The Ultimate Guide to Generating Customer Reviews for E-commerce

1 June 2023 • 10 min read

Online customers need reviews to help them make purchases. They rely on them to help make informed choices about what to buy. Whether it’s using Google to find the best restaurant, Amazon to find the best laptop, or Tripadvisor to find the best places to go on holiday.

According to Qualtrics, 93% of customers read online reviews before buying. Reviews from real people are one of the best ways to motivate shoppers and help assuage any fears or doubts, provided the reviews are positive. Although negative reviews have their benefits too.

Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people copy the actions of others in order to achieve similar results. Basically, it’s the reason why reviews work so well. According to research, one-in-five online shoppers view product reviews as one of the most important factors for making a purchase.

People just trust other people more than they trust companies, it’s human nature. So getting people to review your business is vital to long-term success.

In this blog we’ll show you how to get your customers to share their thoughts and where you should display your reviews across your business, along with some examples from WebSell retailers.

Why do you need customer reviews?

Reviews from real people can turn visitors into paying customers. It’s a conversion tactic that works because it humanizes the shopping experience by letting your customers see products talked about in situations similar to theirs. Reviews are the ultimate e-commerce social proof.

The feedback you get from reviews will also help you to improve your business. Customers that run into friction with your business or have a negative experience will often let you know about it publicly. This can be an opportunity to change your business for the better. Once you do, customers will be more than happy to provide some positive reviews.

Reviews also have massive SEO benefits. Reviews are original and fresh content that can help you to continue expanding your site’s content. Google rewards sites with new content and reviews are a perfect example of honest and original content. Reviews are also keyword-rich because they’ll often contain the products you sell and the name of your business.

Even bad reviews can help your SEO. Seeing negative reviews among your positive reviews gives your business credibility. Most customers even prefer to see a mix of positive and negative reviews when buying. It humanizes your store and allows customers to make up their own mind about your business.

You also need reviews to let customers know that the lights are still on. A steady stream of new reviews tells customers that your business is active and serving customers as best you can. It’s important when browsing online that customers see this activity to build early trust.

Why do customers write reviews?

You can learn a lot about why customers write reviews by looking at the actual content of the reviews. Customers usually write reviews when they are particularly satisfied. If your business has gone above and beyond to satisfy the customer, they will reward you with their words.

These words are invaluable to your business. The more your business is trusted, the more valuable your reviews become. In the age of social media, collective wisdom is more important than ever.

Thankfully, online shoppers are more likely to write positive reviews than negative ones. That means you should feel confident in asking your customers for reviews. According to a survey, just 2% of people who write reviews do so because of a negative experience.

There are many ways to influence the motivation for customers to write reviews like offering incentives or making the process as easy as possible. Customers typically fail to leave reviews because there is no incentive offered or they simply don’t have the time.

That should tell you two major things about getting reviews:

  1. You need to make it simple to leave a review
  2. You should consider offering an incentive for reviews

Next we’ll look at tried and tested tactics for getting more reviews as well as some real-life examples of e-commerce reviews.

How to get customer reviews

Most customers simply won’t leave a review, even if they’ve had a very positive experience. That’s why you need to encourage your customers to leave a review. How you get customer reviews starts with one simple strategy…

1. Ask

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. A simple sentiment, but the fact remains that most customers won’t willingly find how to submit and then write one. Asking is also very effective. 72% of people asked to leave a review will do it.

So how do you ask? This is best done through a well-timed email. We say well-timed because the customer must be given time to actually use the product before they can give an accurate review.

You also don’t want to wait too long as the purchase should still be in their recent memory. Wait too long and they’ll have moved on.

The timing of your email will depend on what type of product you sell as it varies. Try to send your email within a month of the sale, letting at least 14 days pass before emailing. Then you should start seeing reviews come in.

Once you have your email content nailed down, you should then automate the email to send after the amount of time has elapsed.

2. Make submitting reviews easy

If you want more reviews, reducing friction is essential. The easier it is to leave a review, the more likely people will do it. Don’t make the process complicated or unclear.

Ask a few short questions about the experience to get them started and leave it at that. You don’t want a multi-step process that includes lots of requirements.

People are used to rating things out of 5 or 10, and leaving their comments in a box about the experience. Anything more and you risk losing your shot at a review forever.

You could also go one step further and write out an example review template where they just have to change a few words to indicate their thoughts.

3. Consider incentivizing reviews

Many businesses now offer little rewards or incentives for customers that write reviews. Examples of popular rewards include:

  • Entry into contest
  • Coupon for a future purchase
  • Unlock a % discount on their basket
  • Product sample

You could also create tiers for the depth of review submitted by the customer. For example, customers that include a photo with their review or post on social media could unlock an even greater discount.

You’ll need to be careful with review incentivization however. When asking for a review you can’t attempt to sway the sentiment of the review. The reward has to be given regardless of whether the review is positive or negative, by law. You’re rewarding the review, not the angle taken.

However, that doesn’t have to stop you having fun with incentivization. If you’re stuck for ideas, there’s a nice analysis of review incentives here.

4. Create or claim your accounts on review sites and social media

Collecting reviews might seem like a lot of work for smaller independent businesses. Fortunately, you have lots of options when it comes to third party listings. There are many sites where you can list or claim your listing and start managing and collecting reviews more effectively.

Some of the best ones to start with include:

Depending on your business you could also look into services like Trustpilot or Tripadvisor.

Claim or set up your account on these services to increase your chances of landing good reviews. Many of your customers could be very active users on these sites already so it’s good to see if they’ve already reviewed you.

5. Respond to reviews

Customers want to see you responding to each review that comes in. It shows that you’re attentive and that you care about what your customers think. Every response should be personalized so that it doesn’t look like a copy and pasted reply.

Reviews may also often contain a question or a concern that the customer is wondering about. Responding to the review opens up a dialogue between you and the customer. This is essential to building trust.

When responding to a negative review, try not to get defensive. Answer questions as best you can and invite the customer to discuss the issue elsewhere in a more personal channel like email or live chat.

Customer review examples

Once you have some customer reviews, you’ll need to put them somewhere to start seeing the benefits. You want to hit customers with these reviews at various stages in the sales cycle and to show them at every customer touchpoint.

There are many different types and formats for customer reviews. Here are some examples of customer reviews which can work for you:

On-site quotes and testimonials

One of the most widely used forms of reviews are using quotes and testimonials from customers and placing them on your website. You’ll typically find these on an e-commerce site’s home page, and that’s where they are best placed.

Here’s an example of a testimonial which you’ll find towards the end of My Pet Warehouse’s homepage:

Testimonials should be easy to secure. Speak to your best customers directly and ask them for a quote via email, social media, or in-store. Then you just need to figure out a way to fit it into your current design. For WebSell retailers, our design team would be more than happy to help.

Review sites

You’ll be aware of review sites like Google and Facebook and they’re great for building social proof and SEO for your business.

Creating your Google My Business (GMB) profile should be one of your first priorities if not already done so. There you can list store details, opening hours, photos, contact info and more, giving you something like this:

You can also manage all your reviews and respond as your business. Here’s some reviews taken from Conns Cameras’ Google My Business Listing:

Review widgets

Some review sites like Trustpilot also offer customizable widgets that you can place on your site to show your profile snapshot and some of your best reviews.

Here’s an example of a Truspilot widget from Boards Direct’s site:

Social media

You can also use your social media accounts to reshare your positive reviews and increase your reputation online.

The more places people can see positive words about your business, the higher your chances of converting more customers.

Here’s an example from our own Instagram page where we’ve repurposed some kind comments from a WebSell customer:

Reviews are essential for omnichannel retail

Customer reviews are now an essential part of omnichannel selling. Online reviews not only help your e-commerce store, but can also bring foot traffic to your store.

Shoppers these days shop via different methods and will interact with your brand multiple times before making a purchase. Almost 85% of shoppers want to see a product several times before purchasing.

Having lots of reviews on your site for your business or products means you can start turning visitors or browsers into paying customers, no matter how they choose to shop.

Reviews are essential for local SEO and should play a big part in your overall SEO strategy. For more on how to build your SEO strategy and where reviews fit in, read our guide to SEO for e-commerce in 2023.

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