You already know product reviews are important. The case has been made so many times, we hardly need to repeat it—they build social proof, improve SEOincrease conversions, and so on. But the bigger question remains: how do you get customers to leave them?

Motivating customers to review products is a challenge for pretty much any ecommerce merchant. It’s even harder (cruelly) when you’re starting from zero. But when you consider the impact of reviews on building trust and driving sales, it’s worth the effort.

Econsultancy writes that “the first step of getting a product or service reviewed is to realize that people don’t actually want to review it.” Unless you’re an established brand whose reputation is built on reviews (like, uh, Amazon), most customers are too busy or distracted to spend even five extra minutes on your site composing a review. And can you really blame them? The reality is, you need to give people a reason to write about you.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to start encouraging more positive customer reviews and get in on those sweet, sweet benefits.

Just ask

Asking for stuff can be hard, especially when you’re not offering any material reward in return. But when it comes to reviews, there’s nothing wrong with asking straight up. 

According to a survey by Bazaarvoice, 90% of participants said they write reviews to help others make better buying decisions, while 70% said they want to help companies improve the products they build and carry. By being straightforward and honest in your request for a review, many people will be more than happy to help spread the word.

When writing your request, it’s important to pay attention to the language you use. Ditch the sales speak and put the emphasis on the buyer rather than the seller. Instead of asking “Would you like to leave us a review?”—wishy-washy phrasing that gives the user an easy out—opt for something empowering and user-focused. For example, try: “Let the world know what you think of your brand new [insert product here].”

Shopify also notes that timing is crucial. The best time to reach out to customers is after they’ve had the product for a week or two. “This will give them enough time to learn about the product, and also to experience it enough to write a review.” Just don’t delay too long—in this age of shrinking attention spans, you want to ask while impressions are still fresh!

Offer an incentive

No matter how altruistic your customers are, people are more likely to give when they know they’re getting something in return. Even small incentives—like 5% off their next order or a sneak preview of an upcoming collection—can be enough to inspire a review. Incentives can also serve to encourage repeat business and increase customer lifetime value.

As effective as this method can be, Neil Patel warns that incentives can be a moral grey area for new merchants eager for positive reviews. “Even if you don’t intend your incentive to be a bribe, most people feel compelled to provide good reviews if they’re being compensated for it.” Be sure to clarify that you seek honest, unbiased reviews, and if you do offer incentives, it’s a good policy to ask your reviewers to disclose that fact in their write-up.

Leverage social networks

Your store isn’t the only place potential customers go to look for information about your products. If you receive positive feedback about a product on Twitter, Instagram, or any other social platform, consider cross-posting it to your store to maximize its reach (try setting up some notifications in Google Alerts so you know when and where you’re being talked about). The same thing works in reverse: you can post your in-store reviews on social media to build your brand and encourage customer engagement.

In fact, according to review app Yotpo, social media is huge when it comes to user-generated content. They recommend posting a photo of a product to Facebook with a few questions to stimulate conversation: “The casual platform combined with the direct questions will encourage responses from people who may not otherwise reach out.”

Invite users on networks like Pinterest and Instagram to share their experiences visually. For customers who are crunched for time, uploading an image or video might seem easier than composing a written review—and it can be a lot more impactful.

Use them for good

Another way to encourage customer reviews is to make them mutually beneficial. Obviously reviews help merchants in a whole slew of ways, but they can benefit buyers too. Just look how Amazon uses reviews to generate personalized product recommendations. By leaving product reviews, not only are customers helping the store get ahead, they’re also helping themselves discover other products they may be interested in buying in the future.

You might not have access to the same big data and advanced algorithms as Amazon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use reviews to help customers find more of what they want. Use an app like Social Login to automatically set up meaningful profiles of your customers’ purchase and review history, then use a tool like Survey Monkey to create a post-purchase questionnaire. Ask customers what types of products they’d like to see more of, then use their responses for actionable segmenting and remarketing campaigns.

Focus on customer experience

It probably goes without saying that the above methods alone won’t net you hundreds of five-star reviews. The quality of your products—and the customer experience you provide—matter greatly. Fail on either of these counts, and no matter how well you implement these other strategies, the only reviews you’ll see will be the one- and two-star variety.

While many merchants understand the importance of a great product, according to Neil Patel, too many ignore the rest of the buying experience (everything from branding to shipping to post-purchase follow-up). “It’s not hard to make sure these other parts of the buying experience are great, but you need to spend some time and effort making sure that they are. If you do that, the quality of the reviews will take care of itself.” Amen.

Summing up

Gaining positive customer reviews can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you want five-star reviews, you need to deliver a five-star product. Once that’s taken care of, implementing an effective review system and using the suggestions above should go a long way towards keeping your ratings and your sales sky high.

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