Get the Best from Your Reviews

By Richard Parkin

Reviews are a crucial part of marketing, particularly for online retailers. It’s estimated that 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, making review collection an incredibly effective way to improve sales and get those all-important conversions.

That said, it’s surprisingly rare for businesses to achieve the great results they should be seeing from their reviews. A shocking number of entrepreneurs seem to believe that simply setting up review collection of some kind is sufficient to maximize their results, rather than regarding reviews as a testable, improvable part of their marketing strategy.

Knowing how to test and improve your approach to reviews is just as important as testing your email strategy, copy, and any other part of your marketing. This blog is all about introducing some of the most useful strategies you can implement for your reviews, and explaining exactly what makes them so important.

While some of the details will be different from business to business, these strategies are designed to make a difference for any industry. While B2B companies, B2C industries and other agencies should leverage reviews in different ways, developing the review process is a must regardless of how your business is positioned. 

Effectively Collecting Reviews

Even if they only buy from you once, a customer’s value potential doesn’t end with that purchase. Getting the customer to leave a positive review helps bring uncertain visitors over the line, while potentially improving organic search visibility with the right technical implementation.

Of course, most people don’t leave a review unprompted – unless something’s gone wrong with their order. Just having a review submission box on your website is likely to result in a series of negative reviews, no matter how uncommon bad experiences are for your users. 

In order to pull in more accurate, positive reviews, you should be following up with buyers after their purchase, directly asking them to submit a review. However, there’s a lot of optimization to be done here.

Consider the number of review requests you’re sending out, and when you’re sending those requests.

An increasing number of companies send out an initial request asking you to review the purchase process, then a later one asking for a review of the product itself. However, this approach confuses a lot of customers – you’ll see a lot of reviews where users report that they haven’t received the product yet.

Consider what you want users to leave reviews for – if you’re trying to collect product reviews, make sure that the user has actually had time to receive and use the product. 

Similarly, even if you want to exclusively bring in company-focused reviews, try giving the buyer some time before reaching out, while using unambiguous language to prevent confusion as much as possible.

Keeping Reviews Compliant

The fact that reviews are written by your customers makes them an incredibly effective tool – but doesn’t mean that they’re exempt from compliance. In fact, certain kinds of reviews need some serious work to be fully FTC compliant, with major potential fines if you don’t act appropriately. 

Even some of the most compliance-conscious businesses around have a blind spot when it comes to reviews. It doesn’t necessarily seem reasonable that third party reviews should be as carefully reviewed as in-house marketing copy. However, reviews can often make that critical difference for sales – they’re just as much a marketing tool as your copy, images, videos. 

While the FTC’s guidelines for endorsements explain your legal liabilities in detail, there’s a few points you should be aware of:

It’s always great to hear that someone’s had an exceptionally good experience using your product. Using your sleeping aid has given them their best night of sleep in years, they’ve lost 20 pounds thanks to a supplement you make, whatever the case may be. 

However, if you choose to use that review in an advert, you’re likely going against FTC compliance. Any reviews you select should either represent the typical, non-exceptional experience, or explain how exceptional the review is. 

Picking the latter option is generally not ideal, as most consumers will interpret it as dishonest small print. Keep your reviews more standardized, less dramatic – even if that also means less impressive. 

If you’re looking to maximize the number of reviews you receive, it’s often tempting to offer users an incentive of some kind – a discount on future purchases, for instance. While this isn’t against compliance, the FTC specifies that any incentivised reviews should disclose the fact that the reviewer was given an incentive. 

In many cases, this kind of disclosure can limit your sales potential. Users may regard the disclosure as an underhand use of small print, undermining the potential effectiveness of your reviews. Use with caution. 

For some industries, using influencer marketing is an effective, low-cost way to reach a key demographic. While there’s nothing particularly unusual about compliance guidelines for influencer marketing, a shocking number of companies refuse to make their endorsements compliant.

In a legal sense, there’s very little difference between using a traditional paid endorsement and using an influencer. You need just as much honesty, disclosure and compliance consideration for both. Social media is just another marketing channel – not an ‘anything goes’ zone. 

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