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Mining the Gold: 5 ways to really leverage customer reviews

As head of Client Services at PowerReviews working with many of our 300+ clients, I’ve seen a significant shift in how customer reviews are being employed by retailers and Brands in the past 18 months.  In the early days, my work centered around educating clients on the importance of customer reviews in closing sales on their site – giving shoppers the confidence to actually buy.  By the time 2008 rolled around, using customer reviews as a “purchase validator” had become the norm on retail sites, and now over 60% of the IR 500 have deployed reviews in that way.

In the last year, my work has focused primarily around leveraging reviews and other user generated content before and after the validation stage of shopping – to attract new shoppers to their site, help shoppers sort through and find the right product for them and get more engaged with the Brand after they leave.  I wanted to share with you some of the key lessons I’ve learned in this process that will help you get the greatest sales uplift value from customer reviews.

1.  Maximize the number of credible reviews on your site

It’s no secret that the most important step to getting full leverage out of reviews is sending an automated email to invite customers back to write a review after a purchase – commonly called a post-transaction follow-up email.  This is the proven method to generate the most reviews on your site from a very credible source – your known customers!  In fact, one client recently increased reviews by 26 times by implementing the follow-up email.  Our system marks these reviews with a “Verified Buyer” badge, which creates trust among your customers.

We recommend that you send the follow-up email to all past purchasers from the previous 6 months prior to launching reviews on your product pages.  Within the first month, you should have 20% of your total SKUs have at least 1 review, with 100% review coverage for your top sellers. Further, as the Netshops Case Study shows, it’s the number of reviews per product that drives sales uplift, with 4-7 reviews per product being enough for 75% of shoppers to “have sufficient confidence to judge the product” (etailing group study of 1200 typical internet shoppers).

Did you know the follow-up email also ensures a more balanced and improved overall product rating?  Because the email captures reviews from a wider cross-section of customers, our customers have experienced a 15% increase in the average product rating across their site once they implemented the follow-up email!  If you need help, let us know.  We’ve created a tool to help you send the follow-up email.

2.  Make a great first impression

It’s one thing to collect customer reviews, but if you don’t display the reviews in a user friendly way, with an informative and easy-to-absorb review summary, you’re not getting the greatest sales impact from these reviews.  That’s why we created the next generation of our review summary, called Review Snapshot 2.0.  Initial tests showed an 18.3% reduction in product page bounce rate and a 16.7% increase in product page conversion.  Check out the Review Snapshot at Jelly Belly.

3.  Maximize SEO Benefit

Since the inception of our review solution, we’ve provided customers the ability to increase natural search traffic from customer review content via our SEO Mini-Site.  This solution leverages a set of SEO-optimized review landing pages, which drive traffic through the landing page to the product page.  Late last year, we launched our next generation SEO tool called – In-Line SEO(tm), which enables customer review content to be indexed directly on the product page itself.  Early customer review adopters, such as eBags, Newegg and Zappos, created home-grown review solutions to achieve the SEO benefit of reviews directly on the product page.  Now everyone else can benefit from this approach without having to manage the review display themselves (so you can easily adopt all the review enhancements in the future).  Check out Robert Chea’s blog post last week for more details.

4.  Take review content everywhere it can drive more sales

After you’ve spent the effort collecting credible, high quality reviews, make sure you leverage those reviews throughout your site and in your email marketing efforts.  In our case, the review content is “tag-based”, which means you can take it entirely new places in social merchandising and social marketing.

  • On category pages and anywhere you list products, include the star ratings snippet.  Thirty days after adding ratings on the category page, Diapers.com experienced a 15% increase in product page views and a 14% increase in conversion.
  • Embrace Social Navigation to its fullest by adding ratings and review tags to your site navigation so people can narrow by “use” or “pro” or “lifestyle” (about me).  Check out Social Navigation implementations at sites such as OnlineShoes.com and Dick’s Sporting Goods.  For a very different Social Navigation interface, using tag clouds, check out Kiddicare.com.
  • Add ratings and review tags to your email marketing campaigns.  By adding ratings to their email, Mountain Gear increased click-through by 8%, conversion by 17% and Average Order Value by 85%.  Impressive results!

5.  Take your online reviews offline

With the retail market still dominated by offline sales, it makes good business sense to bring ratings and reviews to your offline customers.  PowerReviews allows you to provide customer reviews in store with mobile applications that fully leverage the powerful Review Snapshot feature – high impact in a small form factor.  We also can suggest ways to maximize the display of customer reviews in store by leveraging both the ratings and the tags in store signage.

I encourage you to fully harness the amazing content your customers are creating for you every day.  These are just some of the ways you can do that, with clear wins for you and your customers.  As always, if you have any questions about the information shared, please contact your Account Manager.

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