Since the advent of the internet, it has shaped and altered the way companies do business. But with the global pandemic, and sudden grounding of consumers and business, the internet is once again shifting how and why customers make purchases.

Using figures released by the US Commerce Department, the research organization Digital Commerce 360 found that “In a year where shoppers turned to the web in wildly elevated numbers as the pandemic raged, consumers closed out the last quarter of 2020 spending an astounding 32.1% more online with U.S. merchants than the same period in 2019.” It’s likely that trend will only continue as more and more people grow comfortable making purchases online as delivery services continue to offer fast and affordable shipping and return processes becoming even more seamless.

With more and more commerce being done online, businesses in all sectors need to rethink how they attract, retain and ultimately convert customers into loyal patrons. One of the most effective ways to do so is with regular and genuine customer reviews.


The importance of online reviews

While it has always been true that customers are more likely to purchase something recommended to them by someone they know, the internet has broadened the circle of who they know. It doesn’t matter as much who is recommending or reviewing a product, just that they have been tried and tested — the more so, the better.

According to a report by the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University, nearly 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase. What’s more, the number of reviews has a tremendous impact on the likelihood a customer will purchase a certain product. Customers are 270% more likely to purchase a product with five reviews than with no reviews.

Interestingly, the benefit of additional reviews levels off after the first five.

Clearly, your business’s online reputation is more important than ever. That online reputation — shaped in large part by online reviews and recommendations — can be one of the most powerful marketing assets for your business. However, it’s not enough to simply solicit and post feedback. To get the most benefit from reviews and recommendations, you need to invest the time and resources into managing this important aspect of your business.


How to get reviews

It is easy to see that customer feedback is vital to any modern business but soliciting and getting customer feedback can take some work and requires a bit of persistence. There are several approaches you can take with the most effective being some combination of them all. In every case however, make it as easy as possible for your customers.

Just Ask

The good news is that soliciting feedback is getting easier and easier as both businesses and customers better recognize their value. One of the simplest ways to get feedback is to ask for it.  According to a recent BrightLocal study, 76% of customers have left reviews when directly asked (marking a 6% increase from 2019).

Everyone appreciates direct and honest communication, so asking directly, explaining that feedback helps you to provide better services, can be surprisingly effective.


Referral Bonuses

Offering incentives to repeat patrons for referrals is a common practice in most industries. Asking customers who already know and trust your brand is highly effective. When a friend or colleague takes advantage of refer-a-friend programs, it’s because they honestly recommend your product or service.


Feedback Buttons and Survey Links

Adding feedback buttons or survey links to your website and social media channels is another way to solicit feedback without any undo hassle on the part of your customers. This buttons or link can appear after downloading content or another call-to-action (which shows your customers value your content) or at the point of sale.


Email Marketing Campaign

This is probably the oldest way to ask for feedback but can still yield positive results.


Be Careful Offering Incentivized Reviews

Not only do sites like  Google and Yelp have strong rules regarding these kinds of reviews for reward, they can also feel disingenuous. If you do want to offer some kind of incentive for feedback, always check the policies of third-party websites and consider being upfront by noting somewhere on the review the customer received a small incentive.


Prioritize Soliciting Reviews for Higher Priced Items

In the Spiegel Research Center study cited above, they found “that when reviews were displayed for a lower-priced product, the conversion rate increased 190%. However, for a higher-priced product, the conversion rate increased 380%.” Consumers generally put more time and research into buying higher priced items so it makes sense they will read and consider reviews more carefully. Knowing this, prioritize seeking reviews for your highest priced goods.


The power of responding to reviews (even the negative ones).

Equally as important as getting and displaying reviews, is responding to feedback — even if it is negative. Not only does this give you a chance to directly reply to the complaint, it also gives you the opportunity to offer to make things right. Knowing that other potential clients are reading those reviews can make your response even more meaningful.

By regularly replying to reviews, you’ll also set your brand apart which can be particularly effective against the competition. A special report from Womply Research found that 75% of businesses don’t bother responding to reviews at all even though “people spend around 49% more money at businesses that respond to their customer reviews.”

Take advantage of your competitors’ missteps while also helping to establish a strong and positive relationship with your clients. Knowing you will respond, also encourages people to not simply check 5 stars but to write specific feedback. A Fan and Fuel study found 73% of people say “written reviews make more of an impression on them than star/number ratings.”

When responding to negative feedback, keep in mind that negative reviews can actually help to provide a sense of validity to your brand. When customers only see positive reviews, they might question the authenticity of your reviews and the credibility of your brand.

Instead of ignoring negative reviews, face them head on. Demonstrate that you understand the customer’s point of view and complaint. Restating their complaint often works, then address the root cause of the issue. Be direct and honest. Apologize and try not to make excuses but rather seek solutions to make it right.


How to display and promote reviews

How you display and identify reviews can also be particularly effective in attracting and retaining clients. First and foremost, make sure they are clearly visible. Also consider how each review is attributed. It should come as no surprise that clients do not trust anonymous reviews as much as they do from identified buyers.

Requiring some identifying information is a small step for clients but can have a much greater impact on your reputation.

Additionally, consider showcasing feedback and reviews in a variety of ways from a standard starred review, to more robust testimonials, to comprehensive case studies are all great ways to build your brand.


Finding the right platform to manage your reviews

As you can see, there is a lot to consider beyond simply listing starred reviews and client feedback. How reviews are solicited, reviewed and displayed all take time and certain strategy. The process of creating an effective review management flow can take energy and resources away from key aspects of your business.

Instead of trying to manage it all in-house, consider using an online review management platform. These tools and platforms vary widely in price and services but can include things like alerts for when new reviews are written and designing a review management workflow.

There are several platforms to choose from. So Tell Us, powered by Anthem 360, is one of the most comprehensive and effective online review management platforms. With So Tell Us you can quickly and easily collect and feature reviews to generate additional leads and land more clients. Unlike other review management platforms, So Tell Us is the only app available that directly posts review to GMB listing page and is the only verified video review platform.

With 10 GB of data, unlimited users, and an intuitive mobile app So Tell Us is a great service to try for anyone looking to outsource the management of customer reviews.