In the cutthroat world of marketing, brands must go above and beyond to earn consumers’ trust – and there’s no better way to do so than by relentlessly pursuing glowing customer ratings and reviews.
While most marketers grasp the importance of customer ratings and reviews, many still struggle to craft dedicated strategies to achieve a steady stream of high-quality, authentic, and conversion-producing reviews that drive sales velocity.
With economic instability on the horizon in 2023, American consumers are getting worried about financial security. A recent study from GWI found that 51% of the nation’s consumers believe the US economy will worsen in the next six months. Even the use of apps to track spending has increased by 9%. Budgeting is back in style.
What does this mean for marketers? Consumers are becoming more discerning and price-conscious with everyday expenses. Now more than ever, driving brand advocacy and as much social proof as possible is important to stay resilient through uncertain times.
How and where do customer ratings and reviews help your brand the most? And what is the best way to generate customer ratings and reviews on an ongoing basis? Let’s talk about it.
Why are Customer Ratings and Reviews Important for Brands?
In its infancy, online reviews helped us find a good restaurant or purchase the best-fitting clothing. Today, almost every item in our homes and every service we procure has a trove of online reviews. Customer ratings and reviews are a brand’s most powerful marketing tool.
Customer Ratings and Reviews Drive Sales
At the end of the day, the fundamental reason why brands seek customer ratings and reviews is because of the bottom-line dollar impact. If you want sales, you need reviews.
- Conversion rates increase by as much as 270% once a business begins displaying reviews
- A McKinsey study found that improvements in a product’s star rating, even an increase as small as 0.2 stars, produced a meaningful improvement in sales
- 62% of customers are likely to purchase after seeing photos and videos from other customers
- Product pages with at least one review can see a 446% revenue increase per person compared to pages without reviews
There’s no doubt that product reviews are mission-critical to acquisition. Not only do reviews help with ecommerce sales, but they also help with in-store purchases – roughly 92% of consumers, especially younger consumers, say they pull out their phones to research while shopping in a physical location.
Customer Ratings and Reviews Boost SEO
Research shows that 53% of all trackable website traffic comes from organic search, and marketers would be smart to capture some of that share with customer reviews.
Generating customer ratings and reviews on third-party sites is also a chance to boost off-site SEO. Krya Sammis of Trustpilot says, “Most businesses have an on-page SEO strategy to help with organic search, but fewer are spending significant energy on off-page opportunities.
Customer reviews are potential content sources for your web properties. By displaying them on your website, you can diversify your content while adding relevant text to your pages, both of which can contribute to improved organic page rankings.”
Additionally, collecting product reviews can help you qualify for review snippets in organic search. Having those stars next to your listing will attract attention to product pages and can improve clickthrough rates by up to 35%.
Customer Ratings and Reviews Build Brand Equity and Trust
As consumers, few of us would even consider making an online purchase without getting the scoop from fellow buyers. Studies have shown that 84% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Today, emotional connection is paramount and on a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected consumers are more than twice as valuable as even highly satisfied consumers. An authentic consumer endorsement is worth its weight in gold in positioning your brand as one consumers can count on.
Customer Ratings and Reviews are a Goldmine for Innovation and Insights
In the past, marketers were limited to expensive and time-consuming research studies to get actionable insights. Now, product reviews are a goldmine of ideas for product innovation, a channel for understanding market needs, and a source for getting to know your consumers better.
Today more than ever, agile insights can make or break your product’s go-to-market strategy, and product reviews are a great resource in your marketing toolbox.
Not only are product reviews helpful to your business, 77% of consumers say they favor brands that ask for and accept customer feedback.
Good, bad, and ugly – reviews are an excellent place to understand how customers perceive your brand and make necessary adjustments.
How to Collect More Customer Ratings and Reviews
Let’s explore some practical strategies to help you collect more customer ratings and reviews to help influence the decision-making process of potential customers.
Create Automated Funnels for Post-Purchase Reviews
While generating product reviews is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy, there are ways to automate the process to relieve the heavy lifting on your part.
Automating your review strategy also helps with review recency which is critically important. In fact, a study found that nearly 40% of consumers say they won’t make a purchase if reviews are older than a year, and ideally, almost half (44%) say they want access to reviews within the past month.
Some brands will set up action-based email marketing campaigns or SMS notifications to request consumer reviews. These can be triggered at specific time periods after the consumer has tried the product. For example, if your product is popular in the holiday season and that time of year creates an influx of sales, you could space out your review requests throughout the year to drive more recency.
Get Creative with Packaging and Brand Assets
The “smart packaging” market is forecasted to grow to $7 billion in 2023, and on-product QR codes have gained traction as a way to showcase and request reviews. Additionally, QR Codes coupled with AR (Augmented Reality) are transforming how consumers interact with smart packaging.
Alcohol brand Bombay Sapphire deployed AR codes that make the bottle come alive when scanned by a smartphone. QR codes are an excellent review collection strategy that is always on, especially if it’s part of your product’s packaging.
Build an Online Brand Community
Online brand communities have become a natural intersection of emotionally-fueled engagement and ample opportunity to activate customer ratings and reviews.
Among the shifting landscape of disappearing cookies and the increased importance of gathering owned, zero party data, generating product reviews is another great reason to invest in direct consumer relationships.
ARM & HAMMER’s Cat Litter brand started its Kitty Krew online brand community as a brand-owned “home base” for passionate consumers. Here the brand can identify ideal consumers and activate them to share reviews on particular retail websites based on where they shop. To date, the brand has generated over 5,300+ high-quality reviews from its community.
Best Practices When Asking for Customer Ratings and Reviews
Step 1 is creating touchpoints to ask for reviews. Step 2 is asking. What is the best way to go about it? Let’s explore.
Offer Review Incentives
While many satisfied consumers are willing to share their experiences when asked (or even unprompted), relying entirely on organic reviews is a mistake. Rest assured; incentivizing reviews is different from an inauthentic pay-per-review strategy.
Offering an incentive for a review is often a customary gesture of appreciation from the brand. A study found that 68% of customers will leave a review if asked.
One of the best ways to solicit product reviews is to develop an ongoing incentive to encourage consumers to share. This could be an entry into a recurring sweepstake, receiving an automatic discount code or a special promotion in exchange for a review, or offering reward points in a loyalty program.
Other encouragements can be done after the fact by featuring and showcasing top reviews. You can also recognize those who share a helpful review with surprise & delight gifts.
Give Guidance on How to Write Reviews
Some brands will be “graciously disenchanted” with product reviews. Of course, you can’t be upset that people are sharing about your brand, but sometimes the content isn’t what you were picturing.
While product reviews are often preached as raw, authentic, and untouched, a balance can be achieved where you can still help guide the consumer on what to focus on in their reviews.
No consumer wants to feel like a shill for the brand. Consumers want to express themselves creatively, share their genuine opinions, and feel their voice is heard. However, consumers respond to prompts, and it is wise to help navigate consumers in the right direction.
Top Ways to Guide Consumers in Product Reviews
- Decide which category of product review content you seek. A Journal of Electronic Commerce report identifies three values of user-generated content (UGC): functional, emotional, and social.
- Functional involves showing the unique benefits of your product or service, such as how-to videos, comparisons, etc. Emotional value is the emotional satisfaction or level of pleasure people experience, and social value is the positive contribution to one’s social image while experiencing your brand.
- Give a review “prompt” to consumers, such as “How did our brand compare to others you’ve tried in the past?” or “What have you noticed most when using our brand?” or “How did using our brand make you feel the first time you used it?”
- It’s also okay to educate consumers on what makes a high-quality review. A high-quality product review will be objective and detailed. It is also written from personal experience, has clarity, is free from grammatical errors, offers comparisons, and applies to readers. Presenting examples of high-quality reviews is always helpful.
Dealing with Negative Customer Ratings and Reviews
As Bill Gates famously said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Negative product reviews can be disheartening and challenging to handle as a brand. However, it is crucial to approach them with a level head and a constructive mindset.
- Respond Promptly and Professionally – Acknowledge the customer’s feedback and thank them for taking the time to share it. Avoid getting defensive or dismissive, and instead, take the opportunity to show your commitment to customer satisfaction.
- Don’t Delete Negative Reviews – While it may be tempting to delete negative reviews, it is not the right approach. Doing so can damage your brand’s reputation and trustworthiness. Instead, use negative reviews as an opportunity to improve your product or service and show that you are listening to customer feedback.
- Take the Conversation Offline – Sometimes, it may be best to take the conversation offline to resolve the issue. Contact the customer over the phone or via email to understand their concerns better and find a solution. This shows that you care about their experience and will go the extra mile to make it right.
- Learn from Feedback – Negative product reviews can be valuable sources of feedback that can help you improve your product or service. Use them to learn from your customers and make changes that will benefit your business in the long run.
Optimizing Your Product or Service with Customer Ratings and Reviews
Many tools and technology are available today to help sort through and analyze content for brands with thousands of reviews in multiple places. This can be done through sentiment analysis software or analyzing text-based data with natural language processing (NLP).
When analyzing product reviews, you can see what product features resonate most with consumers and highlight them in your marketing messaging. You can also understand what areas to dedicate R&D efforts to.
Ask consumers who have left a review to complete a survey about their experience or to participate in a focus group or in-depth interview.
Invite reviewers to join an online brand community to gather further zero party data and personal information that can help optimize audience segmentation and targeting strategies.
Fast-growing frozen food brand, Veggies Made Great leveraged the product reviews fueled by its online brand community to dodge product launch risk. The brand targeted and solicited feedback from community members throughout the US to capture a variety of tastes, and within a week, had insights to deliver to the product development team.
Repurposing Customer Ratings & Reviews on Brand Channels
Repurposing product reviews is one part of getting more out of ratings & reviews investment. It can boost conversion across all your marketing channels and strengthen your brand’s trust and reputation. And at the end of the day, a library of consumer reviews is a powerful digital asset.
Leading Social Content Platform, TINT, released its 2023 State of User-Generated Content report and found consumers rank authentic UGC as the most trustworthy content, and 69% of marketers feel ratings and reviews are important to their conversion rates.
Top Ways to Repurpose Product Reviews in Your Marketing
- Feature product reviews on your brand’s main website. Testimonials are highly valuable and are also relevant content for search engines. This will help you improve the SEO of your website and lead to higher rankings and traffic.
- Repurpose consumer reviews on your ecommerce landing page or the product informational section. This ensures consumers don’t miss some of the highest quality reviews while researching. Some brands will even feature UGC or video reviews as part of the product carousel to highlight key benefits.
- Even if your email marketing is not explicitly sales-oriented all the time, you can still benefit from featuring consumer product reviews. Email campaigns that include UGC can see 73% higher clickthrough rates.
- Social media and online advertising are excellent places to repurpose reviews, especially photos, videos, quotes, and testimonials. To ensure transparency, make sure to get permission before using reviews. Many consumers are happy to have their content featured in your Instagram stories, Youtube videos, banner ads, or more.
- Immune supplement brand, Sambucol started their Sambucrew community as a missing piece to a complete online presence and to bring their brand values to life through real customer experiences. The brand often features content from the library of 19,000+ pieces of UGC it has amassed.
How Vesta Can Help With Your Product Review Strategy
Online brand communities are a prime channel for cultivating a product review strategy and boosting consumer engagement. Consumers feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves while also creating efficiencies and streamlining efforts for product reviews. It’s truly a win-win scenario.
Vesta’s online brand community platform empowers you to mobilize your consumers in a dedicated branded destination and cultivate lasting relationships. With more than 20 engagement options available to brands and a team of community experts to help you get the most out of your reviews strategy, consumers are activated through a wealth of activities to participate in – including writing product reviews, creating user-generated photos and videos, completing surveys and polls, participating in discussions, amplifying ecommerce and in-store efforts, and much more.
Interested in More?
Read our article on How to Get the Most Out of Your Product Reviews.