Let’s face it: If your site doesn’t yet have reviews, you’re behind. At this point, they are table stakes for spurring conversion and improving SEO.

But even with reviews, there are strategies to maximizing their usefulness and appeal to shoppers – and better reviews means a stickier site.

Once you’re gathering authentic opinions of your customers, make them more helpful and attractive for other consumers. To win with shoppers, harness the power of your advocates in new and unique ways.

Ask for comments on multiple aspects of a purchase: the product, delivery, service, etc.

There are many considerations in a consumer’s product experience. Is the product well made and long lasting? Does it do what it claimed it would? Was the delivery on time and unharmed?

Furniture retailer Room & Board breaks down reviews into detailed dimensions. They ask reviewers to tag aspects of the product like, “durable” and “fabric quality” to add contextual descriptions to their feedback. This offers future customers more detailed understanding of the review, over and above a traditional star rating. This helps shoppers identify with the reviewers’ comments and better understand the rationale behind others’ reviews. Overall, Room & Board finds shoppers who read reviews twice as likely to purchase and the average order value is 21% higher for visitors who have read an online review.

Gather information by integrating with social networks.

The marketing funnel has evolved. What once was a linear shopping path to conversion now begins and ends across channels and devices.  And shoppers want to see consistent information at each point in the consideration journey.

One way to gather more info about a reviewer is with Facebook integration.

Step 2, America’s largest manufacture of toddler toys, extended their community by connecting reviews into their social network. For example, customers can share reviews, post questions to other fans, and follow trending categories on Step 2’s Facebook page, all of which drive referral traffic back to the brand site.

As a result, Step2 saw:

  • 135% increase in referral traffic from Facebook.
  • 300% increase in revenue from Facebook- referred visitors.

In addition, this increase in social engagement allowed Step2 to identify true brand loyalists. They built a loyalty program extending beyond purchases without sacrificing a clear method of tracking. Leveraging gamification principles with the social content, the Step 2 team drove 170% increase in Facebook verification sign-ins by awarding loyalty points and badges for connecting and contributing with Facebook.

Adding incentives to encourage customers to contribute content and engage with the community across channels is an effective strategy to keep them coming back not only as an advocate of the brand, but also as a repeat customer.

Encourage photos and video reviews.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth a thousand pictures. Multimedia reviews make contributors even more human and trustworthy, and carry more selling power as well. LiveClicker found that shoppers who take in media are 23% more likely to convert, on average, than those who do not.

In fact, Dillards, one of the nation’s largest fashion apparel, cosmetics and home furnishings retailers, encouraged reviewers to include images of them using their new purchase. One customer even posted a picture of herself wearing a Michael Kors dress she wore for her high school prom, personalizing content like no other solution can. Barbara Buzbee, eCommerce manager at Dillard’s said,

“Nothing humanizes a product more than an actual happy customer. In retail and specifically fashion, there’s no better way to increase purchase confidence and conversion than with customer testimonials and pictures.”

The challenge can sometimes be getting purchasers to contribute after the sale. Step2 promoted video and picture submissions by offering more loyalty program points, which drove a 600% increase in the number of images and videos submitted.

Acquire more volume by following up both online and offline purchases.

You can’t have too many reviews. Honestly, you can’t have enough reviews. Johnson & Murphy discovered that 70% of all site visitors read at least one, and more is always better – higher review volume correlates with more sales. J&M analyzed that reviewed products generated 50% of revenue for the site, and Room & Board discovered products with three or more reviews account for 68% of the company’s online sales.

Driving volume with a post purchase or post interaction email to consumers allows for a triggered communication touch point from a defined experience. For example, Room & Board now encourages reviews with post purchase emails no matter what the channel of purchase: in-store, online, and catalog call centers. In fact, over 60% of their reviews come from in-store buyers. So, make sure you are sending email follow ups for all purchases, not just online. This ensures you have a comprehensive view of customers’ buying experiences.

As Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer of VivaKi said in an interview with Google, put it:

“Today you are not behind your competition. You are not behind the technology. You are behind your consumer.”

The truth is your customers expect you to make the buying experience as simple as possible for them. And to keep them coming back, you need to treat all customers like your best customers. Roll out the red carpet by leveraging social conversations across channels and integrating gamification and interactive elements to foster engagement and grow your overall purchase conversion.

  • Louise Robertson

    A great number of UK retailers, HMV, Blockbuster etc could have benefited from good advice like this. The high street may not be completely online but influence and outreach is by many sources. Online show-rooming incorporating all social tools is the way of the future.