Build a 5-Star Rating and Review Machine

October 21, 2016
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Use ratings and reviews to increase digital commerce conversions in any industry.

More sites than ever use customer reviews, from retailers to doctors to industrial manufacturers. In fact, 42% of marketers responding to the Gartner 2016 Digital Channel Survey ranked ratings and reviews on third-party sites like Yelp as one of the top three most-effective social marketing tactics to support their company’s digital commerce efforts. Thirty-two percent ranked ratings and reviews on their brand’s own e-commerce site as a leading tactic. When Probikeshop, a European retailer that sells bikes and cycling accessories, incorporated ratings, reviews and Q&A into its e-commerce website, it saw a 198% conversion lift from customers who engaged with ratings and reviews.

“Probikeshop saw a 198% conversion lift from customers who engaged with ratings and reviews.”

Digital commerce leaders across sectors and industries have an opportunity to use ratings and reviews across third-party review sites, their own websites and syndicated reviews across touchpoints, said Jennifer PolkGartner for Marketers research director.

Customers use ratings and reviews to guide their decisions across online shopping, purchase planning or when they are standing in a physical store. Reviews and ratings are more than simply stars and scores. Sites now include photos and videos, the ability to sort reviews for relevance and review volume as social proof. They can be organized and categorized in a myriad of ways to drive greater conversion.

To realize the benefits from ratings and reviews, however, marketers must capture them. Use a four-pronged approach to capture useful reviews and build a more-effective ratings and review program.

Consider timing

Optimize the timing of review requests based on what you sell, if it’s a considered purchase, and how long it takes to fully experience the product or service. Use the Gartner Buy/Own/Advocate framework to identify points along the customer journey where you can request feedback from customers, like ratings and reviews, to turn them into advocates.

Test tactics

Test different tactics, such as linking reviews to promotional contests or offering more intrinsic rewards like “verified reviewer” badges. These engage and motivate customers to rate and review products and services, share photos and videos, and answer questions from potential buyers. Create business rules to generate review request emails (via a marketing automation platform or third-party review service) within a set time frame following the sale or service.

Increase the touchpoints

Wherever possible, remove the barriers to rating and reviewing products and services. Use deep linking to connect digital content directly to product pages, review sites or tools. Customize review templates to your industry or category and pre-populate templates with information such as product name or service location.

Review technology

Explore ratings and reviews on third-party sites such as Yelp, your e-commerce site, and SaaS-based rating and review solutions that integrate with most e-commerce sites. Common functionality of SaaS solutions includes customizable templates, moderation, syndication, automated review request and notification emails, and product Q&A. Compare providers based on pricing and evaluate them based on the time and technical resources needed for implementation and upgrades.

“Ratings and reviews are important influencers of conversion,” noted Ms. Polk. “They can also be used to better engage customers and prospects at every phase of the customer buying journey and across a growing number of customer touchpoints.”

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