Social proof is a vital part of eCommerce conversion rate optimization. Unlike in brick-and-mortar stores, customers can’t inspect products in person. Shoppers can’t know for sure that they’ll get what they expect. Social proof, in the form of positive reviews, lets customers know that other people were happy with their purchase.
But few shoppers leave positive reviews — and why would they? Taking the time to write a positive review does nothing for the customer. They already have the product they paid for and they have nothing to gain from reviewing it.
However, customers who are not happy with their purchase are more than willing to make their opinions known. Satisfaction is less motivating than the opposite, and the imbalance is the bane of eCommerce retailers.
One dissatisfied customer who writes a review has more of an impact than a thousand happy customers who don’t. A couple of negative reviews on a product page or on social media can do real financial damage to a retail business, especially if those reviews find their way into a prominent position on Google.
Retailers shouldn’t leave positive reviews to chance. Some eCommerce retailers solve the positive review problem dishonestly, by manufacturing their reviews. I wouldn’t encourage that practice: customers can often spot a fake review, and if they have the slightest suspicion their trust in a store can be destroyed.
So how should eCommerce retailers get positive reviews?
Ask For Positive Reviews
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s important not to alienate customers by “begging” for reviews or employing manipulative techniques, but there’s nothing wrong with asking politely. Effective review request emails make it clear that the retailer values the customer’s opinion, and that any information they provide will be taken seriously.
Time It Right
For the most part, you only get one opportunity to ask for a review. Make it count. Don’t send the review request email before the product has been delivered. Give the user some time to have an experience with their purchase before asking them to write about it.
Make It Easy
It should be as easy as possible to leave a review. When customers write a positive review, they’re doing you a favor — don’t make them work for it. Send a direct link to the review interface with the review request email, preferably with a unique identifier that ties the URL to their purchase.
Don’t ask too many questions: one question is fine, but a complex web form with many questions will discourage customers.
Your review system should work perfectly on mobile devices. People use their phones and tablets to read email, and if they can’t leave a review on the same device, the opportunity is wasted.
In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be necessary to create a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” review strategy, but if you’re having real difficult generating reviews, you may find incentives effective. I wouldn’t advise you pay: payment degrades the trustworthiness of reviews. But small discounts and perks can motivate reluctant reviewers to make an effort.
Convincing happy shoppers to leave reviews is one of the most challenging aspects of eCommerce, but the social proof of positive reviews can generate significant conversion rate improvements, so spending time on your review strategy is a sound investment.