Review Your Reviews: Leveraging Customer Reviews for Retail Stores

Sophia Conti
Sophia Conti
Guest Contributor

As the number of consumers who rely on customer reviews to make buying decisions continues to increase, savvy retailers are learning to greater leverage them to grow their businesses.

Consumers can now review everything: from online purchases to Uber rides to restaurant experiences. They take to Yelp, Twitter, and other platforms to let everyone know exactly what they think, and they often don’t hold back.

Many businesses focus solely on negative reviews: how to avoid them, and how to manage them when they inevitably appear. This is important, but in focusing on eliminating negative reviews, business owners often overlook how positive reviews can be highlighted and leveraged to increase business both in-person and online.

Nearly 90% of consumers regularly read reviews and consider them in their purchasing decisions, making customer feedback an essential part of any online strategy, from major national brands to local shops and boutiques. 

Why are reviews important?

Since most consumers now rely on reviews, it’s important to consider why they carry such weight. Online reviews are the virtual version of word-of-mouth advertising, widely regarded the best kind of advertising a company can hope for. Word-of-mouth works because people trust the opinions of their friends and family, and a recent BrightLocal survey found that 85 percent of consumers trust an online review as much as they trust a personal recommendation. If they hear a positive review, they believe they will have the same type of experience. If they have a bad experience, it works the same way.

Although online reviews are typically associated with information about a specific product, remember that consumers are also using online reviews to outline their entire experience with a business, whether through an online purchase or at a brick-and-mortar store. Reviews about the overall experience on external sites are highly trusted because businesses cannot change what is written about them, assuring consumers that what they are reading is honest feedback about the company. Reviews of this sort are more likely to be about customer service and ease of logistics, which are useful to you as a retailer rather than a manufacturer, and help consumers know that you are a company with whom it is a pleasure to do business, rather than just a place to get a product for the best price.

Harnessing the power of the good reviews that already exist for your business is a simple and effective way to grow your business and highlight your reputation as a retailer both in-person and online. Making no effort to identify and remedy bad reviews – or simply having no reviews at all – can hurt your bottom line.

Driving reviews

Consumers are more likely to share their negative experiences than their positive ones, so don’t assume everyone who was satisfied with their experience will take to the internet to share their positive reviews. Work actively to collect reviews and display them online in order to convert online consumers into customers and drive foot traffic into your store.

Ask for feedback

Don’t be afraid to ask customers for reviews! Send a follow-up email after an online purchase (or if you’ve asked for their email in-store) thanking them for their business and asking them to rate and review your store. Invite them to follow you on social media and share their thoughts there, or offer a discount or chance to win a gift card for their next visit if they fill out your survey.

For brick-and-mortar locations, display signs indicating on which external review sites your business can be found. Yelp offers stickers for your business door or window, and even a simple sign near checkout can help point customers to the ways customers can leave you feedback.

Make it as easy as possible for customers to review your business. This resource from StellaService gives great examples of questions to ask on a feedback form and how to tailor it to your business.

Display reviews 

When you display reviews for people to see, it can encourage them to leave a review a well. If one of your customers sees a less-than-stellar review, they might be inspired to leave a review with their positive experience. People like to be heard, so when you show them they have a chance to put their opinion out there, many will want to participate. You can share reviews on social media or build them directly into your website, which will be discussed more below.

Respond to customer reviews

It speaks volumes about your business if you respond to online reviews. It shows people that you are paying attention and provide good customer service. This can encourage other people to leave a review because they know it will be read. Take the time to thank people for positive reviews. If someone leaves a negative review and you politely address the issue and rectify the situation for the consumer, it makes others feel more comfortable in doing business with you.

Offer incentives

People are busy and they might not want to take the time to leave a review or provide feedback unless there is something in it for them. So, offer them a reward for helping you out by leaving a review. Hold a monthly gift card drawing or offer a discount on future products or services to anyone that leaves a review.

Be cautious though! Many platforms, such as Yelp, discourage businesses from asking customers to post reviews to their site or offering incentives for any review, good or bad. Make sure you are following the rules and guidelines of the platform that you are using. Be transparent about whether reviewers were offered an incentive for writing about their experience.

Leverage reviews on your website

Don’t let social media and other third-party platforms be the only place where you leverage reviews. Build a portal on your website where your customers can leave reviews on your products and services. This step demonstrates that you are transparent and care about what your customers think and can also improve your SEO. The more content you have on your site means the more content a search engine can use, and users will naturally use words and phrases that other consumers are looking for.

Once you have positive customer reviews, include them throughout your website – not just on a dedicated page. This reassures the customer that they can trust your brand as they are getting ready to purchase your product or service. Feature product-specific reviews on product pages as done here, and consider a footer featuring scrolling reviews like this one. You can also highlight unique or particularly good testimonials in a blog post to draw more specific attention to it.

Pages dedicated exclusively to reviews are also important, however, as they give the consumer an easy way to find what others are saying about your business. Review pages on websites can be set up in a variety of ways depending on what fits best with your business and brand. Check out these examples of pages for success stories, customer reviews, and testimonials.

Share the feedback

Reviews are helpful from a marketing perspective, but don’t let their usefulness stop there. Share the information you gather from reviews with the appropriate people to make actionable changes within your business. Share positive reviews about a particular service or department to encourage that team, and take note of negative reviews that highlight important issues within your business so those problems can be quickly and appropriately addressed.

Reports on reviews should make their all the way to the executive level. Captured reviews provide valuable feedback on what the company is doing right and what changes need to be made. The words of your customer are perhaps the most invaluable proof the executive team can have when you are proposing necessary changes. 

Actively pursuing customer reviews and reviewing those you receive holds many benefits for your company. Positive reviews provide an opportunity to continue the relationship with a customer, and negative reviews are a chance to address potential problems with your business and show current and prospective customers you are a company that cares about the people they serve. Reviews show a company is willing to be transparent and honest about their business. As the number of consumers who rely on reviews to make buying decisions continues to increase, don’t let your reviews go to waste. Leverage them to grow your business.

About the writer: Sophia Conti is a contributing editor at 365 Business Tips, a website curating the best ideas for small business owners. She specializes in marketing and helping businesses improve customer experience.

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