How can retailers prompt customers to write product reviews?

Discussion
Source: zappos.com
Dec 06, 2016
Tom Ryan

A Wall Street Journal article from last week notes how Zappos’ new loyalty program hands out 100 points — the equivalent of $10 in credit — to those who write a review.

Etsy also takes action to encourage buyers to write reviews, in its case by following up with e-mails or text messages. An Etsy spokesperson told the Journal that 20 to 25 percent of purchases result in a review.

For Garnet Hill, follow-ups are sent out about three weeks after the purchase to give the buyer the time to experience the item. Wendy Thayer, director of brand marketing for the apparel, bedding and home decor retailer, told the Journal, “It makes them come from a more knowledgeable standpoint.”

The more reviews a product has, the more trustworthy the reviews for that product and the overall retailer’s review section will appear to be, according to numerous studies.

The problem is that many consumers don’t write reviews, even when asked. A PowerReviews survey from earlier this year found that only three to 10 percent of consumers will write a review on a specific transaction when asked. On average, review-writing consumers will take the initiative once every four to 14 purchases, depending on the category, timing and other factors. Millennials were found to be even less inclined to write reviews.

In an article last month in Fortune, Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in small businesses, said immediately requesting a review post-checkout can help. She also said, for retailers, reading and responding to any reviews, particularly negative ones, can encourage additional reviews because it shows the business takes reviews seriously and addresses issues.

The process of posting a review should also be as easy and streamlined as possible. In its study, PowerReviews wrote, “The burden is on brands and retailers to make the process of leaving a review quick and painless.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s the best way to encourage reviews on retail websites? Can you recommend any approaches beyond those mentioned in the article?

Braintrust
"I’m more likely to respond if the email is positioned as a survey on my experience rather than a request for a review. "
"...buyers are more likely to write a review about a bad experience as a way to punish a seller than they are to write a positive review for no reason."
"I was recently “bribed” with free product by an online manufacturer to write a positive review, but it was only after I made a repeat purchase."

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13 Comments on "How can retailers prompt customers to write product reviews?"

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Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Ask for a review and then respond to the review once it’s written. Make the review writing process easy. Avoid canned responses. Treat customers as you would like to be treated. Common sense and courtesy.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

In a word … Amazon.

Amazon has been, and continues to be, the gold standard of customer reviews. Much of the Amazon traffic is driven by customers coming for the reviews. Amazon’s process incorporates most everything mentioned in the article: quick email follow-up, simple process, cues for what to include in reviews, systematic follow up on negative reviews and even vendor comments back to customers with problems.

One of the most powerful new techniques is Q&A. While many consumers don’t make time to write reviews, they will often respond to “help with this question.” In many ways the Q&As on products are more helpful than most of the reviews. Again, the key is a streamlined consistent process with visibility.

“Reviews” don’t always have to be text. Some innovative retailers are encouraging (with some incentives) customers to post photos of themselves using a product. Nothing better than photos to draw attention, and it’s a smaller segue to ask customers to write a caption to go with their photo … which often turns into great feedback of how they use the product.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

I’m more likely to respond if the email is positioned as a survey on my experience rather than a request for a review. Take me right to the questions and keep the number of questions short — three to five seems about right. And don’t make me write an essay or give it a cute title (are you listening, Expedia?).

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

The review writing process should be not only quick and painless, but also rewarding. Many brands simply offer the community experience of having one’s reviews/photos shared on the company’s social forums where other users can like and respond to the post. However, for a company trying to engage reviewers for the first time this approach may take too long.

Zappos has the right idea. Offering customers a minor discount on their purchases will inspire customers who don’t normally write reviews to take the time to do so. Incentivizing reviews portrays the company in a better light, as customers are more likely to use forums to complain after a bad experience than to share a positive experience.

I’d suggest a multi-tiered approach to reviewing, similar to brand loyalty programs where customers can aspire to reach the next level (silver, gold, platinum) at which they earn more rewards. Remember, customer engagement transfers into customer loyalty.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Jasmine — in theory your proposal sounds good, but I’ve seen it fail miserably on more than one website. Pureformulas.com is a great example. They were crediting just 50 cents per review and it generated endless useless garbage. Here’s an example I just pulled about a specific Vitamin B product: “We LOVE pureformulas and all their products!” So paying people to go through the motions is, in itself, a failure.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

Granted, that singular review is pretty weak, but take a look at the Pureformulas website. Upwards of 50 star-tiered reviews for one $6 vitamin? That many reviews increases consumer confidence more than the $25 in-store credit that the company shelled out ever could.

Not to mention how the reviewing process solidifies a relationship with a company in the customer’s mind, or how much more that 50 cent reward inspired them to buy.

Adrien Nussenbaum
BrainTrust

Given the importance of reviews, merchants should do everything possible to encourage them. Emailing is one option, but the fact is that buyers are more likely to write a review about a bad experience as a way to punish a seller than they are to write a positive review for no reason. The Zappos idea of providing an incentive is a great one. Positive reviews significantly increase conversion, so it can be worth the investment, especially for products that are low volume and high value and not likely to have a plethora of reviews.

Frank Poole
Guest
2 months 20 days ago

Note to GrowBiz Media: those post-checkout popups are rapidly … and I do mean rapidly … becoming the scourge of the internet. They’re closely related to those “landing page” popups that preemptively ask if you’d be willing to complete a survey after your visit. It’s like walking into a room full of houseflies; I don’t want to be there, and I leave. And post-checkout is NOT a time most consumers want to be bothered by anything.

Mark Heckman
BrainTrust

I was recently “bribed” with free product by an online manufacturer to write a positive review, but it was only after I made a repeat purchase. I doubt that I would have taken the time to do so if I did not believe that product warranted a positive review and chances are the manufacturer was reasonably sure I was going to be positive about the product given my repeat purchase. As opposed to having a standing policy of rewarding all reviewers, I believe reaching out randomly to repeat buyers with such rewards can make sense, and can avoid “insincere” reviews motivated by a standing policy of pay-for-review.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Although I agree with the good Dr. Needel that people are more likely to respond to surveys, rather than write a review, I’d also say that effective incentives are proving to drive more reviews to be written. Email encouragement to write reviews helps, however you need to make it worthwhile. Offering a three-point review outline, such as “Please write you review at [this link] and (1) tell shoppers why you bought the product, (2) if you like it and (3) if you’d shop there again.” Keep it simple and painless and guide them through the process.

Manmit Shrimali
BrainTrust

1. More reviews do not necessarily translate into sales but the quality of reviews does. Our recent analytics on millions of reviews uncovered a) Alarming number of fake reviews b) Low variation in reviews — for example, most ratings were in the range of 4 or 4.5 stars which plays a limited role in the choice making.

2. Use psychology triggers to motivate write review. It is well-known fact that incentives or loyalty works in short-term but not necessarily in long run. Retailers needs to leverage human learning aspects to encourage write reviews. There are several academic papers on this.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Great customer service! This always wins. Happy customers want to share their experiences, especially when it is easy. When retailers focus on their customers, everyone wins rave reviews and retailers don’t need to prompt customers to write reviews … they do this all by themselves.

Josh Horton
Guest

It’s interesting. Year over year our clients’ open and click thru rates have decreased for their emails asking for reviews after purchase, but response rate for reviews has slightly increased. We see this trend across both retailers and brands. I believe this is tied to exactly what several commenters have mentioned: ease of review submission. Mobile clearly plays a crucial role in this, and retailers would do well to optimize for this experience. The most successful retailers I have seen at collecting content embrace all of their touch points in order to actively build and cultivate a community of advocates that are invested in the experience the retailer provides. Once that community is built, campaigns such as sweepstakes, sampling programs, and altruistic calls to action have maximum impact.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I’m more likely to respond if the email is positioned as a survey on my experience rather than a request for a review. "
"...buyers are more likely to write a review about a bad experience as a way to punish a seller than they are to write a positive review for no reason."
"I was recently “bribed” with free product by an online manufacturer to write a positive review, but it was only after I made a repeat purchase."

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