Positive reviews can do a lot to improve the perception people have of your ecommerce store and brand as a whole. But how do you encourage them and turn them into solid sales? Word of mouth is the best form of advertising you can get – it’s been true for decades, but in this digital world it’s becoming even more important. Today, digital word of mouth comes through online reviews – they can create a buzz about a product or service more valuable and more effective than even your best sales person can achieve. The trick is, though, to convert positive online chatter into solid sales.
Why are reviews so important?
Research from BrightLocal finds that 84% of customers trust online reviews as much as they would a word of mouth recommendation. The vast majority of people, the report found, regularly seek out reviews before they make a buying decision. Econsultancy cite research which found that customer reviews result, on average, in an 18% increase in sales. Here's how that's broken down: Reviews are different. They provide a unbiased view, which is why sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp are so popular.
People want to read what real customers are saying about a potential destination / product / experience – not what’s in the brochures.
If those reviews chime with what your marketing is saying it also gives you something else – social proof. This is extremely valuable, hard to attain, but if you do, it proves to people that your brand is trustworthy. For example, Numatic’s Henry Hoover brand has been a staple of British homes and offices for almost 40 years. Despite first appearing in the 80's, it remains one of the bestselling vacuum cleaners in the UK. Part of the reason is that its online reviews support its key marketing message: that the vacuum – despite being a little goofy looking – has a plenty of power, does not lose suction, is robust and long lasting. Such social proof adds credibility to the rest of your firm’s marketing collateral.
Converting into sales
Social proof feeds into the first piece of advice about converting good online reviews into sales – namely to make sure your marketing content contains a central truth. The best advertising is something which takes a product or service, recognises its key selling point and promotes it. By doing so, you give yourself the best opportunity of matching reviews with marketing and gaining that social proof advantage.
You may be able to take these reviews and use them for external marketing. Try directing customers to some positive reviews or even quote them directly in your marketing material. At Veeqo, we use our customers' review as testimonials throughout our website.
Communicate internally and externally
Many companies don’t effectively share information around the organisation. For example, top level executives may see this feedback and use it to measure how their company is performing, but they do not share this information with marketing or sales teams. Doing so can inform their own strategies and help them develop a more effective and successful approach. You should also communicate with those people who leave the reviews. They are your warmest leads for repeat custom and to act as your brand ambassadors. You may target them with further promotions or provide incentives to encourage them to bring more people to your brand. At Veeqo, we incentivise our customers to leave reviews by rewarding them with Amazon vouchers. Make sure your incentives are part of a wider strategy though (we use Advocately to automate our customer review strategy). This could include using a referral software like OmniStar.
Tools of the Trade
If your company has any reach, the chances are that people are talking about you right now without your knowledge. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are full of people talking about products and services they’ve used. Both positive and negative reviews will feed back into sales – one way or another. But many businesses aren’t measuring this. They may have the capacity on their website for people to leave reviews, but that’s not where some of the most useful comments are being made. You can use a number of automated tools which can track mention of your brand on the internet;
Social Media Monitoring
Apps such as BuzzSumo or Social Mention can track who is talking about you, what they are saying and if the reaction is positive or negative. They also add a contextual layer to this information by tracking how strong that sentiment is. For example, if they are happy with your product – just how strongly do they feel about it and how likely are they to recommend you to a friend?
Lead Management & Automation
These type of tools can also do much to improve your sales efforts. They can take all interactions such as mentions, page views, clicks and reviews to generate leads and rank them in order of value and the likelihood of sales. You can take out feedback into a central system, which can provide guidance on where you brand is perceived as being strong and where it might be weak. This can inform your sales teams efforts as well as product development. Pardot, for example, creates an effective system in which sales people can collate all potential leads, rank leads by their sales potential and keep all the information in one place.
Other tools, such as Bazaarvoice, help online retailers reach and engage consumers. This leads to higher conversions and generates trust among consumers. Grade.Us, meanwhile, allows you to monitor what’s being said about your product and reach unhappy customers before they write a negative review.
Make sense of the reviews
Speaking to the Economist, Google’s retail industry director John McAteer said customer reviews were incredibly useful for driving conversions, especially once they reach a certain number.
He suggested that 20 positive user reviews is the magic number at which businesses will really notice a difference and see sales increase.
All those reviews are useful, but the more you get the harder it can be to make sense of them. Amazon solved this problem by adding a simple question at the end: “Was this review helpful to you?” According to one expert, this was enough to raise $2.7billion in additional revenue.
Deal with negative reviews
Positive reviews, then, can work wonders for your company, but here’s the big elephant in the room: what if they aren’t so complimentary? Negative reviews are an online marketer’s biggest fear. HubSpot found that a great amount of negative reviews on Google search can result in the loss of up to 70% of your potential customers. 70%! Just as positive word of mouth can create impetus behind a brand, a series of bad reviews can create obstacles that no amount of creative salesmanship can overcome. Think of the troubles affecting Samsung when buyers began circulating images of their brand new phone catching fire. The image of combustibility is something which still lingers with the brand and hangs over all its products. A new industry of internet reputation management is springing up in which experts offer to help companies manage their reputation after some problems online. Approached correctly, though, bad reviews needn’t be such a problem and can indeed even be used to increase sales.
The key is transparency (and sometimes even a bit of humour).
That bad review is there for everyone to see. But they can also see your response. If you are seen to care about a customer and take positive action which solves his problem you may not only keep their custom, but improve your own reputation. Other companies use bad reviews as a form of research and development. Curry’s, for example, actively use bad reviews to inform their buying decisions and to improve the service they can offer. Addressing weaknesses in your brand, in this way, can directly lead to improved sales figures.
To sum up...
The biggest impediment to using reviews is the thought of being out of control, but this is something online business owners and ecommerce managers need to get to grips with. Firstly, customers want and expect it – before making a buying decision they actively seek out user reviews. They are also happening with or without your involvement on social media sites and, when harnessed correctly, even negative reviews can improve your sales and business.
So, if you haven’t already, add a feature on your ecommerce site for reviews.
Add a question such as ‘How useful was this review?’ to add context and ensure the most useful and effective reviews receive greater prominence. Set up tools to research the internet and see what’s being said and develop ways to capture this information and present it in a usable way for sales people and the marketing department. Engage with people who leave reviews – whether they’re good or bad. Follow up promising leads promptly and deal with any problems they have in an open and transparent way. Encourage people to leave more reviews and harness the promotional power of your most enthusiastic customers. Turn them into brand advocates who will continue to maintain your image without any input from you. Finally, measure your results. Develop detailed metrics to see how sales improve, where they come from and what prompted them to make the purchase. Reviews are incredibly valuable. People who read them are already a long way down the sales funnel, which means they are either ready or seriously considering making a buying decision. Your goal is the help them make the final step and use positive feedback to generate more sales and create new loyal customers.