How to Power eCommerce with Ratings and Reviews

April 23, 2015
Contributor: Heather Pemberton Levy

Use these four strategies to help customers make purchase decisions by gathering and promoting their feedback.

Nearly every major company or brand with an ecommerce site or email database seems to be asking customers to rate their experience, products or services. Some retailers, such as The Gap and J.C. Penney, offer discounts in exchange for customer feedback. Gathering this type of feedback provides essential content as customers turn to ratings and reviews to save time on researching and evaluating products and services, minimize the risk of unfamiliar brands and cut through the clutter and confusion of brand messages with unbiased opinions from actual users. But companies often fail to build ratings and reviews into their digital commerce strategy or to offer consistent and convenient access to ratings and reviews across digital channels. To overcome these challenges, build a short-term plan to quickly gather and syndicate reviews and a long-term strategy to incorporate ratings and reviews into your digital commerce strategy.

Gathering and Syndicating Ratings and Reviews

According to Jennifer Polk, research director in Gartner for Marketing Leaders, those new to digital commerce can take a two-pronged approach to gathering ratings and reviews. First, ask customers who recently purchased products or services; second, ask for ratings and reviews on an ongoing basis and make it easy for customers to give you this feedback by building requests for reviews, review moderation and publishing into customer engagement processes. Use sales data to identify recent purchasers, and then reach out to them after a reasonable period of time has passed and prioritize outreach based on the time of purchase and your relationship with the customer.

Before you reach out, integrate sales data with CRM data to verify customers’ contact information, preferences and opt-in. Also, collaborate with leaders in customer service and loyalty marketing to make sure you have insight into any other interactions your company has had with this customer and whether or not the customer is part of a rewards, loyalty or advocacy program. This information will help you tailor your outreach to appropriately engage the customer and increase the likelihood of a rating or review.

Ask and Make it Easy for Customers to Write Ratings and Reviews

While you’re building a plan to reach out to customers who recently bought from you, develop a long-term strategy to gather ratings and reviews on an ongoing basis. Use reviews to get insight into a suboptimal customer experience. For example, analyzing negative hotel ratings and reviews could reveal common issue in a particular aspect of your guests’ stays.

Additionally, consider all of the multichannel customer touchpoints in the purchase process, from making a purchase to receiving a product or experiencing a service, to post-purchase engagement. For example, consider how to gather ratings and reviews in physical locations by adding a single question to ask customers to rate service within a customizable POS front-end. Or, for digital goods, ask for ratings in the form factor, like a pop-up in a mobile application that asks customers to rate the application.

Motivate Customers to Write Ratings and Reviews

Stand out from the crowd by motivating customers to rate or review your products or services. Consider tangible incentives, such as free shipping or discounts on a future purchases or linking incentives for ratings and reviews to marketing campaigns and loyalty programs. Clothing retailer Express ran a campaign to get customers to write reviews by rewarding those who wrote five reviews with an entry to win a shopping spree. Starbucks offered members of its loyalty program a bonus star if they reviewed recent restaurant service. Be sure to verify reviewers are actual customers, rather than allowing anyone to participate, which could lead to fraudulent reviews.

Aggregate and Syndicate Local Ratings and Reviews

Customers’ searches for products or services often start with search engines, such as Google and Bing, which increasingly offer ratings to help customers narrow their options. Develop a standard process and messaging to solicit and sort local reviews across locations. Technology providers that enable local reviews also offer a dashboard to measure and compare quantitative feedback across regions or individual locations. Aggregate and syndicate local ratings and reviews on local and corporate websites for search engine optimization (SEO) benefits and customer engagement.

Remember, once you make it into customers’ consideration set, they expect consistent and convenient access to ratings and reviews across digital channels in order to choose the right product or service. Assess your situation, including your digital commerce offering and your customers’ path to purchase, to determine logical steps in the purchase process to ask for ratings and reviews. Then it’s time to motivate customers and moderate their reviews. If they can’t find the information they need on your site, application or in your store, they will turn to other sources of information.

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