Are Customer Reviews Promoting Your E-Business Like They Should?

Like it or not, customer reviews are a fact of life — and their impact on your business is huge. Columnist Jeremy Smith explains how you can use this to your advantage to promote your brand.

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businessman in suit pushing button five rating starsUnless you’re just back from an extended stay in some parallel universe, you know that customer reviews are valuable to ecommerce and increasing online conversions. Even negative reviews can be helpful to you, as the purveyor of a product or service.

The value of online customer reviews can hardly be overstated, though perhaps it approaches being over-documented.

value of online customer reviews - Google Search 2015-11-12 15-25-59

To sum up just a bit of what’s available to persuade you if you’re not already convinced, for starters, Econsultancy says:
[blockquote] User reviews are proven sales drivers, and something the majority of customers will want to see before deciding to make a purchase… There have been so many positive recommendations of the value of reviews for ecommerce, that the case doesn’t really need to be made anymore.[/blockquote]

Econsultancy then goes on to make the case with stats from various sources:


Earlier this year, I cited a study by the Acquity Group that said 94 percent of business buyers do some form of online research and that 75 percent of them read either user reviews or review websites.

Your results may differ, as they say (and I’ll guarantee), but the overall positive trend is undeniable.

If numbers don’t convince you, check out how Amazon has made critics out of us all. Or take a cruise through Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Epinions or any of many other online review aggregators, for good or bad, and you’ll get my point.

Customer reviews

Customer reviews are a fact of life online (and off), and you’d better have a plan for how you will obtain and use them to the betterment of your marketing and sales efforts.

Shoppers Expect Reviews, Good And Bad

Regardless of the numbers, many businesses and marketers are wary, if not downright afraid, of allowing the man on the street to have his say about their company, product or service. In fact, more than half of businesses still fear that negative reviews will bring them unhealthy exposure, according to Econsultancy and Trustpilot.

Customer Reviews Can be Valuable for Your Business [Infographic] | SocialTimes 2015-11-12 15-33-31

This is not entirely unwarranted. Negative reviews have a stronger impact on sales than positive reviews, according to researchers who analyzed Amazon conversions for 591 books and 18,682 customer reviews.

But three-quarters of reviews posted to third-party review websites are positive, and when customers are unhappy, almost all can be retained if the business resolves the issue quickly and efficiently, as this infographic indicates.

This makes bad reviews potentially helpful. Showing the world a negative review tells everyone that you are unafraid. It generates trust, as it should.

No one can please everyone all the time. And if you can show the steps you took to resolve issues behind a negative review, you can turn a problem into a positive.

A study by social commerce company Reevoo found that 68 percent of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores. Further, shoppers who go out of their way to read bad reviews convert 67 percent more often than the average consumer.

Bad reviews improve conversion by 67percent | Econsultancy

Why? As Econsultancy notes:

[blockquote] Shoppers who seek out bad reviews are highly engaged with their pre-purchase research, viewing almost four times as many products as the average visitor to a site, and staying considerably longer.[/blockquote]

See, it’s about customer persona and where each customer is in the buyer funnel.

But again, it depends on the customer. Trends are good macro indicators, but they don’t necessarily apply to what’s going on with your site today.

That Sound You Hear? It’s Your Customer

Having said you should be wary of applying trends to your e-business, let me say that I concur with the findings of a study by Econsultancy and Trustpilot, an online review website, that says businesses need to gear up to deal with the Voice of the Customer, or VoC.

Info technology researcher “Gartner is forecasting that VoC programs will be one of the most significant strategic investments businesses make over the next five years, and the VoC market is currently set to grow by 30 percent annually,” the report’s authors wrote last year.

Businesses will be devoting more time and resources to understanding, listening to and responding to consumers’ needs as their customers more frequently exercise their voice, which is increasingly amplified by the availability of multiple online platforms.

The best VoC programs offer customers one-on-one feedback with company representatives in a public forum, “allowing it to influence other current and prospective customers,” the study says. Done correctly, a VoC program “can be a powerful marketing tool to promote the business.”

Companies pursuing Voice of the Customer programs are listening to their customers, measuring and demonstrating for higher-ups the link between VoC and ROI, and acting to establish a VoC strategy across all business channels to ensure the best possible customer experience.

Businesses are listening to:

  • anecdotal feedback via customer service personnel.
  • customer satisfaction surveys conducted online, via phone or email, and in-store.
  • ratings and reviews.
  • social media monitoring and engagement.

A quote from Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, is highlighted in the report:

[blockquote]A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.[/blockquote]

Start Listening And Reporting What Customers Say Today

Are you posting customer reviews and ratings on your website? You should be. If you’re afraid of what customers might say, frankly, you should look into why there’s any rational reason for such apprehension — and fix it.

Customer Reviews Can be Valuable for Your Business [Infographic] | SocialTimes 2015-11-12 15-38-43

Because, as I’ve laid out above, this can do you a lot of good. If you provide a product or service to the general public and do not carry reviews or at least some kind of numerical rating critique, you’ll stand out for what’s lacking. And soon enough, that will do you the opposite of good.

And you know that you’re being reviewed elsewhere anyway, right? Angie’s List, Yelp, TripAdvisor… not to mention Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. You’re there, like it or not.

You can at least take some control, whether you develop a full-fledged VoC program or simply keep up with social media and visitors to your site and top third-party review sites.

7 Ways To Promote Via Customer Reviews

Here are seven steps to help promote your business with customer reviews:

1. Get your info right with third-party sites.

HubSpot recently updated its inventory of 19 third-party review sites. Check into the ones that allow you to set up pages for your company. Make sure information is accurate on existing pages, or set up pages where they don’t exist.

Take any steps you need to to change any incorrect information about your company that is already posted. Where there’s not already a profile of your business, it’s best to claim your territory under your name before someone else does.

Once you’re on the site, play along with their rules and culture, but respond to complaints as quickly as possible with resolutions.

Unless there’s a compelling reason to make the information different, such as because the site is for a specific audience, it looks more professional to be consistent among various sites in how you portray your business.

2. Put out the welcome mat.

On your own site, you need to let users know that you are interested in receiving feedback and value what customers have to say. Create static solicitations on each landing page or in an automated portion of each page.

If you opt for animated solicitations — pop-up or slide-over forms — make sure they appear far enough into the customer funnel that the user has had an experience to comment on. Make the review form as easy to use as possible.

3. Prime the pump.

Reach out personally to a few of your better customers and ask whether they could do you the favor of writing a short review of their experience(s) with you. Emphasize “short.”

Those who want to help but are not particularly comfortable writing will appreciate not being asked for too much, and those who like to write will ignore your length instructions.

If you had some recent transactions that went particularly well — helping to choose a gift that was well-received, for example — you might remind them and suggest a note about it. Offer to help in any way you can.

4. Routinely solicit feedback.

In addition to asking for customer comments on your site, make it a regular part of your active marketing. Email campaigns can be particularly effective, especially after a purchase.

Make sure you time the email so that the customer has received his or her purchase. Conversely, don’t wait too long to get in touch; the warm feeling of a new purchase and the positive experience surrounding it fade quickly.

5. Give back.

There’s nothing wrong with offering a little bribe incentive for customers to provide some feedback. Small gifts like coupons go a long way, and come back to you. Free T-shirts and caps are always well-received and provide free marketing for you afterward.

6. Make it a conversation.

Respond to customer comments, especially in social media, whether positive or negative, even if it’s only to say “thank you” for a nice review.

Take negative reviews seriously in terms of the customer’s needs. Express regret for their bad experience, and offer to make it right if there’s any way you can. State that you would like to satisfy them, and offer a means for them to contact you confidentially if they prefer.

Working problems out in public is better in most cases, but the offer shows you’re not out for publicity; you want to fix things for them.

If a conversation goes private, once the matter is resolved, suggest that you would like to add a note about the resolution to the online comments. If you are able, you want to explain what you did or, at the least, say you were happy to satisfy your customer.

7. Live with the results.

You will get negative reviews, and there will be situations that go badly through no fault of your own. As I demonstrated above, this can benefit you.

Don’t succumb to the temptation to delete negative comments, though you should remove any that contain profane or patently offensive language or comments. Never, ever get into an argument with a customer online, no matter how wrong they are.

Express your regrets, get out and don’t look back. Sometimes you just can’t win.


Online comments, reviews and critiques are a fact of life in the world of ecommerce. If you’ve kept them off your site hoping they’ll go away, it’s time to give it up. Reviews are helpful, almost regardless of what they say.

You need to attend to what your customers are saying about you online, just as you would if they were standing in front of you.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith is a serial entrepreneur, trainer and conversion consultant, helping businesses like IBM, Dow Chemical, American Express, Panera Bread, and Wendys improve conversions and strategically grow their businesses. Jeremy’s experience as the CMO and CEO of technology firms has given him a powerful understanding of human behavior and profit-boosting techniques.

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