from dissatisfied customers, those shoppers will be able to form a more realistic opinion of the product.
Consumers on the fence about making a purchase read reviews to help them decide. Reading 1-star reviews can help shoppers understand the worst-case scenario. You may also find the worst-case scenario presented in those reviews isn’t a problem for some customers.
For example, 1-star reviews focused on slow delivery times won’t concern customers who aren’t in a rush to receive the product. For those who want guaranteed fast delivery, the 1-star review may encourage them to opt for next-day shipping.
As the above scenario shows, negative reviews help people make an informed decision about their purchase by providing extra information that the initial product description may lack.
2) Reply to negative reviews (positively)
Don’t bury your head in the sand at the sight of a bad review — or reply defensively.
Face negative reviews head-on by formulating a thoughtful and positive response. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and consider the experience from their perspective, then consider how best to address their feedback.
How you respond to negative reviews says a lot about your brand. Your response can show shoppers that you care about them and are committed to resolving issues. Post a public response that lets people know you’re doing your best to resolve the problem.
Take responsibility for the situation and send a personalized reply to negative reviewers. Thank the customer for sharing their thoughts, and take time to help rectify the situation.
Here’s an example of how to reply to negative reviews:
Hi [customer name],
My name is [your name] and I’m the [job title] at [brand]. I’m sorry to hear you had a [disappointing/frustrating] experience and I appreciate you bringing this to our attention.
While we always strive to do our best, I realize this was not the case for you. We understand that [specific situation] must have been frustrating for you.
We would love to make things right. I’ve added some free credit to your account to say sorry. We’ve also sent you an email so we can discuss things further and try to reach a suitable solution.
Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience,
When replying to negative reviews, consider employing this approach:
- Acknowledge – Acknowledge the problem
- Apologize – Apologize for the experience
- Address – Address the situation
- Action – Take action by providing a solution either directly or indirectly via email
While the above template is helpful, avoid using generic responses. Tailor each reply to the customer to provide a personalized response that shows you care and eases their frustration.
3) Research what went wrong
Receiving a handful of negative reviews isn’t a catastrophe — but failing to rectify the reasons behind it could be.
Avoid quick, half-hearted replies to poor reviews. Delve into what went wrong so you can prevent future customers from having the same experience. Some negative feedback might be an isolated issue. Other reviews, however, could indicate larger problems.
Analyze your negative reviews and research the reasons behind them to identify product or process issues early on. For example, you might see several reviews noting the product color isn’t as expected. You can easily rectify this by updating your product photography to ensure the colors are accurate.
Resolve your customers’ complaints with quick resolutions to improve future ratings.
4) Encourage customers to update reviews
After you’ve fixed a bad situation, some customers feel motivated to update their review. Others, however, might need a polite nudge.
Tread carefully when asking people to revise their reviews. Some customer experiences will, unfortunately, be beyond repair. Those who are still angry or dissatisfied with the resolution provided will likely be unwilling to adjust their review. As such, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work here.
However, if a customer is genuinely pleased with the resolution, you can encourage them to update their review.
After you’ve rectified the issue, send the customer an email confirming the resolution, thanking them for their patience and cooperation, and asking them to update their review if they’re happy with the support received.
Wrapping up — Encouraging more eCommerce reviews and effectively handling negative ones
Asking customers to share their experiences might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You can employ a variety of tactics to generate more reviews for your eCommerce store — many of which have dual benefits for your business.
Invest time in developing an effective eCommerce review strategy and you’ll simultaneously advance the customer experience, build brand trust, and help consumers make informed buying decisions.