Ratings to Revenue: The Ultimate B2B Guide to Online Customer Reviews

April 5, 2023
Contributor: Mark DiGiammarino

How to turn customer reviews from a nice-to-have to a growth engine with prospect-pulling power.

Online customer reviews are often seen as a necessary evil: something companies have to handle every now and again to validate marketing claims. 

However, online customer reviews are the most commonly used content to make software purchase decisions. 86% of buyers say reviews are important or very important to evaluate software before making a purchase.

Harness the power of online reviews and they could become the backbone of your business’s reputation and a crucial growth driver. This guide shares how to unlock their full potential. 

We will cover:

What is a customer review?

A customer review is a personal testimonial of a customer’s experience with a product or service. Customer reviews are usually in written, video, and occasionally audio formats. 

Customer reviews can be found across hundreds of areas across the web, from commonly used sites like Google and Facebook, mobile app stores, and niche-specific platforms like Capterra and Tripadvisor. 

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What are the benefits of online customer reviews for software companies?

Since Gartner Digital Markets has gathered more than 2 million software reviews across our software review platforms, we’ve seen first-hand the impact personal customer reviews can have on software businesses.

Reviews empower buyers to make the right purchase decisions

Online reviews sites help narrow down options when a stakeholder is searching for the right software. In a survey of software buyers, reviews were voted the most used source and content type to make a purchase decision.

Reviews validate your brand reputation

Word of mouth is often seen as one of the most potent marketing sources. But would you believe that reviews are even more powerful to understand a company’s reputation? 

Eighty-five percent of software buyers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Achieving a high position in your category on a review website is an indication of a reputable brand and a valuable source of traffic from ready-to-buy visitors.

Software review sites rank high on search engines

Review websites spend much of their resources understanding search engines and ensuring they appear in the highest possible position. When your potential customers search for terms like “CRM software,” at least one review website will appear on page one for these terms.

Clicks for these keywords are in high demand because they are made by people who are searching for specific solutions for their business challenges. If your software company is featured on these category pages, it can significantly enhance your brand reputation, visibility and lead-generation efforts.

Capterra in first organic position for ‘best help desk software’

Capterra in first organic position for ‘best help desk software’.

How to collect customer reviews for your business

Now you need to understand how to encourage your customers to leave reviews and where to put them. Getting great customer reviews is all about mastering three steps: making happy customers, reaching out at the right time, and sending them to your ideal platforms.

Offer exceptional customer support

Firstly, clients are more likely to leave a review (especially a positive review) if they’ve received excellent customer service. It’s on your customer support team to understand your customers’ business challenges, and train them to get the most out of your product, software, or service.

Speak to your customer support team and build a list of customers who are satisfied with their experience and would be happy to leave reviews. You can also make review-gathering part of your customer support team’s weekly process.

Encourage customers to leave reviews

Once you know which customers are happiest, it’s an ideal time to reach out and ask them to leave a review. You can contact customers shortly after your product has been received or your software has been implemented. Then they would have had some time to experience the product. You can also reach out after you have provided some useful support or training.

Take a look at our customer review email templates for outreach ideas.

Eliminate the guesswork of gathering reviews 

Low on bandwidth? Not sure where to start? Our zero-cost Review Collection Service is the ideal solution. We help you build and run an ongoing strategy for global review recruitment on Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice and UpCity with customized tools and copy templates, as well as gift card incentives for reviewers — available in a variety of local languages and currencies.

Learn more about our Review Collection Service.

Choose your ideal platforms to gather reviews

Where do you send customers to leave a review? Be careful not to overwhelm them with options – otherwise they’ll be less likely to leave a review. You can send customers to software comparison sites to leave product reviews. These sites are visited early and often in the buying journey, making them an important channel to build your brand with online customer reviews. 

Gartner Digital Markets’ web properties Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice are the most visited group of software comparison websites, with more than 9 million monthly visitors. Gain a review on one of these websites and it’ll be distributed across the others too. Increasing the recent reviews on these platforms boosts your visibility on these sites, sharing your product with more prospects.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. software buyers said they felt buyer’s remorse over a software purchase in the past 12 to 18 months, and 58% globally. Asking your customers to share reviews on third-party websites can help others avoid regretful purchases and find their ideal software.

Take a look below at how Capterra helps buyers find their ideal software.

How to use customer reviews

Thankfully, using customer reviews to grow your business doesn’t just stop at gathering them on review sites. You can do so much more with this social proof.

Use reviews to improve your products and services 

To know if our product resonates with our customers, we need to seek authentic feedback. Getting that feedback can be time-consuming. 

Customer reviews can help you open up untapped product opportunities or improve current issues to improve acquisition and retention. Take a look at how membership management software TeamUp collected 100 new user reviews and used them to improve their products and services.

Get reviews everywhere buyers are

Positive online reviews and testimonials are the best way to showcase how users have had success with your software. Include the best review snippets on your:

  • Homepage 
  • Product pages
  • Payment pages
  • Social media posts
  • Emails and newsletters
  • Blog posts and content marketing

Gartner Digital Markets provides you with user review badges as soon as you generate your first review. These badges share your current star rating within a category, as well as links to your review website profile. They are a great way to build credibility and buyer confidence across your website with third-party validation.

Gartner Digital Markets provides you with user review badges
Use customer reviews to tailor sales and marketing messaging

Customer reviews offer an invaluable source of product messaging for marketing teams. By analyzing the language used by customers, marketers can craft compelling copy that resonates with potential buyers. After all, customer reviews share the unique advantages and benefits of your product, as well as the challenges it has already solved for your customers. 

Using these key phrases in your marketing materials and sales talk tracks can help engage prospects and address their specific needs and use cases. By using the language of your satisfied customers, you can highlight where your product shines over competitors.

Use reviews to improve product retention 

Customers can churn for many reasons. They may have had their heads turned by a rival, or they may have received initial value but do not continue to receive it.

Many reasons for churn can be overcome by educating the customer more about your product. One way to educate is by sharing how customers implemented your product into their strategy, and how well it worked.

Use consumer reviews within your customer support and email communications like newsletters to continue to show your products’ features and benefits.  

Measure the ROI of customer reviews 

Like any strategy, you will need to show how customer reviews are delivering a return on investment. This can be done in multiple ways, such as:

  • Analyzing traffic and conversions. Use tools like Google Analytics to see how user review websites contribute traffic, leads, and sales to your own.
  • A/B testing. Use customer reviews in your landing pages, website pages, and emails and review how they impact click-through rates, signups, and conversions.
  • Tracking revenue from customers who leave reviews. See how your customers evolve with your product, and how to continue to keep them happy.
  • Understanding net new content produced. Reviews are a great source of new content such as case studies.

Best practices for online customer reviews

Over the years, Gartner Digital Markets’ software review websites have evolved. We’ve seen best practices evolve with them. Let’s look at six best practices businesses use to ensure their customer reviews continue delivering for them.

1. Keep reviews recent

Seventy-one percent of software buyers focus only on online customer reviews written within the past six months. Having recent customer reviews helps to create fresh, relevant content around your brand to draw buyers in.

2. Collect enough reviews for valuable insight

The more reviews you collect, the more opportunities you have to help potential customers find feedback that is most relevant to them. On Gartner Digital Markets web properties, software sites see a 127% increase in traffic to their profiles when they have 10 or more online customer reviews.

3. Respond to your reviews

Responding to customer feedback shows that you are committed to delivering excellent customer service, and strengthening relationships with your customers. Whether you’re responding to a negative, positive, or neutral review, we’ve created review response templates you can use for any opportunity.

4. Receive high-quality reviews

Online reviews allow prospective buyers to know what to expect when purchasing your software. It’s important to collect authentic customer reviews to build your credibility as a software provider. But don’t panic if you get some less-than-perfect reviews along the way.

5. Share your social proof

The higher your ratings, the more you’ll want to show it off. You can earn badges from our review sites, which show your current review rating and links to your profile. You can also share your position in our buyer research reports: The Capterra Shortlist, GetApp Category Leaders, and Software Advice FrontRunners. These reports pull together the best-in-show software in each category, based on their software review frequency and ratings.

6. Acquire localized reviews

It’s crucial to have in-language online reviews, especially if you’re trying to enter or expand your reach in a new market. You can create a positive impression with global prospects by sharing online reviews in languages other than English. 

Cut through the content deluge

Throughout this guide to online customer reviews, we have covered how to:

  • Set your review acquisition strategy
  • Use reviews in your marketing materials
  • Follow best practices for long-term results
  • Track ROI and study your results

We have presented how much the buyer journey is reliant on customer reviews to support software buying decisions. However, we are evolving through a new age of the internet, with tools like AI contributing to the endless stream of content buyers face when making a purchase decision. 

Acquiring authentic reviews from real professionals will help you stand out amongst the information overload. Investing your effort in customer reviews is a long-term investment to establish an online presence and drive more sales now and in the future.

Getting started has never been easier. Gartner Digital Markets has helped tens of thousands of software solutions collect reviews through our zero-cost incentivized review acquisition campaigns. Discover our review collection service.

Mark DiGiammarino 

Mark DiGiammarino is the Senior Director of Vendor Services for Gartner Digital Markets. His department helps vendors improve performance through review recruitment, profile optimization and landing page creation. When he’s not at work, you can find him exploring Kentucky’s breweries with his wife, daughter, and their goldendoodle. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn. 

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