Here’s a fact to consider: Nine out of every 10 potential customers will read online reviews before they buy from you. In fact, 98% of customers at least occasionally read reviews for local businesses, according to a BrightLocal survey. That’s nearly every customer.
What’s more, 46% of customers trust reviews from other customers more than those from professionals. Customer reviews are crucial and can be the difference between lost sales and paying customers. Here’s a detailed guide to help you generate reviews for your business across your online channels.
What is an online customer review?
An online customer review is a form of digital feedback that is given by customers who have bought a product or service. Credible online reviews are usually written and submitted by customers who have used the product or service firsthand.
While reviews are typically written, they can also come in the form of photos, videos, social media reviews, or other user-generated content.
What are the benefits of online reviews?
Reviews are critical to the online reputations of businesses because they often show up in search results when customers look for your brand or reviews of your business. Below are some of the benefits of online reviews.
Setting customer expectations
Reviews help potential customers understand what to expect when they buy a particular product or service so they can make informed decisions. For example, a potential customer may read a review that includes a detail not covered in your product description and decide to make a purchase based on that information.
In addition, photos taken by customers and posted in reviews give potential buyers real-life images of a product, your storefront, the interior of your store, or the inviting atmosphere of your restaurant that can help encourage their business.
Credibility and trust-building
Potential customers can read both positive and negative reviews, as well as your responses to them. This helps you build an image as a credible and transparent business that is open to customer feedback and addressing customer concerns.
The more customer reviews a business generates, the better chance they have of increasing sales — particularly if the reviews are positive. Customer reviews can boost sales by an average of 18%. A Harvard Business School study found that a one-star increase on Yelp could yield a five to nine percent increase in revenue for restaurants.
Honest customer reviews can help you understand what customers really want. When people have paid for a product or service, they are more likely to be honest about their experience, and this feedback can help you improve your products or services.
Look out for the “but” in your reviews and make changes based on those insights. In the case of a negative review, be prepared to respond directly and in a timely manner. Address the customer complaint with apologies and invite the reviewer to contact you directly to try and resolve the issue.
Search engine optimization
Finally, online reviews can help with search engine optimization (SEO). When customers leave a review, they’re providing additional information and unique content to search engines that can be tracked and indexed. Search engines such as Google take customer reviews into consideration when they determine search engine page results, so the more customer reviews your site displays, the better chances you have for increasing your search rankings.
Best review sites to consider
Customers may share reviews via email, social media, your online store, or third-party review sites. Wherever you sell or do business, it’s important to offer a platform for customer feedback, especially since new customers may discover your business or products through different channels.
Google reviews is great for any type of local business and is completely free to set up. The average rating of your business will appear in your Google Business Profile, which is visible to users who find your business on Google Search or Maps. The number of reviews you have, your average rating, and the number of keywords included in the reviews can help your business rank higher in search results and build up your online presence, both of which help attract new customers.
Businesses can ask customers for Google reviews after they’ve made a purchase to help build up the reviews on their Business Profile. While you don’t have control over what customers say in a review, you can encourage them to leave reviews to increase your review number.
Yelp is one of the oldest review platforms and is viewed by many customers as trustworthy and reliable. It’s great for any type of business and you can set up a Yelp account for free as a business owner. A key thing to keep in mind, however, is that soliciting reviews is discouraged on Yelp, and your ratings may be removed if such practices are confirmed.
Tripadvisor is a review platform for food- and travel-related businesses. Tripadvisor allows you to control your business listing, respond to customer reviews, and track your performance, all for free. One of the main benefits of Tripadvisor is that your business can be discovered by qualified customers who are already interested in food and travel. So, if your business has great reviews, potential customers are likely to notice and add your business to their list of places to visit.
Social media platforms
Social media platforms may not traditionally be considered review platforms, but many social platforms now allow customers to leave reviews and testimonials on business pages or product shops. As consumers access your brand on social channels, user-generated reviews and testimonials are especially important for building brand trust, increasing credibility, and encouraging social commerce.
Users may share reviews of products or services they’ve used via posts, comments, or tweets. You can use such feedback to your advantage by sharing positive reviews on your social media pages and responding to reviews.
Your online store
Your online store is one of the most important places to collect reviews since you have full control over which reviews are displayed and can even link out to certain products or services purchased. Like other platforms, customers will look for reviews on your online store to assess your brand’s credibility, learn about other customer’s experiences, and find out more about your products.
To help collect reviews for your online store, tools like Square Online include a product review feature that allows you to automatically request reviews from customers and post them on your site. Customers can post reviews that include photos and rate products, and you can approve or disapprove reviews to display.
Efficiently manage in-store, online, social and mobile sales with Square Online.
How to ask for a customer review
How and where you ask for a review depends on the platform a customer used to make their purchase and what kind of feedback you’re looking for. Here are several tips for asking for customer reviews.
Ask at the right time
Timing matters. The best time to ask for reviews is usually right after a purchase when the product or service is still fresh in the customer’s mind, so you’ll want to set up a system that allows you to follow up with customers soon after they’ve made a purchase.
Take advantage of automation
Regardless of the size of your business, incorporating automation into your review process will save valuable time and ensure you don’t forget to make the ask — no matter where you made the sale. As your business and customer base grows, automation tools will ensure your customer communication efforts grow, too.
With tools like Square Marketing, you can set up automated email and text messages to collect Google reviews from customers after they’ve made a purchase. Whether you want to remind customers to leave a review through email or entice them with a promotion via text message, Square Marketing tools allow you to personalize and automate your communication with customers post-sale.
Ask via the right channel
Email is usually the default communication channel for most businesses and perhaps the easiest way to ask for a review. However, if you communicate with customers or they’ve made purchases through other channels such as social media or SMS, it’s usually better to ask via those channels. The bottom line is to use a channel where you are likely to get the most responses from your customers.
Personalize your request
Even if you use review request templates, it’s still important to customize the request for each customer. This could be as simple as including their name in your request message or adding some context behind the request or their recent purchase.
Include a clear call to action
When sending a review request, be sure to clearly state the specific action you’d like the customer to take and make it simple for them to do it. For example, if you want the customer to leave a Google review, include a bold button or link text that says just that and takes the customer directly to the review platform. Don’t assume that customers will figure out what you mean or find a way to leave a review on their own.
Pro Tip: Take advantage of customer reviews by using them across sales channels. If you receive great feedback on a social platform, use that review as a testimonial on your online store or in a marketing email. Just be sure to get the reviewer’s permission first.
Examples of asking customers for reviews
Depending on the review platform, these are some examples for asking for customer reviews.
Review request via email
Hi [Customer’s Name],
Thank you for your order – we hope you are happy with it.
Your feedback is very important to us and we’d like to know how you found the experience of shopping with us. If you could spare a few minutes to leave us a review on [Review Platform], we’d be grateful.
Review [Business or Product Name] on [Review Platform].
Review request via SMS
Hi [Customer Name], thank you for your recent purchase of [product/service]! We’d love to hear about your experience with us; you can leave us a review at [Platform Link].
Review request via social media
Hello [Customer Name],
Thank you so much for your recent order. [I/We] hope you’re enjoying the [product/service]. [I/We] are always looking for ways to improve your shopping experience and would appreciate your feedback.
If you can spare a few minutes, please write a review on [Review Platform] or rate us on [Review Platform] – it’ll only take two clicks.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact [me/us].